10 Mistakes Millennials Make in the Job Search (and how to avoid them)

whoopsThis was originally posted on LinkedIn November 24, 2014. Re-posted with permission from author and NU alumna Alexandra Anweiler Stephens. 

This month, two recruiters from two very different industries visited our staff meeting to share their insider perspectives on hiring millennials. Katie Maillet, campus recruiter at Waltham-based Constant Contact, and Veronica Thomas, vice president of talent acquisition for commercial programs at RBS Citizens, discussed strategies for recruiting new talent in the digital age – from using social media to increasing diversity – and how we can better prepare our students for success.

I wanted to share the takeaways from this discussion more broadly, so I’ve compiled a list of 10 common mistakes that millennials make during the recruiting process – and how they can be avoided.

1. You don’t follow directions. The job/internship application is your first opportunity to show a potential employer what you’re made of, so read the instructions carefully! Usually, employers will require a resume and cover letter, but other times you may be asked to complete a project, respond to short answer questions or make your way through another screening mechanism. Read the job description and the application requirements thoroughly to avoid getting weeded out in the first round.

2. You don’t do your research. Rule of thumb: If the answer to your question can be found on the About page of the company website, don’t ask it. Recruiters talk to applicants all day long about their company, open positions, and why it’s a great place to work. Make their lives easier – and show you’re a serious contender – by doing your homework on the company, role and field/industry ahead of time. The company’s website, social media accounts and Google alerts are great places to find interesting information you can reference in your interactions. If you are invited to interview, request the names of your interviewers in advance so you can look them up on LinkedIn – you might find you have a connection in common. Another lesser known resource is Glassdoor.com, a growing database of six million company reviews, salary reports, interview reviews and questions – all shared by current and former employees.

3. You don’t update your privacy settings on social media. Millennials have grown up with social media and remember when it was used for only social purposes. Those days are long gone, and employers are doing their research, too. Despite the many warnings out there, employers still see negative posts about former employers, photos of candidates with red solo cups, and other no-no’s. Think twice about what you post on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget about other searchable platforms like Instagram, Vine and YouTube. Then take a few minutes to look at them through the eyes of a potential employer and adjust your privacy settings accordingly.

4. Your email address / voicemail greeting is weird. Your email address itself is a part of your professional brand. Keep it professional by using your college email address or creating an account through Gmail with your first and last name. Though so much communication happens via email, don’t forget about the phone. Your voicemail is also an important part of your professional brand and as such you should treat it with care. In your greeting, clearly state your full name so that callers know they’ve reached the right person. It may go without saying, but ring-backs are a no-no (yes, some people are still using ring-backs). One recruiter suggested using Google Voice to customize and manage your phone number(s), voicemail greetings and messages.

5. You hand out your business card at a career fair. Resume? Yes. Business card? No. This isn’t the worst mistake in the world, but many recruiters don’t want your business card. It is small, it gets dropped, and it is redundant if they already have your resume. Hold on to your business cards for networking nights and other professional events where dishing out your resume isn’t appropriate.

6. You do phone screens on the go. We’re all busy – and millennials are the consummate multi-taskers – but the line needs to be drawn somewhere. If you conduct a phone screen with a recruiter as you’re walking to class, they can hear you huffing and puffing on the line. And it’s never okay to ask the recruiter to hold because you’re getting another call (yes, this has happened). Your interviewer is dedicating valuable time to evaluate your candidacy. Show respect and interest in the position by giving them your full attention. If your mobile connection can be spotty, use a landline to conduct your interview. Many career offices have interview rooms that you can reserve for this purpose.

7. You sell yourself short in interviews. Unfortunately, this is particularly true for females. Our recruiters reported that women have a tendency to use “we” when describing their accomplishments, and men tend to use “I.” While it is important to convey your ability to work as part of a team, it is even more important to understand and communicate your individual contributions, responsibilities and accomplishments. One recruiter even suggested leaving phrases like “contributed to” and “collaborated with” off your resume.

8. You treat your recruiter like your new BFF. A recruiter often communicates with a candidate throughout the recruiting process, from first meeting at the career fair to making the job/internship offer (if all goes according to plan). These communications may be frequent – especially if there are a series of interviews – and the recruiter may coach you on what to expect at different parts of the process. This doesn’t mean that you’re friends, or that your interactions can become more casual as time goes on. Our recruiters have found that millennials tend to use slang in email and over the phone as they become more familiar. Instead of fostering a stronger relationship, it can lead to the opposite. Always err on the side of professionalism.

