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Archive for the 'Career Planning' Category

The Ultimate Guide to Internships

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Student Intern. For many people, an internship is their first experience in a real job related to their studies or future careers. Even so, it is vital to make a good impression on the interviewer and the company in order to land the job. To do this the applicant has to be well prepared and know how to present themselves well at the interview. Even afterwards, following up correctly can help to tip the scales in their favor.

Before preparing for an internship or the interview, it is necessary to find some to apply to. The most reliable method is to check for internship opportunities advertised through university or college career departments. Companies also often post listings on job websites, their own sites, or even on their social media accounts. In some cases potential applicants create their own customized internship by presenting a proposal to the company. Internships can essentially be broken down into two main categories: paid and unpaid. Unfortunately many companies view internships as free labor and attempt to pass off mundane grunt work to their interns. Keep in mind that the point of an internship is to gain valuable work experience, industry knowledge, and make contacts. Reputable companies often do make it a point to pay their interns fairly, even if the wage is lower than that of regular employees. When looking at unpaid internships, try to find some that offer fair compensation in other ways. For example, gaining university credit in exchange for degree-related work experience is an acceptable compromise.

For most applicants, the first step of contact with an interviewer is through a resume and cover letter. Since these documents act as a written introduction, it is important to ensure that they are well crafted and polished. There are plenty of online tutorials, resources and guides on how to write a creative, impactful cover letter and resume. Pay attention to the requirements specified by the job poster. They may also ask for a reference letter, work portfolio, or other items to give a better-rounded picture of yourself. When a company calls back requesting an interview, there is a good deal of preparation to do in advance. For starters, do some research on the company including their mission, recent developments and products or services. Learn as much as possible about the position itself and what types of tasks are involved. It is fairly easy to research people online too, so find out some information about the interviewer. If they have published articles or press releases, or been interviewed, it is easy to learn a bit about their opinions and concerns about the industry. The day before the interview, print out extra copies of the resume, reference letters, and portfolio.

Interview clothes should be business formal. Make sure that they fit well and are ironed. A general rule of dressing for an interview is to dress the way the company’s employees would appear for an important client meeting. This includes minimal accessories and proper grooming. Since some interviews may occur over the phone or by video conference, find a quiet place without any interruptions or distractions. It helps to run through a list of common interview questions in advance to mentally prepare answers. During the interview, take a second or two to consider each question and answer in a confident, straightforward manner. When in doubt, ask for clarification. At the end of the interview, it is acceptable to inquire about the next steps. Don’t forget to take a business card from the interview for follow-up purposes. Within a week after the interview it is polite to send a follow-up email note to the interviewer. In this brief message, the applicant should thank them for their time, and briefly reiterate their enthusiasm for working with the company.

Once an applicant is offered a job, it is still important to keep on making a good impression. Dress neatly and always be punctual. On slow days, ask the manager whether you might take on additional tasks. This helps to show that the intern is a conscientious hard worker. Once the internship is complete, always ask for a reference letter from the manager or boss. Get contact details of key people and stay in touch with them every once in a while. When completed successfully, an internship can be an excellent stepping stone to a full-time career.

The resources below elaborate further on the various points of internships and the application process.

  • Interview Follow-Ups – Learn how to write a succinct but well-crafted follow-up note.
  • Finding an Internship – Job seekers can find internships through listings as well as by networking.
  • Create Your Internship (PDF) – With some extra research and effort, people can create their own internships and pitch it to companies.
  • Internship Interviews – Review a list of questions that interviewers often ask potential interns.
  • Preparing for the Interview – Find out how to prepare for the interview, make a good impression, and follow up successfully.
  • Applying for an Internship – Browse resources on how to write resumes, cover letters, and other forms of business correspondence.
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15 LinkedIn groups for students and graduates

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

1. Linked:HR (322,762 members) – This “#1 Human Resources Group” is known for its active group discussions on  recruiting strategies, hiring trends, employment laws, and various other HR-related topics.

2. Job Openings, Job Leads and Job Connections! (264,947 members) – This group calls itself “the #1 LinkedIn Jobs Group” where members can search for jobs and post their resumes, or even receive resume and career advice from professional experts.

