Standing Out (In a Good Way)

1 07 2015

It’s a tough world out there. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, for every job opening in 2009, there were 6.2 people unemployed. Today, that statistic has gotten better and is now 1.6 unemployed per job (5.4 million openings in April 2015.) Companies are seeking future leaders to take their organizations into the next era vs. hiring “butts in seats.” What does this mean? It means the competition is still fierce and you’ve got to have what it takes to land the job and succeed. Here are a few ways you can set yourself apart from the competition, laying the foundation for future success:

20150630_093135Have a plan

“If you fail to plan, plan to fail.” I’ve used my mother’s quote many times before and it still rings true. Plan for success, learning from your setbacks and failures.

 

Things to include on your plan’s checklist:

Share your plan

Prefer to do things on your own? That’s okay. There are advantages to being the lone wolf like being more aggressive or having more strength , but remember that once a wolf is driven from the pack, they may never rejoin a group again. Yes, they survive, but just barely and on much smaller food rations. Where am I going with this?? Share your success plan with your mentor, your teammates and your boss/potential boss. Get their input, adjust where needed and keep them updated throughout the process. Why?? Keeping your head down and working hard might not get you noticed. Don’t be a jerk about it, but toot your own horn now and then!

Follow through

You have the plan – follow it. Do what you say you’ll do. It’s that simple. 

Have a sense of humor and SMILE

We get it. Work is work and sometimes, it’s not fun at all. But that doesn’t mean you have to have a miserable attitude, bringing everyone else down with you. See the positive side of things and smile – to yourself and to others. I’m finding myself smiling right now as I type this post. No one likes a grouch!

Be patient, tenacious but kind

Things take time. Whether it’s waiting on a response from an interviewer or an email from your boss regarding a big project you just submitted, realize that what seems like a lifetime of waiting for you may only seem like seconds to the other party. Don’t give up, though. Be tenacious but kind. Follow up when and where appropriate so you receive the response or input you need. I recently worked with a student who had his heart set on a particular internship with a top company. He did everything right – applied online, submitted his resume, followed up with a personalized thank-you note, reached out via LinkedIn and heard absolutely NOTHING from the recruiter despite every attempt to make contact. He didn’t get that job, but he didn’t give up. Another recruiter from another company remembered him (from his onsite impression and follow up) and offered him an even better internship for the summer.  Don’t get so focused on what’s in front of you that you fail to see the bigger picture.

What did I miss? If you recently landed a job, how did you set yourself apart from the competition in a positive way?

Recruiters: What are some ways in which you’ve experienced extraordinary candidate differentiation?

I’d like to leave you with one last resource. An unofficial mentor of mine wrote this fantastic piece for LinkedIn: Work Hard, Be Kind. Check it out.

As always, thanks for reading.





3 Tips for Transitioning to a Full-Time Job

23 06 2015

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Entering the workforce as a full-time employee after just having spent several years of your life in an educational setting can seem like a big switch. After all, there are some definite differences between an office environment and a lecture hall. Plus, working at an ice cream stand near the beachfront every summer for 15 hours a week isn’t the same as working eight hours a day, five days a week.

However, there’s no need to feel like you have to give up everything you know to thrive at work. Work-life integration is the new norm, and these easy tips will show you how your work activities and the things you do during time off don’t have to be entirely separate.

  1. Stay in Touch With Non-Work Friends

Any sort of major change in life can make it harder to stay in touch with people who are nearest and dearest to your heart. As a compromise, some people just focus on making new friends at work. That’s a good goal, because it expands your social circle.

However, be careful not to cut ties with the people who loyally helped you study for that tough French final and even the playmates you had as a child who kept supporting you through college.

One downside to mostly having work friends is you’ll tend to congregate and complain about workplace matters that are stressing you out, whether it’s an upcoming project deadline or a supervisor who seems like he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed every day. Venting can be a good thing, but friends should also help you take a break from work, not rehash things about it.

  1. Know Your Limits

In college, many people had to deal with a workload that was more or less the same as any other person’s in a given class. The nature of academic papers, exams and group projects tend to make people feel like they’re on a treadmill and they have no choice but to keep up the pace. Failing to do so in those cases might ultimately mean failing the class. But now, in the workforce, there’s a good chance things will be different.

Supervisors often give you choices about taking on more responsibilities after you’ve proved yourself. Sometimes it’s tempting to assure them you can do more than is healthy, just because you’re trying to make a good impression.

