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Archive for the ‘College to Career Transition’ Category

As a college and graduate school admissions consultant and career counselor, I work with young adults of all levels of motivation, many who amaze me with their talent, discipline and goal-orientation. Often, however, I find myself nudging clients along, usually at the request of their parents, hoping to breathe life into comfortable suburban twenty-somethings who are sadly lacking in passion and purpose.

I have frequently posted about the next generation’s need for meaning and purpose. Occasionally, I encounter a young person who seems to have found a rudder for the future.

Last night, I attended a reception for the children of family friends, a son graduating from Georgetown and a daughter finishing high school and headed for Elon. I had met their parents back in my corporate years. I had known the children since they were babies, but due to geographical moves had not seen them in recent years. The reception was held at the family’s close-knit African-American Baptist church in NJ, which had been a nurturing home base for them despite several relocations over the years.

Ross, a handsome, articulate and charismatic double major in philosophy and theology, spoke about his future, bringing many in the gathering (including myself) to tears. He talked about his extracurricular community service work with inner-city teens in Washington DC throughout his years of study at Georgetown.

Ross mentioned a special connection with a young man who wanted to drop out of high school, because none of his friends had lived to be twenty-one. With such a morbid perceived life expectancy, this disillusioned teenager did not want to spend his “last years” in school. After encountering such a heartbreaking situation, Ross decided to commit two years of his life to Teach for America.

Teach for America is a non-profit organization that aims to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting the nation’s most promising future leaders to teach for two or more years in low-income communities throughout the U.S. The organization was founded by Wendy Kopp after she developed the idea to help eliminate educational inequity in the U.S. for her senior thesis at Princeton in 1989–the year Ross was born.

Applying to Teach For America has become highly popular among seniors at America’s elite colleges. In its first year, TFA placed 500 teachers; in 2010, it received more than 46,000 applications resulting in 4,500 new corps members. These applicants included 20 percent of the senior class at Spelman, where Ross’s mom went to college; 12 percent of all Ivy League seniors; 7 percent of the graduating class at U Michigan-Ann Arbor; and 6 percent at UC-Berkeley.

Dismal job market news for 2011 graduates continue to fill the newspaper headlines, broadcast airwaves, and cyberspace. Recent examples: “Tight Job Market for Recent Grads” (UPI.com); “Class of 2011, Most Indebted Ever” (WSJ.com); “Jobs for College Grads Growing at a Snail’s Pace” (U.S. Chamber of Commerce).

Concerned parents are understandably encouraging their college students to pursue “practical” majors that will give them a good shot at employment. Their greatest fear is that after spending  (or borrowing) $200K for their kid’s education, he or she will have to move back in with Mom and Dad after college is over, with no job prospects. And their worst fears are oftentimes coming true.

Yet, here’s a young man who did not major in accounting or economics to hedge his bets. He followed his heart, studying philosophy and theology. He saw a desperate need in society, and took it upon himself to answer the call to meet that need. Pretty simple. And profound.

Many kids coming out of college these days do temporarily move back with Mom and Dad, to begin a job search, prepare for graduate school admissions tests, get a stop-gap job and save money, or try to otherwise find their way. And I understand that for many college grads, that is a necessary route to take. But it is also deceptively easy to waste several years in a state of suspended animation. Instead, what about changing the world?

I don’t know how much TFA teachers get paid, although I know graduate school partnerships offer benefits ranging from active recruitment of TFA alumni to tuition help. But most important, experiences like TFA change the person who joins forever, and change the young people that member influences.

Ross will be teaching 8th Graders in New Orleans. Can you imagine the impact this smart, centered, charismatic young teacher will have on disadvantaged teens, especially boys, who need a grounded role model?

I work with many college and graduate school applicants writing essays about how they want to improve society. I believe most are sincere. But very few applicants find a way, through their college majors, internships, entry level jobs, or long term career choices, to actually become agents of change. Most people, in the end, settle for survival and perpetuating the status quo. Once in a while, however, someone decides to really change the world.

