Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

Find your hook…

... and “cast it deftly” (Curran and Greenwald in Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads).

Distinguishing yourself from the pack isn’t necessarily all that difficult. But perhaps the greatest obstacle to finding what sets you apart is the lack of effort made to get inside the head of your potential employer and look at things from their perspective.

What can you do that will add value to the organization where you want to work? What do you have through transferable skills or special interests that could help you to meet a company need?

Consider Chris, a government major, whose first failed application to become a diplomat woke him up to the fact that more foreign language skills could open a door door for him. Or Todd, a music major, with a passion for musical entrepreneurship, learned how to repair and restore musical instruments and then proposed himself as the one to do just that at a school where he identified through research had such a need.  No job was posted; he created one for himself.

Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads is full of stories just like those of Chris and Todd. perhaps reading a few of these stories could help you capture a vision for finding your own hook and getting the attention of employers.

Are you up to the challenge of this fifth and final smart move for liberal arts grads?

-Sharon M. Givler, director of career development

Identify your competence gaps

Do you have the passion to keep learning?

I certainly hope so. for no matter how educated and equipped you are with a degree from LVC there are going to be tasks and responsibilities in the days and years to come with which you will be unfamiliar.

Perhaps you are already aware of a few competence gaps. Maybe you want to run a non-profit company some day or start your own consulting or marketing business.  if your undergraduate studies are primarily in the liberal arts you likely have some work to do developing business skills and business saavy to achieve your goals.  Eventually pursuing an MBA might be needed, but in the meantime are there other things you could learn from a business mentor in our alumni network. Meeting regularly for advice and counsel can be quite valuable.  You may discover that you’ll need to learn what case interviews are or how to segment a market (see the stories of Harpreet and Theresa in Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads).

Project CLOSE-UP students who have put together a Professional SkillScan profile and discussed it with the mentor they shadow have frequently fund two things:

  • skills they don’t particularly want to use in their careers are sometimes actually used in the jobs they are considering
  • mentors often have great ideas for how students can begin to work on their competence (skills) gaps while still at LVC

So where do you need to grow?  Public speaking, making presentations, working with numbers, writing, developing proposals, researching, interviewing, analyzing data, understanding cultural differences, composing thank you notes…..

-Sharon M. Givler, director of career development

Build Social and Networking Relationships

Are you ready to introduce yourself in person should the perfect unexpected chance meeting greet you today? Do you know what you are looking for? Can you convey it, with focus, in writing?

Building social and networking relationships is one of those smart moves you’ve heard about dozens of times. But unless you can do it, and do it well, it won’t have the effect you are hoping for. Curran and Greenwald (Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads) site two items for your career toolbox that are essential to building these relationships – the elevator speech and the eyeball paragraph.

Elevator speech. A thirty-second introduction to the “woman wearing a jacket bearing the logo of one of the city’s four major newspapers” who just happens to be seated on the subway next to you. Would you be able to make the most of this chance meeting with someone who likely has a connection to a place where you’d love to be working?

Eyeball paragraph. A concise e-mail message to the referral you just got from your teammates father. Are you able to write a personal, to-the-point message that conveys who you are, why you are writing, and what you are looking for?  In three to four sentences?

We can help you compose and practice these speeches and paragraphs when you connect with your grocer or next door neighbor, your faculty advisor, a business associate of your relatives, or your summer camp director.  Stop by and let us know you are looking for a little coaching in these matters.

By the way, that subway encounter I mentioned above happened to Sharon (not me). You can read all about it and other chance meetings that opened doors and windows for people just like you in Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads.

Sharon M. Givler, director, career development

Get experience

How many times have you heard that line?

Hopefully, enough to convince you it’s a very good thing to do. But let’s talk about experience a bit. Just what kind of experience is worth having?

Certainly internships equip students with work skills and industry knowledge valued by employers. Enough so that many graduates find their internship opens the first career door for them. So go after those career-related internship experiences, but don’t let that be the end of your pursuit.

Case in point. Several years ago a LVC freshman education major decided to participate in Project CLOSE-UP, our career shadowing program for first-year students. Knowing she would get lots of classroom teaching experience through field observations and eventually student teaching she decided that Project CLOSE-UP should be used to gain a different kind of experience for the “dream job” – international wedding and event planner – she hoped one day to pursue.  Well, we couldn’t send her abroad for a day, but we were able to connect her with a wedding and event planner to shadow, an LVC alumnae with her own business. Not only did this student get the chance to shadow, but she also was got some hands-on experience as the owner later offered her a part-time job.

Don’t underestimate the value of part-time work, volunteer activities, or club leadership. The experiences you can have, especially if you invest in them by taking on a project, stepping up to solve a problem, offering a thoughtful solution, shouldering extra responsibility, or thinking creatively, may just be the accomplishments that get you noticed.

So how about you? What’s your dream job? What do you love? Weddings? Cheese? Cars? Travel? San Antonio? Flowers? Electronics? Rare books?

Most people who write about cheese, sell cheese, manufacture cheese, or whatever else you can do with cheese have to know cheese. So what do you need to know about what you love? Who can you pursue or what can you do to learn more about what you love? How might you discover opportunities that will give you a chance to learn the ropes – get experience – at the ground level?

Some things to think about, perhaps?

By the way, Liz has a cheese story in Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads that’s worth reading. Drop by the office and read her story.

-Sharon M. Givler, director, career development

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

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

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

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

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.