3. Job & Career Network (174,382 members ) – This group has countless other Job & Career Network subgroups organized by location, profession, and industry, (such as “Arts and Entertainment,” “Hospitality, Travel and Tourism,” “Law and Legal,” “Education and Research,” “Energy and Natural Resources,” “Healthcare, Medical, Biotech, Pharma” and many more.

4. JOBS 2.0 Search (74,514 members) – This group is a great resource for students and graduates who are interested in networking with recruiters and fellow job seekers. Members discuss the latest online trends in job searching, as well as online recruiting techniques and social networking.

5. Global Jobs Network (64,780 members) – In this group, members can post their resumes and/or scroll through international job posts, and connect to numerous recruiters and “head hunters” from all over the world.

6. Star:Jobs Professional Career Center (35,256 members ) – This group is known for helping members find employment quickly and efficiently, and popular discussions include “Best Part Time Jobs for College Students” and “Attention Job-seekers: Get More Interviews from LinkedIn.”

7. The Job Hunter Group (21,407 members) – Members of this group can search through hundreds of job postings in numerous fields such as food, health care, engineering, HR, sales, marketing, accounting, and much more.

8. MBA Highway | MBA & Recruiter Network (20,361 members) – This group is the “ultimate MBA job and internship search network,” where MBA students can connect with employers who are looking for “MBA-level job candidates.”

9. JobAngels (17,622 members) – This group is a great resource for students or graduates who are in need of emotional support and advice as they begin their job search. The creators call this group a “grass-roots movement,” and it is run by “Job Angels” who are dedicated to helping the unemployed find work.

10. The Talent Buzz (17,159 members) – Company recruiters, HR and marketing professionals, as well as job-seekers join this group to discuss the latest trends in social media and recruitment. This is a great group for LinkedIn “newbies” who want to stay up to date on the latest online recruiting trends.

11. A Job Needed – A Job Posted (15,046 members) – Popular amongst company recruiters, this LinkedIn group serves as a perfect resource for students and recent graduates who are struggling to find full- or part-time employment.

12. JobsDirectUSA (14,302 members) – Members of this group can post their resumes and search through over 1 million U.S. job openings via  a local job listings section, (updated daily).

13. Independent Recruiters (10,716 members) – Students or graduates who are pursuing a career in sales should check out this popular LinkedIn group. Some discussion topics include how to spruce up your resume or cover letter, or how to ace your first job interview.

14. Students and Recent Grads (10,040 members) – The discussions in this group are led by LinkedIn employees, graduate students and educators who provide expert advice  on how to excel in a job search after graduation.

15. New Grad Life (3,052 members) – Members of this group provide excellent tips and advice on how to create an “attention-grabbing” LinkedIn profile, how to search for jobs related to your degree, or even financial management tips for recent graduates.

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Submitting Resumes Online – Automated Tracking Software Changing the Game

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Last week we took a look at the various resume types and gave a few pointers as to the theory behind each format. This week we take a second step and look at the creation of a resume that will be submitted online via a job board or company web site.

It is extremely important for job applicants to realize that the same technology that allows you to create several different resumes and forward them at the click of a mouse is also being employed on the other end by large businesses. Today, resumes and applications submitted online generally go automatically into a database for storage and analysis.

iStock_000008959134XSmallWhat may be a surprise to readers is that those files are often scanned first by sophisticated software before ever being seen by a person at the human resource office. In fact, a resume submitted online will most likely need to pass specific muster or it will never touch human hands.

Applicant Tracking Software

With companies receiving hundreds of resumes (in some instances, thousands) for every job opening, recruiters today utilize technology to help them manage the volume of materials submitted. Applicant tracking software systems (ATS) are used to help recruiters in all facets of the process, from storing the applicant files to recording all communications that take place between the recruiter and an applicant.

Recruiters can handle the first step in the screening process by programming the software to review the submitted resumes according to key criteria. To do so, the recruiter will take some key words or words from the job advertisement or from the job description and let the software package scan the resumes for this specific language.

The ATS software will select from the database only those resumes containing the key words or phrases. Once the applicant pool is reduced, the recruiter may take the new list and run a second scan, a third, or any number for that matter, using another set of words or phrases each time.

Essentially, the recruiter, without ever laying eyes on the resumes directly, utilizes technology to weed them down to a manageable number that he or she can then review individually.

