Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

The Key to Career Planning: Know Yourself

We recommend networking, we encourage informational interviewing, and we stress the importance of gaining experience.  All are instrumental in exploration and planning for your future career or graduate school pursuits.  After all, you need to see what’s out there before you can determine your path!

However, not all exploration is external.  Don’t forget about self-discovery, the exploration of your own values, attributes, strengths, and preferences.  You can become familiar with many different work environments and companies, but if you haven’t taken the time to really identify what’s important to you and what you have to offer, it’s nearly impossible to know when you’ve found your fit.

Self-discovery isn’t something that you can block off a few hours for, write a report, and cross off of your to-do list; it takes continual thought and reflection to be able to understand yourself, let alone be able to articulate your qualities to other people!

To help get started, Richard Bolles offers the following advice in the well-known job search book: What Color is Your Parachute? (2012 edition, pages 190-191).   In helping a person to define what their “dream job” is, he suggests describing yourself in the following ways:

  1. What can you do – your favorite functional/transferable skills
  2. What do you know – your favorite knowledge or fields of interests
  3. What kinds of people do you like to be surrounded by – the kinds of people you like to help
  4. Where are you most effective – the surroundings or working conditions that enable you to do your best work

These can be surprisingly difficult to define, especially if you haven’t explored favorites in any of these topics!  The following exercise suggested in Bolles’ book might be an even better starting place:

  1. Take ten sheets of blank paper and write “Who Am I” at the top of each
  2. Write one answer to that question on each one (to help get you started, think of roles you play or identify with, attributes you use to describe yourself, etc…)
  3. Go back and write why you said that and what excites you most by it.  If you say you’re creative, give an example or explain why that was one of the answers that came to mind.
  4. Then, look back at those ten sheets and prioritize them by level of importance to help gain an understanding of what you value most, are most proud of, or identify with the strongest.

Of course this is not a perfect system.  You won’t be given the key to success once you put that last sheet into place.  But it will do a number of things for you:

If you struggled to get to that tenth answer (or even the fourth or fifth!), you know you have some work to do.  How can you explain why you’re the best candidate if you can’t quite explain who you are and what you’re best at?  In this case, think of how others describe you; think of how you introduce yourself; think of what you aspire to be – this may help you get past writer’s block.

On the other hand, if you found it easy to come up with ten, great!  You know yourself pretty well (although there is much more to you than 10 things).  Bolles suggests that you then look for common themes throughout your answers.  This might help you to better define what your “dream job” really means to you, thus helping you to target your career or graduate school planning a bit more intentionally.  Then, build on these discoveries to flesh out examples and build a story bank.  Doing so will certainly help you put together a more compelling application and present yourself more confidently and competently when going after that dream!

Gwen Miller, associate director, career services

Jocelyn Asks: What Are You Thankful For?

If you’re anything like me, you have been counting down to today since Fall Break. Well it’s finally here! As you head home to celebrate this time of thanksgiving, take time to relax and enjoy the holiday: great food, time with family, and an opportunity to give thanks.

While you’re thinking about who you are thankful for, keep in mind those who have helped you with your career development. This holiday season is a great time to reach out to mentors, internship supervisors, and others in your professional network to catch up and say thank you! Expressions of gratitude will make you stand out and perhaps even spark conversation about new endeavors. Keeping in touch with your professional network is a key aspect of preparing for your future career!

So, take a break from the food and fun to send a few quick notes out to remind past and present mentors that you are thankful for their help and support.

Safe travels!

J

Jocelyn Davis, ’15, Career Services, Student Assistant

Spotlighting The Campus Career Coach

It’s the third Wednesday of November – do you know what that means?  That means in 8 days, we can all celebrate Thanksgiving!  It also means it’s the week that our Career Services Blog serves the purpose of offering advice on preparing for the job search.  This week, my method of accomplishing that is to actually refer you to a different Blog!

Have you passed by the window to the Career Services office this semester and been momentarily distracted by our signs?  Good! Often backed by bright blue paper and hanging from a 4-foot stand, those signs are put up by our office assistant, Sue, who takes the responsibility of finding interesting, often humorous, and always relevant career articles or images for your reading pleasure. They’re resources that catch her eye or make her laugh.  The latest? An image of this little girl:

Campus Career Coach girl

that emphasizes an article titled “Be a Selective Job Seeker, not a Picky Job Seeker.”  The article comes from The Campus Career Coach, a Blog that strives to offer practical answers to career questions for college students.

