Be Professional Without Losing Your Personality

29 05 2012

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Guest post by Erin Palmer

After four or more years of casual college life, transitioning to the corporate world can come as a shock to many graduates. The dress code is less comfortable, the responsibilities are diverse and the pressure to make a good impression can stifle your personality to the point where you don’t even recognize yourself. While it is important to be professional at work, it doesn’t mean hiding who you really are. It takes all kinds of personalities to make a business run, so read on to find out how to be yourself and make a good impression. Use your distinctive personality to your advantage.

Your Personality Can Help You Land a Job
Different jobs require different personality traits, but you don’t need to undergo a chameleon-like transformation to land one. Find out what jobs fit your personality best, and don’t force yourself to hide behind a different persona. For example, a retail hiring manager will want an outgoing, friendly person to wait on customers and sell merchandise. If you’re not into dealing with the public, why fake it? Even if you do get the job, you probably won’t enjoy it and chances are that you won’t last long.

Look for positions that suit you, and express your personality naturally. You’ll be more relaxed in the interview, which is always a good thing. Remember, if you are confident, friendly and honest, you can stand out from the competition and land the job you truly want.

Your Personality Can Help You Fit In and Express Your Great Ideas
Once you start on your new career, take some time to observe your surroundings. Keep your eyes and ears open, watching and listening before making your move. Remember, survival of the fittest applies everywhere.

Workplace survival tips for recent college graduates:
• Get to know the company culture, inside and out.
• Avoid breaking unwritten rules. Every workplace has them; so don’t eat the break room donuts until you’re sure it’s acceptable.
• Be professional, friendly and respectful to everyone you meet, from the company president all the way down the corporate ladder.
• Don’t leave your personality at home. You were hired because of your personal attributes, so let them shine!

When making contributions to the team, let your personality work in your favor. Your fresh perspective is a positive thing, as long as you deliver your opinions professionally and respect those who disagree. Maintain a balance between expressing your ideas and being a “know-it-all.” And remember, the way you deal with criticism (whether you’re giving or receiving it) will tell your co-workers a lot about you. It’s all about building a positive personal brand.

Build a Brand Based On Your Personality
Everyone talks about branding. Whether you’re a laundry detergent or a young professional, it’s important to present an authentic message to the world. Spend some time thinking about your strongest skills, personality traits, and how you’re different. Do you pick up new software applications quickly? Are you a great problem-solver? Do you have a knack for training dogs, which equates to possessing a ton of patience?

Decide what you want people to think of when they hear your name: that’s your personal brand. Learn how to express it in writing, for professional social networks and resumes, and in conversation. You never know when or where you’ll strike up a conversation with the person who turns out to be your next boss.

Personality plus professionalism equals success at work. Show off who you really are. You’ll make a great impression and build your personal brand. When you don’t have to suppress your personality, you’ll enjoy your job even more!

20120528-202036.jpg About Erin: Erin Palmer is a contributor to U.S News University Directory a leading resource for locating online bachelor’s degrees and masters programs from accredited colleges. The directory also offers a growing collection of education articles and career videos for your review. For more information please visit http://www.usnewsuniversitydirectory.com.

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Top 4 Career Choice Tips for New Grads

22 05 2012

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By Annie Favreau, Inside Jobs

With graduation season in full swing, I’ve been thinking a lot about new grads who have put off career planning until the very last second. Not too long ago, I was in the exact same boat. During my senior year, I had been completely focused on my classes. By the time I raised by head out of the trenches after finals, I realized I didn’t even know where to start in terms of choosing or building a career. And the clock was ticking.

It worked out in the end (I was lucky enough to find a job I love a few months after graduation) but not until after some serious heartache and awkward trial-and-error.

From this rocky beginning, here are some of my favorite, and hard-earned, career choice tips:

Volunteer: If you haven’t had any real world experience, now is the time. Even if you have to work as a barista to pay the bills, set aside time for an internship or at least some volunteer hours at an organization that interests you. Don’t get too hung up about where you choose to work first. The simple act of being in a workplace—any workplace—is useful. It can teach you about your own work values, what kind of environment you’re best suited too and more. Even if you don’t find your dream job, you’ll at least have cut out some options.