The Need for Targeted, Properly Formatted Resumes

First, when submitting online, you should avoid using the functional resume format and instead create a specific targeted resume that is adjusted for each opening. Most importantly, the resume must be loaded with the aforementioned key words and phrases.

To be sure you have included those words, review the job advertisement language carefully for the skills and expectations noted. Better yet, get a copy of the job description for the position and review it as well. To be sure you hit all corners, use both the title and the abbreviation at some points just in case – for a human resources opening you want to use the phrase human resources as well as the accepted abbreviation, HR.

iStock_000007155263XSmallSecond, you should use global and generic job titles and descriptors and avoid using unique phrases or titles that a prior employer might have used. The suggestion is to use a simple phrase such as sales professional to describe any position held that involves sales (as opposed to inside sales, outsides sales, manufacturer’s representative, direct consumer sales, etc.).

Lastly, it seems that most ATS software packages cannot scan power point or PDF formats. Others also struggle with the use of fancy formatting.

Applicants should use traditional text formats such as Microsoft Word and minimize the use of text highlighting such as the use of italics, underlining or bolding. Though those elements might make the hard copy more visually enticing, they can only confuse the automated system.

Online Submissions

So remember, when submitting a resume online to a large job board or company you may well be screened multiple times by a computer software package. While such a concept clearly does not allow a company to personalize the process and may well weed out some great people in the initial phases, when a recruiter is receiving hundreds if not thousands of resumes for each opening, personalizing the process is out of the question to begin with.

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What Do You Really Need to Learn in College?

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

William D. Coplin, Syracuse professor and author of more than 110 books and articles, discusses how students can use their college academic and non-academic experiences to prepare for a rewarding career.


Today, we offer readers some valuable insight from professor William D. Coplin, the director of the undergraduate public affairs program at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. A Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence recipient, Professor Coplin is also the founder of the Do Good Society and the Chairman of Board for the John Dau Sudan Foundation.

The author of many books and newspaper articles, Mr. Coplin is also a regular contributor to the USA Today. But our interest in the man who has directed the Public Affairs Program of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University since 1976 centered upon two specific books he had written:

* 25 Ways to Make College Pay Off: Advice for Anxious Parents from a Professor Who’s Seen It All
* 10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College

Professor Coplin is a strong proponent of reforming “both high school and college education to better meet the needs for the majority of students who see education as a path to better employment opportunities.” The 2000-2001 College of Arts and Sciences Award for Outstanding Faculty Advisor also is a strong proponent of internships as well as the other non-academic lessons that college can offer students.

Can you give us a brief overview of your philosophy regarding college studies?

My philosophy about college can be summarized in three statements I always make:

  • A college and a dollar will get you four quarters.
  • It’s the skills stupid.
  • A college education is four years of experience and not 120 credits.


So, are you a proponent of a general liberal arts education? Or do you think colleges should offer a more career-focused job preparation approach?

Students should get what they pay for and most want to improve their chances of finding and succeeding in a rewarding career. A general liberal arts education should provide the basic skills and experiences students need to find themselves on a good career path. However, most of the formal academic requirements are aimed at creating professional scholars. In that way, liberal arts colleges are actually more vocational and narrower than most professional schools.

The argument that liberal arts creates well-rounded, educated citizens is a cop-out for two reasons. First, 85% of the students are not looking for that in college. Second, the highly fragmented and theoretical nature of liberal arts courses today do not provide a broad based educational but just intellectual chaos. So I think the concept of a general education would be a good one if it were focused more on skills than on learning some body of stuff which no one agrees on.

My understanding is that you are a strong proponent of internships. Can you talk a little bit about why you value this concept so highly?

The real world is the best teacher. Any kind of fieldwork is the key to developing the skills and exploring careers that will lead students to the next step after college graduation. Internships will help students decide what careers they want to pursue and will hold them to a higher and more difficult standard than college coursework.

Moreover, many internships lead directly to a great job with the organization providing the internship. Even if it does not lead directly to a job, it provides a network for a job search. By September 2009, two of my seniors had a $45K+ job starting in June 2010 with a major financial institution where they had done internships the previous summer, and we all know what kind of job market there was at that time.

Your book, 25 Ways to Make College Pay Off, focuses on “Advice for Anxious Parents from a Professor Who’s Seen It All.” My understanding is that the book seeks to provide advice on how to maximize the college experience for both future financial and emotional success. Can you give us a brief overview of some of the steps students should be taking while in school to ensure future financial success?

