Innovative Thinking: There Is No Box

30 10 2012

Hi there.  Thanks for popping by.  This week is off to a VERY busy start, so for the sake of time I’m going to keep this week’s post short and simple.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to speak with groups of students and faculty at several colleges from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL to UCLA and Cal-Berkeley.   The discussion has been mostly centered on their career aspirations as it relates to their majors.  What I have discovered is that most students simply don’t know what it is they want to do.  I had this same issue when I was in college.  I knew my major (Broadcast Journalism) and thought I wanted to be on the radio.  And I was on the radio for several years, serving as General Manager for KSSU 91.9FM in Durant, OK and Program Manager/Board Operator for KLAK/KATY in Denison, TX.  That was fun, but I learned quickly that this was not something I really wanted to do.  There wasn’t much room for advancement and I wanted more.

I put myself into a box.  You’ve heard people say, “think outside the box” when they refer to innovative thinking.  I think that’s the wrong way to look at it.  If everyone else is thinking outside the box and you don’t want to think inside the box, how is that being innovative?  By thinking my major ONLY related to the jobs that were primarily associated with it (DJ, Producer, Station Manager, etc.) I didn’t even consider how my major and experience could be used in other areas…areas that weren’t on the Career Path chart in the Career Services office on campus.  I see the same thing with students today.  They see their major of International Business as something literal.  I want to do business internationally.  Again, I think this is the wrong approach.  You’re leaving out so much opportunity!

What if there were no box?  How’s that for innovative?

The person that imagines something greater, can put an action plan to achieve that dream and has inspirational (yet achievable) goals is someone that I want on my team.  I would bet that’s true for many employers.  Think about that.

I hope this gets the creative juices flowing for you this week.  Whatever you do, make it awesome.  Have a fantastic week and as always, thanks for reading!


5 College Grad Job Search Mistakes

23 10 2012

Guest post by Charles Sipe

A job becomes the Holy Grail for fresh college graduates. Getting hired seems to be the only way of justifying the time, effort and money spent on a college degree. So why is it that some college graduates are unable to find quality jobs that their fellow classmates have? Make sure to avoid the following mistakes to optimize your opportunities in the job market.

1. Inappropriate Resume

The very first thing that you must have is a resume that truly represents your strengths as a professional who is about to step foot in the corporate world. Remember, there is no recipe for a successful resume and it all depends on what your field of education is, the country, city and organization you are applying for and other factors. In my opinion, a new college grad’s resume should never be more than a single page.

2. Not Applying Enough

It is possible for you to commit a mistake by not doing something at all. The cost of not applying at enough organizations is very high. Job vacancies are advertised, here, there and everywhere including websites, social media platforms and recruiting firms. However many jobs are never advertised and you need to develop connections to uncover this hidden job market. You can’t rely solely on job boards anymore – you have to work your network as well.

Also, not applying soon enough is a mistake. Many companies have a hiring season. Often college students are hired before they graduate. Campus recruiting enables employers to get the benefits that an early bird does – they get the best graduates even before they graduate. Once this hiring season is over, most vacancies at reputed organizations are filled. So if you consider yourself a student who can compete with the best, start applying before graduation.

TIP: Most corporations hire for their summer internships and full-time positions in the fall semester.  Don’t wait until you’re two months from summer break or graduation to start applying for positions!

3. Mistakes at the Interview

Interviewing well with potential employers is an art in itself. Experience with interviews can help you learn which qualities and actions will impress interviewers and which ones do not. Common mistakes are not arriving early to the interview and not researching the company beforehand. Make sure that you have questions prepared to demonstrate your interest.

4. Not Following Up

Following up after an interview can improve an employer’s impression of you and make you appear interested in the job. This works better at relatively smaller companies where you may connect directly with the people who interviewed you instead human resources who often lacks the authority to make a decision. Nevertheless, please follow up.  A nice thank-you note can go a long way.

5. Sitting Idle

Some fresh graduates refuse offers and wait for the ‘perfect job’ to come their way. This is a mistake because a job candidate who is already employed is far more attractive than one who is not. A candidate who is already employed can create an impression that your talents are in demand. Today, job hopping is not considered as bad as it was a decade ago, so don’t be afraid to take a position while you continue to work towards your ideal job.

About the author:

Charles Sipe is the Executive Editor for Masters in Accounting, a helpful career resource for anyone interested in getting started in the accounting field. You can follow us on Twitter at @accountingmacc

Career Lessons from a Space Jumper

16 10 2012

On Sunday, October 14, 2012 Felix Baumgartner made history in a BIG way.  He successfully skydived from the earth’s stratosphere, which is the very edge of space.  He set the world record for skydiving an estimated 39 kilometers (128,000 ft), reaching an estimated speed of 1,342 km per hour (834 mph), or Mach 1.24.  He officially broke the sound barrier – and he didn’t need an aircraft to do so…just a really cool spacesuit and GUTS…and maybe a Red Bull. 🙂

As I joined the over 7 million people who were absolutely glued to their televisions, YouTube and mobile devices, I thought, “you know, there’s a career lesson here.”  Felix may have become an overnight success story according to all the news outlets, but we all know there’s more to the story of his recent accomplishment.  So, as my heart rate returns to normal from the thunderous, nervous pounding during the jump, I’d like to share my observations with you.

