Education Career Services

July 26, 2010

Social Media Intoxication: enough all ready!

I finally have a few minutes to reflect about the day and how to maneuver along this crazy highway called electronic social networking. Problem, the only thing I can think of is: I need to check my LinkedIn, Twitter, Face Book, and five other accounts just in case…

There are benefits of networking but where is the point of diminishing return? Or is there such a concept in this arena?

How much time and energy do you spend texting, twitting, linking, and face booking? If we accumulated the amount of time spent (or should I have said wasted) peering into monitors and punching keys over a full week period, do you think the minutes (hours?) would be staggering and perhaps eye-popping? Being a rookie with such technology, I thought I would take a few minutes and tally the average amount of time I actually do surf.  Perhaps the following is close to your time spent? Let me know if this is consistent for a week span:

* LinkedIn, logged in on the hour and spent an average of eight minutes on the site each time
* Responded to three peer questions on LinkedIn (total time spent for each ten minutes)
* Twitted and read those twitting articles several times a day (I am not a huge Twitterer so my time was limited to personal knowledge—no doubt many out there spend hours Twitting each day)
* Face Book was checked and browsed four to five times daily
* Blogging took a great deal of time over the week; with three active blogs to keep up, I seem to be running in a circle

Add daily interruptions and now I must ask, how does any real work get done? Running several publishing, writing, and human capital firms is a full-time (70 hour week) job—heck, no wonder my hair is sprouting more salt and less pepper! Maybe it’s time to kick back and rethink what we do during the day?

All of this leads up to the concern: Is the social/media craze worth the sacrifice? At what point is enough too much and at what point are we walking around with our eyes glued to a networking device—never looking up to see if the sky is falling or if there even was a sky?

I don’t know how far this networking evolution will take civilization but I am beginning to worry about the negative effects of social media intoxication. Thus far, I’ve had the pleasure to see the following:

* Employees forgetting to work but not forgetting to network
* Students texting instead of taking notes (while an instructor I disallowed laptops, phones, and any other electronic medium in the classroom)
* Less original work being performed and being submitted (or was I imagining)
* Family members not connecting face to face, even at restaurants while sitting at the same table (go figure)
* Drivers texting while operating their vehicle
* An over all decrease of interviewing and real social skills

Don’t know about you but I believe social media networking does have a darker side associated with it. For starters, think I’ll limit the time spent on electronic toys and insist those sitting at the dinner table with me pay more attention to the people sitting at the table. Perhaps each day enjoy simplicity, noise-free simplicity…

So what if I miss a Tweet or am not the first to see a photo on Face Book… does it really matter?

dhuffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services/Career Services International
dhuffman@careersi.com

May 25, 2010

Using Internships to Beef-Up Student Résumés

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 9:27 pm
Tags: , , ,

By Jenna Rew

Internships are vital for any college career, providing the meat to a sparse résumé in order to help propel you into the ever-changing job market. Don’t skip out on them; in this economy, they may be the deciding factor between you and an equally well-educated individual. Take part in as many as you can and if possible go for those that span more than a single semester.

Why risk having fewer internships for a longer running one? When transferring your list of experience to a résumé as applicable job experience, you want to show commitment and minimize the appearance of “job hopping”. Further, longer internships give you more opportunities to soak up information and show valuable initiative in an environment that might otherwise be too fast paced for any real contribution from you.

Typically, internships spanning only one semester last just long enough for you to learn how the position works and what you are responsible for but it doesn’t always lend itself to showing your real value, which could result in some very lack luster references. Look for those that are notorious for giving students real work and not just dumping clerical work on a desk, and try to build lasting relationships that could serve you later. If you can’t find a long spanning internship, then look for ways to squeeze out as much potential as possible from a shorter one. Work at home, do your research, talk to colleagues, and listen to conversations.

Always remember as you work, you are trying to build a résumé strong enough to land you a job. Consider what tools are most valuable in the industry you want to work in and look for internships that cater to those. Ask questions of your supervisors and don’t be afraid to volunteer for things that will give you more opportunities to show-off your skills.

When transferring these skills and experiences to a résumé you want to think in terms of numbers. What was the size of the project you helped with? How much money was at stake? How big was the company? For students, sometimes the prestige of the place you intern at can add value to your portfolio. How did you contribute?

Companies don’t care about your job duties; they know what the position they are hiring for does. They want to know what you bring to the table. If you know how to use some particular technical program, include that. If you worked on something difficult or unique, include that. Try to set yourself apart from your fellow entry-level job seekers, because they all need the job equally as bad.