The book tells parents what they should do to help their students get the skills employers want and explore careers while completing degree requirements. The most important thing for parents is to treat their children as they would treat an investment in a business.

Among other things, it means not doing their college application for them or writing their papers which parents do all the time and making their children pay at least 20% of their education. Work ethic, personal responsibility and a focus on skills and career exploration will help to ensure success. Parents can contribute to their success by keeping their distance or contribute to their failure by not practicing tough love.

What are some of the critical elements students should focus on to ensure future emotional success?

I have two simple little charts I tell students to fill out to decide what kind of career they might want to pursue. The first gets at the three areas of work activities. Most jobs are some combination of the three.


CHART 1: Skill/Preference Matrix

Please rate each skill as High, Medium or Low, according to two separate elements, whether you are “Good At” the skill and whether or not you “Like to Do” that skill. The three skills are:

Information
People
Physical

The second chart helps students think about quality of life consideration. Students should put an x where they would like to be on each dimension and then use it as a guide and look for consistency.

CHART 2: The Career Field

Place an “x’ on the line which indicates where you want to be when you are 30.

Average Salary_______________________________ Top 5%

Work No More than 40hrs per week__________________________80 hrs

Do Good Field _______________________________Money-Making

Near to Where You Now Live ______________________________Far Away

Little Traveling_______________________________ Lots of Traveling

Economically Risky ________________________________Not Risky

Orderly _______________________________Chaotic

Graduate Education __________________________ 4 year Degree Only

What research process did you use (and which companies did you contact) to determine the list that makes up the 10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College?

Most of it is based on my experience with students when I give them assignments in many of my hands-on courses. In addition, there are many lists around. The one most instructive was developed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) which is referred to in the book.

I also work with career services on campus and talk with many employers, some of whom are my alumni. I developed a major at Syracuse built around the skills, and my students are very successful in obtaining employment initially and go on to have successful careers. The Public Affairs Program website has testimonials from them that support the view that general skills are the key.

Reviewers have said of the book, it “teaches you to solve complex problems, influence people, and detect BS—real-world know-how your textbooks don’t teach you.” Can you briefly talk about the real-world know-how that forms the basis of the book that is often not part of the college curriculum?

The vast majority of degree programs in almost all fields in college are top heavy with theory and textbook learning. Theories are just the opinions of scholars that may or may not have application. Having students do community service or a research program for a community agency or participating in a summer internship gives them practice in the skills that are essential like solving complex problems, influencing people and detecting BS. They can develop their own theories, informed but not determined by what they learned in the classroom.

The range of activities students can undertake in college to get these experiences is unlimited. Some like coop programs generate academic credit but most do not. Students can learn a great deal by being a Resident Advisor, President of a Sorority, telemarketer for the alumni fund of the college, research or teaching assistant or managing a snack bar. In these positions, they will learn all about problem-solving and working with people as well as detecting BS.

Can you give us a bit of an explanation as to what you mean by “detecting BS”?

College is a great place to develop the ability to detect BS because there is plenty of it around ranging from what you friends tell you to what glossy college and program brochures tell you.

To detect BS, students need to assess what people say for accuracy. They can do this by checking factual statements through research.

Did the person present the facts selectively, omitting all basic information? Students should always ask what the purpose of the writer or person making a statement is. Is it to convince or to sell you on something they want you to do or believe? Or is it offered as information through which listeners can reach their own conclusions?

Finally, does what an individual say or write correspond with what they actually do? This is especially important in looking for a job because employers might not be completely honest. It is also important on a job where supervisors and co-workers may be trying to get you to do something they want you to do but you may think is not a good idea. You may not challenge them but you should know it is BS and act strategically.

Some of the listed items are extremely clear from the titles of each section of the book: the concept of work ethic, speaking and writing well, and the ability to think critically and problem solve. But please talk about three others you note as important: teamwork, influencing people and number-crunching. How do students go about gaining these critical skills?

Teamwork – More and more classes have teamwork components. Students tend to avoid these because “they hate working in teams; they would rather do it themselves.” However, they should bite the bullet and take those classes. In addition, they will learn teamwork in most jobs whether it is serving food or fund-raising for a charity.

