Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A "Real" Grad School Ad

I'm not saying that graduate school isn't the right step for some people (hey, I did it myself), but this video is not only hilarious, but in many ways sort of true. Also, it it wrong that this video made me miss both college and grad school.

Check out the video/social commentary on graduate school from the folks at College Humor.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Thank You Note Question

To e-mail or not to e-mail, that is the question. The “thank you note” question to be exact. In an age of “every little bit counts,” I’m increasingly seeing students stressed over the appropriate format for a thank you note. So these students have come into our office to ask the career guru her advice, but unfortunately, there’s not straight answer to this question. That being said, I do have my own thoughts on the subject.

Send personalized, conversation-specific thank-you note via e-mail within 24 hours of the interview to ALL persons you interviewed with. This ensures that your note will be received before any immediate decision-making discussions take place. If this is all you do, you’re fine. Really, you are.

If you really want to go the extra mile, you may also drop hand-written thank you note in the mail ASAP. This is in addition to, rather than instead of the e-mail described above (see reasoning above). While most employers tell us that a thank you note sent via e-mail is fine, or that thank you notes don’t matter at all (WRITE THEM ANYWAYS!), some employers maintain that a hand-written note does set one very strong candidate apart from other very strong candidates.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Outlook Chronicles: Questions From Real Students

Alright, I've been busy. And yes, I may have neglected this blog just a tad. But I'm back, and I've found a way to incorporate some of the daily e-mail advice I give to the students I work with into this blog. So here's the set-up: without fail, I meet with students who, upon leaving my office, have a million more questions. Some of these questions they figure out on their own, some they e-mail to me for my two cents. Not surprisingly, I tend to see a lot of the same questions. So for those of you are asking yourselves those ground-breaking questions, like "should I text the hiring manager?," here are my answers to some frequently asked questions.

A student writes:

Hello Shimrit,

I hope that you had a very nice Thanksgiving. I have a couple of questions:

My informational interview is tomorrow. Do I need to bring a cover letter if I am going to hand him my resume in person? Also, what is the best time to hand him my business card (beginning of meeting or end)? Finally, should I bring a copy of the proposal for the startup I'm working on/with, in case he wishes to talk about it?

Thanks so much,


And I answer:

Dear Taylor,

I wouldn't worry about a cover letter just yet - since a cover letter implies you are applying for a job and this is an informational interview, which you've requested. An informational interview is an opportunity to ask for advice about a specific industry, and how to best pursue a job in it, but you should not ask for a job.  If you hand the person you're meeting with a cover letter, it may imply that you don't really get that this is an informational interview - or you're trying to pull one over him - neither of which are good things. For these same reasons, you should also be careful about handing him your resume. If you'd like him to take a look at your resume,  you might ask him if he'd be willing to provide some specific feedback on it, such as whether you're objective is appropriate - or even necessary. Despite these warning to tread lightly with your resume, you should certainly bring it - as well as the copy of your proposal.  He may ask for them, and they could be great conversation points depending on how the discussion flows.

As for business cards, they are typically exchanged towards the end of an encounter. You can conclude your meeting by asking him for his card, and if it would be okay for you contact him with any additional questions you might have. You can also hand him yours at that point.

Good luck tomorrow. I know you'll do great - it sounds like you are preparing in all the right ways.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Taking Time Off"

The other day a colleague of mine pointed out an interesting trend – students referring to the years between college and graduate school as “time off.” As my colleague astutely claimed, “it’s not called ‘time off,’ it’s called work!” As a member of this generation, it’s not altogether surprising to me that I failed to recognize this absurd characterization of “life-after-college” on my own, but that didn’t stop me from sharing her outrage over the use of this terminology.

For one thing, “taking time off” insinuates that work is a privilege, even a vacation of sorts. Trust me, it’s not (and this is coming from someone who really does love her job). Additionally, it suggests that not only is there a finite end to “work,” but assumes that graduate school is a given (again, it’s not). Have other noticed this trend? What do you think about students referring to post-graduate work as “taking time off?”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LinkedIn Etiquette: Do Not Ask For A Job

I can't tell you how many times I've told job-seekers not to send out vague and unspecific e-mails inquiring about "jobs in Boston," "finance jobs," or "any jobs where I can use my [insert elite private institution] degree."  These type of e-mails are not only indicative of a lack of thought, but also suggest that you have no idea what you really want to do, which generally does not bode well for your job search. So what should you do?  Target specific individuals for networking conversations.  Ask pointed questions to learn more about their field/work and make a good impression.  This type of networking works.  Asking absolute strangers for help with a broadly defined, vague job search does not.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Don't Freak Out Just Yet AKA: Understanding Hiring Timelines

Around this time of year, we career services folk see even the least corporate of careerists in our office wondering where are all the jobs for them?  They've been to the career fair, they've scoured our online job posting platform, and they're ready to throw their hat (i.e. resume and cover letter) into the ring.  But wait! Job postings in the industries they're looking to start careers in are no where to be found.  Surely, they figure, the absence of healthcare, non-profit, or education industries is a simple oversight - or perhaps an intentional one deliberately done by corporate leaning career counselors.  Yet I assure you, this is not the case.  A major reason that these industries are not at fall career fairs and participating in on-campus recruiting en masse is that they do not generally hire Seniors graduating in the spring this early in the fall.  These industries, due to less predictable budgets, the inability to predict spring-time workforce needs, or industry norms simply do not recruit their workforce 6+ months in advance.  Yes, these industries will hire Seniors - but they will do so in the spring months.  So don't freak out yet just become your Economics major roommate is applying for jobs and getting ready for interviews, your time will come.  Instead, relax, network, and get ready for a busy and job-application-filled spring.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Admissions Interview : College :: Networking : Career