However, it’s important to know how much you can feasibly do, and try not to go over that limit. Otherwise, you’ll probably find yourself still trying to get work stuff done outside of office hours or at least spend too much time at home fretting about it when you should be doing something more fun and relaxing to recharge for the next day at work.

  1. Understand What Makes You Happy

Happiness means different things to different people. Maybe you have your sights set on saving up for a biking excursion through France or you get a lot of fulfillment from volunteering to teach English to refugee children once a week. In other cases, maybe your idea of happiness is settling down on the couch with a freshly made bowl of popcorn and a favorite film.

It’s essential to not only understand what brings you happiness but also build time into your schedule to engage in it. In some cases, you may even be able to get colleagues in on the fun. Perhaps if you’re an avid biker who likes to pedal to stay fit, you could send a sign-up sheet around your office to see if anyone wants to join you on your outings. That would allow you to do something enjoyable and potentially help you get to know new people. Exercise is also worthwhile because it encourages good health and can keep your stress levels low, too.

These are just a few tips that can ease your transition into a full-time job. All of them will probably be easier to put into practice if you work for a company that makes you feel fulfilled and valued, so choosing a workplace carefully is important, too.

sarah landrum head shotAbout the author: Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she’s a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. She’s also the newest addition to the Campus to Career family, serving as a featured contributor on a regular basis. You can find her tweeting during boring speeches @SarahLandrum





The Benefits of a Semester Abroad

9 06 2015

 

A few years back, this site published an article encouraging students to take vacations in order to recharge, explore a bit, and enjoy new experiences. Indeed, the value of a vacation in maintaining your sanity and broadening your knowledge and understanding of the world is impossible to overstate—and that’s why I’d also encourage any student (who has the opportunity) to go ahead and travel abroad!

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Studying abroad can yield all kinds of benefits, including some of those associated with ordinary vacation along with a range of others. So, here’s why you should study abroad in addition to some tips on how and where to do it.

Gain A New Perspective. The chance to see a different part of the world is the most obvious benefit to study abroad. But beyond the chance to experience a new place in a personal or recreational way, you can also gain a new perspective on your studies. As International Student put it, you’ll find out about “different styles of education,” whether that means different hours and requirements, different focal points in the classroom, and so forth. Seeing how other students study, and what they focus on, can be surprisingly enlightening.

Really Learn A Language. A lot of universities still have some foreign language requirements, but many students tend to take these studies only as far as they need to in order to graduate. There’s nothing wrong with this if you’d rather focus your efforts on other classes, but it’s a shame to come so far with a language only to slowly but surely give it up! Studying abroad at a destination where your studied language is spoken is a wonderful way to complete your language education in a more lasting and meaningful way—and you never know when it will come in handy in your future endeavors.

Have Some Fun. This one speaks for itself, but I’d hate to leave it out! Fun is different depending on where you go abroad, but part of your intent should always be to let loose and have a good time—it’s healthy!

Take Advantage Of Currency Exchange. This is a handy tip for those looking to study abroad, and one that will help you to have even more fun. It shouldn’t entirely dictate where you study, but a favorable currency exchange can help you to worry less about finances while abroad. This is a particularly interesting factor in 2015, given that Europe is more financially accessible to U.S. students than it has been in a decade. Case in point: the latest charts at FXCM showing the relationship of the Euro to the U.S. Dollar reveals that 1 Euro is equal to about 1.09 Dollars—the closest they’ve been to even in many years. Again, this isn’t something that should totally dictate your decision, but it’s a factor to keep an eye on for students worried about budgets while studying abroad!

Keep Career Goals In Mind. Since I’ve covered cultural education and recreation, I should also mention the potential benefit of abroad experience in your career. In part of a debate about studying abroad in The New York Times, one point of view was that “globalization is here to stay.” The article goes on to say that the cross-cultural experience a student can gain studying in a different country is vital for many industries and pursuits. This is a broad perspective, but a true one. It’s also a perfectly good reason to choose your destination and program with your own career goals in mind.

All in all, there truly are innumerable good reasons to study abroad, if you have the opportunity to do so. Whether you’re looking to enhance your education, start setting up your future, or simply have a great time – or all of the above! – a semester abroad can be both eye-opening and productive. It’s something I’d recommend above just about any other pursuit for a college student.

So, all of you students reading this: what are you waiting for?!