Related reading: A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All by Wendy KoppStart Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie (founder of Toms Shoes, available September 2011); Global Girlfriends: How One Mom Made It Her Business to Help Women in Poverty Worldwide by Stacey Edgar. Great summer reading for college students to help them incorporate entrepreneurial social action into their evolving life purpose.

Related posts: Liberal Arts and the Real World; Finding a Job in a Tough Economy; So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship…What To Do?

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Resources abound to help you create a resume for internships and your first job out of college. Your college career center is a great place to start, especially because your school may have a specific required template for its resume book and interview sign-up process.

The internet has plenty of great sites with resume templates, such as CollegeGrad.com and QuintCareers.com. And check out What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens Second Edition by Richard Nelson Bolles or Resume Magic Fourth Edition by Susan Britton Whitcomb.

So do you really need a resume post on my blog, too? Rather than repeat what every website says, I will offer you a few of my own macro perspectives on resumes.

1. One page for college students is enough. You may have gone to two pages on your high school resume for your college application, because you went into great detail about your extra-curricular activities. That was okay for admissions people reviewing your application, interested in all the ways in which you could potentially enrich campus life. But companies looking at internship and entry level resumes have hundreds, perhaps thousands, to review for a few positions, and they need to get a quick snapshot of you, that’s it.

2. Start with a combined objective and qualifications summary. What kind of position are you seeking? Who are you in a nutshell and what assets are you bringing to the table? Say it in one sentence, and spare the jargon. For example: “Junior undergraduate economics major with experience in independent research seeks management consulting summer internship position.”

3. Education comes first in the resume of a college student. Focus on academic achievements, such as GPA (or major GPA), Dean’s List, scholarships and honor societies. Mention special academic opportunities, such as assisting a professor’s research, tutoring students in your major, or presenting a paper at a consortium. Briefly include high school background, with academic attainments such as GPA, class rank, awards, honor societies, and test scores. This information is still relevant; it shows your smarts and hard work only a few years back.

4. For the experience section, place all experiences relevant to the position for which you are applying upfront. These experiences could be internships (paid or unpaid); directly related volunteer work, practica, research, student organization participation; or relevant study abroad. Experiences should be in reverse chronological order; that is, most recent first. The logic: It is not an autobiography, it is a management summary. Who you are today is more relevant to prospective employers than who you were years ago.

You may have worked for “big name” companies that instantly lend credibility. But if your organizations are not household words, give more explanation. Don’t create a laundry list of duties. Emphasize results accomplished, what you learned, and how the process skills you honed are transferable to the position you are now seeking. Did you solve a problem? Were you innovative or entrepreneurial?  Did you build rapport with customers? Think on your feet in a fast-paced environment? Gain exposure to how an organization works? All relevant!

5. Collapse high school and college sports, arts and community service accomplishments. The way to shorten your resume is by simplifying your athletic, artistic and volunteer achievements. Unless these activities are directly related to the position for which you are applying, they only make you “interesting” so they can be mentioned in a more broad brush manner than in your college application. These activities are “icing on the cake” now, not the main substance.

6. Go for clear, fresh communication, not overused clichés and technical jargon. Tired, hackneyed buzzwords make you sound banal, even insincere. They make a screener’s eyes glaze over, because he has read so many resumes with identical jargon that nothing signals him to pay special attention to yours. If he has to wade through techie BS and insider acronyms, he may not even be able to understand exactly what you did. Marketing 101: who is your target audience? Don’t make your reader work too hard. And remember the K.I.S.S. principle!

7. Whether you use bullet points or paragraphs, keep the communication simple and topline. The purpose of bullets is to streamline; to summarize key accomplishments. So should one job entry have 10-15 bullet points? That means the writer has not prioritized enough. A screener does not want to wade through a comprehensive list of every single thing you did at your job. They can grasp, digest and remember three things. What do you want those things to be? I like paragraphs myself, but again: short, user-friendly paragraphs that say only a few key things.

8. Make sure the employer can easily reach you. Your parents’ home telephone number is useless; make sure your cell and school email is on your resume. And check your emails constantly if you are looking for a job!

9. No need for references on your resume. References will only be needed if the employer is interested enough to contact you for an interview. And saying “references available upon request” is not necessary. Of course they will be.

