Networking During Winter Break

 

This is just a short message to wish everyone happy holidays – and to encourage students to make good use of their extended winter breaks by scheduling several informational interviews to begin (or continue) the critical networking process.  Here’s list for making good use of winter breaks:

Utilize the down-time!  Winter breaks often mean that students may be home for 4-6 weeks and while school work and socializing may require some student time and attention, please remember that is also an excellent time to begin building your understanding of possible industries and roles through networking.  Practice those critical interview skills.  Ironically, as busy as the holiday season is for many people, business people often have relatively light work schedules — making now a surprisingly good time for informational interviewing!

Parents and Students: network now!  If you’re a parent, now is a good time to ask friends and relatives if they would be willing to talk to your child about possible future career paths.  An informational interview is all that you are requesting – just to help your child gain some industry knowledge and an understanding of certain roles and functions.  It is not an “ask” about job openings, but rather a friendly conversation in which your contact talks about his professional experiences with your child.  Most people are very receptive as they generally welcome an opportunity to talk about themselves!

If you’re a student, utilize this free time to do some networking on your own. If your parents’ friends or friends’ parents work in industries you might be interested in, ask them if you could come talk to them about their work experiences.  Again, you are only asking for an informational interview.
  
In Informational Interviews, you are the “Interviewer.  Be prepared to ask the “interviewee” 10-12 good questions about his/her work experiences in the industry and the company. Ask about their career paths, specific roles and functional areas.  Make sure to ask questions that help build your understanding (and that don’t have answers available readily on the company’s website).  Generally, the more the person talks about personal views and experiences, the more successful the meeting will be.  Always remember to close the interview by thanking them for their time  (obviously!) and asking if they might know other people willing to talk with you.  Take notes — they’ll be flattered and you’ll likely get useful information.

Polish your answer to “Tell me about yourself.”  You’re going to need a good answer to this question – for any type of interview. I recommend creating a 2-3 minute response that covers several categories:  your academic experiences, professional experiences, outside interests, and any career/internship objectives and interests — in that order. (In a “real” interviews, your career objectives and interests at the company would become the most important segment.)

Take advantage of “informal” networking opportunities.  Holiday parties and casual get-togethers present great opportunities to network.  As a parent, they are good forums for getting the word about your child’s interests.  As a student, people will naturally ask you about school and your studies.  Make sure to tell them what you are thinking about in terms of internships or full-time roles.  You will be surprised how often people will offer up some knowledge or contacts within your areas of interest.

Top 6 Tips For Researching Your Career Path

No Idea What To Do After Graduation? No Problem!

Mary Bloomer, Founder, Early Career Launch

If you’re feeling  “adrift” about your future career, please know you are not alone!  I promise you that very few students emerge from their mother’s wombs saying  “Private equity is the path for me!”   At Early Career Launch (ECL), many of our clients have limited exposure to “professional” careers  – and therefore can’t judge whether a particular path is of interest or suited to them.

At ECL, we help you research careers to determine what type of job will appeal to you AND suit your personality and skill set.  We’ve developed a series of steps that will help you to research various industries and potential career roles.  (One caveat:  most of our suggestions are geared towards business -oriented roles, since that is our focus.)

  1. LOOK IN THE MIRROR:  WHO ARE YOU?  Write down a very simple list of your strengths, weaknesses, interests, skills, values and personality traits.  Be honest with yourself!  You’re going to refer to this list as you begin to explore possible careers.  Find a job that fits “who you are” and you’ll be much more likely to find a job you love.   For example, if you’re not a “people person,” you’re unlikely to enjoy a client-facing role such as sales.  If you’re a risk taker, a very large corporate structure may not be for you.   Not sure how to tell who you are?  There are many self-assessment tools, some more practical than others, in our opinion.  We often use a program called CareerLeader (a self assessment tool developed by professionals at Harvard Business School) and several other tools to gain insight into each client’s attributes and to help target specific industries and job roles.
  2. INTERVIEW FRIENDS AND FAMILY:  Talk to family members and friends to learn about their work experiences.  Prepare a dozen questions for these meetings.   Your role is to be the “interviewer, ” and your goal is to learn what these people do on a day-to-day basis, how they got to where they are, what they like/don’t like about the job/company/industry/skills required for the job, etc.    Try to talk with a good mix of senior and junior level people and gear your questions to your audience.  Junior people can be a good source for what the day-to-day work is like.  Ask senior people about their career path, the company and industry and general words of career advice.  Your “interviewees” are generally happy to talk about themselves and their experiences and to impart their “wisdom” in this no-pressure, informational interview. Remember, you are not asking for a job in these conversations!
  3. UTILIZE ONLINE RESOURCES:  There are great online resources available that  provide information on companies and industries.  My two favorites are:  Vault and Wetfeet.   They provide a good base level of knowledge for a broad range of industries and are a great place to start your research.   Most importantly, they’re written from an entry-level employee’s perspective.  (They also produce lists of “top companies” for various industries, e.g. “Great Places to work,”  “Greenest Places to Work,” etc. )  Before you walk into any interview, you should know what Vault and Wetfeet say about the industry and the individual company.  Most schools provide students with free access to these subscription resources; check your school’s career office or library.
  4. THE TARGETED GEOGRAPHIC SEARCH:  If your top priority is location (you definitely want to work in, let’s say, Chicago!)  the list of possible company targets can be well defined.  Hoover’s (available through your school’s library) allows you to search by location, company size (revenues, number of employees, capitalization) and by industry or SIC code.  Hoovers provides enough detailed company information for you to determine whether or not the company is of interest to you.
  5. USE ON CAMPUS RECRUITING FOR RESEARCH  If companies come to your campus to recruit, visit them!  Attend as many company presentations, industry panel discussions, coffee chats, as you can.  Even if all you learn is that you are NOT interested in that industry or company,  you’ve made progress.  If a company or an industry DOES interest you, introduce yourself and begin the networking process with that company.
  6. READ THOSE “BEST” LISTS:  So…you’ve done a bit of research and are starting to think that “xyz” industry is the one for you.  Guess what? There is usually a publication that puts out a list of “the top xyz companies.”  These companies don’t have to be your targets (the criteria defining “top” may be different from what draws you to that industry). But the lists will get you started with your research. There are best lists for all sorts of company attributes:  Most Innovative (Fast Company), Best Places to Work (Glassdoor and Forbes), Fastest Growing (Inc 500), Best Retail Brands (Interbrand), Largest US Non-Profits (Chronicle of Philanthrophy), Best Consulting Firms (Wall Street Oasis), Top Large Hedge Funds (Bloomberg Markets), Best Places to Work in IT (Computerworld), etc.   Crosscheck these lists with your Hoover’s research, use the same SIC code and your chosen geographic target,  and you should be able to identify a targeted list of companies that are a reasonable size and may be hiring at the entry level.

