College Students: How to Avoid the Sophomore Slump

25 01 2013

Young student reading and taking notesThe first year of college, students show up with enthusiasm in one hand and motivation in the other. But as sophomore year rolls around, the novelty of college begins to wear down. The challenges of difficult course loads arrive, money issues surface and doubts about major choice start to creep up. To top it off, graduation seems (and is) years away. Enter the sophomore slump: a constant reminder of what you got yourself into.

Here’s how to avoid it:

Don’t Do All of Your Reading Assignments

The stress of college life really sets in once you’ve passed introductory classes and are thrust into the middle of major-required courses. You’re busy balancing stuff that really matters, and probably a bunch of general education classes too. Here’s a secret: don’t do all of your reading assignments. It’s simply not the best use of your time. Granted its something you’ll need to gauge on a case-by-case basis, but after doing the reading for each class for the first few weeks you’ll be better about judging which reading assignments are necessary and which can be skipped.

Find a Quiet Place

Studying (or pretending to) in your dorm room might have worked freshmen year, but do yourself a favor and find a reliable, quiet place to get stuff done. Let this place trigger the motivational, focus-oriented bones in your body and hold it sacred. It can be the library, cafes and coffee shops near campus or a hideout on the backside of a building in the great outdoors. Wherever it is, only use it to be productive. You’ll find whether you are submitting scholarship applications (something you should continue to do throughout your four years), applying for jobs online, studying or checking your email (also important – universities and advisors often send vital information via email), the distractions will be minimal because of your mindset.

Get a Job That Matters

This one is tricky but doable. A job can pay the bills and teach you life and work skills — all important. But if you can, choose a job somewhat related to your future field. If you are going into architecture, apply for an on-campus yard and maintenance position. If you are interested in writing, work as an office assistant at the university’s newspaper or alumni magazine. At this point it doesn’t matter if you aren’t working directly in your future field, but you have a foot in the door and can learn from other people higher up in the chain.

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know

Seek out and attend networking events. As an underclassmen you have the unique opportunity to attend career fairs, meet and greets and leadership conferences and learn for the sake of learning. You won’t have all the stress or anxiety of an upperclassmen trying to score an important internship, but you do have the same opportunity. When it comes to career success after college, it really is who you know, AND what you know. Make connections with leaders and peers in your industry. It’ll be worth it.

Quantity vs. Quality

Don’t try to be a jack of all trades. You need to test the waters and consider the options to find what you are really interested in, but once you do, focus on a few things rather than juggling a lot of things. This can be rough advice to take for the go-getters who can’t stand to pass up an opportunity. As a general rule, if you try to do everything you’ll be good at nothing. Follow the good, better, best guideline and realize for future employers it’s better to have a few amazing skills than many moderate ones.

About the author: Gina Waters is a volunteer firefighter, nanny and freelance writer, Gina has been a dedicated serious writer of articles and fiction since her first publication, when she was 18.





5 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Job Search

22 01 2013

Businessman and banana skin

In such a competitive job market, when you’re on the hunt, you cannot afford to make mistakes. Even when you are spending hours every day on job searching and you think that you are doing everything right, you may still be making some mistakes. To be successful in finding a job you need to stand out in the crowd and you may be held back by your interviewing skills, your resume, the way you are searching, and even by your parents. Don’t make these five mistakes:

Relying on your Parents for Guidance

It is natural to look to your parents for advice and guidance on many aspects of your life, including the job search. They have been in the workplace much longer than you have, after all. The problem is that your mom and dad’s job search was much different from what you are going through today. Unless one of your parents works in hiring, they really will not understand the way it works today. While they mean well, their advice could run contrary to what will ultimately help you find a job.

Ignoring Social Media

Speaking of changing trends in job searching, social media is now an important part of hiring and networking. Creating a network to help find a job is nothing new, but the way in which people do it today is far different that it was even ten years ago. Using sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are essential to staying in the loop and getting access to the companies you are interested in and the open positions. Join up with groups that are specific to your industry and don’t be shy. Jump in and get involved in discussions so that people know you are there.

Not Updating and Customizing your Resume

If you have one resume that you have been using for months and that you have been sending out indiscriminately, you are handicapping your search. If a resume is not customized to the job for which you are applying, the hiring manager will toss it aside and look for one that is. If you have a long history on your resume, trim it back and only use experiences that are relevant to a specific position. And take the time to perfect your resume. Enlist help here if necessary. Nothing looks worse to an employer than stupid mistakes on a resume.

Interviewing Poorly

Maybe you have excelled with your job search, your networking, and your resume, and you land an interview. You can still blow it by not honing your interviewing skills. Simple mistakes can totally sabotage this opportunity to impress: arriving late, forgetting the name of your interviewer, clamming up, or not being prepared with a resume or references. Be prepared the day before by finding directions and getting copies of you resume and references ready to go. Have someone help you practice so you will feel more comfortable once you are put on the spot.