10. White space is inviting. If you have to cram so much on a one page resume that you’ve created wall-to-wall text, stop and reconsider. You may be trying to give too much detail; another rewrite is needed, simplifying and collapsing your communication. If you still feel everything you have written is absolutely necessary, it is okay to break the one-page rule. It is better than having a one pager that looks formidable to read.

Related posts: Does Your College GPA Matter? Getting a Job with a Lackluster GPA, Your College’s Career Center, Liberal Arts and the Real World.

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You majored in medieval history, but you ended up in retail merchandising. You still love history, but management and marketing in the real world is actually quite fascinating. You’re better at it than you thought you would be, and judging from that recent promotion, your managers must have faith in you.

But your lack of business background may eventually hold you back. You would like to have more practical tools in accounting, statistics, operations and business law. If you want to advance within your organization, switch companies or industries, start your own business, or just make more money, you probably will want an MBA.

But you’ve never taken a business course. Doesn’t getting a Masters degree in a subject require some previous study of that discipline?

An MBA, or Masters of Business Administration, is a unique graduate degree. It is designed to give accomplished professionals, no matter what their previous background, a well-rounded exposure to core business disciplines. Such cross-functional exposure will either help them apply their former skill set to a business environment or enable them to supervise multiple business functions as a general manager.

Any major can be a good background for a business career, especially with the training of an MBA. Were you a theater major? Your ability to communicate dynamically with an audience could make you a powerful leader in sales or marketing. An art history major? Your visual orientation makes you a natural for advertising! Psychology? Market research is calling you. English? Every company needs managers who can write. Foreign language? One word: “global.”

Recently, I researched a sample of Class of 2012 profiles for full-time MBA programs at elite institutions, including Harvard (HBS), Stanford (GSB), U Penn (Wharton), Northwestern (Kellogg), NYU (Stern), U Virginia (Darden), and U Michigan (Ross). The results were generally consistent from school to school.

You quanti-phobes out there will be happy to learn that on average, only a quarter of incoming MBA students had been business majors in college. Undergraduate business majors ranged from a low of  17% at Stanford to a high of 31% at Kellogg. Another quarter of the incoming class had majored in engineering, mathematics or the natural sciences.

About half of the incoming class at these premier business schools had majored in the humanities, arts, social sciences and “other.” For those class profiles that broke out the economics major separately, economics majors represented an average of 20% of the incoming MBA class.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? The goal of MBA programs is to create rich, eclectic, stimulating dialogue among professionals from diverse backgrounds. Diversity does not just mean ethnic or racial heritage or an international upbringing. It also means the perspectives students bring from their previous education and work. All business majors or engineers would make for a boring conversation!

That said, if you are considering going back to school for an MBA, and you have no prior business training, many schools recommend a few courses to help you hit the ground running. Requirements vary, but most schools suggest a course in economics and statistics (which most college grads have taken anyway). A basic accounting course is always a plus, and will probably help you in your current job as well.

Is it intimidating for a “pure liberal arts type” to go back to business school? At first. As a psychology undergraduate from Penn, I found the introductory accounting course at Wharton to be rather frightening. Of course, I was (and will always be) the recovering child of a CPA.

But there was a familial sense of camaraderie among the case groups and project teams. The engineers helped the psych majors with the math, and the psych majors helped the engineers string a few multi-syllable words together to make sentences (only kidding!).

When it came to the Wharton Follies, our school’s annual musical theater revue and defining tradition now widely  (and hilariously) imitated, even accountants and engineers were known to sing and dance. Thank goodness they had us liberal arts types to teach them how!

Recommended reading: The Best Business Schools’ Admissions Secrets: A Former Harvard Business School Admissions Board Member Reveals the Insider Keys to Getting In by Chioma Isiadinso. Related posts: Does Your College GPA Matter? Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart, Preparing for Business School: GMAT or GRE?, Time to Apply to B-School?,Getting a Job with a Lackluster GPA.

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No matter what your friends may tell you, elite employers do care about your college grades. This is especially true for competitive summer internships and the most sought-after entry level positions. So with that reality check, what can you do about a lackluster GPA?