A recent article in the New York Times about whether college interviews really matter got me thinking, apparently in a very SAT-like-way (I love me some analogies), that admissions interview are to the college exploration process as networking is to the career exploration process. As Karen Richardson, associate director of admissions at Tufts notes, “the interview is every bit as much for the student to learn more about an institution as it is for the institution to learn more about a student.” And networking, when done proactively, is done for exactly the same reason. For the student deciding between a Master’s in social work or a doctorate in clinical psychology, the best way is to talk to do information gather. And what’s [one of] the best way[s] to gather information? You guessed it, informational interviewing! Just like you thought about what college you wanted to go to with a critical and thoughtful eye, so to should you approach your future career. Other similarities between admissions interviews and networking: they both allow you to gather more information on the college/profession of your choice, which will allow you to speak more compellingly about your reasons for choosing it; they demonstrate interest; and both are excellent preparation for future interviews. As Kelly Sortino, director of college counseling at Crystal Springs Uplands School in California and a former admissions officer at Princeton University, astutely points out, “interviews in general – for jobs, etcetera — aren’t going away.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Friday is our annual fall Career Fair and, in preparation, the office is holding a 3-day series of drop-in resume critiques.  Today, our final day, was absolutely packed.  Except for a 5 minute cookie break (I truly deserved it), I plowed through the 4 hours alongside my hard-working co-workers. After 22 resume reviews my mind is truly dizzy from majors, double majors, and GPA's.    That being said, here are some helpful tips that I'd like to post at the front of the room next year:
  • You can adjust your margins to fit your resume on one page
  • Your resume must fit on one page
  • You do not need an objective or the phrase "References available upon request" anywhere on your document
  • You do not need to write "e-mail:" - I know that's your e-mail
  • You do not need to list every job, extra-curricular, and day of service you ever participated in
  • Your experience section does not need to be restricted to paid opportunities and/or positions that included that rather vague title: Intern
  • If you're a senior, take your high school off.  The same goes for any clubs or teams you did while in high school

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Way Too Busy Wednesday

Things have been really hectic around here (i.e. work), so I'm creating a new series of posts for days or weeks just like these. I dub thee: Way Too Busy Wednesday. So, here's the first gem I've been saving for exactly this kind of thing.

P.S. In case, you weren't sure, the career advice take-away here is DON'T DO THIS.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On Waiting It Out

The recent article in the New York Times, “Generation Limbo: Waiting It Out,” makes my career counselor heart ache. Here are students who’ve invested so much time, energy and money into their degree, waiting for a chance to put it to professional use. But then my pragmatic side kicks in, and I want to kick these kids in the behind for waiting around for anything. Because, as many successful, employed people know, success doesn’t happen to you, it’s something you need to actively pursue. In other words, waiting is not an effective job search strategy!

Okay, so that was my first mini-rant. Now it’s time for part two. And it’s in response to this sentence in article, “After three years without an advertising job, she is now applying to graduate school to freshen up her résumé.”

Going to graduate school, especially when you’re unemployed, is, most often, not an effective job search strategy. If you’ve tried to get a job in marketing, yet been unsuccessful, don’t think that a graduate degree in marketing is going to fix all your problems and catapult your careers. While the job market may be better in two years, you’ll also be out tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars, you’ll be more expensive, and you probably won’t have any more full-time relevant work experience than you did before you started the whole back to school thing. Gosh, I’m really starting to feel like Penelope Trunk here, which means it’s about time to wrap this post up.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Career Strategies for Students with Aspergers (Autism Spectrum Disorder)

Before I present some of the best practices presented at the recent conference I attended on career strategies for students on the autism spectrum, let me make a few disclaimers. First, I am by no means an expert (or even experienced) in this field. Additionally, as our excellent presenters pointed out, when you meet one student with ASD, you’ve met one student with ASD. That being said, these practices may work for some students and not for others, but isn’t that true for our nuero-typical clients as well? Anyhow, here’s what I learned:

Infuse Academics with Employment
  • Integrate vocational experiences into students’ academics as early as high school to allow students to experience the workplace, reflect on their experiences, and learn appropriate workplace interactions.
Provide Visual Aids
  • Have handouts or written materials that cover and/or review the points you’re making during the conversation. Useful for lots of students, really.
Be Explicit
  • Because students with ASD do not learn intuitively, it is very important that we as career counselors are explicit with our directions. We cannot expect these clients to pick up on our social cues or nuanced suggestions, we’ve got to be explicit when counseling these students on how to behave, act, and market themselves. Additionally, help students with ASD to dissect the jobs they are working in or applying for. What will be the tasks, the social requirements, and physical environments related to this position. Help students to prepare fully, and practice reacting to, as well as acting in these positions.
Don’t Modify Content, Modify Process
  • Students with ASD can be smart. Sometimes really smart. Don’t change the content you’re delivering, rather shift the way you deliver it. See above points for more on this.
Know Your Resources
  • Both at the institution you work at, and in the community. At the end of the day, there’s only so much that we as career counselors and university educators can do. We’re not mental health counselors and perhaps unqualified to provide the intensive services some students with ASD might need. Be in touch with disability services coordinator, as well as have some referrals handy from local non-profits or other relevant services providers.
Finally, our presenters made some recommendations for students with ASD on the job market. They advised us to help our clients look for positions that have all or some of the following elements:

  • Students with ASD to be most successful in environments that have clear and consistent rules. This could include rules regarding acceptable dress, hours, breaks, and activities.
Do Not Require an In-Person Interview
  • Students with ASD do not interview well. Of course, finagling a job without an interview will be a challenge, which is probably why our presenters suggested making the most of family and personal connections when possible. As far as working with ASD clients, our presenters suggested utilizing Skype during mock interviews, as opposed to face-to-face.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Educating Our Students with Aspergers (soon to be Autism Spectrum Disorder)

I recently attended a conference on career strategies for students on the autism spectrum. Besides the fact that the presenters were absolutely fantastic – engaging, funny, and smart – the topic itself was both intriguing and thought provoking. Among the many issues raised, the presenters pointed out that colleges may be admitting students with Autism Spectrum Disorder who, while able to do excel in their coursework, are not able to satisfactorily complete the technical requirements of the program. This, are presenters claimed, is a law-suit waiting to happen. And I agree (in principal at least, have no idea about actual legality), though this issue is in no way at all limited to students with ASD. In fact, institutions of higher education are far too often accepting students (and their tuition dollars) who won’t be able to hack it in the fields they aspire to enter. Students who may be unable to find jobs, despite excellent grades, includes those students with especially poor writing or community skills, as well as specific populations of students, such as the many international students currently studying on American soil who lack English language proficiency. There’s only so much a college or university can teach in 4 years, and, as our presenters suggested, accepting students who are unprepared or unable to master the technical necessities of their careers may be akin to lying, or even robbing them. Of course, the question remains, what is the responsibilities of an institution? What do they owe their students – an education or a job? Despite the fact that this question is highly relevant to my work and studies, it’s also a challenging and contentious one . . . which is why I’m not answering it. At least for now.

Check back next week for more take-aways from this conference, as well as best practices for working with students with ASD.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Be Napoleonic

At professional conferences, I usually steer clear of sessions designed to facilitate participants’ personal and professional growth. While this certainly isn’t a good thing, I can’t help but feel that in an industry where we’re constantly focusing on career development, I’d rather spend those valuable conference hours concentrating on larger issues like strategy, big picture questions, and tangible best practices. That being said, at an excellent conference I attended last week, I found myself in a session entitled: “Managing Your Boss” or How to Get Ahead Without Losing Your Job! There were many great take-homes from this engaging session, but for the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to concentrate on just one.

Among the success strategies presented for “managing your boss,” the one that stuck out most in my mind was this advice: Be Napoleonic. No, not short and French. Rather, follow Napoleon’s commitment to completed staff work. Apparently, one of Napoleon’s generals was suffering huge losses during the attack of something or other. And he came to Napoleon’s tent to report as much. Napoleon’s answer? What are you going to do about it! You see, Napoleon wanted his staff to bring him solutions, not problems.

Alright, by now you probably know where I’m going with this, but just to be clear . . . don’t just come to your boss with problems. Instead, show them what you can do. Say that a week before a big event, you’re still 15 participants short of the number you’d hoped for. Rather than simply letting your boss know you’re screwed, tell her what the problem is, what steps you’ve already taken, who you’ve reached out, where you’re continuing to publicize the event, and what your plan is going forward. Bien?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Update Your Resume!

A resume is always a work in progress.  I encourage both students and adults to reflect on and update their resumes frequently, so that at a moment's notice it is "ready to  go."  Students will want to take some time in August, before the start of school, to make sure they've included their most recent summer work or internship, study abroad or travel experiences, and relevant coursework or course projects from the previous semester.  However, even seasoned professionals should give their resume a yearly once-over.  Have you read over your resume entries to make sure what you've highlighted accurately captures your most recent and most impressive accomplishments?  Have you added the new software or skills you've learned?  What about the latest professional association you've joined?  Don't wait until someone is waiting on you.  The best time to reflect on and update your resume is now, when you're not planning on using it anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Is the Master's the New Bachelor's Degree? Or, Should I Go To Graduate School?

A recent New York Times article titled The Master's As The New Bachelor's addresses a trend I've already noticed: the decision or desire to go straight into graduate school for lack of other options.  The comment from new graduate William Klein, “it’s pretty apparent that with the degree I have right now, there are not too many jobs I would want to commit to” seems to echo what I'm hearing from a lot of recent and soon to be grads making the decision to apply immediately to graduate school.  Several students have said to me, "When I look at the jobs I want, they all require a Master's degree, so that's why I'm going to get one first."  Yet the question beckons, will a Master's degree suffice?  It will not replace a lack of work experience, worldliness, and the knowledge of a field that only comes from interacting within it, outside the confines of ivy covered buildings.  I fear that these students, unwilling to settle for entry-level jobs, may opt instead for what they see as an alternative route to success (i.e. graduate school), a comfortable route they know well from their proven track record of 16 years of academic success.