Not Going the Extra Mile

In such a competitive market, if you do not stand out, you may not get the job. A perfect resume, good references, and excellent interview skills just might not be enough to set you apart from the crowd. Think of things that you can do to leave a positive impression on prospective employers: send a personalized thank-you note after an interview, bring a treat, like donuts, to the interview, prepare a presentation to showcase your skills, or talk about what you can specifically do for the company.

About the author: Mary Ellen Ellis writes for Sociology Degree Programs, a career site for learning about getting started in a sociology or social worker career.





Career Lessons from Great by Choice

15 01 2013

A few months ago, I promised you a review of Jim Collins’ bestseller Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, but I realized that I never posted my thoughts.  Rather than a traditional review, I’d like to go over the highlights and discuss how the concepts can apply to your career.  After all, what’s the point of a review if you don’t know how you can apply the things you’ll learn about in the book?

“We cannot predict the future. But we can create it.”

– Jim Collins

The 10Xer (pronounced “ex-er”):  By definition, 10Xers are companies that beat their industry by 10 fold.  Collins’ research finds that 10Xers aren’t more creative, more visionary, more charismatic, or more ambitious, more blessed by luck, more risk seeking, more heroic, or more bold. They’re focused on data with great discipline and stick to their plan (ie: their 20 Mile March.) They’re consistent.  In your career or job search, are you sticking to the plan?  Do you have a plan?

What is your 20 mile march?  Do you continue to develop yourself as a professional, learning and tweaking your strategy along the way?

Zoom Out, then Zoom In: The 10Xers possessed a “dual-lens capability” in which they could zoom out to see changes in the environment and assess risk and then zoom in to focus on the superior execution of plans and objectives.  In other words, don’t get lost in the weeds.  It’s important to understand the macro before you tackle the micro.  In your job search or at work, are you zooming out first to understand the bigger picture?  Knowing this will help you find the right long-term solution vs. a quick fix.

cannonballBullets, then Cannonballs: In the book, Collins describes this concept as a lesson in calibration.  Let’s use the legendary pirate metaphor: Imagine if you had a limited amount of gunpowder on a ship.  Would you pool all your resources (the gunpowder) to fire a cannonball at a target?  What if you miss?  You’re definitely in hot water then.  But, if you use just a little powder to fire a few bullets to test the wind direction and other factors, taking into account the differences you will encounter will a larger shot, you can then use the rest of the powder to fire the big one – the cannonball.  Lesson: Fire bullets first.  Test the waters.  Learn what works for you, recalibrating along the way.  When you have empirical validation that you’re on the right path, fire the cannonball.

So, what did I really think about this book?  Honestly, it was pretty easy to read, has real-world applications, and the multitude of case studies (my favorite ones were Scott/Amundsen, Southwest Air, Apple, and Microsoft) made it all come together.  My employer, Enactus, even felt that the business concepts of this book were so important that we read and discussed it at length during our summer strategic summit, helping us each understand how it applies to what we’re doing as an organization.

Here’s the thing, though…

Just reading a book isn’t enough – at least, not a business book or a book meant for personal or professional development, in my opinion.  For most of us, simply reading something only sticks with us for a short while.  My advice?  Take good notes.  Note how the book relates to what you’re doing right now, what you’ve done in the past (successes and failures) and what you can do to improve your future.  Apply the key concepts to your career.  I’ve found that the best books continue to give you inspiration throughout your life.  In fact, some of my best BHAGs have been inspired by them.  Will you apply the principles from the best and choose greatness? 

PS. If you want to know what a BHAG is, I’d highly recommend reading Good to Great, also by Jim Collins.  You don’t necessarily have to read it before Great by Choice, but I found that it helped.

PPS. I read plenty of fiction for entertainment as well (didn’t want you to think I’m a boring business book guy.)  My favorite authors include James Patterson and Michael Crichton.  Just finished Crichton’s Micro and I give it two thumbs up!  It was a great escape over the holiday break.

Read any good books lately? 





Step-by-Step Career Planning for Students

8 01 2013
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Guest post by Dunya Carter
For all the flowery praise of learning for the sake of knowledge that gets tossed around on college campuses, it’s no secret that the real purpose of higher education is to land the right career afterward. Unfortunately, too many students leave their university with a piece of paper and little else. They lack experience, have no clear goals and often find themselves languishing at a substandard job with no hope of advancement. Don’t let that be you! These are the five essential steps to begin planning your career and ensure that you don’t end up in a dead-end cubicle.

Find What You Love
Millions of young men and women enter college every year, and almost half change their major at some point during their undergraduate careers. Before committing to any industry, explore your skills and interests to the furthest extent possible. Most universities have very general freshman years to accommodate this. There’s nothing worse than locking yourself into a field you hate out of a sense of obligation or greed; it’s better to be a happy, talented artist than a miserable and mediocre lawyer. Stick with what you love, and you’ll never regret the decision.

Pick a Specialty
Nowadays, there are no Renaissance men or women. Jobs, because of their increasingly technical nature, are becoming more and more specialized and exclusive. Engineers don’t just major in engineering. Some love mechanics and architecture, while others are fascinated by the electrical workings of a computer chip. Employers like to see a narrow area of study on resumes because it shows focus and provides a clearer picture of your training and interests. An English major raises questions, but a degree in technical writing answers them.