9. You don’t ask for your interviewer’s business card. As mentioned above, recruiters may tell you about next steps in the process, and are often open to answering questions you may have along the way. But there is one question they don’t appreciate: “What was the name of the person who interviewed me?” This is a big no-no, and is most certainly avoidable. When the adrenaline is rushing, it’s easy to forget your interviewer’s name. The solution? Always ask for your interviewer’s business card. You’ll need their email address to send them a thank you, too.

10. You forget to say thank you. Saying thank you is a must after every interaction in the hiring process, but which is better: email or handwritten note? Our recruiters recommend sending both, and here’s why. Email is the most efficient means – it arrives instantly, doesn’t get lost in the mail, and is easily forwarded to hiring managers and other influencers. Send an email within 24 hours to thank the interviewer(s) for their time and confirm your continued interest in the position. Be sure to reference an interesting anecdote from your conversation, too. While it may seem obsolete, a handwritten note as a follow-up to your email can set you apart from the rest. Our recruiters said that handwritten cards show that a candidate has gone the extra mile, and also serve as a subtle reminder to follow up with the candidate. Mail a handwritten note about a week after your interview, and use it as an opportunity to remind the recruiter about your candidacy and reference a new piece of information, like a recent article you read about the company. Because they are few and far between, our recruiters said they save these notes and even show them off to colleagues. Who wouldn’t want that?

Alexandra Stephens is the associate director of alumni career programs and engagement at the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis University. Prior to her transition into higher education, Alexandra worked in marketing and communications at Rosie’s Place and Constant Contact. She graduated summa cum laude from Northeastern University with a B.A. in Communication Studies.

Image Source: UT Austin Career Center Bits, 3 Big Career Mistakes Millennials Make 

Actually Talk to Your Relatives- And Other Things You Should Do On Break To Help Your Career

sit on the throne of liesWith finals quickly approaching and the semester wrapping up, everyone is looking forward to the relaxation of winter break and more immediately, the mini Thanksgiving break. But before you melt into a puddle on your family’s couch watching three weeks of Netflix, winter break is a good time to catch up on some career-boosting stuff that gets pushed to the wayside during the craziness of the school year.

Before you click the “X” box, don’t worry, nothing I’m listing below will take too much effort, but can still make an impact on your career.

1. Actually talk to your family members. Yes, Aunt Sally can be super annoying, but wait, doesn’t she work in finance or something? Before she has too much champagne, try to get some information out her. Us career counselors would call that, an informal informational interview. If you’re interested in the corporate world, she may have people she can connect you with but just never knew you were interested. If she’s a yapper, think of an escape plan ahead of time so you’re not cornered for two hours listening to her after dinner’s over.

2. Set up an informational interview. I know, you hate networking. But it is a rare occasion that you have as much free time and flexibility, so why not take advantage of it? You can tap your immediate network (friends, family, parents of friends) or use LinkedIn to find somebody working at a company of interest and send them a LinkedIn message/email to see if they wouldn’t mind meeting you for coffee or setting up a 15 minute phone call. You could get some valuable information from a pro that’s already in the field. Good questions to ask would include:

  • “Could you walk me through how you got to where you are?”
  • “What are the qualifications/skills your company looks for when hiring co-ops/new grads?”
  • “Could you provide me with some suggestions of how I could stand out as a candidate?”
  • Check out our informational interview guide for more questions.

Don’t forget to send a thank you note!

3. Volunteer or Job Shadow. If you have community service roots, this may be second nature, but volunteering is a great resume booster, even if it’s just for a day or two over break. If you’re going home for break, find out if there are any community organizations or shelters looking for short-term volunteers. Idealist is also a great what to find volunteer opportunities. Employers are looking for well-rounded candidates and volunteering can help you out in that department.

If you had a great conversation during an informational interview, ask them if you could job shadow over break. This will give you an inside look into what the day-to-day life of that professional is really like.

4. Speaking of resumes, update it! Did you just finish co-op? Add your experience to your resume before you return to class, get expectantly busy and then forget all the great things you did. If you’re getting ready to go on co-op, use this opportunity to update your LinkedIn profile. It is likely your new co-workers will be investigating who you are, so not a bad idea to put out the best version of yourself online. We have a LinkedIn guide to help you build your profile if you need a little guidance.

5. Start your job search. If you’re graduating in May, it is NOT too early to start job searching. We have a job search guide to help you get started, but a few things you could do over the break include familiarizing yourself with the basic job search boards (HuskyCareerLink, indeed.com, simplyhired.com), update your resume, LinkedIn, portfolio and/or other social media and develop a target list of organizations you’re interested in working for. Excel is great for developing the target list. You can track job titles, when you applied and anyone you know/have contacted at every organization on your list.