After each internship, don’t be shy to ask if it is okay to list your supervisor as a reference on a job application, or better yet, to ask them to contribute a quote about your abilities for your résumé. Quotes are vital tools, especially for students. They help provide backing to claims that are non-quantifiable. As students, you probably aren’t going to be able to say you boosted sales 400% or reclaimed $30M in lost revenue. You just don’t have the experience, but you can show that prior employers value you and your ability to adapt to given situations.

Remember, this is your career. Do something you are passionate about and use your internships to make sure you are qualified to land your dream job. Don’t put off until tomorrow something you could do today. You don’t want to be that graduate who has to work an internship for free before getting a job because you just didn’t take the time to do it beforehand.

Thanks Jenna, we all appreciate your input and career management tips,

DHuffman,
education career services
career services international

April 26, 2010

Job Fair Opportunities, NEVER miss out!

With the unemployment rate as it is, NOW is NOT the time to sit back and wait. As a matter of fact, NOW has never been a better time to become active in your own career success. With this in mind, I encourage all students (and alumni as well as seasoned professionals) to explore the many benefits of a job fair.

For those currently employed, job fairs offer insight as to the latest employment trends and marketing techniques while opening a slew of networking contacts. Think about it, where else do hundreds of individuals and company representatives gather under one roof? This is an optimal medium on multiple career fronts… don’t miss out on these types of opportunities simply because you are employed.

For students, alumni, or any individual seeking employment or career transition, job fairs are an ideal event for career shopping. Unfortunately the probability of actually landing a job offer during a job fair is minimal, offers do happen. More often than not, the information you present during the job fair will be relayed back to company headquarters where it will be reviewed. Oftentimes the representative from the job fair will be included in the review, thus the importance of following proper business etiquette is essential (as well as the bullets below).

At its core, job fairs are a perfect place to practice and sharpen your career management skills. For example, if you lack a solid introduction (15-30 second) statement (elevator or brand as many circles label), now is the time get it right. If you have shy tendencies or simply don’t know answers to basic interview questions (“why should I hire you” and/or “tell me about yourself”), no better time than NOW to get it right. To help you along the way, here is…

Info you need to know:

* Bring plenty resumes and cover letters (make sure your resume and cover letter highlights the value and contributions you WILL bring to a company).
Dress appropriately; no jeans, no baseball caps, no tennis shoes (yes, even shoes are important) and, for the guys, wear a tie with your slacks/long sleeve shirt; for a ladies, professional attire ONLY.
* Look the part; first impressions weigh heavily. If all else fails and you are unsure what is right or wrong, be conservative, if you have facial rings, take them off for this go around and if you are tacked out, try to cover the ink up. I know you’re thinking this is who you are and if the company doesn’t want you the way you are, too bad. News flash, this event is NOT about you… it’s about what you can do for the company and if you fit THEIR image… leading us to the next bullet.
* Brand yourself the right way; this not only means how you look but what you say. Speak in a confident manner, NEVER talk badly about a past employer, and prepare a nice 15 second (give or take a few seconds) introductory statement (aka an elevator speech).
* Introduce yourself with a firm handshake (please no clammy or overtaking—nothing like giving someone the creeps from the get-go) and retain eye to eye contact without getting into a contest (no staring, another creepy potential creepy moment).
Bring yourself; do NOT bring children, parents, or friends.
* Professional courtesy goes a long way… being impatient, interrupting, or plain old rude gets you nowhere quick.

Following basic guidelines when putting yourself “out there” gives you the upper hand. Enough reading for now, you have a job fair to prepare for!

Wishing you nothing but success,

dhuffman, certified resume writer, certified career coach, certified interview professional, and owner of Career Services International, Education Career Services as well as author of over 12 career management publications. Contact him at dhuffman@careersi.com with have any career questions or issues.

February 16, 2010

To Really Excel, DON’T Do a “Good Job”

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 11:30 pm
Tags: , , , ,

We get it into our head that if we do a good job we’ll advance in our careers.  I hear it all the time from clients who have been laid off, “I don’t understand!  I did a good job!”  Or from employees receiving cost of living adjustments but no real raises: “But I do a great job!”

What an amorphous term, “good job.”   What does it mean, exactly?  You fulfill your responsibilities and duties?  While nothing to be sneered at, that’s a reason for your employer to keep you in place when things are booming not to promote, and the first to cut when it begins to bust.

