Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

Discover who you are… and where you want to go

Is there a “test’ for that?

Fortunately, yes.  Unfortunately, no.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Certainly assessment instruments like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Strong Interest Inventory, SkillScan, and StrengthsFinder have a role to play in helping students discover themselves.  They can confirm aspects of personality, skills, interests, and values that you likely already know about yourself, but perhaps have never been able to put into words.  They also can reveal aspects of yourself you’ve yet to discover because you’ve been so busy trying to be someone else – the person you think you should be – as well as offer ideas of work environments and/or career paths in which you are likely to thrive.

The down side is that too many students look to assessment tools to provide them with answers. Answers that are right and sure and convenient.  Answers that will fix the nagging fears associated with not knowing what they can or should do.

I love these assessment tools.  They can serve you well.  But nothing replaces self-assessment.  Only thing is that takes time and “a willingness to jettison preconceived notions about success” (Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads, p. 30).  Introspection does not come easily to many but with the help of a good listener whether friend, parent, advisor, or career counselor, students can begin to discover direction as they discover themselves.

I encourage you to do a little self-assessment activity each day.  You might begin by keeping a journal in which you record thoughts or observations as they apply to your career.  Of course, you’ll have to first begin paying attention – noticing – what’s happening internally as you respond to various external events stimuli.  Another activity might be to begin asking family, trusted friends, or mentors to give you honest feedback about how they perceive you as a leader, follower, friend, student, or employee. What do they notice about your strengths?  Where are your contributions most evident? Where could you use a little polish? What, in their estimation, may potentially hold you back from truly succeeding? What suggestions do they have for you to work on or consider? What specifically do they notice that makes you happy? Proud? Keep a record of this feedback as it likely will begin to reveal a pattern to help you see yourself more clearly.

As always, we are here to help.

-Sharon M. Givler, director, career development

Beginning…again

Spring 2015 is on our doorstep!  What shall we do with the Blog next semester?

Usually Gwen Miller and I have this chat late in the Fall semester. This year, however, the “chat” mainly amounted to making sure I knew how to get into the Career Blog (i.e. recalling my username and password),  find my way around the dashboard, and become best friends with the “buttons” I need to press to make sure weekly posts actually “appear.” While I’ve written posts for the Blog over the past six years, I never really “posted” any them. Gwen did that. I will miss her for taking care of those details and much more.

Honestly I am not sure exactly what I will “do” with the Blog this semester, but I promise two things.  First, there will be an entry each week.  Second, reading it will be like “having your own personal career coach.”  That is why we started the Blog, after all.

So let’s get started.

A number of years ago two women, Sheila A. Curran (Duke University) and Suzanne Greenwald (MIT), wrote Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads. Largely the book  is a collection of career stories of individuals that were “primed for serendipity and seized the inevitable moments when opportunity knocked.” As the authors are quick to note, none of these individuals soared to instant career success and happiness.  They did, however, make some very smart moves in their career planning that the authors grouped into five key, smart lessons.

  • Discover who you are and where you want to go
  • Get experience
  • Build social and networking relationships
  • Identify your competence gaps
  • Find your hook

It’s going to take some work, but you too can make some smart moves toward your future in the next few months.  And we’re here to help you.

Make it a great semester!

- Sharon M. Givler, director, career development

Think Ahead: What’s next?

You’ve been thinking about your skills, experiences and preferences all semester, now we’d like to give you a chance to practice talking about them! Join us for our annual career conference, focused this year on interviewing: S.T.A.R.: Stories That Achieve Results.

2015 Career Conference image

Register now to ensure your seat. Stop by, email (career-development@lvc.edu) or call (867-6560) the Center for Career Development, or look for details and registration in the Career Events tab in your JobCenter account.

Have a wonderful holiday season – we look forward to seeing you in 2015!

~Career Development Staff

Putting it all together: Are you Ready?

