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

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

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?

Jocelyn Says: Add Extra-Curriculars to your College Experience

College students are shown, through their course work, how education is relevant to future career paths and/or academic endeavors. At LVC, we learn specific terminology, practice best techniques, and acquire helpful information that will ultimately help us succeed in the “real-world.” But there should be more to our college career than strictly academics, right? I think so.

While complete immersion in one’s studies is noble, a key factor to success (personally and professionally) is overall fulfillment. Therefore, regardless of your field of study, I encourage you to:

  • Identify your interests
  • Hone in on hobbies that align with those interests
  • Express your passions by becoming actively involved in extra-curricular activities

How do you get involved? When you come back for the fall semester, look into joining clubs/organizations. These offer a variety of experiences from leadership roles to community service, which can introduce you to new friends, offer an outlet for your passion, and help you to grow as a person. If you’re not quite sure what would be a good fit, then attend a few meetings with an open mind. Try something new!

The Activities Fair, held every September, is open to the entire campus. I highly recommend taking a look at the activities that interest you, even if they are not directly related to your major. If you’re not sure what clubs are at LVC, visit the student activities page at http://www.lvc.edu/student-activities/ for a quick overview. No matter what year you’ll be entering into, it’s not too late to get involved.

Are you already a member of a few organizations? Spend some time over the upcoming break reflecting on why those clubs resonate with you.  It may help to re-energize you for the fall semester, or it might just provide the motivation that you need to take on a leadership role.

Incorporating extra-curricular involvement into your college experience will provide a much more enjoyable time, while helping you to also set goals and work toward achievements in multiple aspects of your life.

 

J

Jocelyn Davis, ’15, Career Services, Student Assistant

The Impact of Involvement

I’ve said it many times, it’s not the activity that matters to the employer, it’s what you’ve gained from that activity that counts.  The key is to identify the skills you’re developing, explain situations you’ve encountered, and make connections between your past behavior and how you will likely perform as a professional.

Involvement in clubs or organizations, community service, athletics, internships, and any work experiences (paid or unpaid) all count as valuable activities.  Don’t discount your academic involvement either!  Group projects and class assignments encourage critical thinking and team work; research papers and projects develop investigative and communication skills.  And what about those of you who have spent (or plan to spend) a semester studying abroad?  There is a wealth of attitudes and skills you acquire from an international experience.

For those of you studying abroad, consider participating in the new program, Expanding the Journey, a collaboration between the offices of Study Abroad and Career ServicesYou may have read Kaitlyn McDonald’s article about it in a recent edition of La Vie Collegienne, but in case you missed it, Kaitlyn has given permission for me to post it here!

“Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience, if you let it.

Being abroad will test your comfort zone, push your emotional boundaries, and open you up to experiences that you never knew existed. That is a lot to deal with on your own, both emotionally and physically. Luckily, there is a new program on campus that aids future study abroad students through their future endeavors.”  Read Kaitlyn McDonald’s full article ->

What Skills are Employers Looking For?

Each year, the National Associate of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveys employers on the top skills/qualities they are seeking in the next graduating class.  Often times, the top skills remain the same, even if the order changes around a bit.  Would you be able to provide employers with examples of ways in which you’ve demonstrated these skills?  Does your resume help to illustrate your experiences in these areas?  Take a look at the 2013 results to see how you measure up and where you might need to focus your efforts:

Post 9 - Employer rate Candidate Skills and Qualities in Order of Importance