6. Apply to jobs. To answer the question I know you’re asking yourself, no, it’s not too early to apply to jobs, even if you’re not graduating until May (if you graduated in December, there is no time like the present!). Newsflash: the average fulltime job search takes anywhere between three and nine months. The good old days of the co-op schedule are gone and you are now at the mercy of the employers’ schedules and they are very unpredictable (check out Avoiding the Pitfalls of Online Job Applications too).

If you see a job you love, apply now, even if you’re graduating in May. The employer has your resume and can see when you’re graduating; if they’re still interested then they’ll call you. If you’re really concerned whether or not you should apply, don’t be afraid to call the company’s HR department and ask. You don’t have to give a name, they’ll never know.

So after you catch up on House of Cards and have watched enough SVU that “call a bus” is part of your everyday speech, try and take advantage of your time off. You’ll thank yourself come April.

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.

Image Source: knowyourmeme.com

Turning Your Co-op Into Your First Job

TurningYourCo-op1Roughly 51% of Northeastern graduates secure jobs with a former co-op employer! Wouldn’t it be cool to land a job with a former co-op employer where you’ve already developed great relationships, know their business/products/services/clients, and have proven yourself to be a top performer?

On October 15 we hosted a terrific panel on “Turning Your Co-op Into Your First Job.”  We were lucky enough to get four panelists all of whom successfully turned a former co-op into their first job.  Our panelists gave a ton of helpful tips, which would be way too long for this blog, but we’ve condensed it down into four main topics we covered that you’ll want to take note of!

Being Strategic and Thinking of Your Co-op as a Building Block:

Many of our panelists were especially strategic about their co-op choices, starting at their first if not their second co-op, in terms of recognizing company names and the types of skills and experiences that would make them more marketable down the line and that they wanted to get on their resume as a building block.  Some also looked at which companies were most likely to hire co-op students for full-time work in making their selections.

Being Successful on Co-op to Get Noticed:

This was something that, not surprisingly, all of our panelists knew how to effectively navigate!  The main points that came out here were:  (i) getting to know people in the company by attending events so that enough people knew who you are, and in that same regard, working with a variety of people in your group so you have plenty of people to vouch for you; (ii) showing initiative and a willingness to do any assignment and to do so with enthusiasm; and, (iii) making sure to ask for feedback and to really work with that constructive feedback to improve your performance as you go along on the co-op.

Advocating for Yourself:

Our panelists also made sure to advocate for themselves when it came time to discuss a full-time position.  Because they made an effort to get to know people in their department and to solicit feedback along the way, they all knew that things were going well at the co-op and that their employer was pleased with their work by the time they approached the conversation, typically about mid-way through.  Some practiced the conversation in advance with a friend or a relative, but importantly, made sure to have this conversation so that their employer knew they were interested in a full-time role.  In fact, as they pointed out, sometimes employers start to view you as an employee (which is pretty flattering) and may lose track of the fact that you haven’t yet graduated, or may not remember exactly when you graduate or even realize that you’re interested in a full-time position with them.  The point being, you need to make sure you’re effectively advocating for yourself and letting people know what you’re hoping for, and not waiting to be approached.

Developing a Strong Network:

And finally, our panelists touted the importance of networking while on co-op, but also after you leave a co-op.  Having these relationships and staying in touch with people you used to work with, through periodic, friendly emails, is an important way to make sure that you have a network to tap into when it comes time to look for a full-time position, especially since it may be the first or second co-op employer that you want to try to go back to.

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.

What Do We Really Want in the Workplace?

love job

This guest post was written by Career Development intern and College Student Development and Counseling graduate student, Jabril Robinson. 

Great question! In today’s advanced society, there are many preferences, demands, and pressures to deal with, in all areas of employment. Those who do not meet these can quickly fall out of favor with an industry. But what is it that people really are searching for when deciding on an area of employment? Money? While it is necessary (someone’s got to pay the bills, right?), money is not everything. I recently completed a course entitled “Reality Therapy”, which has applications to the workplace and gave insight as to what it is that everyone not only wants, but needs in the workplace. These are known as the five basic needs: survival, love/belonging, fun, freedom, and power.

Based on Dr. William Glasser’s psychological concept of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory, these basic needs are essential for happiness, both in one’s personal and professional life. Let’s start with the first:

SURVIVAL: the most fundamental need: this encompasses biological and physiological necessities such as food, water, and shelter. If you are lacking any of these, well you’re probably more focused on these needs versus reading on, but let’s continue anyway!