Of course, to a large extent, the actual necessity of graduate school is industry specific.  To practice law, you need a law degree.  But, in higher education for instance, you're likely better off securing some experience, before attaining the Master's degree.  Additionally, the value of your degree may lie, not only in the program's reputation, but also in the practical skills you will learn as a result of engaging in its coursework.  Is their an internship component? A strong alumni network?  Without experience in the field prior to entering a graduate program, you will need a lot more guidance and practical skills than some of your more mature counterparts. 

Additionally, the decision to enter graduate school is one with serious financial implications, one which can be decided on that much more judiciously by spending some years in the field,  thereby allowing for increased maturity, as well as career exploration.  Had I entered graduate school immediately after college I'd still be working my way towards a PhD in history, a decision which I'd likely regret based on my own, learned, personal work place preferences and interests. I'm not saying that a Master's isn't the right route for some recent grads, but I definitely don't think it's the new Bachelor's Degree.  If anything, I think it's recent graduates expectations regarding their post-graduate job options that be what's shifting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How Do I Tell Someone Their Resume Is Terrible? Easy, I Do It Every Day!

As you may know, I’m a big fan of Alison Green’s blog “Ask A Manager.” She addresses many of the questions I also receive frequently in a manner that is not only clear, but well-written and insightful. That being said, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I read the title of a recent post, “How do I tell someone that his resume is terrible?” I mean, I’m a career counselor for undergraduates, this is a question I tackle on a daily basis! Now truthfully, this post is more about if you should pass on a poorly written, sloppy resume, and whether it will harm your reputation, but it got me thinking about how I manage to tear apart students’ resume on daily basis - with a smile on my face. Granted, resumes are hard. Getting everything you want to say, in a clear concise manner, onto one page is rough. A thirty page paper on microfinance in Indonesia is nothing compared to the agonizing edits inherent in resume writing. So, like any aspiring-to-be-good educator, I begin with telling students what they did right.

I love the way you followed the resume packet’s directions.
You’ve done a fantastic job explaining your accomplishments as a hostess at Applebee’s.
It’s neat that you can ride a bike with no hands.

Then, I break the news to them:

While riding a bike with no hands is a very interesting skill, I’m not sure it should be featured so prominently given the limited amount of space we have to work with.

That’s when we dive into the nitty gritty. Move this, rewrite this, highlight this, take this out, shrink your margins, decrease your font, take off your GPA, add your minor … the list goes on. Fact of the matter is, the students that come in to see me have asked for this. They’re in my office because they want to know the honest truth, and what to do about it. Resume critiques, like most less than stellar feedback, can be challenging – but so is the job search.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

LinkedIn Etiquette: On Soliciting Help

This post is the first of a series I'm hereby calling "LinkedIn Etiquette". Partially motivated by love of LinkedIn, and partially motivated by some of the truly horrifying and unprofessional habits I've witnessed among LinkedIn users, I hope someone finds this helpful.

Things that are a good idea to do when soliciting help from others on LinkedIn:
  • Reaching out to specific folks on LinkedIn and explaining why you reached out to them and what you are hoping to gain from your interaction
  • Asking for advice and industry/company specific information
  • Including examples of the type of personalized questions you will ask this person
  • Sending thank you notes
Things that are NOT a good idea to do when soliciting help from others on LinkedIn:
  • Sending mass e-mails
  • Including broad and/or generic statements such as "I'm looking for a job in Boston," or "I'd love to talk with you about finding a job in Boston," without any additionally details
  • Asking for a job 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How Starting a Blog is A Lot Like the Job Search

Having been on the job market twice now during the last year (and trust me, the first go-around took awhile), I've noticed some similarities between the job search and my own newbie blogging endeavors.  In no particular order, here are my thoughts on the subject: 

At first, you rely on your inner circle
Asking for people to follow you is sort of like asking people to help you with your job search.  It's a little uncomfortable, and you sort of wonder if you're just being a pain in their you know what.  So naturally, you start with your loved ones first.  It's no surprise that my current (8) followers are comprised of my mother, grandmother, boyfriend, best friends, and their respective significant others.  And the fact that your best friend reports that her boyfriend really likes your blog (thanks Chandra!) is just as awesome as the fact that he's more than happy to introduce you to a colleague or tell you what it's like to be a [fill in the blank]. 

Networking is still the name of the game 
During your job search you try every method of announcing your on the job search.  You update the headline on your LinkedIn profile, you incorporate the words "job" and "seeker" into your twitter bio, and your gchat status links to your resume (okay, maybe not that last one).  Same thing goes for your blog.  And, yes, in this case I really did link my gchat status to my blog.  And, yes, I still have only 8 followers.

You spend way too much time thinking about how you come across to others
How many times did you edit that four sentence bio that appears just under your name?  And how many times did you tweak your resume?  Sending out job applications just seems to take way too much time and effort, as does crafting blog posts, tweets, and returning to the internal debate over whether you should or should not post your blog on Facebook.

It becomes a total chore
Enough said.

You delight in the small successes
A phone interview? A re-tweet? The weekly e-mail from your mom confirming that she still loves your writing and thinks your blog is truly profound?  All are worth celebrating!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wow, I Must Be Really Good At What I Do!

