Tag Archives: networking

Making the Most of a Mentor

Do you remember your favorite teacher? Or professor? How about your favorite cashier at a store? The best server you have ever had at a restaurant? Who inspired you to choose the major or career that you did? Our lives are filled with people who influence us, and our role models are great options to consider for mentors.

Dr. Becky Faber contributed her article on Finding a Mentor to the Career Corner of Education Week.  Although her perspective comes from teaching, her points are certainly valid across the job market. Mentors are an incredible resource, particularly when it comes to learning about the industry and preparing for the job search. First and foremost, a mentor can share their own insight and experience from their time in the field. They have a strong network, and not only could they alert you to potential job openings, they can help you delve into your research as you prepare for an interview.  A mentor can also share what potential interview questions may be that would be specific to your particular job. When you are drafting your resume, a mentor can be another set of eyes and make suggestions on changes and additions you can make. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you admire to be your mentor. You may just help them learn something new, too!

To read all of Dr. Faber’s article, click here: http://blogs.edweek.org/topschooljobs/careers/2016/10/find_a_mentor.html

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Six Super Things You Can Do to Make the Most of Your Spring Break

Spring break is right around the corner! I know I am dreaming of spending the week on a sunny beach somewhere, but unfortunately that won’t be the case- and I know for many students, that won’t be the case either.  Are you one of those students who will be stuck imagining a week of beach volleyball and sunny days? Well, here are six ways you can distract yourself, and step up your professional game in the process.

  1. Create or update your LinkedIn Profile. There are millions of people on LinkedIn, so chances are good there will be someone you know on there.  Who knows, maybe that someone can help you get a start in your field.
  2. Take part in an informational interview. Spend 20-30 minutes getting to know someone with a job that you find interesting. Learn more about how they got into that role, what they enjoy and dislike, and what other advice they can share with you.
  3. Better yet, shadow. Make a connection with someone in your field that you will be able to shadow for a half or full day. This will allow you to really get a better picture of what an “average day” is like in a job you are considering, plus you will be able to meet more people.
  4. Research graduate schools. Even if going for a Masters degree isn’t in the five year plan, it’s good to know what programs are out there. They can be a strong sign of what specialty areas employers are looking for.
  5. Spend some time helping a person or organization in need, even if it’s not related to your area of interest. It’s a solid resume builder and allows you to develop some great transferable skills. And speaking of resumes…
  6. Work on your resume! Or cover letter. Or interview skills. Take the time to put together your go-to interview outfit. Whatever it takes to come back to school ready to not only be amazing in class, but ready to take on the professional world!

What other suggestions do you have to make the most of your spring break? Let us know in the comments section!

Four Steps to a Solid First Impression

As we continue to power through Job Fair Season, it’s important to always remember the basics: make eye contact, smile, and have a firm handshake. There’s another aspect of the basics that you should never forget: your first impression! I’m sure you all have heard the expression before of “you only get one chance to make a good first impression,” and that is especially true during your job or internship search. This can be particularly nerve-wracking when you are going into a job fair or networking event, where you are vying with scores of other people to leave a good impression on an employer.  As part of the 4 Minute Read series, Fast Company shares four tips on how to make a memorable (in a good way!) first impression.

  1. Connect with the employer in a professional and personal manner. Your conversation doesn’t have to be strictly business. Allow the conversation to deviate if it means you can connect over a mutual interest- just make sure you go back to the original topic or interview question!
  2. Use numbers. I’m sure your professors have told you that statistics in research papers or presentations are a great way to grab the audiences’ attention.  Well, the same thing happens when you connect with an employer. Be sure to have an interesting statistic- whether it’s related to their company or the industry as a whole- to show you know your stuff.
  3. Share a fun fact. In the same vein as sharing a statistic, look for opportunities to share an interesting fact. Maybe it’s a life hack, or a cultural understanding, or a tip for their social media platform. Keep in mind this shouldn’t be totally out of the blue, but if it contributes to the conversation, feel free to share!
  4. Be word-conscious. Think about what you are saying to ensure you are concise, but still getting your point across in an effective way. Make sure they are words you won’t trip over or mispronounce.

