Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

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

Build your Story Bank: Learn How to Tell Your Story

You now know what employers are seeking in new hires – many graduate schools and professional programs have similar ideas of what constitutes success. So how do you show that you’re a top-notch candidate?

Demonstrating your strengths and aptitudes requires more than just saying “I am good at…” A successful candidate provides examples and tells stories that prove they’re as good as they say (or that they have the potential to be!).

The difficulty with storytelling is that each event is often comprised of numerous and entwined details. It can cause a narrative to come out more as a series of tangents, leaving the audience wondering if you’ll ever get to the point. Thus, you need to really hone in on the elements that are most impactful and necessary to achieving the purpose of the story. Thoughtful and well-crafted stories show that you have prepared, are aware of your abilities, and are able to clearly articulate experiences and strengths.

A great technique to help you tell a story is the S.T.A.R. method:

10.15.2014 post picture - STAR method

Learn to tell many short stories about your accomplishments and contributions in the classroom, at your internship, on the soccer field, in your volunteer project, etc. These examples help demonstrate how you are likely to conduct yourself in the future. The next several blog posts will focus on forming stories based on multiple aspects of your life to give an interviewer an in-depth look into your abilities.

~ Gwen Miller, associate director, career development

Build your Story Bank: What Employers Want

What have you done?

In the September 24th post, Show Confidence: Know your Strengths, I mentioned the importance of knowing your audience to help guide which strengths you highlight. A similar thought process can be applied when crafting stories to talk about your experiences. What experiences and accomplishments are most enlightening for the person with whom you are speaking?

Before you build up a story bank of experiences geared toward your specific interests, take a step back to identify common skills and abilities that many employers or graduate schools seek. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, respondents to the Job Outlook 2014, Spring Update survey indicate that the following are rated highest in what employers seek in new college hires:

10.8.2014 post picture - what employers want

These are transferable, liberal arts skills that are not specific to an industry. Before you go any further, think about experiences that may “showcase” your skills in some of the above areas.

Your next step is to determine the qualities most sought in your industry. Professional journals, industry specific associations, networking contacts, or websites such as www.myplan.com are rich with inside knowledge. Match experiences and craft stories that pertain to these abilities.

Finally, look into a specific company’s culture, mission, and needs. You can often determine what experiences will resonate with a particular company based on the language of their “About Us” page or their job postings.

This is a multi-level analysis to determine skills and match experiences that will most directly resonate in a particular situation. Plus, it helps you to build quite an arsenal of stories to have on hand that depict your skills and abilities through your experiences.

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career development

Think Ahead: Planning your Career Goals

Who are you?

Setting career goals can be very difficult, whether you are a first or second year student trying to plan for classes, internships, or responses to parent inquiries, or a junior or senior hoping to define success for yourself and set a path to reach it.

Crafting and articulating a plan can feel so final, so specific. Many students may not like the feeling of being pigeonholed into a career field, opting instead to see what opportunities are out there that sound most appealing at the time. However, your spur-of-the-moment approach may not cut it when a registration or application deadline is looming or you are talking with prospective employers, graduate school admission representatives, or concerned parents.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, nor can someone else set goals for you. Thus, a few words of advice: start by reflecting on your interests, values, preferences, and strengths. Be sure to seek input from others who know you well and begin brainstorming where you might thrive. This involves quite a bit of research, exploration, and self-evaluation, but you’ll feel much more confident in your decisions if they are based on knowledge and thoughtful reflection.

Looking for a few resources to get you started?

Also remember: setting career goals does not mean you are planning out the next 45 years of your life; it simply means you are being intentional about your career movements as you see them now.

Show Confidence: Know your Strengths

Who are you?

Ever heard the question “what’s your greatest strength?” It seems simple…sort of, unless you find yourself answering with “well this one…no wait, that one is my greatest!” We all have many strengths, many of which we (hopefully) consider great. Otherwise our contributions to the world would be a bit limited, eh? Instead, think of describing your greatest strength as those that are most relevant to the person(s) with whom you are speaking.

Talking to the person who may be your next boss? Highlight the strengths that contribute most heavily to the specific job/department/company. Conversing with potential co-workers? Hit on your strengths that illustrate your ability to adapt and fit in with the team. Talking with an HR recruiter? Perhaps focus on those that demonstrate your commitment to the industry and company.

Sounds fairly simple…but only if you know what your strengths are to begin with! This is where a fun little activity called the 6-word memoir comes in. Think about and write down 6 characteristics that you would use to describe yourself professionally. What might you want someone to know about you? What do you think describes you at your core? NOTE: these can be personality-based, knowledge-based, and/or transferable skill based.

Once you have your list, take a hard look at them.

  • Can you say them better? Is there other terminology that is more descriptive or more fitting for your intended industry?
  • Do you really mean them? Sometimes it’s easy to write down the obvious choices. But that’s way too…well…obvious! You are unique. Try to describe yourself as such.
  • Can you prove them? Come up with 3-5 stories that support what you’ve identified. Not only does that help to clarify your strengths, but it helps develop a story bank to pull from later in an interview situation.

This is a never-ending process, as your strengths grow and develop throughout your life. Word to the wise, don’t shrug off this important step by saying “I don’t like to brag about myself.” If you don’t talk about your strengths, who will?

Get to the Root of it: Why did you pick your major?

