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Posts Tagged ‘Entry Level’

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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It depends… on what you ultimately decide to do, either in college or after college. During undergraduate, you may choose to transfer to a more prestigious school, or apply for a cool study abroad program that requires a good GPA. After college, you may aspire to an elite graduate or professional program, or a top tier company entry level position. If whatever goal you end up choosing does not require decent grades, then you’ll be ok if you slack off. But if you slack off, and later decide on a higher aspiration, then you’re screwed. Let’s look at the possible goals after college that could require a strong  GPA.

1. Law School. According to US News & World Report, the 25th-75th percentile GPA scores for all students for the lowest of the top ten law schools is 3.5-3.9. If your GPA is on the low side, that puts more pressure on your LSAT score.

2. Graduate Business School. According to US News & World Report, the average GPA score for the lowest of the top ten graduate B-schools is 3.5. If your GPA is low, that puts more pressure on your GMAT score.

3. Medical School. According to US News & World Report, the  average GPA score for the lowest of the top ten medical schools (primary care)  is 3.7. If you are a serious pre-medicine student, you are probably not reading this post anyway!

4. Graduate Programs. According to About.com, most master’s programs require minimum GPAs of 3.0 or 3.3, and most doctoral programs require GPAs of 3.3 or 3.5. If you are applying for a doctoral degree in a competitive field, seeking a fellowship, and aspiring to attend a top ten graduate school, expect requirements to be higher. Graduate programs would like to see that you were in an undergraduate honors program with a research thesis, and qualifying for that opportunity requires a 3.5 or higher GPA. If you are considering graduate work in your field, you should be doing a thesis anyway, just to get your “feet wet” in the world of research.

5. Entry Level Jobs. 3.0 is the bare minimum. Top tier companies in fiercely competitive fields, such as investment banking, management consulting, and Big Four audit firms, will use GPA to weed out less qualified candidates. Additional opinions about GPA and entry level jobs: “Those Low Grades in College May Haunt Your Job Search” NY Times, “Low GPA in Top Engineering School: What To Do?” College Confidential, “Should I List My College GPA on My Resume?” Quintessential Careers. You may never want to go to graduate school or work at an elite company. Then again, you might. Your best bet is protecting your GPA at all costs: it follows you forever.

Relevant reading: How To Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real Students Use to Score High While Studying Less by Cal Newport, The Best Law Schools’ Admissions Secrets: The Essential Guide from Harvard’s Former Admissions Dean by Charles H. Whitebread, The Best Business Schools’ Admissions Secrets: A Former Harvard Business School Admissions Board Member Reveals the Secrets for Getting In by Chioma Isiadinso.

Related posts: Best Websites for Careers in Finance, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart, Getting a Job with a Lackluster GPA.

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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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