All day I advise students on the job search.  So, I took my own good advice and secured an awesome, super exciting new job. Ahem, new job!  Have no fear, I'm not abandoning my mission of making career services sexy.  In fact, I'm bringing my mission to a larger student population.  I've truly learned so much over the past year and have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with so many fantastic students and colleagues, but this was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up.  So here's to new opportunities - and to staying put for awhile :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Make the Local Exotic

I see many students each year bent on doing internships in far off and exotic locations.  There's the pre-med student intent on working at hospital in Zimbabwe, the aspiring teacher hoping to teach English in Argentina, and the economics major looking for a finance internship in China.  Well the awesomeness of doing an internship in any of the above locations is hard to deny, securing an internship abroad is no simple order.  Things to consider include the cost of living abroad, travel expenses, necessary visas and/or vaccinations, health insurance, and many more.  Moreover, all these internships can be done in one's own backyard - just try contacting your local hospital, school, or financial planner. Yes, I know, Sturdy Memorial in Norton, MA lacks the cache of a rural health clinic in Africa, yet it's practical and sustainable as you can continue your work there throughout the school year.  While I'm all for the value of international experiences, it's not necessary to travel 5000 miles to gain practical skills and work experience relating to your future career goals. So here's to making the local exotic!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chaos Theory and My Own Career

In "You Majored in What?" Katherine Brooks dispels the notion of an assumed linear path between one's major and career in favor of a chaos-inspired career trajectory.  Essentially, she suggests that most career development paths are more akin to the butterfly effect, rather than the straightforward routes so many college students initially envision (or desire).  With this premise, I think Brooks has hit the nail on the head, and I'd like to offer up my own non-linear career path as evidence.

I've always loved learning.  As a history major at Middlebury College, I interned in the Department of Education in Washington, DC and later wrote my senior thesis on education legislation passed as part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty.  This interest in education policy and the history of education, compounded by my idealistic desire to “change the world, motivated me to join Teach For America after graduation.  After two incredibly difficult, yet rewarding years in the first-grade trenches, my naive aspirations to transform the educational inequities in our country as a policy-maker were replaced by my desire to return to my beloved halls of academia.  And so I applied to six graduate schools - three History PhD programs specializing in the History of Education, and three Education Master’s programs with a focus on Higher Education.  Despite my instinct to dive into the seeming security of a seven-year long PhD program, it was too difficult to turn down the all-expenses-paid one-year Master’s program at an elite university in my hometown.  The next thing I knew, I was back in Boston interviewing for graduate assistantships advertised at the multitude of Boston area college campuses.

I ultimately accepted a position in the Office of Career, Research, and International Opportunities, helping to manage a $70 million dollar grant program designed to fund international summer experiences and internships for undergraduate students.  In this process I re-discovered my passion and interest for the field of career advising and career services.  I say re-discovered because, in retrospect, there were some tell-tale signs pointing me in this direction.  For one thing, I’ve always been interested in what other people are up to, and specifically curious about new to me jobs or industries.  Additionally, as a college student I practiced what I currently preach.  I utilized career services, applied for and received summer funding for my DOE internship, and started my job search early.  And during my stint as a TFA Corps Member, I volunteered as a recruiter, thereby gaining inadvertent experience in what would later become my chosen career field.  I'm not sure if I ever could have predicted or foreseen this path for myself as an undergrad, which certainly speaks to Brooks’ assertion that "unplanned events and emerging conditions [change an] individual's circumstances." What I do know is that along this path I’ve built on my skills, abilities, and diverse work experiences in order to get to where I am today. And who knows, maybe in five or ten years I’ll have another similar, but equally unpredictable story to tell.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Honor of Father's Day

My dad is asking me about all things social media.  As a small business owner he's heard a lot about the value of social media, but doesn't seem to know how to go about using online technologies to market and promote the services his company offers.  In the fall he had my uncle, his business partner, create a Facebook page for their small self-storage facility, but as the page has exactly 6 fans (each of the members of family) it's done little to generate any revenue this far.  So now he's wondering (i.e. asking me about) if he should get the business on Twitter.  I'm trying to explain to him that he can't just go on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and wait for the profits to roll in.  He actually has to utilize these tools as part of an actual marketing campaign by incentivizing users to join, and by creating traffic to direct potential consumers to his products.  Now this confusion surrounding how to use social media is not at all unique to my dad, or even to his generation.  I talk to students about using social media to publicize and reinforce their personal brand, which, simply put, refers to those skills and characteristics that make you unique, hopefully in regards to your employability.  But you can't just create the twitter account and wait for good things to happen.  You actually need to tweet - often!  The same goes for LinkedIn or blogs or any other social media be implemented in the hopes of getting hired; you need to actually use these tools!  Does this take time? Yes.  Is it often frustrating? Yes! I mean, I am fairly certain that no one is actually reading this blog (except for you Mom, "Hi Mom!")  But, as I've tried to explain to my Dad, social media is not something you can just opt into it.  It takes time, energy, and a plan.  Yes, it seems that everyone these days is using social media.  But if you plan to get results from it, you've got to do it right.  Now this is not something my Dad doesn't know.  Rather, his entire career is based on hard work and "doing things right."  So as far as social media goes, I'm happy to help him out and show him the ropes as he gets his online footing.  And no, don't worry, this isn't some sad excuse to avoid getting him a father's day present - I already bought him some socks.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Networkin' It at Reunion

This past weekend I attended my five year college reunion.  While I happily spent most of the weekend with the same 5-7 people that I spent the majority of my college career with, there were certainly ample interactions with classmates who I hadn't spoken with since we'd left our undergraduate careers behind.  And these conversations all essentially went the same way:

"Hi, it's been so long."
"Yes, too long, how are you?"
"Great, where are you living now."
"I'm in [insert Northeastern city], working at [insert name of bank/legal firm]. You?"
"I'm in [insert name of other, smaller Northeastern city], working at [education/non-profit organization]."

