Steer Clear of Creepers: Navigating Awkward Office Situations

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image source: http://duebymonday.com/tag/behavior/

image source: http://duebymonday.com/tag/behavior/

It was a Wednesday afternoon, 15 minutes before quitting time. I had just graduated high school seven days earlier and had started a summer job at a small newspaper. In the midst of packing up my bag to officially shut down for the day, the screaming started. Yells I never expected to hear in an office. The executive editor and senior writer were exchanging harsh words about not meeting the Wednesday printing press deadline. I was frozen at my desk in the back hallway. The exchange went on for almost 20 minutes. Once quiet was restored, I quickly snuck out the front, so thankful to be out of the office.

The next morning, while writing my first article, the senior editor came over and apologized for what I heard the previous day. She said it was the biggest argument the two of them had ever had. She said to expect an outburst between her and the executive editor once a month. Three days in and I hear a huge fight; is it really that bad here? I thanked her for the apology and warning but questioned the office dynamic.

Later that same day, the secretary came to the back to use the paper cutter and asked how things were going. She then brought up that if I ever see the accountant (who conveniently sits right by me) intently watching videos on his computer to alert her. He watches porn in the office. Woah! Hold on-I’m sitting right near a porn watcher?

For the second day in a row, I left the office with way too many questions about the atmosphere and lack of professionalism. I drove straight home and spoke with my mom about the porn-watching situation. My mother told me that I didn’t have to return to the office. I could quit and avoid the uncomfortable situation. Through tears, I told her that I was not about to forgo my dream internship, or what I pictured was a dream internship, because of a couple crazy people. She told me she would support my decision but recommended that I ask to be moved. There was no need to have me sitting in the hallway.

Friday morning on the drive to work, I went over in my head how I would ask to be moved. I told myself that unless I speak up, I would be on edge the rest of the summer, knowing the porn-watcher was too close for comfort. Upon arrival, I told the secretary I thought about yesterday and decided I was not comfortable being around a horny guy and asked if it was possible to be moved. Just then, the associate editor walked in and he immediately agreed that I shouldn’t be sitting back there. As a result, I was moved to an empty office up front.

Later in the day, the senior writer issued another apology, this time on behalf of the staff. She was sorry I had to witness a guy watching porn and that she also is uncomfortable around him. The executive editor apologized too, saying he was unaware of the situation but that it was taken care of. One week down, I left the office with so many uncertainties about company culture but I was hopeful the summer could only go up from there.

There were more arguments and more porn streamed but I just turned a blind eye. The experience I got from writing for a newspaper trumped the negatives. At the end of the summer, my mom asked me a very important question: Looking back, would I intern for the newspaper again? I quickly responded “no.” But then on second thought, I said “maybe.” I learned how to professionally deal with coworkers that I didn’t want to be around. I spoke up for myself when I saw inappropriate behavior. More importantly, I took advantage of interning for a newspaper and published many articles. By the end of the summer, I became the best intern they had ever had. I proved to myself that I can handle any situation and can only hope that I will never have to deal with a poor company culture again.

 This guest post was written by a Northeastern Student who wished to remain anonymous.  

 

Keep Calm and Don’t Punch Anyone

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stressed out guyThis guest post was written by graduate candidate and full time professional, Kristina Swope.

Well, easier said than done. On days like today, where the humidity is 450% and I’m drowning in schoolwork and job responsibilities, it’s incredibly difficult not to take down innocent bystanders. When the biggest urge you have is to karate chop a coworker in the side just because they exist, it’s time to stop, take a deep breathe, and think about what can be done.

We hear about work-life balance all the time. As a society, we talk about it constantly. It’s in articles, blogs, and often discussed in the workplace. The bottom line is the employee is responsible for their work-life balance. In theory, it’s a great concept – when you can swing it.

