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Archive for February, 2006

When I was about three years old, my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Without skipping a beat, I proudly answered: “A teacher, a waitress or a mommy.”

When I was a sophomore in college, that same question really bothered me.  “I’m only 20,” I would snap.  “I have no idea.”

Tough as it is, college is the time to start making decisions about what career you want to pursue after graduation.  While each person’s career path is unique, Donald Asher outlines some common career planning mistakes to avoid in his book “How to get any job with any major.”

1. Confusing what you’re good at with what you like to do.
Make a list of things you enjoy doing and a list of things you’re good at.  Pay attention to the list of things you enjoy, because if you like doing it, you’ll devote more to it.

2. Confusing avocations with vocations.
Your job doesn’t have to satisfy the whole you. For example, you may love to dance but you know you can’t earn enough dancing as a career. You can continue to dance for fun, but separately from your day job.

3. Confusing one aspect of a job with the whole job.
What you like to do doesn’t have to the primary thing you do. Often people over-identify with the thing they like to do — believing they must become it instead of doing it. A common example is someone who likes to write. Instead of looking for opportunities to do writing, he thinks he has to become a writer – missing out on a bevy of other career options.

Ready to start your job search?

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It seems like job offers come in cycles.  The summer after my junior year of college I was the first one in my circle of friends to start searching for an internship.  I watched as one by one, everyone got offers except me. (I eventually found one day before school ended.) 

Six months later when I decided to look for an internship, I was offered paid positions at the first two companies where I applied, got an offer to return to my summer internship, and turned down three interviews.

Nice as it is to feel wanted, being “professionally popular” offers its own set of challenges, mainly that you have to figure out how to turn down job offers with class.

The thing to remember here is that while it’s obviously easier to just accept the offer you want and ignore the rest, it’s a very bad career move.  Someone at the company that offered you the job spent time interviewing you and lobbying for you.  Leaving them hanging means they delay interviewing anyone else, and could prevent them from signing on their second choice.  Ignoring an offer is rude and burns bridges.  Just don’t do it.

Instead, pick up the phone and call the person at the company with whom you developed the closest professional relationship.  Thank him or her for the opportunity, and explain that although it was difficult decision, you have decided not to accept their offer.  You don’t have to go into detail.  Then, follow up in writing.

Need more guidance?  Here’s a great article that’ll help you plan out the conversation.

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A little bit of sticker shock is normal when seeing your first salary offer.  After dropping tens – or hundreds – of thousands of dollars on a college degree, your entry-level salary might not seem to add up.

While you shouldn’t expect to live like a king (or queen) right out of college, I’ve got good news:  According to a new CareerBuilder.com survey, 58 percent of hiring managers say they leave some negotiating room when extending initial offers.

This means they’re fully prepared to offer you more.   In fact, just 30 percent of hiring managers surveyed said the first offer is final.

Is the thought of negotiating is leaving your stomach in knots?  CareerBuilder’s senior career adviser, Richard Castellini, offers these tips to help you negotiate your best possible offer:

  • Prove your worth. Thirty-four percent of hiring managers say highlighting specific accomplishments and results is the most convincing way for candidates to negotiate a better offer.

  • Have strong references. Be sure the former employers and co-workers on your reference list, even from part-time work and internships, are prepared to give glowing reports of your work.

  • Know the market. Research average salaries for your position and market.

  • Leverage your position with care. Showing an offer from another company and a willingness to walk away may be effective with some employers.  But be careful:  This tactic has serious potential to backfire and cost you the job completely.

More salary negotiation tips…

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Some cool job ideas

What are you looking for in an entry-level job?  Prestige?  Big money?  A sense of fulfillment? 

For some people, a suit-and-tie job just isn’t an option. (My father being one of them – he would go crazy in a cubicle in two minutes flat.) Not all entry-level jobs require a cubicle and business casual clothing, though.

This CareerBuilder.com article lists some cool jobs you may not have even thought of – and that might help spark other ideas to help you direct your job search.  Here’s a sample:

Wine Promoting
Do you have a passion for food and wine? How would you like to have a job where some meetings include tasting a nice Pinot Noir with hints of cherry paired with some wild king salmon? Many jobs in the
wine business, from winemaker to salesperson, offer this type of perk and other tasty benefits in a career that is as much a lifestyle as it is a job.

Read more…

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It’s amazing what a little extra research can do for your grades.  Think about it:  Student A and Student B have a psychology final in the morning.  Student A has spent the last two days memorizing his notes and re-reading the textbook.  Student B has done the same, but he also got his hands on a copy of last year’s test. Chances are, Student B is going to walk away with a higher grade.

The same logic holds true for job interviews.  No matter how much you research the company, the candidate who has prepared answers to the interviewer’s questions is going to hold the edge.

While you can’t predict exactly what you’re going to be asked, some questions consistently come up in interviews.  When ResumeDoctor.com surveyed more than 200 hiring managers to find the most common interview questions, these emerged as the top 10:

1. Describe your ideal job and/or boss.

2. Why are you looking for a job? Why are leaving your current position?

3. What unique experience or qualifications separate you from other candidates?

4. Tell me about yourself.

5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

6. Describe some of your most important career accomplishments.

7. What are your short-term/long-term goals?

8. Describe a time when you were faced with a challenging situation and how you handled it.

9. What are your salary requirements?

10. Why are you interested in this position? Our company?

And here’s how to answer them…

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The beauty of college majors is that they’re flexible.  Studies have shown that 75 percent of college students change their majors at least once.  (I was almost an economics major… then I realized I was much better at journalism.)

But even when you find a major that sticks, figuring out what to do with it can be a hassle.  Fortunately, your major does not necessarily determine your career.  (Case in point: Ashton Kutcher majored in biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa.)

If you need a little direction in your job search, check out this great online tool from The Princeton Review.  You can type your major into the search engine and you can get a starter list of associated career.  It also works backwards:  type in the career you want, and the tool will give you a list of common majors in that profession.

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When I embarked on my very first summer internship search in college, I planned to do it alone.  I turned mostly to the Web, obsessively combing through my school’s career services site, newspaper sites, the big job boards… applying to anything I could find and hoping for the best.  It didn’t take me long to realize I was doing it the hard way.

While I searched… and searched… and searched… for employment that summer, some of my classmates were finding jobs right away.  Some of them simply picked up the phone and called their parents.  Others made use of office hours and got great gigs through their professors.  I realized I was ignoring some of the most important resources I had.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed students last spring to find out who were the most helpful people to aid in their job searches.  You have access to almost all of them:

  1. University career services professionals
  2. Friends
  3. Faculty
  4. Parents
  5. Relatives
  6. Alumni

There you go… an instant network!

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