To do a good job is the baseline of performance, not the pinnacle.  If that becomes our standard, we quickly become expendable.  If your work performance self-analysis is to ask yourself if you’re doing a good job, it’s time to throw out that term and replace it with something more telling.  “A good job” requires no measurement; it’s almost an emotion, not substance. 

Try instead: “Am I adding value to the company?” 

Now that’s a question whose answer can take you to the top.  It demands quantification!  Simple maintenance of company profitability is a functionary’s job; adding to profitability through increased revenue or cost savings from improved processes, problem-solving, and work optimization is a winner’s job.   Further, it results in more questions requiring answers.  How have you added value?  How much value, exactly?  What were the results?

Best of all, positive answers will spur greater growth and self-confidence.  If you provide solutions once, you realize you can do it again.  Such value-added performance is noticed; and if it isn’t, it can easily be quantified and proven in a performance review.  The bigger a company becomes, the more areas an employee can impact.  Management needs people to step up without being asked!  Take ownership of your slice of the company and be rid of the “good job” mentality.  You’re career will thank you.

Rob Swanson
Managing Writer
Career Services International

February 12, 2010

I’m in the Mood for LOVEEEEEE!

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 9:46 pm

Valentines Day.  Sure, it’s over commercialized (some would say it’s ONLY commercialized).  No doubt you will find dozens of blogs decrying the formality of the holiday and others rhapsodizing about the possibilities.

It comes down to whiners and winners.  Which are you?

You can abdicate from Valentines Day; your significant other may understand (suuuure they will).  Or you can take the opportunity to flex your creativity and burst through the constraints of the day.

With Valentines Day you can just do what’s expected—a Hallmark card, maybe some flowers and/or candy… doing your duty might prevent you from sleeping on the couch, but will it be memorable?  Will your S.O. really feel you’re the one, or might fantasies of a better lover play in his/her dreams?

If you allow creativity to rein and really put on a show, fulfilling your S.O.’s specific desires and fantasies instead of just commercial expectations, well… don’t expect much sleep that night…

And so it is with your job search.  You can decry the restraints of the modern career search and cobble together a résumé from a template, submit it online, or maybe hand it to a friend.  If by some miracle you get an interview, you can wing it when you get there while grumbling how unfair hiring practices are.

Or you can decide to court your favored prospects.  Develop a professional portfolio, craft a value driven résumé, do your homework, send networking letters, set up informational meetings, network within the companies, and portray yourself as the solution the company desperately needs.  Become the candidate others grumble about because you’re so well prepared and scored the job.

You know; be a winner, not a whiner.

Rob Swanson
Managing Writer
Career Services International

August 7, 2009

Turn a No-Call into a Conversation: The Follow Up Call

The advantage of pitching to the unadvertised job market

You’ve submitted your resume and cover letter to the manager of a company you’re interested in working for… not for a specific posting but before there’s a posting.  You’ve done your homework; you know that 80% of the hiring happens on the unadvertised side of the job market and that only 20% of job seekers fish in those waters.  Further, you’ve researched who leads the department where you’re interested in working and you’ve sent a networking letter (next post, watch for it) or a cover letter and your resume.

And no one calls.phone

Not a bad thing, necessarily, because you know the power of a follow up call and how to turn it to your advantage.   You dial the number (you’ve done great research, remember), and an administrative assistant answers the phone.  Here’s what you say:

You:  Hello, this is (your name).  Is (manager’s name) available?

Her:  What is this in reference to, please?

You: I would like to talk to him about our recent correspondence. 

This should be enough to get you through, if she wants to know what the correspondence is about, say:  “Don’t worry, I’m not a sales person; I recently sent Mr. X a letter about your department and said I would call.  May I speak with him please?”   If she asks you to leave a message, leave your name and number and the reason is your recent correspondence.  Then ask for a better time to call.  Ideally, you’ve been put through.  If so….

You:  Hello, sir, I am (your name).  I recently sent you a letter regarding my interest in learning about your company.  Do you recall receiving it?

Him:  I’m sure it’s around here somewhere.  Why don’t you remind me.

You:  I’d be glad to.  I am a (specify kind) professional and I would like to learn more about your company.  I was hoping I could come in talk to you about it.

Him: We’re not hiring right now.

You:  I appreciate that, sir; I’m not asking for an interview but an informational meeting to discuss your company and industry.   My research suggests you’re the best person to talk to about that at my level.  Do you have availability this week for me to come in and speak with you?

Him: Wait, you sent me your resume!