1. Switch gears on your grades ASAP. The sooner you start adding stronger grades to a mediocre average, the better. So if your social life or extra-curricular activities are interfering with academics, revamp your priorities. If you are having genuine difficulty in specific courses, seek out your professor or teaching assistant, or even hire a tutor. Do not wait until you are sinking into the quicksand, unless you want your main business communication phrase to be: “Do you want fries with that?”

2. Change your major. You may have originally selected a major that was simply too difficult for your skill set. It happens—it is part of the college experience to take risks, try challenging courses, and test your metal. But some majors wipe out some pretty smart people, especially engineering and science. In some universities, a Darwinian washout philosophy is the modus operandi. Maybe you need to dial back the level of difficulty of your major to find a more comfortable match with your aptitude and interests. If it takes five years to graduate, but you do it with a better GPA in a more fitting major, it’s worth it.

3. Take your major’s difficult courses during a favorable time at your own college or another school. Perhaps you do not have to take a killer course when it is most competitive (in a washout semester or with the highest achievers who determine the bell curve). Taking the course in the summer may facilitate more personal attention from the instructor. Or you may be able to get a tough requirement out of the way at a local accredited school, where the grade will not factor into your GPA.

4. If your major GPA is better than your total GPA, report only your major GPA on your resume. After all, your performance in your major is the highest priority for prospective employers in your field. If you have changed from a tough major to a more reasonable one, your new GPA should be more impressive.

If asked in an interview, you should honestly report your total GPA. Most likely, your attempt to challenge yourself with rigorous courses in your former major will impress the prospective employer, as well as your realistic decision to switch majors.

5. Describe academic distinctions beyond the GPA on your resume. Were you on the Dean’s List for most semesters, even though one big “incident” tarnished your GPA? By all means report the Dean’s List distinction. Are you in your major’s Honor Society? Have you ever been granted any merit scholarships? All forms of academic recognition show your smarts and hard work.

6. Describe leadership activities related to your major on your resume. Have you been involved in professional clubs? If not, join something and seek a leadership position. I know it sounds like high school, but it is still essential. It will offer learning about your field outside the classroom, and provide networking opportunities with professors, students, alumni, and external organizations.

7. Describe research and assistantship activities related to your major on your resume. Approach a professor to volunteer your assistance (research administration or analysis, research subject, tutoring). This will give you valuable experience in your field, become a great conversation piece in interviews, and build your credibility with a professor who may be willing to give you a recommendation for a job or graduate school.

8. Talk about your skill set on your resume, not just black and white accomplishments. Okay, so you got a B in econometrics. But the fact that you survived econometrics shows that you are an analytical problem-solver. Wouldn’t an employer want someone like that? Look through your experiences over the years, and you will find common themes about your strengths. Don’t just assume an employer can figure them out. Spell out your strengths and their transferability for that occupation and organization.

9. Be willing to put your GPA in perspective in the interview. It is your job to sell yourself and overcome obstacles to your candidacy. If your freshman year grades weren’t stellar, but you found your feet and improved your performance, own up to your mistakes without whining and show how you turned it around. Redemption is a universal theme, and everybody loves a comeback kid. Just be honest, don’t make excuses, and demonstrate how mature, goal-oriented and  hard-working you are TODAY.

10. Don’t be too proud to use “warm contacts.” If someone who knows you well is willing to pass your resume along to another professional in a field of interest to you, be thankful for the opportunity. Even if you have a GPA blip, someone who can personally attest to your character may be able to put that in perspective with a prospective employer with whom he or she has credibility. Once the door is opened, however, it is obviously up to you.

Related posts: Does Your College GPA Matter? Your College’s Career Center, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship… What To Do?, What Is Informational Interviewing? and College Internship and Entry-Leve Resumes.

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Note: This is an update of my popular 11/09 post (where new data were available). Since last year, it is important to note that Sunbelt cities, especially in Texas, have peppered the top ten lists in greater numbers. Austin, Dallas, Houston, Denver and Atlanta are well worth considering.

Graduating from college in this economy! Finding a job in your field, in a stimulating city where you can survive the cost of living and have a social life.  What a complicated equation! So many “best cities” rankings! San Francisco is a cool place to live, but how can you can afford it right out of college? You can afford Omaha, and hey, Warren Buffet lives there, but what will you do on Saturday night?