9 Resume Writing Tips for College Students

Mary Bloomer, Founder

By Mary Bloomer

Don’t let your resume make a poor first impression and ruin the party for you!  There are a multitude of online and offline resume building resources that can provide guidance.  Beyond the standard tips (i.e. consistent formatting, no typos, a one page format, using action verbs, etc.) the following pointers can help most current college students make a GREAT first resume impression:

1.  Skip the “Summary” or “Objective” statement.  This just takes up valued real estate on your one page resume, and your career experiences at this point in time generally aren’t vast enough to require a summary! Often, the “summary” is so generic that it makes for a weak ‘start’ for your resume.  A well-written cover letter that includes your tailored reasons for applying to that specific position is far more effective.

2.  Lead off with your “Education” section.  Let’s face it, at this point in your career, you’ve spent more time in school than anywhere else.  You want to lead with your strengths, so use the space to demonstrate that you are an active and engaged member of your school community.

  • Work backwards chronologically and include any study abroad programs.
  • List your major(s), minor(s), and GPA (as long as it’s above 3.0).
  • Include any academic award(s), and 3-5 courses relevant to the positions you are targeting and/or which demonstrate some transferable skills (i.e. writing and communications, technical (computer science, accounting, engineering), etc.
  • Include sports, clubs, and other activities that demonstrate leadership abilities.
  • Present the content for each school in a consistent way.

3.  Include “High school Education” – until your Senior Year.   When your college and professional experiences give you enough content to fill the page, it’s time to limit the high school stories.  Most Freshmen and Sophomores will need to include High School experiences; for Juniors, it will depend on individual content.  Seniors should generally omit detailed high school information (unless you won the Westinghouse Science Competition or a year’s tuition on ‘Jeopardy’).

  • Put “Graduated, Month, Year” (Graduated, June 2010) after the name of your school, unless you graduated as a particular type of scholar, i.e. a Classics Scholar.
  • The same rules apply for GPA and awards as listed in Point #2.
  • Skip coursework, except for AP classes.
  • Include sports and other leadership activities.
  • Only include your SAT/ACT scores if they were outstanding.

4.  Format “Professional Experiences” in a consistent and chronological order.  Employers like this format because they can quickly see if there are “holes” in your resume.  Students who consistently kept busy most summers with jobs or other enriching experiences are highly valued by employers.

  • Make it easy for Employers to see that you managed your time well by formatting all dates as right-margin adjusted. (Many recruiters won’t even look at a poorly formatted, “messy” looking resume. Good resume writing means developing a good format and sticking with it!)
  • If you have large gaps in your work/educational experiences, you may want to consider a functional/ transferable skills resume format. (More on that at a later date!)

5. Employers value “Regular Summer Jobs” and Part-time experiences.   Employers understand that “professional” experiences for many younger students include summer jobs like life-guarding, camp counselor, retail sales, community service, babysitting, etc.  These jobs teach valuable life skills and can be resume building blocks for any career development plan.

  • Employers value students who consistently keep busy over summers with jobs and/or other enriching experiences.
  • Students who work part-time while in school impress employers; it highlights your time management skills.
  • Describe your experiences in these jobs using a transferable skills/ business-oriented vocabulary. For example, “Successfully interacted with a broad range of customers, ranging from infants to senior citizens,” or “Weekly two hour tutoring sessions resulted in a marked improvement in grades for my student mentee.”

