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Archive for the ‘Entry Level’ 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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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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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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Richard N. Bolles, author of  What Color Is Your Parachute? first coined the term Informational Interviewing.   Wikipedia defines it as “a meeting in which a job seeker asks for advice rather than employment. The job seeker uses the interview to gather information on the field, find employment leads and expand their professional network. This differs from a job interview because the job seeker asks the questions. There may or may not be employment opportunities available.”

This is a great approach for college students in the early stage of exploring careers. It is  low pressure for both parties. The student has to demonstrate interest, ask good questions, be a receptive listener, and exhibit a professional, respectful demeanor. An in-depth background is not required to simply explore a career alternative. The professional is not “on the spot” to identify a job opening for the student. He simply has to offer insights about his career path, biographical perspective, and answer the student’s questions about the field.

How do you identify professionals to interview? Unless you grew up under a rock, you know adults in careers that hold interest for you. Your parents, extended family,  historical friends from high school, church/synagogue/mosque or camp, college roommates, fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, professors, coaches, doctors: and people they know. Remember 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon?

Whether they are young professionals or high-powered veterans, they’re likely to agree, since you are not asking for a job. Ask about rewards and frustrations,  career path, and lifestyle. Remember, people love to share their bio and give advice, so let them! You’d  be surprised how many people out there are really nice, and find it rewarding to give helpful perspective to a young person. Consider asking to “shadow” an individual for a day and find out what “life in the trenches” is really like.


QuintCareers.com offers a comprehensive tutorial on informational interviewing that is well worth your time. A NY Times blog post by Marci Alboher called “Mastering the Informational Interview” also gives some great tips.

It is never too early to explore careers this way. You will not only gain knowledge of career paths within your major field, but you will gain confidence, polish one-to-one interviewing skills, expand your professional network, and make an impression that could potentially translate into a job later on.

I have been surprised at how many college students are unaware of this approach to career exploration and job search. But it is the perfect first step! On campus, you are primarily exposed to academic professionals, rather than adults who are using a background similar to yours in a business, medical or government setting. Expand your circle of advisors beyond professors to all kinds of practitioners in your field. You may discover an application of your training that you never knew existed!


File away everything you learn! Some career paths may not make sense right out of college, but may work for you later on. A new area you discover may inspire you to focus on getting an internship or job in that specialty immediately. Or you may hear cautionary tales about a career path you were previously excited about–such an interview may be disillusioning, but may prevent career disaster.

Relevant reading:You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career by Katharine Brooks, The Career Chronicles: An Insider’s Guide to What Careers Are Really Like–The Good, the Bad & the Ugly from Over 750 Professionals by Michael Gregory, How’d You Score That Gig?: A Guide to the Coolest Jobs and How To Get Them by Alexandra Leavit.

Related posts: Liberal Arts and the Real World, Your College’s Career Center, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship… What To Do?Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn?.

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AT LAST!

You finished your summer internship and you’re back on campus. Time to dive into September frat parties, catch up with friends, make sure you’re enrolled in the right classes with the best professors from RateMyProfessors.com. Another college semester is underway!

Not quite. You’ve got a few things to do before your summer internship fades into history…

1. Update your resume. Describe what you accomplished in your summer job, before you forget. If it was an internship, what were your responsibilities, what did you initiate, what did you achieve? If you didn’t have great opportunities to change the world, you still may have gained exposure to how systems work in your field, and that is valuable too. Tweak it later, but at least write it down.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile. If you haven’t joined LinkedIn yet, now is the time: LinkedIn’09GradGuide. If you feel confident enough in your relationship with professionals you have met or worked for this summer, ask them to write you a LinkedIn recommendation. While you’re at it, join a few groups, like your high school and college alumni groups, and professional groups aligned with your field of study.

\3. Show appreciation for internship supervisors and colleagues. Send a thank you note to your boss for the learning opportunity you had this summer. In this economy, internships are hard to come by, and if you were fortunate enough to obtain one, show gratitude!

Stay connected with your supervisor and professionals you have met during your internship. If there is something that you can do for them (i.e., an introduction to a professor who does research in an area they are interested in, a sports event at your college they may enjoy attending, etc.), go out of your way to offer it. After all, they did you a big favor by hiring you and spending time training you this summer!

4. Get your updated resume to your school’s career service office. Before you know it, the recuriting process for next summer’s internships will be underway. So before you become immersed in your fall studies, get an updated resume over to career services. Then it’s on autopilot and you can relax for a few months.

5. File important stuff. A research study or regression you did, confidential information that shouldn’t be floating around your frat, whatever. Get organized. You never know when you might need this stuff.

Now you’re ready for September.

Relevant reading: Getting from College to Career : 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World by Lindsey Pollak,  From College to Career: Entry-Level Resumes for Any Major from Accounting to Zoology by Donald Asher.

Related posts: College Internship and Entry Level ResumesYour College’s Career Center, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart,Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn?Best Wesbites for Careers in Finance.

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College is fun. You’re surrounded by smart, dynamic young adults. Constantly stimulated by intellectually engaging courses. Enriched by a convenient array of extra-curricular activities and entertainment venues. What’s not to love? The only thing not to love is that college ends. You have to enter the “real” world. OMG!

How will you be prepared for that? Not just career choice, job search, the entry level job. But the whole enchilada: renting an apartment, furnishing your living space, buying insurance, leasing a car, investing, filing tax returns, finding doctors, figuring out a commute, creating an urban social life…the list goes on.

If this post suffers from link overload, it’s because there’s so much help out there! Every young adult is a unique individual, whose life will unfold mysteriously, serpendipitously, sometimes quixotically. But once in a while, a book, website, or personal story can offer a clue.

SELF-DISCOVERY: Books: What Color Is Your Parachute for Teens: Discovering Yourself, Defining Your Future by Richard N. Bolles, You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career by Katharine Brooks, and Now What? The Young Person’s Guide to Finding the Perfect Career by Nicholas Lore.

CAREER EXPLORATION. Books: The Career Chronicles: An Insider’s Guide to What Careers Are Really Like–The Good, the Bad & the Ugly from Over 750 Professionals by Michael Gregory, and How’d You Score That Gig?: A Guide to the Coolest Jobs and How To Get Them by Alexandra Leavit.  Websites: Careers-in-Business.com, CareerTV , and WetFeet.com/Careers/Industries.

PERSONAL BRANDING & POSITIONING. Students often cringe at “personal branding” lingo because it sounds like  “packaging” or “selling out.” But it is really about knowing your authentic self, putting your best foot forward, and being true. Books: Man aging Brand You: 7 Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self by Jerry Wilson & Ira Blumenthal. Websites: Dan Schwabel’s Personal Branding Blog.

JOB SEARCH & FIRST JOB: Books: Getting from College to Career : 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World by Lindsey Pollak, Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career by Sheila J. Curran, 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.

Websites: CollegeGrad.com, WetFeet.com, ResumeBear.com, QuintessentialCareers.com, SimplyHired.com, Indeed.com, Monster.com(College), and  CollegeBuilder(CBCampus).com.

GETTING AN “AFTER COLLEGE” LIFE: Books: 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. Websites: Gradspot.com and LifeAfterCollegeForum.com.

Related posts: Liberal Arts and the Real World, Your College’s Career Center, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship… What To Do?, What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Er-Internship, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart,Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn?Best Wesbites for Careers in Finance.

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