Despite the monotony of these essentially vapid conversations, I was struck by the fantastic opportunity reunion presented for networking.  And in fact, I was impressed by some of my classmates abilities to truly work the room (or in this case the campus green).  I saw several classmates exchanging bussiness cards, writing down e-mails, and concluding these seemingly prescribed conversations with the words that every career advisor loves to hear:

I'd love to learn more about what you're doing, would it be alright if I sent you an e-mail later this week with some questions?

Perfectly articulated!  Who wants to spend their 5 year college reunion discussing the details of their job? We've got more important things to do, like drink Vermont microbrews and relive our college glory days.  However, if you're willing to think outside of the party box and truly make the most of the excellent networking opportunity that reunion is,  you can not only enjoy the weekend, but make some excellent contacts. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

'Bite Your Tongue' and Other Advice for New Employees

Today's college graduates are used to speaking their minds.  And even if they haven't been exactly heard, they certainly believe they have something to say that matters.  As a millenial myself, I also firmly believe I have something to contribute to my office.  I mean, why else would my bosses have hired me (and why else would I be writing this  blog)?  Yet the first weeks on the a new job (or internship) are not the time to take the office by storm - actually it's never time for that.  Rather, if you are a new employee, here are three pieces of advice:

1) Bite your tongue
This is something I struggle with on a daily basis, but I suggest you stifle your enthusiasm to speak and up and just spend some time listening.  Get a feel for the workplace and what your colleagues are doing, and only then slowly begin to contribute to the discussion.  Others in your office might have been on the job for years before they felt comfortable speaking up and being taken seriously, so take measured steps to ensure that your eagerness to participate in the conversation doesn't alienate or offend some of your more seasoned colleagues. While I'm not advocating silence, I do suggest getting a feel for your office and waiting for your opinion to be asked before volunteering your two cents about a project that your colleagues might have been working on for months.

2) Ask questions
That great idea you have, yeah, they might have tried it a few years back with little success.  So rather than trying to have the answers, ask the questions.

3) Pay attention
Take note of the office culture, the way in which people approach new projects or tasks, and how your colleagues interact with your boss.  As the newbie at work, you'll be given some slack, but generally speaking, I'd try to adhere to the code of conduct and protocol already established in the office.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Congratulations to the Class of 2011

And to the new graduates, remember, it's not too late to make an appointment with career services!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You're Giving Me $100,000 Not To Go To College?

Peter Thiel is offering up a pretty sweet deal.  He is providing 24 students with $100,000 in order to begin to build the technology companies of tomorrow.  The catch for these teenagers all under the age of 20: they can't attend college for the next two years. 

Despite offers from Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, these students are circumventing the traditional education track and choosing to pursue their business prowess - without a higher degree. While I won't speak to what this means for higher education, business, or technology, I will say that I see this fellowship as a fantastic opportunity for career exploration.  Regardless of the success of their projects, this opportunity will allow these fellows to gain practical real world skills, while "trying on" a career.  These students, who are essentially the creme de la creme of their generation, are, through this two year fellowship, going to explore aspects of business, technology, and industry that they might not otherwise have had access to at this early stage in their career and educational development.  I'd hope and expect that this experience will not make these students abandon their collegiate plans altogether, but rather allow them to embark on their studies more informed, more concentrated, and that much more driven.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Not To Wear

I'm too often shocked by the young woman who show up for career advising meetings (and who knows what else) either dressed as bums, or wearing totally risque, suggestive, and ill-fitting outfits.  I fear for these  girls, who I'm afraid may not have caught the underlying subtext in my cautionary plea to wear something "professional and modest" to the interview.  Of course, a small part of me goes out to these ladies who might just want to be comfortable and/or show off some style (if you can call it that).  When I was a small child I would throw mini-tantrums at the thought of wearing uncomfortable shoes, skirts, and tights, while my brother got away with little more than pants and a polo.  And truthfully, the injustice of it all stills gets me today.  Yet the reality for us women is, stockings, heels, and Ann Taylor pantsuits, not this type of trendy attire or sweatpants, are necessary if you want to be hired or taken seriously in most professions.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's Not Only About Luck

An article in yesterday's New York Times got me thinking.  This part specifically jumped out at me:

“I have friends with the same degree as me, from a worse school, but because of who they knew or when they happened to graduate, they’re in much better jobs,” said Kyle Bishop, 23, a 2009 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh who has spent the last two years waiting tables, delivering beer, working at a bookstore and entering data. “It’s more about luck than anything else.”