Build a Wide Network: Not having a specific career focus is no reason not to build a network of contacts and friends. Reaching out to people working in many different areas can open your eyes to the sheer range of career possibilities. Plus, once you do find a career area you want to pursue, chances are you’ll know someone who knows someone happy to help you get a foot in the door. BONUS TIP: Networking is a two way street. You will have much more success if you approach people with the pay-it-forward mentality of “How can I help this person?” instead of “How can this person help me?”

Do Your Research: It’s been my experience that an informed job seeker is a more competitive job seeker. From informational interviews to career exploration sites, now’s the time to buckle down, commit to in-depth research, and put in the effort to get the facts you need.

Stay Strong: Everyone takes a different path. Yes, some people have known exactly what they wanted to be since they were ten years old. But many strong, accomplished people have taken much more circuitous routes to success. Never apologize for the path you’re on. It’s yours, be proud.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about choosing a career?

About the author: Annie Favreau works for InsideJobs.com, a site that helps people make career choices and build strong, successful futures. Join the career conversation on Twitter at @InsideJobs.





Congratulations! Now What??

15 05 2012

It’s graduation season.  Droves of eager 20-something college seniors are lining up in their caps and gowns, ready for pomp and circumstance.  In the good old days, graduating with a degree meant that you most likely had a job waiting on you.  Employers were hungry for new talent, providing most graduates with multiple offers to entertain upon graduation.  Unfortunately, the good old days have come and gone.  This isn’t a post about the doom and gloom of today’s job market – you’ll find plenty of those out there.  No, this is a post to help you figure out what to do after graduation because odds are, you’re still looking for your first career out of college.

Congratulations!  Now what??

Update your résumé.  Now that you’re done with your formal education (for now, anyway,) it’s time to make sure everything is updated.  Still have your dorm address listed as your permanent residence?  You might want to change that.  Email address still john.doe@university.edu?  Some universities are moving towards an email system that will allow you to keep your email address as an alumnus, but to be safe, consider nailing down john.doe@gmail.com or any of the other free accounts out there.  Why?  You don’t want an employer to be emailing your school email and get a bounce-back with an undeliverable status.  Believe me, it’s usually a signal to move on – most won’t investigate further.  The easier you make it for recruiters, the better!  BONUS TIP: Update the verb tense to reflect past experience on your résumé.  Also make sure to update the dates of experience.  Detail is important!

Update (or create) your LinkedIn profile.  Why is this separate from the first point on résumés?  Because LinkedIn is NOT your résumé online.  It’s an extension.  Use LinkedIn to add work samples (Box.net), presentations (SlideShare,) recommendations from peers and supervisors, and connect with others in your industry.  LinkedIn remains THE place for recruiters as they seek top talent (after Google search.)  Make sure your profile is updated.  Here’s a great article that helps you make the most of LinkedIn: If You’Re Not Linked In, You Might Be Left Out.

Keep networking.  Regardless if you have a job or don’t have a job, keep networking.  Let people know you’re still looking.  Help others first.  How do you do this?  Just ask.  Instead of rambling all about what you’re qualified to do, the jobs you’ve applied to, and the skills you possess, ask how you can help your network.  Why do this?  It’s the right thing to do – you shouldn’t have ulterior motive.  However, paying it forward always comes full circle.  That person you just helped will help someone else, who will help someone, who will help someone…see where I’m going with this?  BONUS TIP:  Reach out from time to time, via LinkedIn, email, or phone call and just ask what you can do to help.  Don’t wait until you need something.

Keep calm and carry on.  Whatever you do, make sure it gets you closer (even if it’s just a baby step) to your ultimate career goal.  Keep your goal in mind, but also keep calm.  Chances are you’re going to be searching for a job for a while out of college.  This can be very frustrating, but don’t let it get you down.  Stay focused on the end goal and remember, take time for yourself.  Surround yourself with friends and family who support your goals and let loose every once in a while.  The job search can drive a person insane – don’t let that happen.  Breathe, then keep moving toward your goal.

