Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

Making the Most of Networking

Recruitment season is different from industry to industry, although the months leading up to graduation or summer break are often heavy with career fairs, networking events, and recruiting activities.  If you think that you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’ll be talking with individuals who have the power to hire you for a job or internship, admit you to a graduate program, or introduce you to others who do have that authority, you need to be ready.

Regardless of where you are in your career planning process, presenting yourself as a competitive candidate takes time and practice.  From preparing your resume, to practicing your 30 second commercial, to identifying your strengths and interests to building a story bank of situations and experiences to talk about, there are countless activities that need to occur to help you feel confident in a professional conversation.

I could spend this blog post sending you to our webshops about Building a Stronger Network or Job Fair Prep advice…or I could point you to the “Making the Most of the Event” documents for both the CPEC Job & Internship fair and Teacher Recruitment Day.  The CareerSpots videos offer quite a few videos about interacting with employers as well.  In fact, there are plenty of resources to help you prepare for your conversation.  But the only thing that can make you actually initiate a conversation is you!

At the January 19th career conference, Careers Done Write!, keynote speaker Lynne Breil gave a lot of fantastic advice about professional business interactions.  One thing in particular stuck with me, especially as I write about what makes networking most effective.  If you know you’re going to find yourself at an event, a career fair, or a professional meeting, Lynne encourages you to do something before you ever leave your house:  Give yourself a goal of how many people you want to talk with at that event.

Whether it’s one person, three people, or ten, plan in advance how many people you want to introduce yourself to in order to initiate conversation.  Chances are good that your goal will keep you going when you begin to feel awkward or are fighting the urge to hang out against the wall.  You may even exceed your goal because you stop thinking of networking as an obstacle.  I’d encourage you to take Lynne’s advice – after all, it’s difficult enough to put yourself in an unfamiliar situation.  Make your time there more effective by having a goal to motivate your engagement.

Speaking of career events, be sure you’re aware of the opportunities advertised on our What’s Happening? page – how many people do you plan to interact with this season?

Gwen Miller, associate director, career services

Climb to Your Career in Four Years

You have the first full week of the semester under your belt and more than half of January has passed.  It’s amazing how time flies, right?  We comment on that in our office regularly and we often hear remarks from students on how quickly each semester passes.  The lesson we take from that realization is this: if it’s not planned out, there’s a good chance it won’t happen!

This semester, Blog postings will continue to offer advice on career planning and your job/internship/graduate school search, a few resources that we’d like spotlight, and monthly posts from our student workers on their perspectives.  However, I’d also like to incorporate action items or activities – things that you can do to further your own career development – whenever possible.

In the spirit of planning, this week I’m introducing a plan developed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers called: Climb to Your Career in Four Years.  Although the name suggests that you must begin your climb on day one of your college experience, the more important objective is that you devote whatever time is necessary to thinking about and engaging in your career planning.

Here are themes and a few of the activities they’ve identified:

First Year – Asking questions, exploring your options

  • Identify at least four skills employers want in ideal candidates and plan how you will acquire these skills before graduation.
  • Schedule an appointment with Career Services to familiarize yourself with available resources.

Second Year – Researching options/testing paths

  • Each semester, review your progress in developing the skills employers look for in candidates.
  • Work toward one leadership position in a club or activity.

Third Year – Making decisions/plotting directions

  • Complete at least five informational interviews in careers you want to explore
  • Take leadership positions in clubs and organizations

Fourth Year – Searching, interviewing, accepting, success!

  • Participate in interviewing workshops and practice interviews
  • Develop an employer prospect list of organizations you’re interested in pursuing

Although they designate activities by class-year, you can adjust accordingly based on where you are now.  Days and weeks will continue going by quickly with assignments and projects continually being added to your calendar.  Make sure you plan time for your career journey; you don’t want to get to the end of four years and still have the full climb ahead of you!

Gwen Miller, associate director, career services

What are your goals for 2014?

If you’re like me, it doesn’t set in that it’s a new year until it is mid-January and you’ve had several opportunities to write 2014 on documents or in emails.  You may also be like me in that I refuse to set resolutions, knowing that my brain is hardwired to say “forget about it” three to four weeks in.  Instead, I set goals.  This year my goal is to get up earlier each morning so that I can ease into my day, turn on the news (and actually hear some of it), and no longer be in a rush to get out the door.  Although my goal may not be something you’re particularly interested in, perhaps you can think of something that you’re hoping to change, begin, or focus energy on in the coming year.