We’ve spent the semester delving into the broad topics of who you are, what you’ve done, what you want, and who you know. Is there more to career development? Absolutely. But it’s a pretty good start. Take a look back and see where you are at this point in the semester so that you can plan where you want to be in the next.

Hopefully you’ll have a good sense of information to include in your resumes, cover letters, graduate school applications, and interviews, as well as a sense of the occupations and/or environments in which you might thrive. There is plenty of additional information on our Resources for Students page or within the Resource Library of your JobCenter account. The more you know and the more resources you take advantage of, the more you’ll be ready for the next step in your career.

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career development

Be Informed: Talk to Others

Who do you know?

As you’ve likely been told, networking is a must. Not only does it strengthen your relationships and help you build connections, but it also helps to build your knowledge base of the working world.

The more people you meet, the more understanding you will have of various industries, job functions, companies, geographic locations, etc. But it’s not just the quantity of people you meet, it’s the quality of your time spent talking with them! So what’s the secret? Show interest in others by asking prompting questions, demonstrate that you’re listening by asking follow-up questions, and keep your chat conversational (as opposed to an interrogation!).

Networking comes in all forms – informational interviews, alumni networking events (or other events), or professional associations, to name a few. A good resource to help you get started is our webshop: Building a Stronger Network: Tips for Informational Interviews and an Introduction to Career Connections.

As you go into the Thanksgiving break, try to talk with at least one person about their career. It can be a brand new contact, or someone at your dinner table with whom you haven’t yet ventured into this topic. Regardless, do your best to spend most of the conversation talking about them – you never know how it may influence your career planning later!

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career development

Your Preferences: Finding your Fit

What do you want?

Aside from articulating your strengths and crafting stories that let your experiences shine, there’s another area that shouldn’t be overlooked in your career planning. It’s not just about what employers are seeking, it’s also about what you want and need to succeed.

A job search is all about fit and match. You can say the perfect things to get yourself hired, but if you aren’t being true to yourself, it may not be very long before your find yourself applying elsewhere. Take some time to think about your work preferences:

  • What type of working environment are you looking for?
  • Under what management style do you best thrive?
  • Do you prefer working in teams or independently?
  • Would you be ok if you only see your boss once a week?
  • What kind of challenges excite you?
  • What are some of your personal values and how do they fit in with your professional endeavors?
  • How does a position fit within your long term personal and professional goals?

Although you may not have a professional point of reference to analyze, think about instances (in the classroom, on the field, as a leader, in an internship, etc) where you have felt supported, and at your best. What were some of the factors contributing to that? Perhaps seeking similar factors in a work environment would keep you engaged.

Before you start crossing possibilities off your list, however, keep in mind: you may not find your “ideal” right away, you also are a contributing factor in your work environment, there will be an adjustment period no matter what, and sometimes it’s best to get out of your comfort zone entirely. Don’t get so caught up in finding a match for all of your preferences that you miss out on the perfect career fit for right now.

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career development

Your Experiences: To include or not to include

What have you done?

Your classroom accomplishments and co-curriculars provide great examples from which to build your story bank; don’t forget about your work experiences too! This can include paid or unpaid internships, research, freelance work, summer jobs, part-time or full-time career-related or unrelated work, etc.

We frequently get questions from students about whether they should include work experience on a resume if it’s not directly relevant to the industry in which they are applying. Although I would love to offer the perfect answer, the truth of the matter is: it depends!

It depends on the experience itself, the length of time, the skills developed, and what else is on your resume. If you have substantial work experience that is related to your chosen field, then you may feel okay about leaving that summer job between high school and college off. If you gained valuable skills and were able to grow as a professional, however, you may want to include it, being sure to focus on the strengths developed as opposed to the tasks completed (although that should be the case regardless!). If it’s an experience that has given you plenty of situations to pull from when telling stories in an interview, you definitely want to have it on there. On the other hand, if you’ve worked a slew of odd jobs over the years and have a lot of information to highlight, you might be able to condense your work history section and/or leave off some of the earliest jobs.