Who are you?

This appears to be a deceptively simple question, right? Surely you are aware of the reasons why you are pursuing your chosen field of study. But have you developed a concrete, roll-off-the-tip-of-your-tongue response that expresses your enthusiasm for your field and generates interest? Probably not.

Here are two exercises:

  1. Think of the ignition point that started you on your path to declare your chosen major. Was it an event? (you shadowed a person who described his/her major and made it sound amazing – you happened upon a description of a career that you can identify with a corresponding major – you took a class and realized you “fit” in that department immediately – etc…) Is it a result of a personal influencer? Is it related to your career ambition? Is it a result of being undecided and then stumbling into your choice? Identify what the point was, and then craft a story to tell it.
  2. Next, reflect on what has caused you to stay in the field! What interests you the most? What skills have you developed as a result? How does it tie into your career goals from here?

Doing the above will give you something more substantive to say than a simple “I chose accounting because I like numbers” or “I chose business because I want to work in a business” or “I’m an education major because I like to working with children” The examples are endless…and boring, right?! Don’t be boring. Explain why you chose your major in a way that makes someone think you’re actually proud of the choice and excited for your future.

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career development

Start Strong: Grab interest in 60 seconds

Who are you?

Jumping right in with the most common interview and/or networking question, Tell me about yourself is the opening to many a conversation, the response to which often sets the tone of the exchange that follows. What information is actually sought here? According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, information from this list can prepare you for your 60 second introduction:

  • Name
  • Class (senior, junior, sophomore, freshman)
  • Major
  • Opportunities that you are seeking
  • Relevant experience (work, internship, volunteer work)
  • Highlights of skills and strengths
  • Knowledge of the company

It may seem like a lot to include, but you may not be offering lengthy details all at once. An employer once said, introducing yourself should be like dropping a few M&Ms at a time, not trying to force-feed the whole bag. Let the person digest those few bits of information (M&Ms) and then offer more during the conversation. It’s much easier for the listener and the speaker!

Here are a few examples:

  1. “Hi, my name is _______; I’m completing my degree in _____ and am very interested in talking with you about the opportunities within the ________ department at _(company name)__. I know that __company___ is well known for ______, and I am confident that my skills in _____, _______ and my experiences from _______ and __________ could be a good match.”
  1. “Hello! My name is __________. I’m thrilled to be talking with you, as I’m extremely interested in contributing my skills of ________ and _________ to the _____________ department of _(company name)_. I’ll be completing my degree in _field of study_ in May 2016, graduating from Lebanon Valley College.
  1. “As an experienced ___________, I was excited to see that your company would be attending this event! My name is ________ and……”

There are many ways you could tell someone about yourself, but the key is to put thought into what you’re going to say ahead of time so that your conversation starts strong.

Additional tips: Tailor your introduction to each employer based on research and knowledge of the company. Practice, practice, practice so that it is a natural conversation starter, and pay attention to your nonverbal communications—eye contact, facial expressions, body language, and posture. Finally, don’t just end with an awkward pause – ask a question to encourage the person with whom you are speaking to pick up the conversation!

~Gwen Miller, associate director

Setting the Stage

This is the 6th year for the Career Development Blog! Let me tell you, it can be difficult to come up with topics from week to week without feeling like a broken record. To alleviate such an obstacle, I’ve taken to coming up with themed posts. Last year I attempted to cover certain topics on certain weeks of the month; this year, I’ve decided to span topics of career development and professional preparation over the course of the fall and spring semester. I’ll give you my plan right now, hoping that I’ll hook you into Blog reading and that I’ll keep myself on track!

Over the coming months, expect to read posts that focus on the following areas:

  • Who are you?
  • What have you done?
  • What do you want?
  • Who do you know?
  • Are you ready?

Some of you may be on the verge of dismissing me right now, fearful that by the time I get to the last topic, it’ll be too late. Rest assured, there are plenty of resources to help you along the way, many of which I will continue to point to through the Blog. Just to be on the safe side though, be sure to keep up with the Career Development Weekly E-Bulletin (arriving in your inbox every Monday), log-into your JobCenter account regularly (accessible through the Academic Resources section of MyLVC), and browse the countless resources available to you through our website (www.lvc.edu/career-development).

Otherwise, I look forward to embarking on year 6 of this little Blog and hope you stick around for the journey.

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career development

We challenge you…

…to make the 2014-2015 academic year one that is full of intentional reflection and growth as it relates to planning for your future.

The Center for Career Development is all about preparing students with graduation in mind. From freshman through senior year, our programs and resources, in addition to our individual counsel with you, have been designed to move you from “student” to “professional” and help you finish your time at LVC with tools and confidence for the job search or graduate school pursuits.

Your first challenge? Come find us! Over the summer, we re-branded from Career Services to the Center for Career Development, complete with a new amazing location in the Lebegern Learning Commons of Mund College Center.

Although we certainly hope to meet with you in person, we have long stressed that this blog can also act as your 24/7 career coach by providing weekly bits of advice and pointing you toward resources. Be sure to bookmark us and read our new posts, published each Wednesday of the semester.

Here’s to a new year, a fresh start, and the perfect opportunity to achieve the goals you set for yourself.

~Career Development Staff
Sharon Givler, director
Gwen Miller, associate director
Susan Donmoyer, coordinator