LOVE/BELONGING: This basic need refers to having a positive connection with others in your environment– in this case your colleagues, supervisors, etc. Can’t stand lazy co-workers who just lounge around when the boss isn’t looking? Speaking of the boss, do you wish s/he or she would show a little more appreciation or accidentally fall off the planet? Do you feel like you are the outcast at work? If you answered yes re in the affirmative to any of these questions, it may be a sense of belonging or appreciation that you are missing. If you do have this on co-op, and this is important to you, ask questions on your interviews to be sure to carry this into your next role. Where does this need rank for you of the five?

FUN: This one is simple–everyone wants to have at least a little bit of fun at work! How important this is varies person to person, colleague to colleague. Some people may want to have fun once they finish their “to do” list; others want this infused in every aspect of their day. While everyone has a different definition of what “fun” entails, or when it’s appropriate at work to have it, it is easy to tell whether someone is enjoying their job or not (or perhaps enjoying it a little too much). Regardless of what your view of fun is, having a job or career that is not even a little fun may not be high on your list will not prove to be an ideal for you. For instance, what do the most successful sports team, bands, research teams and others have in common? They love what they do, have a passion for their work, and again, have FUN! Where does this need come on your short list?

FREEDOM: An especially important need. Who doesn’t desire some freedom in their work life? Freedom comes in many forms: the ability to choose one’s own hours, autonomy to work on self-initiated projects, quality break time, one’s own “space”, you name it. Without a sense of freedom, people can literally go crazy on the job. Thankfully I have yet to see this in person, (I’m not complaining, but trust me, it happens). Of course, not everyone can be their own boss, but if you feel more constricted than what is comfortable, then yes, you are probably lacking some element of freedom. Remember though: freedom is not always given–sometimes it needs to be earned. If you feel like you have earned independence, but have yet to receive it, then it may be time to evaluate how you’re going to meet this need and whether there are any changes you can make, both internally and externally.

POWER: Ah yes, power. Who could forget? Not this guy, and neither should you. Power is a subjective term, however in this case we’re talking about the ability to have a sense of control over your life outcomes. In some ways, this overlaps with the subject of freedom (it’s difficult to have one without the other), but has some differences as well. Those who have a sense of power feel as if they are able to achieve what they desire, view themselves as important to their company, and believe they can “win”. Power can also be viewed as a sense of competence in your field or on the job. If you lack power in your current job or career, it is time to evaluate. Where does this need fit for you?  Is it time to explore options to find a way to better meet this need and do something about it!

So how does this tie into Career Development? Well, during the job search process, it is absolutely important to consider if that career or if that job you’re considering, involving environmental engineering, communications, or any other field, can provide you with these needs. A great time to assess this is during the interview process. During the interview, it would be wise to ask questions such as these:

  1. What is the workplace atmosphere like between co-workers here?
  2. What sort of professional development opportunities do you offer?
  3. What are some benchmarks for success for the first six months and first year
  4. Thinking back to people who have been in this position previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?

For interview tips, please check out Northeastern Career Development’s Interview page.

Still looking for more interviewing (both regular and informational) tips and strategies? Please visit our Career Development page for more information. Interested in an individual appointment to figure out where these needs rank for you and how to make your co-op, internship, or after graduation position work for you even better? Schedule an appointment via your myNEU, or by calling 617-373-2430—we are here to address your needs!

Jabril Robinson is a Career Development Intern at Northeastern University. Having graduated with a degree in Psychology, he enjoys studies on human perception and motivation differences between individuals. He is currently enrolled in Northeastern University’s College Student Development & Counseling Program. Send him an email at j.robinson@neu.edu.

Image Source: Able & Fernandes Communications Company

How to Diversify a Resume

resume picMany job positions nowadays are multidisciplinary – calling for skills and traits from multiple backgrounds. If you are pursuing a seemingly narrow field like nursing or engineering, there are ways to make your resume stand out and grow to include other fields you may not have had any other way of tapping into.

1. Include varied volunteer experiences

Don’t think that short volunteer trips or one-time volunteer experiences don’t count! Spending your spring break in Nicaragua shows that service is important to you and you include it in your life whenever you can. If mentoring and teaching are skills you want to enhance talk about that time you helped at-risk teens with after-school tutoring. A volunteer position is just as valuable as a paid job and develops just as many skills. Treat them equally!

2. Don’t leave out any language skills

Even being conversational in a different language is an important addition to a resume. In healthcare, speaking different languages means interacting with more diverse patients. In the business world, a second language proficiency could mean an opportunity to work in a different branch abroad. Even if you’re just learning a language, mention that to showcase how well-rounded of an individual you are in your spare time. In an increasingly global shared economy, culture is a strength to employers.