Ultimately, it’s your call what goes onto your resume, as it is your document, meant to be a snapshot of what you bring to the table. But, before you decide to delete , consider the following:

The experience you have is the experience you ultimately have to sell.

Don’t discount the value of something just because it’s not immediately obvious to you. You never know what’s going to leave an impression!

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career development

Tell your Story: Market your Co-Curriculars

What have you done?

In addition to your coursework and professional activities, your college experience is likely comprised of involvement in co-curriculars. Clubs, athletics, study abroad, leadership roles, and community service are all great examples that are not only fun and rewarding, but potentially impressive to future employers or graduate schools.

Start by listing your co-curricular activities, including time frame and level of participation. Are you in a leadership role in an organization? An active member? Captain of your team? Going into your second year as a resident assistant?  Next, think about skills that are in demand and ways in which you can demonstrate those skills with examples from your involvement.

We’ve discussed the S.T.A.R. method for crafting career stories, so let’s focus on how to better market co-curriculars, specifically in a resume. We encourage students to bulk up their resume’s bullet points to best highlight accomplishments, as opposed to tasks. Saying “led meetings,” “helped freshmen transition to college,” or “ran drills and practices” may show what you’ve done, but it doesn’t say anything about your ability to do them effectively.  Follow these steps to better highlight your strengths:

  • STEP 1 – Skill: What did you get out of performing this duty?
  • STEP 2 – Structure: Put this result into a statement. I learned……
  • STEP 3 – Verb: Replace “I learned” by starting the new statement with an action verb.
  • STEP 4 – Clarify: Go back to original duty and ask who, what, where, when, why, how

As an example, if your original bullet point says “helped students transition to college,” a revised (and bulked up) one might become:

  • Step 1: Leadership skills
  • Step 2: I learned leadership skills while helping students transition to college
  • Step 3: Strengthened leadership skills while helping students transition to college
  • Step 4: Strengthened leadership skills by facilitating small group sessions and organizing activities to familiarize six incoming freshmen to college life.

The second option is a much more substantive example of your experiences and can be tailored to highlight many different strengths.  Following the steps can also help you in planning out career stories or drafting cover letters and essays that incorporate your involvement. Bottom line, co-curriculars are a big part of the college experience.  Be sure you are marketing them effectively!

~ Gwen Miller, associate director, career development

Tell your Story: Classroom Accomplishments

What have you done?

For many new college grads, your education is one of the highest qualifications you offer to a potential internship or full-time employer, or to a graduate school program. Your time in the classroom and/or working on class projects is one of the primary ways in which you are developing skills for your next step. When crafting stories to illustrate leadership, decision making, communication, etc, don’t forget about how you:

  1. critically analyzed a company’s business model to determine growth potential
  2. led your group through a semester-long project by helping to break up and delegate tasks
  3. enhanced your skills in data analysis and deductive reasoning by participating in a research project
  4. showed your knack for written communication by taking responsibility for editing your group’s paper into a document with one style
  5. handled criticism and learned from a mistake by actively seeking feedback on an assignment that was not up to par

The variety of examples are vast, assuming you incorporate them into your repertoire of stories. But in all of them, notice that the emphasis is on the accomplishment you achieved, more so than the task you completed. In other words, you’re not simply explaining the parameters of an assignment when telling your story; you’re detailing your individual contribution, focusing on the strengths that you demonstrated, and emphasizing the learning that took place.

Don’t forget, too, that significant classroom projects can be included on your resume, if they are relevant to a position to which you are applying or they help to demonstrate your capabilities within a graduate program. Consider including a section titled something like “Coursework & Projects” or “Research”. Or incorporate your accomplishments into a cover letter. How you shed light on your classroom achievements will vary, depending on your situation, but chances are good that those achievements are just as impressive as those earned through experience or involvement.

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career development