But what about days like today? What about sitting at your desk at 9pm, when the florescent auto-lighting in the office has turned off on you and five people are shouting at you via email? You feel run-down, like nothing can be done fast enough or well enough for anyone’s liking. By the time you get home, the most energy you can muster results in laying on your living room floor watching the ceiling fan spin around.

I’m guilty of all the above. On more occasions than I’d like to admit, I’ve been one step away from ripping my hair out, just because it would be less painful than the stampede of people. Instead, I’ve started using a less painful technique that has helped organize the millions of little tasks that have to be taken care of.

stressed out girlFirst, breathe. Close your eyes, stop yourself from reacting, and don’t allow your emotions to take you on a rollercoaster. No one actually likes to go upside-down anyway, it just happens and then afterwards we’re glad we survived.

Shut it down.  Even if you have a ton more to today, the best thing you can do for yourself is to shut down. Close the laptop, turn off the cell phone, and do something you truly enjoy. Whether that’s catching up on a show in a blanket cocoon because you never have the time, or it’s going out to dinner with a friend, it’s just what your soul needs.

Make lists. Once you’re ready to reboot, the best way to move forward is to organize yourself. If you’re juggling multiple responsibilities, it may help to make separate lists. Personally, I make one list of tasks for school, one for work, and one for personal. Looking at what needs to be accomplished on paper helps you get a better sense of timing and allows you to prioritize tasks across categories.

Finally, take action where you can. Look at your respective lists and see what can be done today. If you have three small personal tasks, why not stay up an extra hour or two and finish them up? You’ll be lying in bed thinking about everything you have to do anyway, so you might as well be productive. Not to mention, the feeling of crossing something off your list is surprisingly rewarding and one by one those tasks come off the list. Even though more will be added, it will prevent anything important from falling through the cracks. It won’t happen all in one day, but you’ll wield the lists slowly but surely.

Kristina is a full-time Market Research Project Manager in Philadelphia and a full-time student at NU pursuing a Master of Science in Organization and Corporate Communication, with a concentration in Leadership. Check out her LinkedIn profile here.   

Got an Offer? Ask These Questions

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Getting a job offer is and should be a time of celebration.  You have successfully navigated the interview process and an employer has determined that you, out of all the other candidates, are the person that they want for the job.  The offer represents a salary, benefits, and, for all of you graduating students, an end to the fear of being unemployed after investing time in your education.  However, don’t let the happiness of making it through this milestone cloud your judgment into accepting the offer automatically—if you do so you jeopardize your chance of negotiating, or making a carefully thought-out decision about your career.  After expressing your interest in the position and enthusiasm about the offer be sure to ask these questions:

images (2)

www.momtofitmom.com

1.)    When do you need my answer by?  Generally, the employer allows at least 24 hours and at most two weeks for a candidate to consider an offer.  By knowing how long you have to make the decision, you can notify any other employers that you’ve been interviewing with that you have been made an offer.  This way you can ask the employer if it is possible for them to get back to you within the set time frame, especially if one of those other employers is your top choice.  It also gives you parameters in which to think critically about how the job fits in with your career goals—could this job give you the skills that you want to gain and open up new possibilities for you career?

2.)    Can I receive the offer in writing and the benefits package? Knowing how long you have to respond to a job offer will enable you to carefully view the benefits/salary package in a timely manner and understand if it works for you or not. Keep in mind that salary is not the only factor that affects the overall offer. Benefits such as dental/medical coverage, vacation/sick time, tuition remission, and employer contribution to a retirement plan, among others, all add up.  If you aren’t satisfied with the overall package, now is the time to think through your negotiating strategy for your next communication with the hiring manager.

3.)    Who can I talk to if I have questions about the benefits package?  Sometimes the person offering you the position is not equipped to talk through the nitty-gritty of the benefits package.  He or she may then direct you to someone in the HR department that has a better understanding of the benefits available to recent hires.  Getting your questions answered about these benefits can ensure that you understand how all the pieces, such as salary/benefits, fit together with your offer.