While my response to Kyle would be, yes, your friend who graduated with connections was to some extent lucky to have had that network, but what have you done to grow your own?  Have you reached out to alumni, joined social networking groups on LinkedIn, and attended professional meetings where you might build some of your own professional connections.  The excuse that you were too busy working your various day jobs is no excuse.  The job search process is truly all about networking, perhaps even more so then when you graduated or where you went to college.  And to current students I say: do not wait until you've graduated to start reaching out to alums and conducting informational interviews in your field.  Build those relationships now so that you won't have to spend the next two years underpaid and under-employed, trying to retroactively make those connections that you really should should have worked to make earlier.

Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Numbers

NACE recently published the results of its annual internship and co-op survey.  The results not only speak to how valuable an internship can be in terms of achieving a full-time offer, but also demonstrate the value for employers who take on interns. As the chart on the bottom indicates, companies that hire candidates with internship experience at their own organizations stay on longer - a major concern for many employers hiring recent graduates.  This information is not too surprising, but certainly affirming for the work we as career counselors do.  And yes, I also think the bird graphic is sort of odd.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Should You Be Willing to Work for Free?

As I work to promote (and craft) my own professional brand, I've found myself looking to the advice of personal branding guru Dan Schawbel. A recent article he wrote on landing your dream job had a lot of good points, but one that really stuck out to me was the advice to be willing to work for free.  Work for free?  Some of you might be saying "no way!"  However, investing your time and finances into pursuing an unpaid internship or professional development experience is, in my mind, not that much different than investing in your bachelor's degree.  Perhaps it's even more valuable!  These days it's your internship and work experience, not your college degree,  that's heightening your chances of getting your "first big job."  Is this a hard sell for those students or recent college grads who are already dealing with huge amounts of debt? Well, yes.  However, a network-building, career-enhancing position doesn't have to be full-time and it doesn't have to replace all other income generating opportunities.  When the time arrives, you'll have to ask yourself if 6-months of busting your butt to juggle an unpaid internship and paid retail job are worth in order to bring you that much closer to your dream career.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Reports of recent attempts to circumvent the traditional resume and cover letter route may be greeted with a sigh of relief by some students and job seekers, yet I wonder if this is truly to the advantage of either the applicant or the employer.  A cover letter serves many purposes.  It allows the job seekers to fill in the gaps, mention relevant experiences that don't belong on the resume (i.e. coursework or shadowing experiences) and serves as a valuable writing sample.  Additionally, it proves your interest and qualifications for a job's specific duties in a way a tweet cannot - and it allows the employer to decipher your actual level of interest.  Fact of the matter is, a well-written cover letter takes time and consideration in a way that a tweet just does not.  I can just imagine hiring managers shaking in their boots at the prospect of receiving thousands of 140-word job applications that lack much of any substantive information.

That being said, I think their is a future in non-traditional cover letters, specifically online videos or posts that contain the same general message as a cover letter (why it's in the best interest of the employer to hire you).  But more on that in another post . . .

Don't even think about doing something like this . . .

This e-mail reeks of entitlement.  No matter where you are in your professional development, and especially if you're in college, this kind of rude and unprofessional language is totally inappropriate. Beware bad karma and a paper (or e-mail) trail, it might just come back to bite you in the a**.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Making the Most of Your Summer Internship

At last week’s pre-departure orientation meeting we reviewed business etiquette, professionalism, and what it means to be a successful intern. And while we touched on the importance of making the most of your summer, I wish we’d had the time to really break it down for these students about to set off on what could really be a vital career exploration experience. For those of you soon-to-be-interns, here’s some advice on making the most out of your experience:
  • Ask to help out on the projects you’re interested in. Don’t wait to be asked, rather inquire as to whether you could take on some additional responsibilities helping out on that project that has really piqued your interest. Not only will you demonstrate you’re a high achiever and self-starter, but you’ll have the chance to take on some interesting work you might not otherwise have had access to.
  • Shadow and/or talk to people outside your department. Many students take, for-instance, a marketing internship, but are also considering human resources as a possible career path. If you’re at a company or organization that has other departments you might be interested in, see if you can spend a day or an afternoon not only building your network, but getting a feel for what this kind of work is like. Once you’re a couple of weeks in, talk to your supervisor and see about arranging an informational interview or a shadowing opportunity with others in the company.
  • Ask smart questions. Don’t understand something? Want to learn more about a company project? Wonder what it means to be “Executive Assistant to the Vice President?” ASK!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Careers Out There

We career counselors love informational interviews.  Not only are they an excellent way to make contacts in your industry, but they also allow for students in the development stages of their job exploration process to learn more about specific professions.  That being said, there are only so much informational interviews a student, especially a shy one, can do.  That’s why I think Careers Out There, which I recently stumbled across, is particularly handy.  A sort of interactive version of O*Net Online, Careers Out There highlights interviews with professionals from a wide variety of industry.  Ever wonder what it takes to be a writer? Hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

What interviews or articles on Careers Out There do you find particularly interesting or useful?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Beginner Interview Tips

As the class of 2011 starts to feel the pressure of the job search process, I’m seeing more of them in my office, eager to review and rehash their interview experiences. One student’s story, reminded me of a very important point of emphasis for any job seeker: it’s not about what the job seeker (you) wants, but what the employer needs. The employer cares a lot less about why a given position appeals to you, will advance your career, or matches your interests, but rather how you will advance the organization.
Here are some tips for novice interviewers:

Obsess Over the Job Description
Read each individual point of the job description and identify the skills and experience you have that will enable you to successfully perform that responsibility or task.