3. Articulate your social media expertise

Are you active on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube? Write your own blog? Share that! More creative positions will embrace a strong online presence with the knowledge that you would be able to apply your know-how to their own brand. Translate your online self as a desirable and marketable professional.

4. Certifications show mastery in a specific skill

Do you have cool certifications in things like bartending, scuba diving or Photoshop? Include them in your resume! These are the cherries on top to show off the many colorful facets to your life. Who knows, that bartending license could do well in the restaurant and hospitality business, scuba diving could earn you an adventure of a lifetime working for an environmental non-profit, and Photoshop could get you that gig at the magazine of your dreams. A love of learning new skills and topics, can only do a candidate good.

5. Weave in your hobbies

Take advantage of the “interests” section in your resume. If you’re a yoga enthusiast or write poetry, don’t be afraid to share that. This is the space to connect with the interviewer and leave them with a positive last thought about you. When it comes down to it, we’re all humans with our own special interests and that’s what will make you memorable when compared with someone with the exact GPA and coursework and similar internships as you.

Angelica is a fourth-​​year nursing stu­dent with a minor in Eng­lish hailing from New Jersey. She has studied or worked in all the major Boston hos­pi­tals. Angelica is also a colum­nist for The Hunt­ington News and enjoys writing cre­ative non-​​fiction. 

Image Source: For College Students: Writing Your First Resume via LinkedIn

8 tips to feel confident, articulate, and in control at your next interview

6-tips-on-preparing-for-an-interview

This guest post was written by NU high tech MBA alumna, Charis Loveland. 

Growing my career in the male-dominated high tech industry has prepared me for one of the more stressful aspects of the job lifecycle: interviewing. Although I’ve certainly suffered from my own bouts of impostor syndrome, especially since I entered the technical field from a non-traditional background of English and publishing, I have been able to overcome this and hone my interviewing persona thanks to a lot of helpful advice. I’ve also gleaned tips about confidence, posture, and presentation from role models like Sheryl Sandberg, Grace Hopper, and Duy-Loan Le (who delivered the best keynote I’ve ever seen at the Grace Hopper 2010 conference). I enjoy sharing what works for me by coaching my friends and colleagues in the hopes that it can help them in their next interview or stressful job situation. Anecdotally, these tips seem to work well for all industries, not just technology. I hope that you will find them useful, too!

  1. Be engaged. Let your personality and enthusiasm for the job shine through. Make sure that you take a couple of notes so that you can put an impressive detail or two in your thank you note, but don’t take so many that you are not making as much eye contact as you need.
  1. Prepare. To borrow a phrase from the 90s, “duh,” but hear me out. If a recruiter or potential manager calls to discuss business, and you’re in the car or otherwise engaged, ask to call back at a more convenient time. You don’t want to be responding to detailed salary or other questions without your head completely in the game, or you run the risk of making a costly mistake. Being prepared also means that you know to ask if the job title is negotiable, and that you fully understand the level at which you are entering the organization. Confusing and varying titles mean different things at different companies. If you don’t have this discussion, then you run the risk of entering an organization at a lower title and pay scale than you realize.
  1. Be ready to formulate articulate answers. I value the advice I received from my online moms’ forum about the right way to answer a question: Stop, listen, breathe, then speak. This has the two-fold benefit of giving yourself a chance to collect your thoughts and prepare a reply while minimizing the number of times you use “like” or “um.” This allows you to present the best, most polished version of yourself.
  1. Ask intelligent, relevant questions. A job interview is a two-way street, and you need to ensure that the company and role are as good a fit for you as you are for them. Transcend the hackneyed “what’s a typical day like?” and really dig deep for questions that will help you better understand the role and company culture. Feel free to ask what the interviewer likes and dislikes about the group, or what advice an outside consultant might give the company.
  1. Be aware of your body language. If you haven’t seen Amy Cuddy’s touching TED Talk, do it now. Confident body posture is an outstanding way to show your potential employers that you are professional and prepared. Before an interview, I practice a power pose for about 2 minutes by raising my arms overhead, and breathing deeply. This is best done in a bathroom stall for privacy’s sake.
  1. Take time to visualize. My friend, who just used this tip to get her new job as a professor, calls this my Jedi mind trick. I got this tip from a couple of guys on the sales team at my publishing company. It’s so simple, yet so powerful. Just before your interview, make eye contact with yourself in the mirror and give yourself a pep talk. Mine goes something like: “You deserve to be here. You are articulate, intelligent, and confident. You are going to [fill in the blank with desired outcome: get a second interview, run a successful meeting, get offered the job].” To accomplish this, I arrive at an interview at least 15 minutes early and wait for the bathroom to clear out, or do the technique in my car’s sunshade mirror. I combine this with tip #5 for maximum impact. I realize that this idea sounds so corny, but just try it. Everything in me changes after I give this little talk. I stand up straighter, act with more conviction, and feel professional and together. You can put on this “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude in almost any situation: a big meeting, a first date, or any other potentially stressful encounter.
  1. Close the deal. I always end my interview with this question or a variation on it. “I really want this job. If you have any concerns or questions about my candidacy, I would very much appreciate an opportunity to address them with you before you make your final decision.” This is effective in two ways: you express your willingness to accept the role given the right offer, plus you have a chance to counter any potential roadblocks to getting that offer.
  1. Negotiate. Once you have an offer for a job, be sure not to neglect the last, critical step. Think creatively about what is important to you: salary, benefits, vacation time, flexibility, stock options, travel and training opportunities, tuition reimbursement, anything else that has value for you. Realize that the way you prioritize these criteria in your 20s may be very different from the items that you value in your 40s. It’s normal that you would seek out travel opportunities in your 20s, for example, but might not welcome frequent travel later in your career.