Keep in mind that asking questions does not indicate that you are not excited about the offer.  It shows the employer that you truly care about your career by taking the time to do your research and understand how the position, salary and benefits fit in with your goals.  On the flip side, if you already know what salary a hiring manager is going to offer you and the benefits that go along with it, there is no need to hesitate when receiving the offer, if you’ve already thought critically about what accepting the position would mean for you.  Feel free to accept on the spot-congratulations, you’ve earned it!

Ashley LoBue is an Assistant Director at Northeastern Career Development.  A Boston College graduate, Ashley has over 3 years of experience working in higher education and is a proponent for international and experiential education

Strategies for Researching Companies

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image source: www.eiu.edu

This guest post was written by Heather Fink, a Career Development intern and a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program here at Northeastern. 

Conduct research to fill a need at a company, not just an open position!

Everyone knows that in this economy the job market is competitive. To stand out from other applicants, you should aim to fill a need at the company rather than just an open position. Conducting research allows you to present skills in your résumé and cover letter that meet the unique needs of the company. Research also allows you to tailor your answers in the interview to how your past experience relates to projects they are currently working on. The only way to figure out the needs of the company and what value you add is to conduct research!

The Company Website

Start your research with the company’s website. Usually there is an “About Us” section or a “News and Press” section providing information about recent accomplishments in the company. This section should also include a mission statement about the company’s goals that will help you understand the culture. This will also tell you about recent and future directions for the company.  You should also pay attention to the staff links such as “our team” or “our staff.” Once seeing a list of current staff, you can search for those employee’s on LinkedIn.

taken from Shaumt’s website.  http://www.shawmut.com/our_work/index.cfm

taken from Shawmut’s website. http://www.shawmut.com/our_work/index.cfm

LinkedIn Logo

Start by looking at profiles of current employees, especially someone with the same job title you are applying for. This will give you a sense of what the job will be like as well as skills desired by the employer.

When conducting your research you should also be assessing whether or not you would be a good fit at the company. LinkedIn can be used to see how long past employees have stayed, if there is a high turnover rate, there may be low employee satisfaction or budget issues. Furthermore, your supervisor can greatly impact your job satisfaction at a company. If you know the name of your potential supervisor, read their LinkedIn profile to learn about their past experience and recommendations prior colleagues have written about them.

google logoGoogle is a great tool to find information about a company. Googling the company name will likely present results about recent articles published, information about new products, recent advancements, presentations, trade shows and conferences. Utilizing the “News” tab will provide you with information about press releases from the company, financial analyst reports as well as other information.

Don’t forget you can combine research strategies; you can use Google to find people on LinkedIn!  If you Google the company name and the title of the position you are applying for, you may find the prior employee that worked at the company and read their profile to see what types of tasks were requested of her/ him.

Lastly, Google can be used to research a company’s competitors. If you type in the company name and then “competition” results may yield websites that provide a list of competitors. Search results from www.finance.yahoo.com, wikinvest.com,  www.hoover.com, and www.corporatewatch.com are all reputable websites for this information.

glassdoor logoGlassdoor is another website that job hunters often forget to utilize. The website can provide you with information about the company culture and potential interview questions. Smaller companies may not have as much information on this site as larger more well-known companies, but it can still be a great resource. The site includes information about the size of the company, the year it was founded, the industry, awards, information including recent news about the company, salary information, reviews about the company from prior/ current employees and even potential interview questions! Get access to this site via the Career Development website, but choosing Online Resources and scrolling to the bottom of the page.

Now What?

What does the information you found tell you about the company? If there has been a lot of turnover in staff is that due to growth in the company or dissatisfaction of their employees? How does this company compare to their competitors? What are the challenges the company faces and how can you add value to decrease these challenges? Remember if you want to be a competitive job applicant it isn’t enough to just fill the spot, market yourself by sharing how you will add value beyond the average applicant. Demonstrating your understanding of the company’s needs shows your commitment to add value.