Congratulations on successfully completing your college education.  Whether it took 4 years or 40, I’m proud of you.  I know others are as well.  Hopefully, these tips will help you along the way as you land the job of your dreams.  You can do it.  Now, go get ‘em.





Thanks Mom!

13 05 2012

I know that without a doubt, there are going to be MANY posts like this today.  Today is Mother’s Day and I’m not able to see my mom in person, so this is the next best thing.  You see, unlike flowers or chocolates, this will last a lifetime.  Seems fitting since that’s what she has dedicated to me, my brother and two sisters.  I’m not forgetting Dad, but today is Mom’s day and this post is about her!

Thanks for the confidence.  Thanks Mom, for the confidence you’ve instilled in me and the social skills I’ve gained because of that confidence.  You and Dad taught me the meaning of hard work and the rewards that come with it.  Rather than staying inside playing video games (I didn’t own a game system until college) or watching movies, you introduced me to other things that actually interacted with people, teaching me responsibility.  At the time, I’d rather have been playing Tetris, but I now know why you did what you did.  Thanks Mom.

Thanks for the kicks in the butt when I needed them the most.  As a teenager, I was quite the procrastinator (ok, maybe I still am) and I’m sure that drove you absolutely nuts.  You pushed me to finish what I started, no matter what.  It’s made me a better person, so thanks, Mom.

Thanks for letting me be myself.  No matter how weird that was (or is), you let me find my own way in life, choose my own friends (and yes, some are weird) and let my true personality shine.  That meant putting up with many competitive speech events, band concerts, plays and a healthy obsession with collecting Superman paraphernalia.

Thanks for being there.  With four kids, we have no idea how you were able to make the various band concerts, cheerleading competitions, speech and debate practices, 4-H meetings, etc.  You did, though.  You and Dad were always there, cheering us on.  Thank you.

I really wouldn’t be the man I am today without the love, kicks in the rear, and encouragement from you all these years.  Thanks for putting up with me for over 30 years.  You’ve been more of a superhero than you’ll ever know.

This post isn’t just about me, though.  I’ve asked my siblings, Whitney, Jordan and Karissa, to contribute to this as well.  Here are a few of their thank you’s:

Whitney: “Mom, thanks for raising us with manners and respect.  You always told me that I could do anything I wanted in life and that I was always the smartest kid in my grade.  🙂  Thanks for teaching me to be a good mom to my son.”

Jordan:  “Mom, thanks for all that you’ve done to help me find what I’m passionate about in life.  You’ve always told me, ‘do what you love and you’ll love what you do.’  I know that whatever I do, you’ll be there cheering me on, pushing me to be even better.  Don’t let my tough exterior fool you, I do appreciate all that you and Dad do for me.  Thanks for believing in me.”

Karissa: “I am blessed and thankful for so many things you’ve done for me over the years.  Not only have you been a great mom, but you’ve truly been my best friend.  When anything was ever hard or upsetting, I could always count on you to be there for me.  I hope that one day I will be a mom like you.”

Now, call your mom, grandmother, aunt..whoever has been the “mom” in your life and tell them how much you appreciate them.  Happy Mother’s Day!!





Internship Advice from Vanilla Ice

8 05 2012

Oh yes.  I went there.  Remember Vanilla Ice?  If you grew up in the 80’s and 90’s (or if you’ve seen the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies), you know who I’m talking about.  His song, “Ice, Ice, Baby” was a one-hit wonder, yet still plays on the radio from time to time.  As I embarked on my weekly long run this weekend, I reminisced of the good old days when the song came on my iPod.  Believe it or not, Vanilla Ice actually has something to do with your career!  To be more specific, I think he had three good points for interns.