Just as you practice your handshake and elevator speech, practice using these tips on an everyday basis so when the time comes to meet with an employer, you will really knock their socks off! To read more insight from Fast Company, click here: https://www.fastcompany.com/3066553/four-easy-ways-to-make-a-memorable-first-impression

Introvert Networking 101

When faced with a networking opportunity, many introverts tend to be filled with fear. Introverts know that people can be a drain on their energy, and they may be overshadowed by their extroverted peers.  Interviews also seem terrifying, because introverts know they have to be in Super Duper People Mode. The Muse recently posted an article to help introverts conquer networking events and interviews by preparing effectively.  Here’s a quick overview of their five steps:

  1. Plan out your time – Give yourself some buffer time before and after the interview or event.  This will build up your energy beforehand, and help you regroup and process information afterwards.
  2. Embrace the chitchat – Understand that small talk is part of the process. Remember that this is a way to establish a relationship, and prepare “get to know you” questions in advance, such as “did you see the Cubs win the World Series last night?”
  3. Really shine at the beginning and the end – Remember to have an awesome introduction to make a great first impression.  Having a confident, friendly closing will leave a good impression, too.
  4. Mirror the interviewer – Make sure you don’t revert to your introverted ways during the conversation.  Make it a point to match what the interviewer is doing, either in body language or tone of voice. If the employer is being unprofessional, such as slouching or using negative body language, don’t feel concerned! Instead, take a deep breath and make a point to use good eye contact and more open body language.
  5. Make your introversion a positive – If the point is to develop a rapport, it may be beneficial to keep in mind that the interviewer could be an introvert, too.  Find ways to highlight your qualities as an introvert.

The Muse has all kinds of good suggestions and points in their article, which you can read here: https://www.themuse.com/advice/5-survival-tricks-every-introvert-needs-to-know-before-going-on-an-interview .  Other helpful tips for introverts that the ELCDC recommends are doing your research so you feel more prepared, and set achievable goals, like “meet with three employers, and then take a five minute break to get water.”  What other suggestions do you have?

Making a Decision in Three Seconds

In the coming weeks, our office will be involved in multiple job and internship fairs. These are excellent opportunities for students to connect with many employers in a short amount of time, but as we have discussed in previous posts, they can seem overwhelming to attend. One particular source of anxiety for attendees is not knowing what employers are looking for. As someone asked in a Jobipedia question: How do recruiters determine which students are worth pursuing from a 3-minute conversation at a career fair? It’s true- what can a recruiter possibly see in a 3-minute chat about whether a candidate will be a good fit, or fill a need, in their company? Thankfully, a few employers responded, giving insight into what they look for at recruiting events such as job fairs.

A representative from The Hershey Company had a few suggestions. First, to be prepared and don’t hesitate to initiate the conversation. Second, to have an elevator speech that is concise, but gives insight into who you are. Third, make sure what you are looking for in a job is actually available at the company at that given time. The representative recommended researching the careers section of the company website before the fair, but we also recommend using LinkedIn, or reading the website of the organization hosting the fair, as they will sometimes give details about what positions companies are looking to fill while in attendance. A Hiring Expert from Pitney Bowes indicated that, at fairs, they are looking for candidates with not only the technical skills to do the job successfully but also cultural fit- does the candidate present a personality that would mesh well with current employees. Finally, a representative from AT&T encouraged candidates to focus on their first impression- not only echoing the importance of the elevator speech, but also to be cognizant of clothing choice. Another key take-away from their feedback was to be confident!

To read the full answers to this question and many others, click here: http://www.jobipedia.org/Questions/Conversation/How-do-recruiters-determine-which-students-are-worth-pursuing-from-a-3-minute-conversation-at-a-career-fair

New To LinkedIn? Don’t Make These Rookie Mistakes!