Heather Fink is a former Career Assistant at Northeastern Career Development with a passion for networking and empowering others.  She has worked at Northeastern Career Development for two years and has presented over 50 workshops. Currently she is pursuing her graduate degree in College Student Development Counseling. Follow Heather on Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/HeatherFink and Twitter @CareerCoachHF. 

Happy at Work

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background image source: theguardian.com

background image source: theguardian.com

Clap along if you feel that happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.

- Pharrell Williams, “Happy”

Thanks, Pharrell.  As a Grammy-winning, big hat-wearing, record-producing singer songwriter, you probably do know “what happiness is to you,” and we’re happy for you.  But happiness at work is more elusive for the rest of us.  Whether you’re in your dream job or just working for the paycheck until you can snag something better, there are factors other than the specific content of your work (I’m talking to you, first co-op) that can make happiness your truth.

The happiest employees are those who have certain core needs met: physical comfort, including regular breaks; appreciation for their contributions; flexibility in how to approach their work; and an environment that allows them to focus on their tasks. It’s a great idea to try to find out how a company rates in these areas before accepting a job, but it’s not always easy.  And what do you do if you’re already in a job that doesn’t put a smile on your face?

Bottom line, your happiness at work is largely up to you.  I say largely, because obviously the conditions of your workplace and the people around you have an enormous influence. But you can choose to be an equally enormous influence on your own experience; you can choose to see your situation at work as one that you can change if you don’t like it.

The first step is to define for yourself what makes you happy or unhappy at work, then appropriately share this with others. Happiness at work does not require a perfect situation; I doubt that exists.  It does require minimizing or changing the bad and amplifying the good.

Are you frustrated with a lack of communication?  Ask for more feedback and stay on top of the company’s social media. Do you think you’re stuck in your position?  Seek out opportunities to learn new skills and volunteer for projects and committees.  Feeling overwhelmed? Commit to only the amount you can reasonably do, asking your boss to help you prioritize if need be.

Give your happiness project time and change will happen.  But if it doesn’t, resolve to move on, then turn to your network (and a career counselor) to support and strategize your next move with you.  Clap along!

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2013. Email her at s.loffredo@neu.edu.

The Lost Art of… Art (as a major)

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art history picThis guest post was written by Katie Merrill, an NU and BC alum and Academic Advisor for the Honors Program at NU.

I can remember being eighteen years old and having just gotten accepted to my dream college. I was sitting with the student handbook and course catalogue in my lap, and flipping through all the possible majors I could declare.  There were classes I had never seen before, topics I was eager to explore, and a few I was thankful to be free from (goodbye math!!!). I remember my father telling me that I could major in anything I wanted, that the purpose of college was the quest for knowledge (he comes from a liberal arts mindset), and so scanning the pages I picked out the two subjects I liked the best in high school: history and art.  I couldn’t decide which I wanted to pursue, so I figured why not squish them together? Mind you, I had never taken an art history course before in my life, but I liked museums and Indiana Jones’ adventures as an archaeologist, so I thought that was reason enough to declare an Art History major. I spent four years studying all the great artists through the ages, and even spent a semester in Italy taking art lessons and eating gelato.

Not once, during my entire undergraduate career, did I have that desperate thought I hear so often today as an advisor: “But what am I going to do with That?…”

The answer? Anything you want. My degree in art history taught me to examine things analytically, to write well, and to understand how others organize thoughts and information. Did it lead me to becoming a world renowned Art Historian? No. But it could have, if I hadn’t had an internship at a highly regarded art museum, during which I learned that I had no interest in becoming a curator.  Pouring over texts in Dutch and spending all day in the underbelly of a museum was not my passion. (Note: the basement of even the most beautiful museum still looks like a basement.) The point is that it was the skills I learned that mattered, not necessarily the content. That is why experiences are so important to your undergraduate education.  Very basically, experiences teach us about our likes and dislikes. Better yet, intentional and meaningful experiences can teach us about what we do or do not like about a career path.  They can teach us our strengths and weaknesses, about our abilities to adapt, our way of interpreting new information, and they can shape our values and goals.