****For this post that has us catching the travel bug, Campus to Career thanks Paul Bryant!!****

About Paul: Paul Bryant is a freelance writer based out of New York who covers finance, investing, and similar topics. When he’s not writing, Paul enjoys travel, playing guitar, and testing out the latest tech gadgets.

Photo credit: Bjorn Simon, UnSplash.com





Getting the Most From Career Fairs

2 06 2015

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For the recent grad who has experienced tossing a cap and switching a tassel, a career fair may be the next best step in a journey to finding a job. Career fairs are full of eager recruiters, on the hunt for the ideal candidate. And, like a swarm of bees to honey, they’re full of hundreds of candidates vying for the recruiters’ attention.

A career fair is your chance to network with recruiters from dozens of companies, and ultimately to sell your skills to them so you can land an interview. So, you better take plenty of time to prepare – or risk losing out on some great opportunities.

Here are a few smart ways to prep before a career fair to ensure that you stand out with a positive, lasting impression:

Put Together a Resume

This may seem like a no-brainer, but a resume is like a ticket to a show. You need one in order to get in. Be sure to list all applicable experiences, like internships, grade point average, relevant coursework and extracurricular activities.

Do Some Research

Find out which companies are going to be at the job fair, and choose three to five to target. Get to know as much as possible about them by looking at their webpages, scanning over their mission and values statements, and by reading their recent press releases.

Look for companies that put a lot of focus on employee happiness and well-being, as these are the ones who know how to keep a long-term employee-to-employer relationship going.

Tailor Your Resume to the Chosen Target Companies

If, for example, a target company specializes in design, come up with a creative resume that shows your design capabilities. In addition to design, you can tailor your resume to highlight the specific skills and accomplishments that match their expectations. Recruiters don’t have long to look at your resume, so make sure it’s easy to read and makes it clear how you are a good fit.

Plan Your Route

You’ll have a list of all attendees, and maybe even a map, and now that you know which companies you want to target you’ll have a base plan. You’ll want to plan out which companies to visit in order of your interest, since lines can sometimes be long and unpredictable. Also try to plan a few of your “secondary” interests in case you end up with extra time at the end. Organize your materials in this order, if necessary.

Perfect Your Pitch

A good pitch is short, succinct and well-rehearsed. It covers the questions before they even get asked and is persuasive. It’s your chance to sell yourself to the employer. Why can’t the employer go one more month without you in their office? What do you have to offer? Try to answer these questions in a 30-second pitch that includes the following:

  • An intro with your name, year in school, and major
  • Your plans for the future
  • What you’ve done to get there (your experience, involvement in related clubs, internships, etc.)
  • How the company fits into your plan (why you want to work there, basically)

Once you have your pitch done, practice with a close friend, or consider asking a neighbor. You’ll want to be able to say it clearly and confidently by the time you’re at the career fair.

Come up With Questions

There shouldn’t be any awkward pauses in conversations with recruiters. Think of a few conversation starters to break the ice, but also be sure to prepare thoughtful, practical questions to ask once the conversation gets going. You should ask a few burning questions about the company that would be nice to know, such as “Are there specific career tracks within the organization?” and questions about the recruiter, like “What made you choose this company, and why do you stay?”

Try to show your knowledge of the company by incorporating bits of information into your questions. If you know there are opportunities for ongoing learning, but the website didn’t share details on them, ask for specifics. And, whatever you do, do not ask about something that could’ve been found easily with a Google search – or even worse, is on the recruiting materials.

And, always, ALWAYS be sure to find out about next steps and how to follow-up. If you forget this part, all your networking may be for nothing.

Press Your Outfit

You want to dress to impress, so make sure you have your outfit planned and pressed so there are no last-minute outfit disasters. Dressing like it’s an interview can do wonders for your and the employers’ confidence. Consider modest business attire that will show just how serious you are. For additional tips, read this article at Monster.com on dressing for career fairs.

Print Out Copies of Resumes and Writing Samples

Multiple copies of everything should be readily available for handing out to prospective employers. Make more than what you need so there’s enough to give to the target companies, as well as any others that may be eye-catching. There are often multiple recruiters per company, so keep that in mind, too. It’s better to be over-prepared than under.

Organize

Not only is it necessary to get all of the paperwork that you’ll be handing out – resumes, writing samples, etc. – compiled, organized and easily accessible, it’s important to know where all of the paperwork you’ll be receiving will go. This includes a place for business cards that will be key to follow-up calls and emails, as well as pens and paper for any impromptu job applications. It’s best to have a portfolio with a notebook and business card slot.