Set a Goal
Once you’ve decided upon your major and field of specialty, it’s time to decide where you want to go. You might hope to become a research scientist in a bustling laboratory or the CEO of a thriving business. Maybe you’d like to make partner at a prestigious law firm or write best-selling novels. Whatever your ambition, do some research and pin down a specific job title or goal. This will give something to work toward in the future, even if progress is going slower than you’d like.

Educate Yourself
Perhaps most importantly, apply yourself in school. Employers rarely demand to see your GPA, so long as you have your degree, but college can only give as much as you put into it. Get involved in extra-curricular clubs, do your assignments early and don’t be satisfied with the bare minimum effort. The practical knowledge and work ethic you’ll develop are well worth a few late nights bent over a textbook.

Start Building Practical Experience
Look for internship and volunteering positions as soon as you’ve chosen your major. The sad truth is that even if you excel academically, four years of college courses will only take up two or three lines of your resume. The rest must be gained in the outside world. Taking internships shows initiative and might even net you a job offer as soon as you graduate. Begin making a name for yourself in school, and you’ll stand head-and-shoulders above your competitors for entry-level openings.

After you’ve earned your degree, it’s time to enter the workforce. If you’ve been diligent throughout college, you should be able to find a job somewhere, even if it’s not particularly glamorous. Keep your goal in mind but don’t be too picky to start with. Build up your resume, make connections and never stop looking for new opportunities to move your career forward.

Dunya

About the author: Dunya Carter is a HR and marketing specialist from Australia. She is currently working as a consultant for Ochre Medical Recruitment. In her free time she writes articles on business and career development for several websites and blogs.





13 Super Experts to Follow in 2013

2 01 2013

Campus to Career's 13 Super Experts to Follow in 2013Happy New Year!  Ready to start 2013 on the right foot?  I find Twitter to be an incredible resource.  As a job seeker or someone who simply wants to improve themselves, the right Twitter users provide excellent advice, insight, best practices, inspiration and motivation to help you achieve your goals. So, to help you get started, here are my top 13 super career experts to follow in 2013 (in alpha order):

Ask A Manager (@AskAManager) – Alison Green delivers easy articles that get to the point.  Love her “6 Short Answers to 6 Short Questions” segment.

CareerBliss (@CareerBliss) – I love this blog.  It makes me happy. Even their logo makes me happy. CareerBliss provides relevant, always fun to read posts that will help you advance in your career.

Career Sherpa (@careersherpa) – Hannah Morgan aka Career Sherpa, is your guide to show you the best paths and methods for making the trek as you embark on your career journey. Check out her awesome list of 98 people to follow in 2013.

ComeRecommended (@ComeRecommended) – Heather Huhman and crew delivers quality career advice for everyone.  Heather and ComeRecommended were some of the first people I followed on Twitter several years ago.

Doug Conant (@dougconant) – Doug is one of the most inspirational business professionals I’ve ever met. He’s the former CEO of Campbell Soup Company, leading with head, heart and hands. Read his book, TouchPoints.  I guarantee that you’ll find some excellent tips on how to be a better leader.

Great On the Job (@greatonthejob) – Taking the art of communication and turning it into a science.  Follow Jodi Glickman and crew (don’t forget to check out their site as well) for some great career tips.

HR Margo (@HRMargo) – Margo Rose pays it forward every day.  She’s dedicated her career to helping others get hired.  If you’ve seen me tweet with the hashtag #HFChat or #hireFriday, she’s at the core of this great movement. Follow her!

Keppie Careers (@Keppie_Careers) – Miriam Salpeter’s blog, Keppie Careers, is one of the first that I followed as I entered into the digital space as a career blogger.  Must follow!

Laurie Ruettimann (@lruettimann) – Laurie makes me laugh. She doesn’t take BS from anyone and shoots straight with you every time.  One of the coolest HR peeps out there, Laurie has extensive HR experience, shares some of the best career advice on the web, and is passionate about what she does and what she believes in.  Check out her blog, www.thecynicalgirl.com, and follow her on Twitter. You’ll be glad you did.

Lindsey Pollak (@lindseypollak) – Gen Y LinkedIn master.  Need I say more?

SparkHire (@sparkhire) – great resource for video resume and interviewing.  In the technology age, companies are using video to interview more and more, so why not be prepared and get the competitive edge?

Stacy Zapar (@stacyzapar) – She’s the most connected woman on LinkedIn. Stacy get “it” and shares her expertise and advice on how to maximize the most powerful tool in your professional social networking toolbox: LinkedIn.  Follow her now!

YouTern (@YouTern) – Designed for interns, this blog is a fantastic resource for upbeat, truthful posts to help you land that internship or full-time career after college.

Of course, be sure to follow me (@kbaumann) and Campus to Career (@campustocareer) as well. Aside from tweeting original content, we also share the best of what we find from other super resources.  2013 is going to be awesome – let’s make it so!

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!