I am not saying that everyone should switch majors to pursue something with art.  What I am saying, is don’t rule anything out completely because you have rationalized in your head that one major is going to set you on a path to success, while another will condemn you to eating ramen for the rest of your life.  I think it is important to pursue what you love and stop worrying so much about the end result. Skills and experiences are what lead you to succeed, not necessarily the specific content you studied. After all, that’s what graduate school is for.

Katie Merrill HeadshotKatie is an Academic Advisor for the Honors Program at Northeastern University. She studied art history as an undergraduate in Boston, and received her Masters degree in College Student Development and Counseling from the Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University. She likes to run and cook in her free time. 

Tell Me About Yourself… But Not Really

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image source: cartoonstock.com

image source: cartoonstock.com

This post was written by Amy Stutius, Career Advisor at Northeastern University Career Development.

In everyday life, if someone asks you to tell them about yourself, it’s usually because they want to get to know you as a person and learn about your interests, hobbies, and passions.  So if I asked you to “tell me about yourself,” what would you want to say?  Would you tell me that you grew up in California, love to surf, like cookie dough ice cream, and just came back from a family trip to Paris?  That would all be pretty interesting, and a good conversation starter if I asked you that question while we were waiting for a treadmill to open up at the Marino Center, or if we were taking a break from studying for finals.  But what if you were coming in to interview with me for a co-op, internship, or a job that you really wanted?

You response might help me realize what a fun and unique person you are, and that maybe we’d have something in common as friends, but it wouldn’t tell me anything about why I should hire you, and why you’d be a better fit for the job over any of the other candidates I’m interviewing.  Remember, you’re out there trying to compete for, and secure, a great job and the way to do that is to market yourself, not as a terrific and friendly person with an interesting childhood and hobbies, but as a terrific and friendly person who can do this job better than any of the other candidates waiting in the wings!

So how do you master your answer to this question or some variance of it?  Think it through and then PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.  You’ll need to answer this question in some form during your interview, whether the interviewer comes out and asks you to “tell me about yourself,” or if they say “what brings you in here today.”  Even if they don’t ask you the question that directly, it’s great for you to try to weave your proposed answer somewhere into the interview because the whole point of the answer is to clearly and articulately relay a bit about your background and experience, and why that makes you a good fit for this position and this company.

back to the future poster

image source: meansheets.com

When you’re thinking through your response, I like to take the “Back to the Future” approach (part 1, that is). You want to start in the present, then travel to the past, and then head back to the present and into the future.

So by starting in the present, you’re going to be talking about your current status, namely, your class year, and major, and anything else relevant that’s going on right now.  Next you’ll travel with your interviewer to the past, where you’ll share a few RELEVANT snapshots of some experiences you’ve had that tie in well to the job you’re interviewing for.  These could be co-ops you’ve done, academic projects you’ve worked on, and/or any research you’ve completed.  After you discuss those all-important RELEVANT experiences, you want to travel with your interviewer back to the present and start heading into the future, meaning that you’re going to very briefly find a way to explain how, through those experiences and your coursework, you’ve developed the necessary skills to make a strong contribution in this position, which especially interests you because….[and here’s where you fill in exactly why you’re so very interested in this position at this company!]

Sound good?  So next time someone asks you to “tell me about yourself” in an interview, remember that they’re looking for you to tell them about yourself in a way that’s relevant to, and focused on, why you’re a great fit for the position and the company.  Save any cute childhood stories and discussion of your favorite ice cream flavors for some friendly banter once you get the job!

Amy Stutius is a Career Advisor at Northeastern University.  She practiced as an attorney before transitioning to higher education.  Email her at a.stutius@neu.edu.

Networking Never Stops. Ever.