You should know that in writing this Blog post, I went to The Campus Career Coach to find a few articles that I could highlight to entice you to go there yourself.  I’ve been immersed in the content for the past half hour or so!  I started reading his advice on bullet points vs. paragraphs in resumes; then the article When is the right time for a college senior to start looking for a job? held my attention.  Then, I actually found myself watching a video on tools that welders need….(I’m not a welder…but it’s nice to know that I could find out what the essential equipment is to becoming one!).

Then I noticed that the top of the page includes a navigation bar that consists of Job Search Guides that are nice supplements to our TIP Sheets, more than 30 resumes in a Resume Gallery, an alphabetical listing of Professional Associations, great advice on how to Get your Foot in the Door of different careers, and something titled Coach’s Soapbox (really – how could you not want to see what that consists of?!).  I also found a TED Talk that I plan to watch later called The Happy Secret to Better Work (such a promising title!) under the category: I Love My Job.

Hopefully I’ve convince you to check this Blog out and make reading it a regular habit.  Just be sure that you have some time to spare before you begin to browse!

Gwen Miller, associate director, career services

Where in the world will YOU go?

Lebanon Valley College graduates find themselves studying and working all over the place.  Sometimes they remain in Central Pennsylvania; sometimes they go across the globe.  It’s fascinating and fun for the College to learn of the stories that explain what took one alumnus one way vs. another.  As a student, you may also be wondering what’s out there and how you can expand upon your own career story.  Perhaps there is a city you dream of, a state that excites you, or a study abroad destination that you yearn to return to.

Often times, when someone is telling a career story, the ignition point (the way in which the path was influenced or determined) is a resource they learned of, a networking connection they happened to make, a dream that they turned into a plan, a situation that set off a series of events, etc.  Whatever the case, it has to start somewhere!  Unfortunately, I can’t introduce you to networking contacts through a Blog (unless you’d like me to tell you about Career Connections, an online mentoring program that connects current students to LVC alumni and parents who have volunteered to offer career guidance…), nor can I turn your dream into a plan (although I could start by referring you to our TIP Sheet on Preparing Students to Reach Employment Destinations), but I can certainly introduce you to a few (more) resources!

Your JobCenter account will connect you with jobs or internships that employers post.  It will also give you access to an employer directory that introduces you to companies who have recruited here in the past, as well as a Resource Library with oodles of folders on employers or internship programs to check out.  Still, you may be interested in broadening your search considerably to focus on a specific industry or area.  There are hundreds, probably thousands, of websites out there to help facilitate your search; so many, in fact, that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  Although we don’t endorse one over another, nor can anyone claim that one website casts a net broad enough to capture every opportunity, one site we would encourage you to take a look at is Urban Employ.

Urban Employ posts thousands of internships and jobs in major metropolitan regions for businesses, nonprofits, and governments.  Interested in Atlanta? Chicago? Denver? Los Angeles? New York? Philadelphia? Search for positions representing 75+ fields in 25 major metropolitan areas.  It certainly isn’t the only website out there, but it’s a great starting place!

Looking to travel a bit further? Say…overseas to study, volunteer, intern, teach, or work?  Our office has partnered with the office of Study Abroad and the Bishop Library to offer My World Abroad, a vast resource for our students and graduates to utilize.  When I say vast, I mean vast enough to have necessitated the creation of a User’s Guide to give users a glimpse of what they’ll see when they create an account and log in!  I can’t even begin to describe all of the information you can gain by spending some time browsing; instead, I’ll offer a snapshot of the “table of contents” that will likely persuade anyone interested in leading their career story abroad to investigate further:

MyWorldAbroad Contents

 

So, although we cannot be the authors of your career story, the office of career services will gladly offer you resources, a listening ear, advice and guidance on your professional development and pursuits, and always, always, always, a place where you can share and celebrate the events of your story, whether they take you down the road, across the country, or half-way across the world!

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career services

Your internship – when it’s all said and done…or nearly so

Information abounds from our office about how to find potential internship sites and opportunities, how to apply for internships by constructing targeted resumes and crafting convincing cover letters, how to thoughtfully prepare for interviews, and what to do when you get an offer or receive a rejection. If you haven’t found it yet, look around.  There are TIP sheets and webshops and a host of other resources on both the Career Services webpage and within JobCenter.  Need help?  Come in and ask.

But today, I want to spend some time on another best practice for student interns – finishing well.

What did you learn?

… about your work habits and attitudes and those of others?

… about company culture?

… about skills you need to acquire and/or hone?

… about the connection of your studies to work, industries, jobs, etc.?