Do Your Research
Identify the skills, strengths, and character traits that you possess which will allow you to contribute to the overall goals and mission of the organization.

Make Your Pitch
Market yourself! By reading articles and the company’s website, determine what the organization is looking for, and then demonstrate that you’ve got it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Can I Do With a Philosophy Major?

I get this, or the same question in reference to other majors, pretty often.  And truthfully, the answer is pretty much always the same –a lot.  Obviously, there are some options pursuing a graduate degree, teaching, or even the ministry, that might be assumed for what one could do with a philosophy degree.  That being said, many philosophy (or anthropology, women’s studies, etc.) majors pursue careers in, amongst other things, law, public service, marketing, consulting, or public relations.  Essentially, the value of your degree is the skills you learn and your ability to market them.  Writing, research, communication, leadership, analysis, and critical thinking skills are all evidence of your ability to perform the duties associated with some of the aforementioned jobs.  As a philosophy major you might write a thesis, collaborate on a project, or engage in frequent in-class debates, which all speak to your ability to succeed in the workplace.   So don’t sell your major short.  Study what you love, build your skill-set, explore a wide-variety of career options, and your possible career paths will not be limited.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Plan B

We have a good number of first-time visitors to our office this time of year, specifically asking the question: "I didn't get the internship (or two) I applied for, what now?"  While these students certainly still have options, it is worth pointing out that when you are applying to your first-choice internship, you should be also applying to some Plan B internships and jobs - and applying to lots of them.  A Plan B position could be something you'd love to do, like to do, or even a position you'd only consider doing under the direst of circumstances.  While you might love to be in New York City for the summer, it a good idea to apply to some jobs near your home as well.  When you applied to college, you probably didn't apply to only one school (early decision aside) and it should be the same case with internships.  Fact of the matter is, it's often hard to tell what a position might really be like until you have the chance to speak with a supervisor, learn more about what the position entails, or do some more research about the organization you'd be working at.  So while you might find your dream internship in February, please, do not wait to hear back before moving forward in the search.  Apply to some Plan B positions and you won't be left scrambling for an internship in May.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Planning Ahead 101

This morning I met with a young woman who impressed me for the first five minutes of our conversation.  This young woman, let's call her Beth, was able to clearly articulate what she hoped to do this summer, after graduation, and was both personable and polite.  Perhaps most impressive, she had already applied for several internships, secured several interviews, and was working on putting together her internship "Plan B" for the summer.

However, when Beth proceeded to ask me about summer funding opportunities through our office - a small part of my career counselor heart died a little.  Now, all applications for summer funding were due last week.  Beth, who might have made an excellent candidate for one of our 30+ $3,000 grants for unpaid internships, had missed the boat.  Don't get left standing on the dock, plan ahead! Oh, and read any e-mail from your career center with the word funding in the subject line.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dreaming of Adventure Jobs

In reality, I'm perfectly content in my current role, but in my dreams (where loans, familial obligations, and the absence of any technical outdoors skills have no bearing on my aspirations) I'm making a living as raft guide or an equestrian instructor at a dude ranch in Wyoming.  If you have these same inklings of wilderness guide glory, but, unlike me, are actually capable of performing the responsibilities that come with the job title, check out the Outdoor Adventure Professional Network. In fact, these type of adventure jobs can be excellent opportunities for employment during the summer, post-graduation, or for professionals looking to shake things up.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll be guiding tourists down the Kicking Horse River in a couple of years.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Smarter Search

I recently met with a senior who was prepping for an interview that afternoon with a local marketing firm. I wasn't familiar with the company he was referring to, so I took a few free minutes that afternoon to check out their website and open positions.  Immediately I saw that this was a firm specializing in "direct marketing."  In other words, door-to-door sales.  Which brings me to an important point: Do your homework when applying to jobs.  As soon as I got to the company's website, I spotted several red flags.  First of all, the company did not request a resume or a cover letter from its applicants.  Second, it was difficult to decipher who the firm's clients were. Third, all social media links were about a year old - very unusual in this field.  Not surprisingly, after debriefing with the student, I learned that he was conducting his job search largely through large online search engines.  While I understand that these type of websites can have a place in a senior's job search, I strongly urged this student to reach out to alums in his field of interest, as well as target companies, rather than simply responding to online ads. It is easy to be seduced by the appeal of easily accessible, seemingly lucrative online job postings, but to really make progress in the job search process I recommend conducting a smarter search.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tip #1: Do Not Text the Hiring Manager

Ever.  You've heard it before, but here it is again: texts are not a professional form of communication. Please, please, do not text the hiring manager or, for that matter, anyone who is assisting you in your job search process.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Eureka! I've Got It!

Finally, after weeks of brainstorming, I've chosen the perfect title for my blog.  As I'm a little late to the blogging game, many of my blog title choices were taken.  Others were simply too long, too boring, or simply nonsensical.  However, "Do Not Text the Hiring Manager" captures just the vibe I'm going for.  As a career advisor to millennials, and as a millennial myself, I intend to use this space to reflect on some of the unique 21st century challenges and topics that relate to both the career exploration process and the field of career development services.