Getting to Yes and Difficult Conversations are two excellent books that can help you to maximize your next job offer. For a bulletproof way to approach your next salary negotiation, check out the Get a Raise Prep School program and its sister site Work Options, which offers several templates for negotiating telecommuting, a higher salary, and other flexible options. Founder Pat Katepoo’s professional writing and solid research will enable you to effectively prepare and confidently negotiate the aspects of your job that you value the most.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, visit my disclosure policy.

CharisAs a magna cum laude English major at Bates College, Charis Loveland never expected to find herself managing global projects at EMC. But she developed a passion for technology and its ability to transform the world while editing articles teaching SAP software. After leaving the publishing industry to work for SAP for 5 years, Charis joined EMC in 2012. She graduated with honors from Northeastern University’s high tech MBA program in 2013. Follow her blog and find Charis online at http://about.me/charisloveland, @charislove, and https://www.linkedin.com/in/charisloveland.

 

Image source: Interviewing Image via tjpeel.com via Nick at tjpeel.com; Bio pic via author’s father, Chuck Campbell

What I Learned From Applying to Fellowships

fellowships pic

Class of 2015. I have been looking forward to those words every day since freshman year. This is going to be my year. Well, mine and the other 1.8 million students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in the US this year. Throughout my college career I thought we were all on the same road with only two exits, a job or grad school, until someone told me about graduate fellowships.

Many fellowship programs exist to fund studies, research and teaching abroad, while others offer ways to embark on long-term journalism projects or short-term positions at successful organizations after graduation. Falling somewhere in between a first job and a graduate education, fellowships are a great option for recent graduates to develop crucial career experience without going down the traditional career path.

I’ve spent my summer applying to several graduate fellowships and now consider myself something of an expert in the field of Getting Your Act Together. Here’s what I learned:

There are lots of post-graduation options. Apart from the default options of getting a job or enrolling in graduate school immediately after undergrad, fellowships exist across all disciplines that allow you to continue studying, travel abroad, conduct independent research and teach with other passionate individuals.

Northeastern has a department dedicated to helping you find the right fit. The Northeastern University Office of Fellowships is here to not only inform you of all the opportunities, but also to help you formulate a clear proposal that articulates your ambitions, talents and projects.  Northeastern’s Department of Career Development also has a resource page on fellowships that you can review.

Organize your Northeastern experience and develop an entirely new elevator pitch. Speaking of articulating your ambitions, talents and projects, it’s helpful to sit down and condense your Northeastern experience into a coherent elevator pitch. Five years at Northeastern looks quite different than five years anywhere else. Streamlining classes, dialogues, co-op’s and personal experiences into a story that aligns with a proposed program is a challenge, but it can be done.

Get over your fear of networking. The idea of asking people I didn’t know to offer me advice and suggestions on post-graduation opportunities and potential careers always scared me. But it turns out what everyone had been telling me was true―people love talking about how they got where they are, and are willing to help out a sincere student. They were once in your shoes, after all.

Start early, but take your time. The number of options available to college graduates is overwhelming. Odds are you won’t find the perfect situation the first time you sit down and start looking. So start early and map out some options of where you could see yourself in 5, 10 and 20 years. Keep an ongoing list of postgraduate possibilities, never deleting any of your ideas. Having too many options may be just as panic inducing as not having any options, but keeping a list and taking your time will give you somewhere to start.