LinkedIn is a wonderful resource for anyone who is looking to expand their professional network. Because it is easy to set up and reflects a resume, many of our students find it to be user-friendly and a helpful tool. But just as there are ways to look like a rookie on any social media platform, there are ways to look like a rookie on LinkedIn.  In his article on Careerealism, Don Goodman outlines 4 mistakes that will need to be avoided in order to really make your LinkedIn account shine.

  1. You connect with everyone – When establishing a LinkedIn account, it’s easy to go crazy and want to connect with anyone you can think of.  But remember LinkedIn is for networking purposes, so make sure the people you connect with are going to be a positive reflection of you – and that you are a positive reflection for them!
  2. Your profile picture isn’t great (or nonexistent!) – Your picture is many times the first impression a fellow LinkedIn user may have of you, so make sure it is clear, professional, and shows how approachable you are. Also keep in mind that many times, if a profile doesn’t have a picture, people will be less likely to accept the connection.
  3. Your sub-header doesn’t reflect how awesome you are – Your sub-header shows up in search results, along with your name and picture. Why have something bland, like “Marketing Specialist” when you could be “Marketing Specialist for Non-Profit Organizations With 5 Years Experience”? This conveys much more detail!
  4. You didn’t establish how private you want to be – This is especially important for anyone who may be job searching. Tweaking some of your privacy settings can limit how much of your information is shared with others (or not shared with your current employer!)

You can read the full article here: http://www.careerealism.com/linkedin-mistakes-rookie-avoid/

Making the Most of Networking

One of our goals this semester is to offer more opportunities for our students to make connections.  With that, we’re switching from one large job and internship fair to smaller, more industry-specific fairs throughout the year.  This will allow students to network more and see what options are available to them, while still being in the comfort zone of their major. As we’ve discussed many times in this blog, networking, no matter how small and relaxed, can still cause anxiety for students.  Don Goodman from Careerealism has some wonderful tips to share for networkers.

  1. Set a realistic goal.  If it’s a large networking event, don’t be determined to meet with every single person.  Use the “quality over quantity” logic and have more meaningful conversations with fewer people.
  2. Be approachable. Networking is a two-way conversation. Be aware of your body language when meeting with recruiters, and don’t be afraid to make small talk while eating hors d’oeuvres. Of course, always remember to smile!
  3. Maintain rapport. Making small talk can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be work-related.  Maintaining rapport is simply keeping the conversation going and learning more about each other as professionals.
  4. Relax! Let the conversation evolve naturally. Giving off a relaxed vibe will feed into the second tip of being approachable. Keep in mind that a networking event or job fair isn’t a competition- it’s an opportunity for you to find quality connections.

To read all of Mr. Goodmans’ article and read his tips in depth, click here: http://www.careerealism.com/networking-events-making-quality-connections/

Make Small Talk, Expand Your Network!

One of our biggest events every fall is So You Think You Can Network.  This gives current students an opportunity to network with professionals and recent alumni. It is a chance for students to practice dressing professionally, use their elevator speech, and establish connections both in and out of their anticipated field. While the majority of our students walk away from the event feeling more confident about themselves, it is usually a huge source of stress before the event kicks off.  One of the most common questions we get beforehand is simply “how do I network?” Students don’t realize that they network all the time with their friends, family, community members, and faculty, simply by communicating with them on a professional level.

Our friends at the Culture and Manners Institute (http://www.cultureandmanners.com/) recently shared a wonderful anecdote about what networking means, and how important conversational skills are while job searching.