For direction, I turned to Florida. Not the state. I mean the urban economist Richard Florida, best-selling author of The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life and the amazing Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where You Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life.

Florida posits that metro areas with high concentrations of high-tech knowledge workers, artists, musicians, LGBT, and “high bohemians” correlate with high economic development. Florida believes this “creative class” fosters an open, dynamic personal and professional atmosphere, which attracts more creative people, as well as businesses and capital.

Florida says living in the right place significantly affects happiness, as much as choosing a career or a spouse. All three choices are very individual. When choosing a city, Florida suggests matching one’s lifestage and personality with a city’s physical aesthetics, social networks, career opportunities and basic services. Before choosing your location, explore Florida’s “Who’s Your City?” website.  The maps are  particularly intriguing: Singles Map, Creative Class Map, Personality Maps, New Geography of Work, Real Estate Map, and Mega Regions of North America.

Gallup-Healthways’ Happiness-Stress Index emphasizes the role of time spent with friends/family for emotional well-being. “Happiness scores” for US Congressional districts were developed based on this index, which Florida presents on his post “Happy (and not so happy) places”.  Five “happiest districts”:  Silicon Valley, Atlanta’s Northern Suburbs, Orange County CA, Denver’s Southern Suburbs, Morris County NJ (where we live–now I know why I’m so happy!).

Next Generation Consulting has studied relocation of 20-40 years olds since 1998. Its indexing system evaluates a city based on priorities of “next gen” workers. NCG’s 7 indices of a “Next City”:  Earning, Learning, Vitality, Around Town, After Hours, Cost of Lifestyle, Social Capital. Top five hotspots by population category:

“Mighty Micros” (Pop. < 200K): Fort Collins CO, Charleston SC, Eugene OR, Cedar Rapids IA, Springfield IL. “Midsized Magnets”(200-500K): Madison WS, Minneapolis MN, Colorado Springs CO, Atlanta GA, St. Paul MN. “Super Cities” (Pop. > 500K):  San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Washington DC, Denver.

Forbes.com developed a list of “America’s Best Cities for Young Adults (2010)”, based on young adult salaries, unemployment rates, cost of living, median ages, the nightlife scenes and Harris Interactive’s ranking of the “coolest” metropolitan areas. Top Ten cities: Austin, Houston, NYC, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Seattle, Atlanta, San Antonio, Minneapolis-St. Paul.

SingleMindedWomen.com analyzed US cities’ job opportunities, cost of living, access to travel, entertainment options, social opportunities, ratio of women to men, singles population, and healthy lifestyle. The result: “2010: Top 10 Cities for Single Women”. And the winners were: Boston, Washington DC, NYC, Seattle, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Denver, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Austin. Gradspot.com, a website dedicated to life after college, identified its “Top Ten Best Cities for Recent Grads (2010)”: Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, NYC, Boston, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta.

These same cities keep popping up, despite varied selection criteria. Paradigms described in this post explain why young professionals are drawn to these cities. These cities offer: ntellectual stimulation, prevalence of  young single professionals, social networking, knowledge  jobs, physical aesthetics, basic services, all attributes deemed important by Florida or NGC.

NYC, San Francisco, Boston, Washington DC or Chicago are not surprising for careers or coolness. Why didn’t cost of living knock them out of the top spots? I would guess it is because: knowledge workers make good incomes, twenty-somethings rent vs. own, often do not own cars, and have few expenses besides food, rent, wardrobe and entertainment.

When the focus is on jobs and cost of living, the rankings shift. Apartments.com and CareerRookie.com recently released “Top 10 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates (2010)”, ranking US cities with the highest concentration of young adults, inventory of jobs requiring less than one year of experience, and one bedroom apartment average rental cost. It turns up some Flordia or NGC cities, but less obvious ones pop up as well: Atlanta, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cinncinnati, Los Angeles.

