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**.