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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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The Daily Beast’s contributor Zac Bissonette recently posted, “Is This The Worst Year to Graduate College Ever?” Whether summer internship or entry level position, it’s a jungle out there. Life has become tougher for the Entitlement Generation, and disappointing for their parents, who wanted them to have everything.

When my 20 year old son was growing up, he listened eagerly to his grandfather’s dinner tales of ancestor immigrant hardships, the Great Depression and WWII. When my son was five, Poppop described having nothing to eat but oatmeal. My son (who carries on the oatmeal-loving gene) exclaimed, “You’re so lucky! Wish I could eat oatmeal all the time.”

At 15, my son expressed almost an envy that his generation was not given the opportunity to face adversity like his grandfather. With wisdom beyond his years, he recognized the role of hardship in eliciting courage and character, as it did for Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation. Looks like they’re going to get their chance.

I don’t mean to trivialize the stress, anxiety, frustration, humiliation and discouragement that a fruitless job search, subpar entry level position, or arbitrary layoff brings. As a parent and career coach, I wince at the thought of young people I care about enduring painful experiences. My posts and  website offer resources for finding a job as quickly as possible in this economy. But this post is about perspective.

Richard Carlson, author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, told a story about a wise man who was consulted by a villager about a series of dramatic events. When the villager asked, “Isn’t this the worst thing that could happen?” the wise man replied, “Maybe, maybe not.” When he asked, “Isn’t this the best thing that could happen?” the wise man replied, “Maybe, maybe not.”

Check Thoughts.com for a quick racap of this insightful story. Someday you may look back on this tragic unemployment situation as the crucible in which you proved the qualities your grandson will admire.

There’s a movie I wish would be re-released right now. It’s based on a true story, Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner, a young African-American homeless single father who became a successful stock broker during the 1970’s economic downturn. Mr. Gardner’s struggles and triumph were immortalized by Will Smith (with real-life son Jaden)  in the award-winning motion picture:

Not everyone will be a Chris Gardner, but this economy might produce a few. It will call upon all your creativity, intelligence, perseverence, hustle, courage, grit, and belief in yourself. You may find yourself taking detours and end up in a far different place than you originally imagined. But hang in there! It just may bring out your best.

Related posts: College Internship and Entry Level Resumes, From College…To the Real World, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship… What To Do?,Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart, Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn?, Time to Apply to B-School? Your College’s Career Center, What Is Informational Interviewing?

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My favorite: Careers-in-Finance.Com. They claim to “demystify” jobs in finance, a great word, because college students who major in economics still ask, “What does an investment banker actually do?” The site describes key career paths,  offers great sitelinks, recommended books, key players, job listings, a place to post your resume, headhunter list, and job outlooks. BTW, it’s up-to-date! This site identifies opportunities in a field that has changed dramatically this year. Yes, there still are opportunities, if you know where to look!

Another “fave” is WetFeet.Com, offering profiles of careers, industries and companies. It covers a wide range of fields. It has sections for undergrads, MBA’s, entry level and experienced professionals. Wetfeet publishes Insider Guides, terrific booklets on careers, industries and companies. Another site I recently discovered is CareerTV, a global TV programmer and interactive website designed to help college students and young professionals explore careers, industries, and companies. Watch a video, you’re ready for the interview. 

What have your experiences been like in financial fields over the past year? I would like to hear from twenty-somethings who have faced difficulty finding positions, or those who have dealt with job uncertainty and loss. How have you been affected by these experiences? If you spent time laid off, what have you done during that time period? What nuggets of wisdom would you offer to students coming out of college who are interested in economics or finance?

Related posts: Liberal Arts and the Real WorldWhat I Did on My Summer Vacation, Er-Internship, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart, Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn?, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship… What To Do?

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You’re a college junior, composing a paper on your laptop, FaceBooking and IM’ing at the same time. You have a text from Mom asking you to check  email because she sent you vital travel info but you never check. What other communcation tools do you need?

LinkedIn? What’s that? Oh, that boring site for business contacts. Put up a profile? Oh, puhlease…

But you’d like to get a summer internship, and a job when you graduate, in a tough economy. The career placement office made you put together a resume, and it might be good to have a public, professional presence online. Employers may be looking, and you’d have a high Google rank with an instant profile. Ok, so there are some benefits for college students on LinkedIn.

Some of your friends have websites or blogs. The artist with the online portfolio, the biotech major with his posted research, the journalism major with her active blog. LinkedIn can instantly link to those collections of a student’s work!

That guy that graduated last year, he’s working for the company you’re interested in, and maybe he could pass your name along to somebody. But how to find him? Oh, he’s probably on LinkedIn. He could forward your profile or recommend your work, because you were on that team project together.

Come to think of it, LinkedIn might be a good way to keep in touch. They have all these Groups: High school and college alumni, the company you worked for last summer, professional associations for your field, people from your hometown, or summer camp. All those people grow up, find jobs, become important—just like you. It might not be a bad idea to keep up with them, or be there so they could find you.

Ok, ok, you’ll join. LinkedIn has a 2009 Grad Guide to help get started (has not been updated but it still works).

Relevant reading: I’m on LinkedIn: Now What? by Jason Alba, What Color Is Your Parachute for Teens: Discovering Yourself, Defining Your Future by Richard N. Bolles, How’d You Score That Gig?: A Guide to the Coolest Jobs and How To Get Them by Alexandra Leavit, 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.

Related posts: College Internship and Entry Level Resumes, 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, Best Wesbites for Careers in Finance, What Is Informational Interviewing?

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