Your goals (or resolutions) whether personal or professional, are entirely up to you.  But I’d encourage you to set some!  The Campus Career Coach offered Six Career Resolutions for 2014 that are most appropriate for individuals already in the workforce, but are thought-provoking for anyone.

For those of you just beginning to engage in activities that will propel you toward your first job or internship, consider the following “resolutions”:

Be intentional – What things can you get involved in, or how can you think about things you’re already active in a little bit differently?  Planning to work or intern or study abroad this semester or in the coming summer? Be intentional about the goals you set for yourself and ask for ways in which you can gain experiences or use your time best.  Or, intentionally seek out new things to explore and become involved in to help gain experience in an area of interest.

Tell Stories – You likely tell stories all the time when discussing past experiences.  Consider tweaking, tailoring, and practicing those stories so that your focus becomes one that demonstrates your strengths, abilities, and reactions toward certain situations.  (Hint: meet with Career Services staff – we have several tips/techniques to help you tell your stories!)

Meet New People – Yes, I mean networking.  And exploring, and asking questions, and learning about new companies and products and services.  Get out there and meet people; not because you think every meeting will land you a job immediately, but because every meeting is an opportunity for a next meeting.  And you never know what opportunities will come from putting yourself out there and letting others get to know you.

These may or may not fit with your 2014 goals, but hopefully they’ll remind you to look at this next year as an opportunity to move along in your professional development and planning.  Let us know how we can help!

Happy New Year!

Gwen Miller, associate director of career services

Wind Down 2013 and Gear Up for 2014!

I’m sure many students look to finals week with a mixture of excitement (the semester is nearly over and a holiday break is waiting), and fear (after all, final exams are…well…final exams!).  The office of career services wishes you well as you wrap up fall 2013!

We also hope you are looking forward to 2014; we certainly are!  Join us on Sunday, January 19th to kick-off the spring semester with our career conference: Careers Done Write!  We’re hosting a number of engaging presenters for workshops on the written communication pieces needed throughout your job search and graduate school pursuits.

  • Techniques for writing creative resumes and individualized cover letters
  • Best practices for using the global networking tool, LinkedIn
  • Customized statements of purpose for graduate school
  • 21st century business expectations and etiquette

Plus, Lynn Breil, a certified speaking professional and owner of The Professional Edge, Inc., will tackle The Seven Deadly Sins of 21st Century Business Behavior.  Do you know what gadget groping, bottom drawer dressing, and dirty dining have in common? Come and find out!

Career Conference

Register now to ensure your seat.  Stop by or call (867-6560) the Career Services Office, or look for details and registration in the Career Events tab in your JobCenter account.

We look forward to seeing you there and starting 2014 off well!

~Career Services Staff
Sharon Givler, director
Gwen Miller, associate director
Susan Donmoyer, assistant

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

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

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

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

Make the Choice to Read Job Choices

Among many traits that employers look for in ideal candidates, resourcefulness and an inquisitive approach to problem-solving are right up there.  Learning about the latest trends and resources, as well as staying current on the competition, are important to many organizations for success.  Students should take a similar approach to career planning and the internship/job search!

Each month, the Career Services Blog will spotlight a few of the tools and tips that we believe are valuable.  This month, I’m encouraging you to get acquainted with the digital Job Choices magazine, accessible on the Resources for Students page of the Career Services website.

Why? Because you can be assured that these online magazines, compiled and distributed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, contain oodles of relevant articles and information for your job or internship search.  Published annually, each magazine – Job Choices and Job Choices, Diversity Edition – covers information from rights and responsibilities of job seekers, to social media, to graduate school or first years on the job.  Take a look at the contents page of the Job Choices edition:

Job Choices picture

 

If that doesn’t inspire you to take a look, maybe the opportunity to win $500 by taking a Reader Poll will (details on page 5 of the magazine).  Two LVC students have won within the past several years…maybe your resourcefulness will also be rewarded!

*Note: Even if you don’t win the $500, can we agree that resourcefulness for resourcefulness’s sake is generally a reward in and of itself?  I think so!

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career services