Think of an internship as an extended interview.  Typically, you have 10-12 weeks to work on a project, deliver results to executives and impress your supervisors in an effort to get a full-time job offer upon graduation.  That’s the whole purpose of today’s internships – to convert you to a full-time employee.  Gone are the days when interns ran errands, got coffee, and answered the phone all summer.  Sure, you might still have to do a few of these things, but all in all, internships have come a long way.  So, what are a few things you can be doing as an intern to help secure that job offer at the end of your term?  Vanilla Ice knows…

Stop.  Before you get everything ready for your internship, sit down and take a moment to set a few personal goals to achieve this summer.  You’ll likely have some assigned to you by your supervisor, but why not get a head-start and get the ball rolling?

Collaborate.  It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.  Have you ever heard that phrase?  First of all, a pack of dogs like Mr. Burns was always releasing (the hounds) comes to mind when I hear that.  Secondly, the world isn’t that bad – and we’re not dogs.  In fact, through collaboration, our world is being made better every day.  Take time to collaborate with your fellow mentors and interns.  Host sessions to generate new ideas, vet the good ones, and streamline processes.  Don’t be a dog about it.  Be human.

Listen.  Slow down and take time to connect with people during your internship.  Don’t just make friends with fellow interns – branch out and seek mentors throughout the company.  When you go back to school in the fall, don’t lose touch with them.  Keep them updated with what you’re doing, what your career aspirations are and how you plan to achieve them.  Ask if there is anything YOU can do to help THEM.  You’d be surprised at how little this tactic is taken.  It can pay off with HUGE benefits, but in the end, it’s about helping someone succeed, right?  Listen to find out what their challenges are and help them get past them!

Stop, collaborate and listen…  I just caught you singing the song, didn’t I?  I love it when I can relate job search advice to pop culture.  It makes things more interesting!  Before you start your internship (or full-time job), think about what Vanilla Ice would want you to do.  Then, go out there and have some fun as you chase your dreams!

And now, for your viewing and listening pleasure, here’s a flashback to the original 1991 music video: 





What Have You Done Today?

1 05 2012

What Have You Done Today (to Make Me Feel Proud?)

Video credit: SIFE Official YouTube – SIFE Connections

Please watch the video and listen closely to the lyrics of the song.

Well??  What have you done today to make me proud?  Just a quick disclaimer: the reference to “me” could mean anyone.  I’m not judging you – just pushing you to be better than you were yesterday.  I’d encourage you to hold me to the same standard.  We’ll be accountability partners.

You’ve heard me say this and write this before.  I LOVE MY JOB.  We’re not just talking about changing the world, we’re doing it every day, empowering others with the tools they need to improve their own standard of living.  If you’re interested in learning more about SIFE, please feel free to email me at kbaumann@sife.org or visit http://www.sife.org.  I’d be happy to share more information with you about this wonderful organization.

At our most recent All Hands meeting, this video was shown.  It was a highlight montage from the 2011 SIFE World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I had the opportunity to attend and made some new friends from close to 50 other countries around the world.  The video got me thinking about those simple, yet powerful words.  What have I done lately to make others proud?  What have I done to make myself proud?  Am I doing everything I can to make this world a better place? 

You might be thinking that this has nothing to do with job advice or my usual career tips. You’re wrong. It has everything to do with your career!  Here’s how:

Step out from the ordinary.

Don’t settle for good enough.  You’re better than that.  I know you are!  Plus, in this ever-competitive job market, “good enough” isn’t good enough anymore.  Think how you can go the extra mile with that report or task.  Even if it’s mowing a person’s yard, make sure that it’s the best looking lawn on the block by the time you’re done with it.  I’m not saying you have to work 100 hours a week to be the best.  Invest in yourself, develop your talents, solicit feedback and go from good to great!

Don’t keep it all to yourself.  Pay it forward.  Help others when the chips are down.  Karma works in mysterious ways.  Sooner or later, it all comes full circle.  Wouldn’t you rather it be good stuff that comes back around?  You never know where that person that needed a little pick-me-up will end up in the grand scheme of things.  The world gets smaller every day.

Sounds pretty simple, huh?  Try these two things and you’ll be off to a great start.  You’re going to make us all proud of what you’re doing today to make tomorrow a better place.

So, go ahead.  Ask yourself, your coworkers, your family, “what have I done today to make you feel proud?”  It’s never too late to try!