Businessweek.com‘s recent ranking, “Top Cities for College Grads (2010)“, based on AfterCollege.com’s entry level job postings, turns up similar cities: Houston, Washington DC, Dallas, Atlanta, Austin, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ft. Worth. It is worth noting that four of the top ten are Texas cities. Could it be time to move to the Lone Star State?

The repeated appearance of Houston, Dallas, Denver, Austin, and Atlanta throughout many “best cities for young professionals” lists is worth noting. The Sunbelt, especially Texas, should be on new college grads’ radar screen. Minneapolis is another city worth considering. Checking beyond the top 5-10 will also uncover hidden gems. Worth studying for such an important life decision!

Relevant reading: Live First, Work Second by Rebecca Ryan,  How to Survive the Real World: Life After College Graduation: Advice from 774 Graduates Who Did by HOH Books, The Quarterlifer’s Companion: How to Get On the Right Career Path, Control Your Finances, and Find the Support Network You Need To Thrive by Abby Wilner, Ramen Noodles, Rent & Resumes: An After-College Guide to Life by Kirsten Fischer.

Related posts:  Finding a Job in a Tough Economy, From College…To the Real World, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart,Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn?, and Best Wesbites for Careers in Finance.

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Lynn O’Shaughnessy, higher education journalist, author of The College Solution, and expert on all things college and financial at the College Solution Blog and CBS Money Watch, recently wrote a thought-provoking piece called “8 Reasons Not to Get A Business Degree.” I highly recommend Lynn’s post for college students wrestling with the daunting task of choosing a  major. I was intrigued to find that employers favor liberal arts majors because of their critical thinking, communications and teamwork skills.

That said, how can a liberal arts major prepare for a job in the real world?

1. Prepare for a career in the same content area as your major. This is the most direct, purist approach, not requiring that you think outside the box. It also requires great passion, superior talent to your peers, and perhaps a graduate degree in the field, since many content areas are highly competitive with few available positions.

Examples include: a music conservatory performance major seeking a job in a major symphony; an English major aspiring to earn a PhD and become a professor at an elite college; an archaeology major aiming to become the next Indiana Jones; an astrophysics major seeking to become an astronaut.

2. Translate your major into a more broadly saleable version of your content area. This approach keeps you  involved with the content area you love, with less risk about the prospects of making a living. There are more positions, so you don’t have to be a freak-of-nature prodigy with perfect luck to succeed. It requires thinking ahead and taking additional courses, choosing a specific concentration in the major, or a graduate degree.

Examples include: a music major who takes the music education track and gains teaching certification; a chemistry major who concentrates in food science to work in R&D for a food manufactuer; a criminal justice major who earns a law degree aspiring to become a district attorney.

3. Transfer the core skills required in your major to a more broadly salesable content area drawing upon the same fundamental competencies. Sometimes two content areas that appear very different on the surface actually have deep underlying similarities, in terms of the fundamental skills required and the thought patterns involved. This kind of transfer is really thinking outside the box!

This approach almost always requires additional undergraduate coursework, or a certificate or graduate degree that adds a brand new layer of content skills that is integrated with the original content area based on their inherent compatibility. This is the classic idea of the liberal arts college grad who gets an MBA, with a natural link between the undergraduate major and area of concentration chosen in graduate business school.

Examples include: a psychology major who transfers his capacity to understand human behavior and decision-making into a career in marketing; a mathematics major who transfers her analytical ability into a career in financial analysis, economic forecasting or intelligence cryptology; a theater major who transfers his ability to captivate an audience into a career in sales or public relations; an art history major who transfers her visual, conceptual orientation into a career in advertising.

A New Educational Fusion. In his thoughtful response to Lynn O’Shaughnessy’s blog, Daniel L. Everett, Dean of Arts & Sciences at Bentley University, a business-oriented school, discussed how undergraduate institutions are combining liberal arts foundations with business training. In my view, this is an encouraging direction. There are even schools where you don’t begin a BBA program until junior year, such as Emory University (Goizueta Business School). In the first two years, students satisfy liberal arts requirements, trying prerequisites like accounting to see if they possess a business skillset.