Influencing People – What I said about teamwork goes for this also. Most students and college graduates will tell you getting along with roommates was a very big challenge. That experience will have much more impact than taking Introductory Psychology on their people skills. I also am a big advocate of Dale Carnegie. I make students practice the principles in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People and give speeches demonstrating how a principle worked for them. You would be surprised how many students learn to avoid arguments with their roommates and convince the police not to give them a ticket by applying the principles.

Number-crunching – All students should learn Excel and make tables and graphs using Excel. Almost every internship and job requires it. Taking a course may work but in my experience unless there are practical applications the students will not be very good at it. Continuous practice of Excel and using percentages and statistics are crucial. I usually have students do a cash-flow projection using Excel based on what will happen when they graduate from college. Taking a statistics course offered by Mathematicians will usually be useful; taking a course in which students have to collect and present data to outside clients will always be useful in developing number-crunching skills.

Today’s job market is the toughest in recent memory and will continue to be as such for the next couple of years at least. What additional advice would you give current juniors and seniors that you think would most help position them to be one of the lucky ones to secure employment at graduation?

My students get jobs because they have the experience and the skills employers are looking for. As for additional advice:

  • Minimize debt because the larger the debt, the less choice you have in finding a job.
  • Graduate as early as you can because the faster you get into the real world, the faster you will be on a career track.
  • Don’t go to graduate school unless you have job experience first.
  • If you run into a dead end, take a job offered by a staffing or temp agency – it will lead to a full time job if you have the skills.
  • Understand that all starting jobs are not a lot of fun.
  • Finally, don’t turn your nose up at sales jobs -everyone eventually becomes a salesperson and it is a way to get ahead quickly if you pick the right company.
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Cutting Edge Majors – Computational Science

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

The idea of a college major goes back more than one hundred years. With very few exceptions, the list of available options for students today mirrors the very choices available for their parents and grandparents.

The one significant exception has to be the field of technology where a number of new options exist. But while these fields offer great career options, many are so cutting edge that students may not even understand what the major entails.

Such is the case with one of today’s cutting edge options, computational science. As technology continues to evolve, many industries are now using computer simulations to help them plan for a future that is not yet known.

Computers Simulating the Physical World

While computational science is the name given to the field, students might have a better sense of the major if the term simulation developer were used instead. Simply stated, computational scientists do not study computers; they use the computer and appropriate software models as tools to advance the study of other fields.

iStock_000009039493XSmallThe concept of simulation as a tool has been used for a long time in aviation. As part of their training, pilots use machinery that replicates the key elements of flying a plane. In addition to normal everyday flights, these simulators test advanced skills by presenting challenges to the pilot in the form of technical malfunctions or the effects of severe weather.

Today, high powered computers are used to simulate possible world events such as a terrorist attack. Military leaders use computational science to help develop battlefield plans and the appropriate contingencies that should be considered in specific situations.

Meteorologists use simulations to predict the path of a developing storm such as a hurricane as well as the impact of carbon emissions on a warming planet. Large corporations now train executives using simulations that offer specific business challenges that require executives to effectively use their management skills.

Properly constructed, simulation development models isolate individual factors to determine how any one factor alone or several taken collectively can affect an outcome. The results can be used to train specific professionals so that they are prepared to handle any specific problem when it arises.

Majoring in Computational Science

The key to the field’s importance is simple. Simulations create opportunities for training and allow for the testing of theories without ever putting a patient, an employee or a company at risk.

A career in computation sciences demands extensive knowledge of advanced mathematics, computer science, and simulation and modeling. Because a computational scientist creates an abstract model of the physical world then develops a computer program to mirror that world, these professionals must be able to translate abstract models to the language utilized by computers.

In addition, the particular system being modeled may require specific insight into other fields. For example, to create a weather model, simulators would need at least a rudimentary knowledge of physics and chemistry as well as an in depth understanding of the field of meteorology.

In the case of training business executives, computational scientists would likely need a background in psychology, economics, and business management principles. As for developing simulation training models for doctors, computational scientists must possess a strong background in biology, anatomy and physiology.

By the very nature of the field, students interested in simulation development also have the opportunity to be of great service to any number of important disciplines. For those interested in a technology/engineering career yet worried that their work might be of less value to society as a whole, the field of computational science represents a very rewarding career option to consider.

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