So as you begin to wrap up your studies and see the “real world” looming up ahead, remember that you aren’t trapped on one exit ramp. There is a world of options after graduation, and exploring them just takes a little extra planning.

Madeline Heising is a senior Communication Studies major with a passion for food and food policy. She enjoys cooking and writing for her recipe blog, The Collegiate Vegan, while drinking copious amounts of coffee. Connect with her on Twitter @MadelineHeising.

Image Source: Cafe Workspace with Diary, picjumbo

5 Unique Cover Letter Tips You Haven’t Heard Before

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The right cover letter requires much balance. A balance between individualization and professionalism, storytelling and credential listing, all while trying to look appealing but not desperate. It’s very much like a dating profile or movie review – all trying to convince a person (the potential date, moviegoer, employer) to do something (date you, see a movie, hire you) while hitting home key points and not revealing too much too soon. Here are some unique tips on crafting the cover letter:

1. Use an unlikely anecdote to relay a skill in an interesting way

For an internship I did at Grub Street, Boston’s creative writing center, I wrote in my cover letter that my marketing experience at the time was informing and spreading awareness on drug abuse to incarcerated women at the Suffolk County Jail with nothing more than a trifold poster board and some pamphlets. I made a point that “knowing your audience” never rang more true. Even if you don’t have traditional training or expertise in a skill you can modify what you do have experience in to showcase the desired skill in a refreshing way.

2. Don’t address a person unless you’re sure that person will be the one reading it

Know whose hands your cover letter will end up in. Whether that’s the recruiter, human resources director, or the employer themselves, don’t throw any name in. It’s better to go with “Dear Hiring Manager” in that case.

3. Incorporate “you” more than “I”

Speak more on the company/organization or the job position than you do on yourself. Count the number of times you use “I” in your cover letter and cut those times by half. Make it about them – the reader will notice a different tone, a more likeable and considerate person rather than someone who is retelling their life story. Serve yourself to them on a silver platter – “If you believe my skills are a match for your position then you may contact me at …”

4. Don’t use a template; customize a cover letter for each unique position

There are so many cover letter templates on the Internet, but challenge yourself to write your own. The script is all the same and when you are using jargon or language you are not comfortable with it will show. Be conversationally professional. Be unforgettable in a good way.

5. Reuse strong verbs from the job description

Mirror the language use provided in the job description. If concrete verbs like “utilize” or “coordinate” is used repeat those in your letter. Subtle repetition shows you’re on the same page as the recruiter and makes you sound more like a peer rather than a candidate.

Angelica is a fourth-​​year nursing stu­dent with a minor in Eng­lish hailing from New Jersey. She has studied or worked in all the major Boston hos­pi­tals. Angelica is also a colum­nist for The Hunt­ington News and enjoys writing cre­ative non-​​fiction. 

Image source: Cat Typing

Liberty Mutual Talks: Standing Out at a Career Fair

Spring 2014 Career FairThis guest post was written by Lee Ann Chan, an Undergraduate Campus Recruiter for Liberty Mutual Insurance.

With so many employers at a Career Fair, it is extremely important to plan your strategy and make sure you leave a great impression.  How can you accomplish that and stand out from other candidates?  Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • Do your research. Choose your top 5-10 companies that you would like to speak with and understand what their mission is and what they are looking for.  Additional information to research would include: products/services, competition, history/vision, size, office locations, industry trends, job opportunities.  You can find most of the information on the company’s website, Career Services, newspaper articles, Monster, GlassDoor, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Review your resume. Make sure your resume is updated, and if you know of a specific job that you wish to apply to, adapt your resume to that position, if possible.  Use keywords mentioned in job descriptions to tailor your resume.  Bring at least ten copies of your resume because you never know how many people you would be speaking with.
  • Prepare your elevator pitch. You have limited time to talk to employers so make the most of it and include the following in your pitch: full name, year, major; example of a skill or accomplishment you have related to the position you are seeking; reason(s) why you are interested in the company/position/industry and what you would like to learn; and questions you may have about the company or job that could not be answered in your research.
  • Be respectful. If there is a line behind you while you are speaking to an employer, make sure to keep the conversation to five minutes or less.  This will also give the employer sufficient time to meet with other candidates, and you can follow up afterwards with a thank you note, reiterating the conversation you had with the employer so that s/he remembers you from the Career Fair.

Remember, this is your time to shine so focus on your strengths and be enthusiastic about approaching the employers.  Best of luck!