Always be prepared.  Felix had a backup plan for his backup plan’s backup plan.  What if something went wrong? What if his parachute didn’t open? What if the heat visor malfunctioned? What if his helmet fogged up? (By the way, it did fog up – I nearly passed out as I watched his body tumble through the air at 800+mph.)  While he may not be an official Boy Scout, Felix adopted the “Always Be Prepared” motto and took the necessary precautions, calculating his risks along the way.  In your career or job search, are you prepared?

Practice makes perfect.  Actually, perfect practice makes perfect.  Give it your best every time.  That’s how you accomplish your goals and dreams.  Ask Felix.  Are you practicing “perfect practice?”

Passion fuels purpose.  This guy had a serious goal.  Set the world record for skydiving, jumping from the edge of space.  Seriously, a little farther out and he would have floated off into the abyss.  His passion and dedication for accomplishing his goal is like none that I’ve experienced before.  Here was a guy that everyone said was crazy.  Was he?  Maybe.  Did he accomplish his goal by following his passion?  You bet he did!  Do your goals align with that of which you’re truly passionate?

Teamwork makes the dream work.  Felix didn’t do it alone.  He had a lot of supporters – friends, family, co-workers and even Capt. Joe Kittinger.  If Joe’s name doesn’t sound familiar, he’s the guy that held the skydiving record until Felix’s jump. That record for the highest and fastest free-fall was set 52 years ago.  Felix surpassed Joe’s record by 4 miles and was faster by nearly 219 mph.  Kittinger was there to see Felix break his records, too.  He was the primary communicator to Felix via Red Bull’s Stratos mission control in Roswell, NM.  Each team member played an important part.  Trust was crucial to the mission’s success.  Who is on your team in your job search?  Can you count on them during “mission-critical” situations?

Felix probably has his faults.  I’m not saying he’s perfect.  No one is.  Is he crazy for following his passion and chasing his dreams?  Heck no.  Does Red Bull give you wings?  Maybe. I think Felix earned his wings without the caffeine boost.  He worked hard and accomplished his goals. After watching him plummet towards the earth at 833mph the last thing I need is Red Bull.  My heart would probably leap from my chest!

I’d like to leave you with some video of Baumgartner’s historic space jump: 

Just want the highlights? I’ve got you covered: 

Watch and see if you can pick up on other career lessons.  When you find them, please share them with everyone by leaving a comment!

PS. If you’re interested in learning more about Felix, check out his blog:

The Art of Listening

9 10 2012

The art of listening:  Yes, it’s an art.  In the hustle and bustle of an instant gratification world, listening is seemingly becoming a lost art.  You might be saying, “I’m supposed to be selling myself as a job seeker, having my elevator pitch ready to deliver at a moment’s notice.  I thought this was about ME?”  Well, it is…sort of.  Having your pitch ready to go will only get you so far.  You have to listen, really listen to yourself and your potential employer or client if you want to succeed.

Here are a few examples:

DURING THE SEARCH: Research your potential employer or client. Listen to their story, learn what challenges they face.  Before you go in with a solution to end all problems, listen.  You would be amazed at how many times I’ve seen someone in an interview or executive presentation that had absolutely NO idea what the real issues were.  They simply had the solution, but didn’t actually listen (ie: research, interview, etc.) to the people who were faced with the challenges.  I am not saying that you need to know everything about everyone.  It does help to know as much as possible.  As a job seeker, knowing the company’s challenges and how you can help them overcome their challenges can set you apart from the rest of the competition.  Calibrate yourself to target their needs.  Don’t tell them all about YOU.  Tell them what you can do for THEM.  Show interest in the organization’s success and explain how you can contribute to that success.  In the end, it really isn’t about you!

WHEN YOU NETWORK: When you’re networking, the opening line should ALWAYS be about them.  Something like, “I’ve heard of your company, but what exactly do you do?” or “Congratulations on your recent award in sustainability!  Would you mind sharing with me one of your key initiatives?  I’d love to learn more.”  Break the ice about THEM, and then know enough about them to carry on an intelligent conversation.  Take note of what they’re saying, but also note what they’re NOT saying.  Nonverbal cues such as crossed arms, wandering eyes, or stronger cues like complete disinterest (this is typically when the person pulls out their smartphone) tell you that you need to wrap it up and move on.