Educational fusion does not only apply to business. Many liberal arts colleges have 3-2 programs with engineering schools, to train engineers with a Renaissance educational foundation (imagine that!). In a recent US News & World Report article, Lynn O’Shaughnessy also reports on that educational development. I believe there are opportunities to combine liberal arts with many types of  “practical” training programs at the undergraduate level. The possibilities are endless…

What about a 3-2 culinary program, so an intellectual undergraduate could enjoy a world-class liberal arts foundation, and then gain professional training for another passion that is more directly related to employment? And become a true “Renaissance chef?” Brown University has teamed up with Rhode Island School of Design with a dual degree program for the truly sophisticated artist. Just to keep it all in Providence RI, how about Brown teaming up with Johnson & Wales’ College of Culinary Arts?

Don’t hold your breath on too many wild, creative partnerships like this between undergraduate institutions. It may be up to the student to create one’s own education through an undergraduate degree, certificate programs and graduate degrees. But it can be much more interesting than just majoring in business!

Relevant reading: Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career by Sheila J. Curran, From College to Career: Entry-Level Resumes for Any Major from Accounting to Zoology by Donald Asher, You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career by Katharine Brooks, Now What? The Young Person’s Guide to Finding the Perfect Career by Nicholas Lore.

Related posts: Getting a Job with a Lackluster GPA, Your College’s Career Center, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship… What To Do?, What Is Informational Interviewing? and College Internship and Entry Level Resumes. From my other blog: Why Study Liberal Arts in College?

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Like a broken record, your parents keep nagging: “Have you gone over to Career Services yet?” Automatically, you don’t want to go there. It’s like a sugary Pollyanna suggesting you skip down to the public library to find a book when it’s so much easier to download that book to your Kindle.

It sounds even more lame when the guys in your fraternity tell you it’s worthless, even though they themselves have never gone over there (they just listened to their frat bro’s who have never gone either).

The reasoning goes something like this: “University career center counselors are most likely bureaucratic paper pushers who probably couldn’t get a better gig themselves. So how can they help me anyway?” How good the career counselors are ultimately depends on your college’s local job market. But that’s not why you go there. Here are the proverbial three reasons to visit your university’s career center, early and often:

1. Infrastructure. The college career center is a ready-made venue that hosts career and job fairs; where companies that are specifically interested in your college’s students make informative presentations; and where you can register to interview for  jobs. If your college is in a remote rural location, or even if it is in a urban  area, but not in one of the USA’s professional meccas, how do you think you are going to be able to interview during your busy semester if you don’t do it on campus? That would be expensive, time consuming, stressful… most likely, it won’t happen.

So we are talking major convenience and efficiency here. Conversely, if you fill out an online application, and then, by some miracle, your credentials are so superior to those of thousands of applicants that you land an interview, then you have to travel to the company’s headquarters for the next step in the process.

2. Job Hunt 101. To participate in this convenient infrastructure, you have to register, take a few fun career tests, sit through a workshop, do a mock interview, and develop resumes and cover letters that fit its system. It is like taking another distribution requirement, and more useful than, say, astronomy as a lab course.

Although it all seems pretty intuitive, why re-invent the wheel? Job search techniques are life skills that your college career center is offering you for free (or at least as part of your $50K per year college price). It’s a fair trade for use of instant infrastructure!

3. Broadening Your Horizons. Isn’t that why you are in college, anyway? If you already knew everything about, say, anthropology, why bother to take the course? It’s the same with careers, industries and companies. At the career center, you are presented with a landscape of what is out there, already organized into a syllabus. Firms interested in hiring undergraduates have sought out your campus, to present information to you and then interview you. You don’t have to be particularly savvy to identify industries and companies that might be good bets for jobs. It is all done for you at the career center.  All you have to do is show up.

Relevant reading: What Color Is Your Parachute for Teens: Discovering Yourself, Defining Your Future by Richard N. Bolles, Getting from College to Career : 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World by Lindsey Pollak, They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World by Alexandra Leavit, and  From College to Career: Entry-Level Resumes for Any Major from Accounting to Zoology by Donald Asher.

Related posts: What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Er, InternshipWhy Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn?, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship… What To Do?, Best Wesbites for Careers in Finance, What Is Informational Interviewing? and College Internship and Entry Level Resumes.

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