I always had a sheet with specific details I wanted to bring up to recruiters hidden behind the notebook in my portfolio. I would jog my memory before introducing myself, and then take a few quick notes afterwards. Having a few details about your conversation recorded is a great way to keep track of what next steps need to be taken, and personal information is great to bring up when you send them a thank-you after the event.

When it comes to career fairs, organization and preparation are key. Wandering the aisles of a career fair can be daunting, but with a little prep work, it’ll all pay off when a job offer is made.

sarah landrum head shotAbout the author: Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she’s a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. She’s also the newest addition to the Campus to Career family, serving as a featured contributor on a regular basis. You can find her tweeting during boring speeches @SarahLandrum





The Evolution of the Job Interview [Infographic]

28 05 2015

Job interviews have undergone a major transformation since the days of inherited careers and apprenticeships turned full-time jobs. As the work world continues to grow and change with the latest technologies and innovations, so must the job interview.

Long gone are the days of relying on references and questions to evaluate job candidates. Today’s interview process has evolved to include various technologies and methods for testing candidates’ knowledge and skills.

To help us embrace the future, we must first look to the past. The infographic below, compiled by video interview platform Spark Hire, takes a look at how job interviews have evolved throughout history.

Some major breakthroughs include:

  • Advancements in transportation
  • The birth of the interview as we know it
  • Technology’s incorporation into the interview
  • The rise of social and digital media
  • The adoption of modern interview technologies

Check out the full infographic below to see the evolution for yourself.

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What do you believe the future holds for job interviews? Share your predictions in the comments below. 





Tailoring Your Resume: How to Show That You’re the Best “Fit”

12 05 2015
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Or does it??

Imagine you’re an HR officer, going through hundreds upon hundreds of resumes in your inbox. After sending the 50th resume straight into your “Trash” folder, you stop, sigh loudly, and say: “Goodness gracious, when will that candidate ever show up?”

Now you know how hiring officers feel on a good day — yes, that’s on a good day. That’s the first step to getting an employer’s attention: Empathizing with their recruiters. The next steps all involve tweaking your resume, and becoming that candidate who’ll make a recruiter jump on their swivel chair a la Tom Cruise, and shout “Finally!”

Here are some tips to help you do that.

 

Go Over a Job Posting at Least Twice

Want to know what an employer is looking for, exactly? Here’s a hint: 90 percent of the answer is in the job ad.

Take a closer look at the job description, duties, responsibilities, skills and experience required. Given that, try to imagine what kind of person fits those requirements perfectly, and ask yourself: “Am I this person?” If not, look for another job, and do this step again. Trust me: You’ll find it much easier to sell yourself as a “fit” if you actually are a fit.

Include Only Your Relevant Skills, Experience and Achievements

Your credentials might span five pages of A4 paper, but if none of them have anything to do with the job you want, they won’t get you past an exhausted, over-caffeinated recruiter.

Go over your skills, experience and achievements one more time. Then narrow them down to the ones that are relevant to, and can lend you an advantage for, the job. For example, if you’re a psychology major who wants to become a copywriter, emphasize how your understanding of the human psyche translates to an ability to write compelling, hits-all-the-right-buttons copy.

Also, remember to incorporate keywords in your resume, especially if the employer uses software like Taleo to recruit employees. No matter how well-crafted your job application is, it’ll get axed faster than the speed of light if it has none, or too few, of the right keywords.

Mimic Your Employer’s Language

If a job ad is written in a friendly, upbeat tone, use a similar tone in your resume and cover letter. If an ad is written in a way that reminds you of a dead leaf suspended over an active volcano, write in the same way.

In case an ad doesn’t give you much to go by, check out your prospective employer’s website to get a feel for their tone and culture. You can also check out their official LinkedIn profiles, visit local and national conferences where they’re likely to gather, or chat with industry experts. People gravitate to those who are like them — and employers, as human beings, are no different.

If you know who your interviewer is ahead of time, check them out on social media to see what they’re like, what their interests are and what drives them crazy – and put it to use, subtly, in your interview. Be sure to check out the website to see if they share information about the team and their interests, too. Some companies, like Empire CAT, share information about the journey of employees in the form of videos or “Meet the Team” pages.

Also take note of how important the company culture is to them – if they have a lot of information about it on the website, it’s a safe bet that they’re going to be looking for a good cultural fit. Be sure to bring this up when speaking to the recruiters.