You: Yes sir, I wanted you to know that I am a serious professional and this meeting wouldn’t be a frivolous use of your time.   A lunch meeting or fifteen minutes or so would be plenty.  Is tomorrow too soon?

Obviously, a conversation can go many different directions.  The key to a follow up call is to never refer to your resume, but your correspondence or letter.  Steer it away from from an interview (threatening to a manager) and toward an informational meeting (flattering to a manager — their expertise is valued). 

The assumptive close, “would Tuesday be good?” brings it back to the topic at hand — getting a face-t0-face meeting — and inclines the manager to give a date that would work.

Be prepared, though.  The manager may ask to make the informational meeting right then on the phone (“let’s do it now, what would you like to know?”).  Be ready to launch into your elevator speech (a 15 to 30 second summary of your value), ask questions about the company goals, needs, and operations, LISTEN, and be close with “how do you see a professional with my background fitting in?  What can I do to prepare myself for a job here?  Do you see a value for me to come in and meet  you so if a good opening springs up you have someone of interest?”

BUT, if the manager does agree to a face-to-face (score!), get ready for the Informational Meeting… you guessed it, come back for that on a future post coming soon…

Rob Swanson – Writing Manager, Career Services International – www.careersi.com ; Education Career Services, www.educationcs.com

July 27, 2009

With Apologies to Donna Summer

Filed under: Career Cafe,Career Development,Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 8:01 pm

donnasummerMaybe you remember the disco hit, “She Works Hard for Her Money.”  While the first part is a necessity to success, the last part is the sure sign of a loser.  Clearly, Ms. Summer wasn’t giving career advice, but the sentiment of working soley for money will backfire.

Certainly a paycheck is the reason we need employment, but if your job ethic is dependant on the size of your check, you’re in trouble.  A better credo is, “Work Hard for the Company” (with a bridge stipulating “Make Sure the Company is Worth It!”)

Some employees complain about their wages and “deliver what the company pays for,” reserving their best work for a better bank deposit.  Especially in today’s economy, jobs may not pay what they have in the past.  You may be faced with a lower offer than you previously received.  Please take heed:  If you aren’t happy with the offer, turn it down.  If you accept the offer, deliver your best work without complaint.  In fact, work as if you were making a million bucks.

Definitely negotiate the best deal you can, and be sure part of your offer is an understanding of when you can expect a salary review.  Give your best, schedule the review and communicate the value you generated to justify a raise, and then, like your original offer either accept it or don’t, but if you do, continue to deliver your best.  Regardless of what they pay you, a manager is hiring you to give 110%.

Studies have shown that elaborate compensation packages have little effect on work delivered by highly-paid executives.  The people who command such packages leave the negotiation table without a backward glance at their pay.  That’s why they can command such packages.

How about you?  Can you see a circumstance where pay should effect your performance?

Rob Swanson – Managing Writer, Career Services International – www.careersi.com; Education Career Services, www.educationcs.com

July 8, 2009

A Great Bad Resume

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 7:20 pm
Tags: , ,

The formatting was terrible.  I read resumes every day and from look to layout, this resume from an MBA student was awful.

But it was also GREAT.

Traditionally, student resumes struggle to fill a page (and I’ve seen a lot of executives who fill two or even three pages with just as little content).  The student will typically say they haven’t done anything yet, as if four years of project work didn’t yield transferable results.

But this kid saw through all that.  He documented as transferable skills some impressive volunteer work, major class projects, internships, and a part-time job.  All of it was geared to marketing.  I have no doubt that this candidate could repurpose all of those projects to management or purchasing or several other things.

Because he gets it.  He made strong choices and documented them.  He even dug into each project to pull out measurable results.  Clearly, he went in prepared.

While fortune favors the prepared, it’s never too late to look at what you’ve done and find the transferable value. 

Confession time: my degrees are in theater, among them playwrighting and directing.   Although engineering was far from my mind at the time, when a promising position at Boeing came up, I turned directing and writing plays into exactly what they are: project work.  I managed a budget, recruited and led a cross-functional team of specialists, oversaw marketing and PR, worked to strict deadlines, and developed structured writing.  My interviewer’s biggest problem was explaining to his superior why he hired a theater guy as an industrial engineer.

That student’s great bad resume?  Shaping it up will be a breeze.  How about you?   Have you leveraged your background to the fullest?  If you don’t, our student may take your job!