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source: gregbekkers.wordpress.com memegenerator.net

source: gregbekkers.wordpress.com
memegenerator.net

This guest post was written by Sheila Taylor, a Northeastern University Career Development intern.

net·work·ing noun

:  the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically :  the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business

Most of us associate networking with finding a job. While you’re actively seeking employment, you’re busy forging relationships with people who may help you land that dream job. Networking is about meeting and talking with people. By creating a relationship during the conversation, you will be able to ask, “Who do you think I should talk to next?”

What if I were to tell you that networking shouldn’t end when you find a job? Would you groan in dismay, or would you jump up and say, “Yeah!” to continue building relationships?

For many people, networking is work. It’s a fine art form that you develop over time. Everyone must refine their skills to reflect their style. For some people, they can walk into a crowded room and instantly connect with strangers. For others, it takes practice to find the right conversation starter and to have the confidence to introduce themselves to an industry leader.

After many years in the work force, three careers and an international move, I want to remind you not to abandon that network you diligently built while job hunting! Did you meet some fascinating, fun people along the way? Would you like to have a reason to stay connected? It’s important to continue to cultivate those relationships for business. You never know when you may need them!

Here are some strategies for continuing to network after you have found employment:

First of all, thank the people in your network that led you to where you are now, especially the people that helped you during your active job search. Then, let them know where you are working and how they can reach you. Send them your v-card. Update your LinkedIn profile. Who knows, maybe you can return the favor and give them some valuable information some day.

Are there some interesting people that you connected with? Were they easy to talk to? Did they seem open to answering your questions? Consider building a base of mentors. Some of the people you met through your information interviews or while attending professional association meetings may be willing to fill this role. Why seek out mentors? Early on in your career there may be projects that your supervisor assigns to you that could seem daunting but you don’t want to disappoint them or appear unfit to take on the challenge. Here is where a mentor comes in: they may give you some advice on where to start or how to face the challenge. They may be able to help you brainstorm or problem-solve to come up with a solution to a problem.

I sought out mentors when I landed my second job. Some elements of my job were very new to me – such as conducting interviews with national media outlets. I was alone. None of my work colleagues had experience in this role – they were all happy to push me in front of the microphone! I turned to a few people that I had met at a professional workshop. I called them and asked them for advice. They became my informal “committee of advisors” cheering me on from the sidelines and supporting me during a stressful time.

You may find mentors or advisors in the most unlikely places. I recall participating in a committee for a corporate-wide project. Whenever I presented material to the committee there was one colleague that always challenged my work. At first I was offended and then I realized they took interest in my work and they wanted me to succeed. After the project ended, I sought out this person from time-to-time because I knew they would give me a different perspective.  I have also met people through groups on LinkedIn. I have participated in group discussions and have found that a particular person provides good advice or resources. I will connect with that person and turn it into an opportunity to meet and strengthen the connection.

Networking can also help you grow as a person. Maybe you’ve been in your job for a couple of years and you want to expand your skills – use your network to research how to try out these skills in other ways: through volunteering or getting active in a professional association.

Finally, networking is a little bit like being a gardener. You have to continue to nourish and feed your contacts to keep your network alive. Share information with colleagues. Show interest in what your contacts are doing. Find out about industry trends. Grow your network. Who knows when it may be time for you to look for another job? If your network is active, you can hit the ground running and cut down on the time spent searching for your next opportunity. Better yet, your network may seek you out for a job that is never advertised.

Sheila Taylor worked in the Career Development office as an intern and recently left to move back to Canada. She has worked in both the United States and Canada in Public Relations before transitioning to become a Career Counselor. 

Kelly’s Top 10 Resume Don’ts

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Maury Povich knows you're lying. Image source: makeameme.org

Maury Povich knows you’re lying.
Image source: makeameme.org

As a career counselor, I see a lot of resumes. They range anywhere from the absolutely atrocious to the epitome of formatting perfection. Crafting a resume is a daunting task for almost everyone I meet with (cover letters as well, but that’s a whole different ball game).