6. “Real” internships trump classic Summer/Part-time jobs.  Once you’ve had your first 1-2 “professional” or “career development” internships, it’s time to focus on these and decrease any content dedicated to typical student summer jobs.  (Employers still want to see that you consistently worked and sought out enriching experiences during your ‘younger’ years, so don’t delete those jobs, just be brief describing them.) Strong professional internships show that you care about career development and have given some thought to resume building.

  • List the name of the organization, your specific role, and the related dates for all pre-professional jobs or internships.

7. Focus on results achieved, not just tasks performed.  Effective resume writing uses industry appropriate action verbs to describe the content of all your work and demonstrate the results of your actions, ideally in a quantifiable way.

  • If you worked as a Sales Associate at Gap, rather than stating “Waited on customers, try stating “Increased store revenues by proactively engaging with customers”. The goal is to make yourself sound focused on delivering results and developing transferable skills – not just performing a minimum wage job.

8.  “Other Information” can be a great hook.  Employers are people too – and many of them say the last section of your resume is the first thing they read.  This is the fun part of resume writing! It’s your opportunity to connect with and intrigue the reader, as well as to highlight some unique skills.  Be creative!!  Everyone is “proficient in Microsoft Office” — try more interesting and unique!  I’ve seen entries as varied as “Enjoy BBQ,” “European History,” “Cats,” “Lasagna Making,” and “Country Music” all work effectively.  Just be prepared to talk passionately and as an expert about your choices!

9.  Always send your resume in PDF form!  I can tell you horror stories about non-PDF resumes that looked fine when sent out, but ended up in horribly mutilated forms. Sending an effective resume absolutely requires a PDF format!

 

 

7 Reasons College Seniors Should Get Ready for On Campus Recruiting NOW!!

 

Mary Bloomer, Founder, Early Career Launch

By Mary Bloomer

Companies that recruit on-campus are actively looking for students from YOUR school!   Your odds of (a) getting an interview, and (b) getting hired are higher than in any other approach to your job search. That’s why you need to start your job search RIGHT NOW!  One of the best and easiest ways to find a job is right in front you, right on campus!  Help companies find you by going to (and introducing yourself at!) their informational sessions and submitting your resume for an interview slot.  Make the recruiting process work for you!On-campus recruiting offers college seniors a great opportunity to land their first job. Finding your first job can be tough under the best of circumstances.  Add the demands of schoolwork and an active social schedule (yes, we realize that it’s not all studying, all the time!) and many seniors feel overwhelmed by the prospect of finding that first job.

  1. Don’t wait until after the holidays.  Most large firms that hire ‘classes’ of college graduates begin the recruiting process in the early fall (October) and will be largely done with the recruiting process by February.  Whether a company comes to your campus or not, if it is of a reasonable size, chances are they do their college recruiting in the fall. The recruiting “season” is short — don’t miss it!  Become well acquainted with your on campus career center’s recruiting calendar.
  2.  Give yourself enough time to figure out what you want to do. You need to decide what fields interest you — and then research targeted industries and specific companies.  There are lots of terrific online resources, such as Hoovers and the Vault guides, to get you started on understanding industries and companies. Definitely attend on-campus company information sessions — even if you are not sure that it is the company for you — you’re sure to learn something and to make valued contacts.  Even if you know what you want to do, the more research you do on targeted companies and positions, the more likely the possibility that you will be able to sell yourself to meet their needs.
  3.  Build top notch “base versions” of your resume and cover letters.   To effectively market yourself, you’ll need tailored resumes and cover letters — which usually take several drafts to perfect.  Now is the time to perfect your “Base” version of your resume that can be adapted to suit each potential position.  Get your resume written early and you’ll be able to act quickly as opportunities develop!  (See for our blog on Resume Writing Tips!)
  4.  Practice Your Interview Skills.  Good interviewing takes practice — the more the better.  If you begin honing your interview skills now, you’ll be prepared when that perfect opportunity presents itself!  Many typical interview questions are obvious:  “Tell me about yourself,” or “What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?”  These types of questions should become a slam dunk for you!  Practice with a friend!
  5.  Your schedule isn’t going to get any easier.  In my experience working with numerous college seniors, your schedule gets busier as the year progresses. Whether it’s familiarizing yourself with your school’s recruiting calendar or writing a draft of your resume — get started today! Devote these early months of your senior year to your job search  - and you may be able to really enjoy your final term at college, knowing you have a job after graduation!
  6.  Networking starts now – even if your ideal employer doesn’t recruit on campus.  If you want to work for a smaller firm, be in a more entrepreneurial environment or have interest in a niche industry, now is STILL the time to start networking with organizations  you’ve targeted.  Many smaller companies use just-in-time hiring and are unlikely to make offers to current students until closer to graduation. However, these types of companies  often move fast when they do hire – and they almost always rely upon students they’ve networked with in the past. To network successfully, you will have had to completed steps #2, #3, and #5 above!
  7.  Treat your job search like a class.  Pretend your job search is another class, and give it some of your attention each week. This makes the whole process less daunting. A little attention every week — attending a company information session, perfecting your resume, honing your interview skills — and you won’t end up with the dreaded term paper you begin the night before it is due!