Rob Swanson

Writing Manager – Career Services International – www.careersi.com; Education Career Services – www.educationcs.com

June 22, 2009

Reader Investment

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 8:06 pm
Tags: , , ,

boaredThe best resumes and cover letters are written with the reader in mind.  We talk a lot about telling the reader only what they need to know; now we’re going to look at making sure it’s read.  To do that, we have to understand the concept of “reader investment.”

Each resume requires an investment of time from the hiring manager.  They have just so much time and patience to spend on each page that they must be choosy in their selection.  Their initial skim of the document determines whether they’ll make that time investment. 

Wading through big, clunky paragraphs is annoying so it’s easier to skip over readerthem.  You do it all the time, probably on this blog.  If this post was one big block of text, you might opt to scroll down the page looking for a more accessible entry.  Bullets jump out and grab you, so do bolded sections or headings  How many of you read that bolded paragraph before you read the entry?

Ask yourself, “how much reader investment does my resume require?”

  • Do you have paragraphs more than three lines long in the top portion (the sales zone of a resume)? 
  • Are there strings of more than four bullets? 
  • Do your grouped bullets relate to each other? 
  • Are the results at the end of the sentence rather than the front?
  • Were you more likely or less to read these bullets if they were clumped in a paragraph?

A clear presentation of low investment bullets, headlines, and short paragraphs wisely using bold, italic, and/or small caps does two things:  1) It will more likely be read, and 2) will require less white space.  Keeping things concise does not mean you present less.  In fact, you can present a lot more steak if you cut out the fat.

Rob Swanson

Managing Writer – Career Services International – www.careersi.com – Education Career Services – www.educationcs.com

June 16, 2009

The Power of a Career Plan

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 7:01 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Discussing my navigationally-challenged mind with my daughter the other day, I explained that I can always visualize where I am and where I want to be, but often the path between the two points elludes me.  As a result, I am quite fond of maps and, if I could justify the expense, GPS units.chp_16thc_map_1

Careers can be like that.  We know who we want to be and we know who we are, it’s the transitional “us” that can escape us.  If I want to someday be a CEO, I’m going to need a career plan to get there, otherwise every ill wind will blow me off course eventually forcing me to wonder “how did I get here when that’s where I wanted to be?”

A good career plan looks at the goal position and determines what skills, knowledge, and abilities (KSAs) are necessary to acquire and then charts a course for gaining those KSAs.   If the goal is to be a CEO in the green (environmentally friendly) industry, you’ll need to gather industry knowledge and business acumen.  

Ideally you will gain KSAs through a combination of research and education and hands-on, in-the-field experience.  For example, college can teach you to read a balance sheet and how to manage P&L (with all the attendant financial paperwork), but until you’re actually handling profit and loss accountability as a divisional manager, you won’t be ready to enter a CEO slot.  You’ll need to learn leadership, marketing, infrastructure, and a combination of other soft and hard skills.  With a career plan, you’ll be able to track and check off KSAs as you acquire them.  It serves as a map and a self-assessment.

At the same time, you’ll need to gather industry knowledge–again through research and experience, documenting as you go.

Right now, in the current economic storm , those with solid career plans have a leg up on those who don’t.  There have been a lot of layoffs and job closures.  Professionals who wing their careers can be at a loss; when the bills begin to mount, they might accept any position which may be hard to explain later in their career.  “McDonald’s was hiring” isn’t a great answer.  Our career planner, however, is prepared for such unforeseen setbacks.  Checking the plan, our planner determines which KSAs can best be acquired in the current conditions.  An entry- or mid-level position with, say, a solar farm for someone planning to be a green CEO someday will be perceived as a tactical move.  “It seemed like a great time to gain knowledge of the green industry from the inside.”  (That is not to say tactical gains won’t come from working at McDonald’s.  A plan gives you purpose no matter where you work because it focuses you on what needs to be developed.  Leadership, management, and even P&L can be learned at fast-food restaurants.  Without a plan, such a job can become a drudge.)

A plan can also be of tremendous help to the undecided.  My daughter, for example, vasilates between wanting to a lawyer, politician, veterinarian, or fashion designer (she’s 11, so give her a break).  When she’s a bit older and narrows it down to (know her) several things, her career plan will list all of them as her goal and will drive out all the KSAs for each potential position.  Then she would determine what the common KSAs are and focus on those first.  As she acquires those through jobs and volunteerism, she will be able to narrow her choices without losing any time in her career plan.

The plan always gives you something to work on.  Do you have a plan?

Rob Swanson

Managing Writer

Career Services International (www.careersi.com)

Education Career Services (www.educationcs.com)

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