I’ve compiled a list of my top resume “don’ts” based on all my client conversations. Let’s just call this the resume format version; I’ll put out the 2.0 version on resume content at a later date. You may disagree with some and that’s okay- one of the hardest things about resumes is that every recruiter/counselor is going to have their own opinion. These are just mine.

Kelly’s Top 10 Resume Don’ts:

10. Don’t use a bunch of different fonts. The average hiring manager spends about 10 seconds (if you’re lucky) looking at a resume before deciding whether or not they’re going to put it into the “possible candidate pile”. Don’t make the recruiter think you’re scattered and disorganized before they’ve even started reading it by having too many fonts messing with their eyes. If you need to have more than one font- limit it to two, one for the headings and one for the content. Similarly…

9. Don’t use a bunch of font sizes. In regards to size, your name should be the only thing larger than 12 point font. If you MUST make your headings a larger size, keep it very slight- I’m talking one or two font points larger than the rest of your document.

8. Don’t get crazy with the font styles. Nobody likes Comic Sans- seriously, nobody. Other fonts to avoid: Chiller, Broadway, Curlz and any font that looks like you hired a cheap calligrapher to write your resume. Stick with any standard font that will work across systems. There’s nothing more annoying than when I open up a resume done on a Mac and its some weird font on my PC. Safe fonts include: Calibri, Ariel, Times New Roman (I personally hate this font, but it’s acceptable), Georgia, and Garamond. Just use common sense, if the font looks like that font your 3rd grade teacher used on a flyer for the school play- change it.

7. Don’t leave tons of blank space. In other words, balance out your page. I personally suggest tabbing your dates over to the right side of the page in line with your job title because most of your content will begin on the left. Know that you can have margins as small as .5 inches around your page to give you more space. Career Development has resume samples you can model your resume after- as does your co-op advisor.

6. Don’t use color (unless it is appropriate for your industry). I applaud your attempt to try something new and stand out, but unless you’re a designer, you’re probably not equipped with the correct eye for these things. Know your industry, if you’re a graphic designer, your resume should have color and showcase your “brand” and design talents; if you’re an accountant- not so much.  

5. Don’t list “references available upon request”. If you get to this part of the interview process they’re going to ask you for references regardless of whether or not your resume says this at the bottom. Don’t waste the space.

4. Don’t waste space. If you’re just starting out, your resume will be short and that’s okay. Take advantage of styling it so it looks relatively full (maybe a 12 point Ariel font, 1 inch margins, etc.).

If you’ve been in business a while, one page is still the standard- especially if you just graduated. If you have a master’s degree, I’ll let you slide with two pages. Remember that space is a valuable commodity; ask yourself with each section and bullet point- ‘What skill or qualification am I trying to convey with this?’ If you can’t answer that question, the section/bullet is just taking up space: DELETE.

3. Don’t list every course you’ve ever taken. That’s great you took College Writing and Algebra I, so did everyone else in college in America. Don’t waste the space on something that’s not adding value to your resume- especially when it’s at the top listed with your education (or should be if you’re a recent graduate or new professional).

List courses that are relevant to your industry and make your stand out. Also, remember you can be asked about anything you list on that resume, so be prepared to talk about that History of Rock class if you’re going to list it.

2. Don’t make spelling or grammatical errors. I, for one, am NOT detail oriented, but when I’m looking over a resume, all of a sudden, I have an eagle eye. This resume is a reflection of your attention to detail. If you don’t care enough to make sure the resume is written well, than you probably don’t care that much about the position. Even if that’s not true, that’s what the employer is thinking. Plus, it just gives them a reason to throw your resume out, especially if they have 500 to go through and they have to narrow it down to 10. My rule of thumb: always have 3 people read it over- just for that reason.