GIVE CREDIT: Give credit where credit is due.  If you found all your valuable information on the company’s website, mention that to them when you’re presenting your solution to the company.  If the idea for your solution was sparked by a conversation you had with a colleague, be sure to credit them appropriately.  This could be something as simple as, “Bob and I were speaking about this issue the other day.  During that conversation, my interest was sparked and I was inspired to expand on his solution with the following research.”  Give Bob some credit – he helped you arrive at the solution.  In the world of work, giving credit to your team goes a long way.  It’s much better than taking all the glory yourself.  To be honest, too much spotlight-hogging is a real turn-off for most managers.  If it’s a team effort, mention it.  Give credit where credit is due.  It’s a small way to pay it forward.

Listen.  It really isn’t that hard to do.  People love to talk about themselves.  So if you’re a job seeker, ask questions of those that are employed by the companies of interest.  Ask them what they love about their job.  Ask them what their biggest challenges are as an organization.  The same thing applies to you if you have a job.  If you ask questions, listen with intent, and provide relevant and valuable solutions, your potential is unlimited!

10 Creative Ways to Land That Job After College

2 10 2012

With a college diploma hanging on your wall, your next step is to actually put your degree to use. Your journey from student to employee can sometimes be full of sweat and tears, but there are a few creative tricks in preparation for your first interview that may just help you in landing that perfect job after college.

Here are 10 creative ways to land a job as a recent college graduate:

  1. Dress to Impress: When your first interview is scheduled, one of the best things you can do to impress the hiring managers during an interview is dress properly. In other words, do not wear a suit you wore at your high school homecoming dance. Go out and buy something tailored; you can pay it off once you get the job. If you don’t feel comfortable spending money, wear something that you already have
  2. Drop a Name: One of the most basic, yet often over looked ways of landing a job is by dropping the name of someone who currently works, or has previously worked at the company. Don’t be afraid to do so during your interview, even if the name you drop is a friend of a friend of your ex-brother-in-law.
  3. Pick a Company With an Alumnus in Common: If you apply to a company straight out of college where a high-ranking alumnus are working, then you will at the very least have a foot in the door. Or, did you belong to a sorority or fraternity while in college? Do your research ahead of time and see if any executives or hiring managers at the company have a student organization, Greek affiliation, or Alma mater in common.
  4. Wear The Company’s Colors: A small, yet thoughtful touch like dressing in the company’s colors can really impress those doing the hiring, especially if anyone from the executive team is in the interview room. Though it may sound quirky – it’s a great conversation starter, and the hiring manager knows that you have done your research on the company. Add a subtle splash of color with a tie, scarf, or accent piece.
  5. Make Small Talk in Your Interview: A little small talk can go a long way in cementing the impression you make with the recruiters/hiring managers in your interview. Don’t be timid in taking interest in who is interviewing you. It adds a humanistic aspect to an otherwise (sometimes) stiff process.
  6. Shine Your Shoes: There is a very distinct difference between clean shoes and shined shoes. It suffices to say that clean shoes will not likely grab anyone’s attention. Polished shoes, however, have a much greater chance of impressing anyone who catches a glimpse. Though this many not reign in the offer letter, attention to detail can go a long way. The better you look, the better you feel –and hiring managers will take note of your confidence.
  7. Work on Your Pronunciation: It is one thing to use big words to impress your interviewee, but it is another to be able to enunciate them correctly. Before you go ahead and start blurting out any word from the dictionary, be sure you are pronouncing them right and using them in the correct context.
  8. Use Your College Experiences:With limited work history under your belt, don’t be afraid to fall back on your professional experiences during college. Not many companies will expect someone straight out of college to talk about how they boosted third quarter sales. Don’t focus on shortcomings, rely on what experience you do have!
  9. Charm The Receptionist:While the office receptionist may be one of the lower-level employees in the company, he or she likely has some input in the company regardless of how informal it may be. A company’s receptionist or administrative assistant may have the most frequent contact with the highest-ranking members of the company. You never know, the company might even purposely ask the receptionist to evaluate you as a way of discreetly judging your character away from the interviewer’s eye.
  10. Create a Memorable Post-Interview Thank You: Take that obligatory post-interview thank you note one step further. Pair your hand-written thank you note with a takeaway or gift that represents who you are as a person and prospective employee. Whether it is something you talked about in the interview, a school mascot, or a funny trinket, giving a tangible item to interviewers can make you a stand-out candidate.

Hopefully these 10 creative tips will get you a leg up on the competition. With a foundation of an accredited traditional or online degree, a polished appearance, and related experience (volunteering and internships) you have nothing to inhibit you from professional success.

About the Author: This article was written by Allie Gray Freeland, Editor in Chief of, a guide to postsecondary schools and degrees.