Lee Ann Chan is an Undergraduate Campus Recruiter at Liberty Mutual Insurance recruiting for Corporate Programs.  She previously served as a Campus Recruiter with the government and is currently the Co-Director of Collegiate Relations with the National Association of Asian American Professionals.  Her hobbies include career coaching, baking, hiking, and singing.

Getting Their Ear: Understanding Connectors’ Interests

Tad Info Interview picSo, you’ve decided to link up with a connector for an informational interview. Great, but do you feel you are asking for a favor—i.e. for advice and guidance—without offering anything in return? This misconception undermines informational interviews in a couple of serious ways. First, asking for a favor can be intimidating; and second, it will limit your notion of what the informational interview is.

Focus on interests – yours and theirs

View the informational interview as a negotiation. Ask: “How do I get what I need from this interview in a way that meets the connector’s interests as well?”

Certain interests are common to nearly all connectors. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what you’re in a position to offer them, such as:

  • Recognition: being valued for their expertise
  • Reputation: being viewed as a facilitator or mentor
  • Convenience: having their schedule accommodated (and therefore respected)
  • Insight: understanding you and your perspectives on the field; and how their advice helps to advance an up-and-comer
  • Utility: meeting a potential collaborator/employee who may fill their staffing needs in the future
  • Affiliation: enjoying the opportunity to have an engaging interaction with an interesting (and perhaps like-minded) individual
  • Status: distinguishing them as someone of prominence and importance in the field
  • Appreciation: acknowledging the sharing of their time, attention, and wisdom

Interests are specific to the person. What do you know about what these people are like or would like? For instance, some connectors don’t often interact with colleagues in their field, or adjacent fields, and they may genuinely welcome the opportunity to learn from you or to hear updates about other people in their field who you’ve already contacted. Take one of Carly’s experiences, for instance:

When I was working in the conflict resolution field and considering switching careers into mental health, a lot of the psychotherapists I met for informational interviews genuinely welcomed the chance to learn from me about dispute resolution and mediation. These topics pertain to psychotherapy, but the professional paths of mediators and therapists don’t often cross. I was really happy to find myself adding something of value to those conversations.

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Guidelines for requesting an informational interview

Here are some useful guidelines for requesting an informational interview, followed by a sample email. We generally make these requests over email, so we’re focusing on written requests; however, most of these guidelines apply similarly to a phone or in-person request.

Tone and content 

  • Do not write in a way that assumes they will say yes. You’re asking, so your phrasing should make clear that the meeting is conditional on their response: “If yes, would you have any availability the week of the 8th?”
  • Your tone should demonstrate that you’re flexible and willing to make this as convenient as possible for them.
  • Show gratitude and let them know you’d value their input: “I’d value the chance to ask you a few questions about your professional background and the field.”
  • If they don’t know you, include a brief, engaging description of who you are and why you’re interested in meeting them. Don’t give your life story; give three or four sentences, max. In particular, mention topics or experiences that you value in common.
  • Use your knowledge of a given connector or your general understanding of the field or the industry landscape to speak to other interests. If you know that they’re concerned with leaving a positive legacy, let them know that their advice will help you positively influence the future of the field.

Logistics

  • Think about their schedule depending on their job, their field, family situation, etc. Be sensitive to when they’re likely to be free.
  • Make sure you nail down the specifics before the meeting: time (accounting for time-zone differences); location; whether or not meals are involved; phone vs. in-person; if by phone, who is initiating the call, and at what number.
  • Once you have a meeting scheduled, it’s good practice to send a confirmation email a day or two before the appointed date. This is a helpful reminder that busy connectors will appreciate. It shows them that you’re responsible and lowers the likelihood that you’ll be stood up without notice.

Sample email

Dear Betty,

I hope that you’ve been enjoying a wonderful spring thus far.

I am recently out of college and trying to work my way into the negotiation and conflict resolution worlds. I have been meeting with as many interesting and accomplished people as I can to hear their stories and gain their counsel. Both John Doe and Jane Smith mentioned that you would be a great person to speak with. They both spoke of your ingenuity in entering this world and, more broadly, in navigating the challenges and stresses of career-building for someone in their mid-twenties.

I would be truly grateful if you had time in the coming week to meet me for a brief conversation. I can make time during any of the days except Thursday and will happily come to you.

Thank you for your time and best wishes,

Justin

Tad Mayer is an adjunct professor at D’Amore-McKim teaching Negotiating in Business. This blog article is an edited excerpt from End the Job Hunt, a book due out in 2015. Mr. Mayer is co-author with Justin Wright (who also teaches the class) and Carly Inkpen.

Photo source: Flickr Creative Commons, Coffee time