Drum roll please… my top resume Don’t:

1. Don’t lie. No, seriously, don’t lie. Misrepresenting yourself reflects poorly on you as a professional, but also as a person (oh and the school too). Also, why are you trying to tell people you can do something that you can’t do? Once you get hired (if you even get that far) it’s not like you’ll magically develop the skill. You’ll have to eventually confess that you were lying, or more likely, they’ll figure it out first and you’ll get fired.

Like all humans, hiring managers respect honestly and integrity. If there is a skill they’re looking for and you sort of have it- list it as ‘basic knowledge’ or ‘working knowledge’ on your resume. If you’re asked about it during an interview, you can explain what you know, how you’ve applied that skill, and also what you’ve been doing in the meantime to develop it as you know it’s required for the position.

Bonus:

Don’t list your high school after you’ve done a co-op (or once you’re in your third year). Unless you went to an elite high school that you think will give you some pull wherever you’re applying, it’s most likely not adding any value to your resume at this point. If you’re a freshman or sophomore, high school is still generally OK.

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

 

It’s Nothing Personal, Just Business

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This post was written by Derek Cameron, Associate Director of Employer Relations in Cooperative Education and Career Development.

It doesn’t take Luca Brasi or an ill-fated thoroughbred to successfully negotiate a job offer. As a matter of fact, most of the negotiating takes place from the first point of contact and candidates can improve their lot with just a little bit of homework.

“We’re going to invest a lot of money and time into this person so there’s a lot of risk involved”, says Brenda Mitchell ‘92, Senior Recruiter for Criteo, a Paris-based market leader in targeted online advertising, with a new office in Boston.  “When I’m talking with a candidate I’m looking for their value proposition, right from the first point of contact, so I know what compensation range they fall into. A student graduating college hasn’t really proven themselves in the workplace, like someone who’s been on the job for 2-3 years, so I look for the value they can bring in right from school. If I see a student has completed 2 co-ops or 3-4 internships I know they are going to take less time to ramp up and that’s important when bringing someone on board.”

When an employer picks up the phone or emails a candidate about an opportunity they’ve determined that there is value in reaching out to that person.  From that point on they’re trying to determine three essential qualities:

  • What skills and experience can the candidate can offer?
  • How quickly can they offer it?
  • How do they fit, personality-wise?

This comes in the form of a variety of tools such as: case interviews, behavioral questions, competency tests, team exercises or coding challenges. If a candidate has done their homework on the company and assessed their skills and experiences this goes a long way in making it a smooth process.  Making it even smoother is if the candidate has also done the necessary salary research.

“I like to soft-close the candidate along the way and will ask them up front what type of research they have done to evaluate themselves in terms of compensation.  If they state a number at the beginning that seems much higher than what the current range is I’ll ask them how they came to that figure and have them explain it in detail.”   If a candidate has done their homework ahead of time they should be able to provide metrics and specific examples to justify the number and in many cases this proves successful.

Considering the wealth of salary information available online it’s never been easier to run the numbers and get familiar with how much a position, in a particular market and company is going to pay, so by the time an offer is made there shouldn’t be any great surprises. Even if the employer hasn’t broached the subject in the first couple of discussions it’s still important to do that research early.

Another important takeaway in doing this, is it also gives the candidate critical insight about how the organization may values its employees.  If an employer makes an offer far lower than research indicates or the entire benefits package looks shoddy then it could be a reflection of what the company may be like to work for.  “A poor offer package is a good indication of a poor company,” shares Jon Camire,  VP of Risk Modeling at Unum Group, a Tennesse-based disability insurance company. “A company that values its employees is going to offer the best benefits it can so if you’re getting a competitive package then it’s a pretty good indication the company cares about its employees.”

If you’re going through the interview process or think you’re about to receive an offer don’t forget that Career Development is also here to help you.  Feel free to set up an appointment with a career advisor or if you’re pressed for time come on in during walk-in hours.

Just remember:  It’s nothing personal, just business.

Derek Cameron is a member of the Employer Relations team and when he’s not helping develop jobs then he’s either out walking his dog or working the grill.