Along the way you likely have been reflecting on questions like these in your internship journal. As you near the end of your internship assignment, you are encouraged to review that journal and put together a summary of your reflections. This summary will be particularly helpful in isolating key items you might wish to later share in résumés, cover letters, personal statements, and interviews for jobs and/or graduate school.

Your summary could include:

  • Comments on the progress of the goals you set for yourself prior to your internship.
  • The personal or professional challenges you have encountered while interning that you may not have been anticipated.
  • A description of any new behaviors, interests or changes that you have adopted as a result of working in a professional setting.
  • “Light bulb” moments. You know what I’m talking about… those moments of inspiration, revelation, or recognition when you made a connection between what you are studying and what you are now doing.  Or the whack to the head “V-8 juice response” you give yourself when suddenly it all becomes crystal clear and your way of thinking/behaving personally or professionally changes forever.

Finishing Well

More than likely your supervisor will conduct an evaluation of your performance and discuss it with you as you near the end of your internship assignment.  If not, ask for this feedback.  You also will want to secure a letter of recommendation and/or a willingness to act as a reference for you.  You may even want to discuss at the time what might be some key aspects of the recommendation.

Express appreciation to everyone that assisted you in this learning experience.  Such thoughtfulness rarely goes unnoticed. Meaningful expressions of thanks, whether hand-written or otherwise, for the time and energy someone invested in you says speaks volumes. Don’t delay in doing this!

Keep in touch with those who have now become part of your network. Keep them posted on new developments with respect to your continuing education and /or job search. Let them know of your success and don’t forget to inquire about and/or recognize theirs. Share interesting articles or insights on work-related topics. Invite their input into your professional development.

~Sharon Givler, director of career services

Jocelyn Says: Get Your Foot in the Door by Job Shadowing

You may remember from my last blog entry the importance of researching companies you are interested in as one of the first steps to finding an internship. But, what do you do once you have an idea of where you want to go? How do you get an “in” with a potential internship site?

For me, the first step was to send a letter of introduction to the organization. I searched the company’s website for contact information and sent my letter via email. Of course, this was not a five page essay about my goals and interests, but rather a short paragraph. I explained that I was emailing because I wanted to learn more about existing careers in the organization. I gave a brief description of my relevant experiences and included details from their website that emphasized why their particular company stood out to me. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I concluded the letter by requesting a day of job shadowing.

When I pushed the send button I was nervous. I knew the organization did not have to accept my request and could just as easily deny it. However, three days later the president of the organization replied explaining that they would be happy to help. He provided me with a list of days to choose from and highly recommended that I spend an entire day. He also requested that I provide him with a list of what I hoped to gain from the experience so that he could plan the day accordingly to ensure that I found it worthwhile.

My day of shadowing can be broken into three parts: an informational interview, tour/meet and greet, and assisting an employee with a project.

  • During the interview I had the chance to speak with the president of the organization who answered many of my questions regarding management and responsibilities.
  • While on the tour I was able to meet each employee in the office and speak with them. This opportunity introduced me to the array of jobs existing in the organization and allowed me to seek advice as to how to better prepare myself for a similar career.
  • The final hour of my job shadowing experience allowed me to assist with a project. I was able to actually see myself fitting into the organization; this was a huge confidence boost!

The best part came at the end of my day when the president talked to me briefly about my experience there. He prompted me to consider what I had learned, what I enjoyed, and what I did not like. Before I left, he encouraged me to send a copy of my resume to his office that he would keep on file to consider when they began accepting internship applications.

I left my day of shadowing feeling more confident about the career path I am pursuing. I had gained a better understanding of what I would be faced with as well as the overall work environment. The experience has helped me more confidently articulate what I am looking for in a job, what I want to do as a career, and what type of organizations may be a good “fit.” I made sure to send a thank you note and a copy of my resume the next day and have since kept in touch with the contacts I made.

Although introducing yourself to a brand new person and making a request to job shadow may be out of your comfort zone, I highly recommend taking the risk. After all, how do you know if you will actually enjoy a certain career if you’ve never set foot in the building?

J

Jocelyn Davis ’15, Career Services Student Assistant

Exploration, Part 2: Focusing your Efforts

Last week, I introduced the career planning model geared toward freshmen and sophomore students in Exploration, Part 1: Drawing Connections.  In the early stages of career planning, you often find yourself exploring a broad array of interests and corresponding careers.  You hopefully begin to see patterns, enabling you to hone in more specifically on a few possible career paths.  But you still may be unsure of how to actually get yourself from point A –> having identified possibilities…to point B -> transitioning to your first post-graduate opportunity.