Avoid Done-to-Death Jargon

Whatever tone you use, however, avoid words like “hard worker,” “go-getter,” “results-oriented” and other phrases that only vaguely hint at what you’re capable of. Writing a resume is a lot like writing a story: Show, rather than tell, your employers what you can bring to the table. For example, instead of writing “Increased funds raised for our organization”, say “Multiplied funds raised by 200 percent.” Use strong yet precise verbs in your resume that’ll make a recruiter sit up and take notice.

Proofread Your Resume

This might seem like an obvious, or even unnecessary, tip, but you’d be surprised at how many resumes get passed over because the candidate, say, wrote “Ms.” instead of “Mr.” to address a male recruiter. Check your resume for things that shouldn’t be there, and try to avoid the other stuff that drives recruiters crazy.

Remember, the resume is your first step to making an impression on your employer. If extra effort is apparent in your application, an employer will think: “Hey, maybe this person will exert the same amount of effort with us, too.” So send that kick-ass resume out, hope for the best, and keep pushing your luck in your job search.

sarah landrum head shotAbout Sarah: Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she’s a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. She’s also the newest addition to the Campus to Career family, serving as a featured contributor on a regular basis. You can find her tweeting during boring speeches @SarahLandrum

 





Preparing for Your First Big Meeting 

28 04 2015

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Photo credit: Breather

Meetings make most of us want to crawl under a rock and hide. It was easy for you to get away with skipping or zoning out in meetings while you were in college, but now it’s time for the real thing! Like any 20-something entering the workplace, you’re probably freaking out and wondering how you can possibly prepare for the important professional meeting.

The good news is you can never be too prepared going into a meeting. But how do you prepare for success? Here’s six ways to ace your first meeting.

Research the People

Don’t be afraid to do a little bit of stalking (come on, everyone does it). You should know at least a little bit about the people attending the meeting. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter make it easier than ever to look up professionals you may be interacting with.

There’s one universally important tool, though: a quick Google search. It will reveal information about these people from other sources. Using the power of research, you’ll find information about the players of the meeting that reinforces company culture. This includes tidbits such as their hometown and interests.

Know Your Role

Meetings usually have an agenda that is sent out to the participants a few days beforehand. By studying this agenda, you’ll get a sense of your role in the meeting. Here’s a few questions to consider if you get stuck:

  • Why were you invited to the meeting?
  • What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • What is expected of you?
  • How should you participate?

Once you figure out your role, get ready to deliver your knowledge with extra finesse. This means bringing up relevant facts and data, a unique perspective, or an in-depth analysis. You were invited for a reason, so show everyone why you belong!

Hone Your Listening Skills

While it’s important to step up and make your feelings known in a meeting, it’s even more important to listen. Make use of active listening skills, so you can engage yourself in what a speaker is saying. Active listening skills include:

  • Turning off your phone
  • Making eye contact with the speaker
  • Nodding when the speaker makes a point you agree with
  • Raising your hand when a speaker asks a question
  • Asking questions to the speaker

By practicing active listening, you’ll benefit from paying attention. More importantly, however, you build a relationship with the presenter.

Dress to Impress

Appropriate dress isn’t just reserved for job interviews. You may think you should pull out your finest suit right away, but hold up. There’s a golden rule when it comes to meeting attire: wear something that will be fitting to your audience. Here’s some examples:

  • Will the meeting be filled with customers of your company? In this case, think about the customer’s perception of your company when they see you. What kind of vibe do you give off? Hopefully not one that will make a customer feel like they’re taking a risk when talking to you.
  • Is the meeting with important business investors or clients? In this case, switch out bold jewelry for classic pieces and the collared tee for a professional suit. You can always ditch the jacket if your clients are looking for a more casual atmosphere.

Marvelous Mingling

Chances are, you don’t know everyone in your company. Meetings are a great time to break away from your small department and mingle with some new people.

Take advantage of meetings by arriving a few minutes early. This will give you time to make small talk with some new faces. Some light socializing sets a more positive tone and hopefully makes everyone feel more comfortable. Who knows? You might make a new friend or important connection.

So crawl out from under that rock – you need to sometime, or else you’ll lose your job! Meetings aren’t that bad if you spend some time preparing. Follow these steps and you’ll stand out positively, which will lead to further benefits in your career.

sarah landrum head shotAbout the author: Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she’s a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. She’s also the newest addition to the Campus to Career family, serving as a featured contributor on a regular basis. You can find her tweeting during boring speeches @SarahLandrum








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