“The Etiquette Tip of the Week is a little late this week, as I am just returning from a trip to Japan.  On the way home, on an airplane between Baltimore and Chicago, I sat next to a gentleman in commercial real estate. I asked him what he looked for in job candidates right out of college.’ The main thing I want to know,’ he said, ‘is can they carry on a conversation?’  This is important he explained, because they have to be able to communicate with clients. He said he looks for eye contact, whether they researched the company, if they showed an interest in the company by asking him questions and if they can do all of this without checking or answering their cell phone. Practice your conversation skills.  Strike up a conversation with people around you while you are waiting in line, riding an elevator, waiting for a train or bus, or flying on an airplane. Dive into business networking events offered by your local chamber of commerce or your college alumni organization. Being a good conversationalist is simple: ask questions of the other person.  My conversation with the gentleman on the airplane began with some small talk about air travel.  He said he travels a great deal for work.  So I asked, ‘What do you do for a living?’ Some people will be very easy to talk to, while others will be like talking to a brick wall.  Don’t be discouraged, because it is good experience and part of your process.  The other benefit is you meet some interesting people and sometimes make a good business connection.”

We urge you to take advantage of any opportunity you can to improve your communication skills and feel more confident in your ability to network.  Force yourself to go for an afternoon without even checking your cell phone.  Take time to ask your professors questions during office hours or after class. When you visit a friend’s house, ask their parents about their work and what advice they have for upcoming graduates.  These small gestures will go a long way in helping you present yourself better while networking!

Face Your Fear- Alone!

Yes, we know, networking events can be super scary.  It may seem like a great idea to go with a friend- someone who can be nervous with you, and can help fill in the gaps in conversations.  However, our friends at the Culture and Manners Institute don’t agree. Here’s what they have to say:

“In a list of Top 10 Fears, somewhere after Public Speaking and before Death, falls the Fear of Walking Into a Room Full of Strangers.  None of us wants to spend the evening standing along the wall, feeling like we are at an eighth grade dance.

 But the challenge of networking is we have to go it alone.

 When you bring a friend, it’s like bringing a security blanket.  You may feel more comfortable, but you won’t meet anyone new, because you will have your friend to fall back on for conversation.  Being alone forces you to seek out others.  Bringing a friend also makes you look dependent on others.  You want to let others know you can hold your own.

 Ditto for “Helicopter Mom” at the Career Fair.  Or cradling your cell phone for the entire evening.

If you want to move forward in your career, it’s time to get uncomfortable.  Smile, introduce yourself and give a firm handshake.  It might feel awkward at first, but with each person you meet, your confidence will grow.  And who knows, you might meet the person who will make a difference in your career.  Or make a new friend to not bring the next time.”

Find out more at http://www.cultureandmanners.com

Give Yourself A Boost!

Give Yourself A Boost!

There are some people on this planet that exude confidence.  Whenever they’re faced with a challenge, they smile and take it on full force.  They never seem to doubt themselves.  That’s a great characteristic to have! However, for the vast majority of people around the world, confidence doesn’t necessarily come as easily.  That’s why I think it’s important that everyone take a moment to read this wonderful article written by Christina DesMarais, a writer for Inc.com and Forbes.  Building confidence can take many years and lots of various experiences, but there are six quick things anyone can do to give them an instant confidence boost whenever it’s needed:

  1. Don’t slouch.  Slouching is a big nonverbal tip off that you lack confidence in yourself.
  2. Understand most people aren’t thinking about you.  It’s normal to believe “oh no, everyone heard me stumble through that last slide!” when most likely the people listening were more focused on what they would order the next time they head to the coffee shop.
  3. Stop with the negative self-talk! Telling yourself “I’m going to do the best job I can possibly do” will certainly give you more faith in yourself than “I know I can’t do this.”
  4. Lighten up.  Make it a point to smile more.
  5. Handle mistakes with grace.  They happen to everyone.  Just look at the big picture and decide “will this really matter in six months?”
  6. Be open to feedback. Don’t be afraid to approach professors and classmates for feedback after a presentation.  Make a point to attend campus events that will connect you with alumni and other professionals.  These opportunities will further develop your communication skills and in turn, feel more confident interacting with others.