Now it’s time to dig deeper in your exploration.  Investigate these paths more fully and be intentional about gaining experience that will set you up for more promising employment or graduate school leads.  In the second phase of our office’s career planning model, students are encouraged to utilize resources & activities to help you:

Career Planning Model 2

As you work through the resources and exercises, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of understanding what employers and graduate schools are looking for.  When constructing your documents (resumes, cover letters, graduate school essays, LinkedIn profiles, etc) and preparing to talk with hiring or admissions professionals (informational interviews, networking events, interviews, etc), you’ll be expected to articulate what you can contribute to their organization/program.  The only way to do that successfully is to know what they value and how you fit into their bigger picture!

First, gain a broad understanding of the world of work by researching the expectations of employers.  Use this information as motivation to begin developing certain skills, or as affirmation that you are on the right track.  Then, delve into what specific industries look for and expect; read industry journals and explore professional associations of potential career fields.  This will give you greater knowledge of expectations while also helping to clarify further whether or not it is a field you want to continue pursuing.  From there, begin identifying specific companies or programs and research their criteria and preferred qualifications of successful candidates.  By working through these tiers of exploration and investigation, you’ll be more fully prepared and confident as you make your transition into employment or grad school.

You may be overwhelmed with all of the information in these career planning models, and that’s ok!  The key is to break things down into manageable pieces so that you can fully explore your options and feel confident in the decisions you make regarding your career planning.  For a real-life example of a student who has put many of these suggestions into practice, tune in next week to read Jocelyn Davis’ post on exploring careers through job shadowing.

Gwen Miller, associate director of career services

Exploration, Part 1: Drawing Connections

Whether an underclassman meets with us to begin a dialogue about their future, or a junior starts to articulate interests while embarking upon an internship search, or a senior is looking for advice to really target a job or graduate school, exploration is often at the heart of students’ meeting requests with Career Services.  We love to engage students in conversations to help you draw out skills, interests, values, and goals, all while hoping to spark excitement toward investigating what’s out there in the world of work.

This week and next, I’d like to discuss the idea of exploration from two angles:

  • drawing connections between interests and potential careers or majors;
  • delving deeper into more specific professions/industries to help transition to the workplace.

Our office uses a model to help guide students through many elements of career planning.  The first half encourages students to utilize electronic, printed, and human sources of information to begin exploring how ones interests and strengths might relate to college majors and future career fields.  Although it’s geared toward freshmen and sophomores, the resources suggested can be applicable to anyone’s stage of career development.

Career Planning Model 1

One key component that is absolutely necessary to anyone’s exploration is talking to other people!  Whether you’re questioning what major is right for you, or wondering what you could possibly do with a degree in ______, or you’re interested in learning how certain occupations function within different industries, asking individuals who know about the topic is one of the most effective means of gaining valuable information.

So, go through the suggested resources for exploring your options and investigating potential careers…and then talk to someone about what you’re discovering!  And when I say talk to someone, I don’t mean go ask someone else what you should do.  Instead, arm yourself with knowledge, draw connections between what you’re learning and your own interests and goals, and ask others to clarify, offer perspective, or discuss ideas with you that you haven’t thought of.  The discoveries along the way will be worth the effort.

Next week’s blog will look at the next components of the career planning model to offer suggestions and advice on delving deeper into more specific professions/industries as you begin to engage in a job or internship search.  Stay tuned!

~Gwen Miller, associate director of career services

What about Graduate School?

This week’s post is in response to a few common questions surrounding the decision to pursue graduate school and the application process that students will want to consider.

Should I attend? Now or later?

That depends. If you are thinking of attending graduate school because you don’t know what else to do, because you are avoiding the job search, or you are generally unsure of your career goals, then you probably are not pursuing an advanced degree for the right reasons.

In college, the major you pursue offers a broad introduction to a field of study.  In graduate school you will specialize and narrow your focus for study and research.  Thus, the study of biology becomes the study of plant sciences, neurobiology, bioethics, physiology, animal science, etc; the study of psychology becomes the study of child & human development; clinical psychology, organizational psychology, applied behavior analysis, or psychoanalysis; the study of English becomes the study of writing, linguistics, literature, or humanities.  Not knowing the specialization you are seeking may be a good indication you are not ready to begin graduate study.

While many LVC graduates express appreciation for the way in which their undergraduate education prepared them for the rigors of graduate school, make no mistake. The level of academic commitment, not to mention the expense, is considerable. Whether you begin graduate school immediately after college or wait several years is a personal decision. Research indicates that up to half of grad students are over age 30, so taking time off is not unusual. The important thing is to be ready for the challenges and commitments a graduate program brings.

Can I switch fields and go to graduate school in a different area?

Absolutely!  But be prepared to demonstrate how your interests, preparation, career goals, experiences, and skills make you a good candidate. Graduate schools, just like employers, are looking for candidates that are the right fit, so spend some time getting to know the programs and schools that interest you.  In your application, essay, and interview make the connections between your experiences and the goals of the program/school.

What do graduate schools want?

Graduate schools want to enhance the reputation of their school and program. Therefore, they want students that will finish the program, excel in their studies, and have the capacity to become important researchers and leaders in their field.

I won’t pretend to know what every admissions committee wants. But I can say that GPA, scores on graduate entrance exams, recommendation letters, and your personal statement are universally important.  Tara Kuther, Ph.D. does an excellent job of sharing how and why these criteria play such an important part in admission decisions. Read about it in the Graduate School section of About.com.

What do I need to know about letters of recommendation?

An effective recommendation letter is written by persons who can discuss your skills and abilities, personal characteristics, and leadership strengths. These individuals also will need to evaluate your present academic performance and potential to succeed in the field and in the program to which you are applying.

First, be sure the persons you ask to write these letters are willing to write a positive letter that supports your candidacy. And, when I say “ask” I mean “ask in person.” This is not the time to send a quick e-mail!  Rather, make an appointment to discuss your graduate school plans; don’t wait to the last minute, and be certain to provide them with materials that will enable them to write an informed letter. This includes items such as your transcript, essay, resume, and research abstracts.  You also might want to include honors or awards you’ve received, relevant work and/or volunteer experience, and a description of your professional goals.

Finally…

…a word about graduate school entrance exams. Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions does an excellent job preparing students for exams such as the GRE, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, etc.  Find out about the FREE online practice test dates/times and register for them HERE.

More information on graduate school planning can be found on the Resources for Students page of the Career Services website. Also, the articles written by Tara Kuther, Ph.D., found in the About.com Guide to Graduate School are worth perusing and reading.

Sharon Givler, director, career services

Jocelyn Says: The Worst Thing You Can Do is Nothing

As promised, the Blog will feature a monthly topic written by Jocelyn Davis ’15, one of our fabulous student staff members.  Jocelyn is pursuing her degree in English Communications with a minor in Business Administration here at LVC.  This is her second year working in our office and it’s been a joy to watch as she enthusiastically pursues her goals and takes on any challenges that come her way.  For her first post, Jocelyn is sharing how she pursued her summer internship.

When I was 14 I started working at a Hallmark store in my hometown. Yes, it was a job (and more importantly) yes, it was money, but at the start of my sophomore year I decided it was time for a change. I wanted to spend the following summer at a job that actually applied to my major; somewhere I could utilize and further develop the skills I was learning in my classes. So, I made it my goal to secure an internship for the summer of 2013.

But how would I go about getting an internship? What would I need? Where would I apply? Was I even qualified? After the initial moment of panic and trying to talk myself out of taking the next step, I started with the basics: research local companies of interest, write a resume, and create a portfolio.

First, I needed to identify possible internships. This was important because I had no idea where to send my resume or portfolio and I knew that my documents would need to be adjusted for each organization.  I started checking my JobCenter account regularly for updated postings and also researched local companies that fit my interests to see if they offered internships. By having an idea of where I wanted to get involved, I was able to make my goal more concrete.

Next, the resume, which I will admit was a little overwhelming. I sat in front of my laptop with a list of accomplishments, classes that I have taken, and the two semi-relevant experiences I have had in the past—but wrote nothing. I was stuck. My advice? Do not waste your time. Once you have your ideas together schedule an appointment with Career Services or meet with your internship advisor (both wouldn’t hurt!). They have been in your shoes and know the in’s and out’s of writing a resume.

Then, the portfolio; basically a collection of everything you have ever done that you want to show to a potential employer. The main issue I ran into with this is that most of my work was digital: blogs, digital stories, online news articles. My solution? If everything else is digital, why not make the portfolio digital? I used weebly.com, a free website creator. You can link buttons on your personal website directly to the source where your work is posted so your potential employer does not have to search for each individual entry. If you need an example you can visit my site http://www.jocelyndavis.weebly.com

These are just a few of the steps I took at the beginning of my sophomore year to meet my goal and I hope you find them helpful as you begin taking your first steps toward an internship. Remember, the worst thing you can do is nothing.

Good luck!

J

Jocelyn Davis, ’15

CareerServices- Student Assistant