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Archive for April, 2007

It was about this time last year when I was chugging Red Bull, popping Adderall and averaging about 8 hours of sleep – per week – for weeks on end. Ah yes, the end of the school year – when finals loom in your future and graduation seems as far away as it did when you were a freshman.

For me (and probably you), finals week not only meant cram sessions, all-nighters and frequent breakdowns – it meant bathing infrequently (surely my knowledge would wash away) and living in my sweatpants. In fact, most of my senior year was spent in hole-ridden jeans and baggy sweatshirts, save the few days when I might have had to look presentable for a presentation.

But when finals are over and you leave your college campus behind, you’ve gotta leave your sweats there, too. It’s time for something cleaner, something nicer and in many cases, something that fits the category of "business casual."

Need help transforming your closet from college to business casual? Elizabeth Freedman, author of "Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace without Hanging Yourself" (Random House), offers these tips.

Define Business Casual…

"It should pass the ‘CEO test,’" Freedman says. "If you bump into the CEO in an elevator, and s/he would approve of your look, chances are you’re dressed appropriately."

Upscale, professional, crisp and smart are all adjectives that apply to business casual, Freedman says.

Here are a few golden rules to follow when it comes to business casual.

  • Don’t try to get away with one wardrobe.  "To save a buck, some of us wind up wearing the same things to work that we would wear on any given weekend – but business casual isn’t casual dress," Freedman says. "It’s an upscale, professional look – not to be confused with what you might wear out one night with your friends."
  • Dress better than you have to. You’ve heard the expression, ‘Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.’ "Many people resist stepping up their wardrobe, saying things like, ‘Well, I just sit inside a cubicle all day – nobody sees what I wear," Freedman says. "Don’t kid yourself. People, including your boss, do notice and when you make the effort to look the part, you broadcast to the world that you take yourself and your career seriously."
  • It’s not just what you wear; it’s how you wear it. "Clothes should be pressed, crisp and neat, so get rid of the khaki pants with the frayed edges or the shirt that always looks wrinkled. Polish the shoes, wear a belt and invest in a little dry-cleaning," Freedman says. "It may cost you a little extra, but when you bump into the CEO, you want to look polished and professional, not rumpled and wrinkled."

Here are a few items your CEO probably would not approve of:

  • Anything you would play in. You shouldn’t look like you’re going to a cocktail party or a picnic. "Avoid extremes," Freedman says. "Anything that is too tight or too short is automatically out, and likewise, keep the baggy and the too long for your time off."
  • Keep jewelry to a minimum. Freedman says that guys should keep the earrings, bracelets and other jewelry (other than a wedding ring) at home. "Unless you’re Tony Soprano, the pinky ring simply doesn’t belong at the office," Freedman says.
  • Anything extreme. Too high or too low (think low-rise jeans or short shirts) should be kept out of the workplace, Freedman says.  "If a co-worker can see that you’re wearing a thong or what God gave you, it’s too low."
  • Save flip-flops for the surf. There isn’t anything remotely business-like or professional about flip-flops, Freedman says. "Even if they cost you $100 and are adorned with jewels from Tiffany, don’t do it."

The bottom line?

"If you want to play on the team, wear the team uniform," Freedman says. "If you’re not sure what to wear at the first job or internship, look around your office, see how successful people dress and imitate. I’ll bet you won’t find senior-level folks at work dressed shabbily – or in flip-flops."

For more information, you can visit http://www.elizabethfreedman.com.

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"It’s not about what you know, it’s about whom you know." Does that statement ring a bell? It should, since I said it in my last blog. But I can’t reiterate it enough.

In today’s working world, studies have shown that only about 5 to 10 percent of new jobs are posted online or on the Internet – all other positions are filled by word of mouth. So getting your foot in the door of a company might not be about your education or experience, but more so about your personal contacts. In fact, two years ago The Wall Street Journal reported that 94 percent of successful job seekers claimed that networking had made the difference for them.

Networking can happen anytime, anywhere, whether it be by talking to a stranger on the train, meeting a friend for coffee or a drink, contacting an alum from your alma mater, or having your best friend’s dad put in a good word for you.

Here are some helpful ways to successfully network.

Find People to Network With

You feel like you don’t know anyone who can help you, but the truth is, your resources are endless. While it might seem awkward approaching your sisters’ friend or the random girl from your class last semester (who happens to have some awesome hook-ups), it’s totally necessary. Here are resources to find people to network with:

  • Your family (immediate and extended)
  • Friends and friends’ families
  • College alumni association or career office networking lists
  • Professors, advisors, coaches, tutors, clergy
  • Members of clubs/organizations you belong to
  • Former bosses and your friends’/family’s bosses
  • Facebook.com or MySpace.com

Be assertive … but not desperate

Know what you want and what you’re looking for in a job. Address your talents, skills and goals when you’re talking with a contact. Even if you’re networking with someone you’ve known your whole life, it’s important to appear serious about your acquisition – not like you’ve already got the job in the bag simply because you know someone. Also, don’t forget to sell yourself – be confident and say what you need to to leave a lasting impression.

Don’t leave such a lasting impression that you come across as pushy. Talk about yourself, but don’t forget to listen, too. Don’t ask for a job – ask for advice. They might be able to give you the inside scoop on who is in charge, who to contact directly (other than HR), what kinds of people have held the job you’re looking at, or how to customize your cover letter and resume to get noticed.

Keep Important Tools

When you meet with a contact, bring along the necessary tools, like your resume or business cards with all your current contact information. Don’t forget to ask for contact info as well, and make sure to follow-up with an e-mail telling them how much you enjoyed your meeting. This is one sure way they’ll keep you in mind.

Don’t give up

Networking (and job-hunting in general) can be an arduous process. Some contacts might be able to help you right away, others after a few months, and some not at all. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see success right away. Just keep networking.

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Listen up kids – job prospects and starting salaries for recent college grads are trending upward, according to CareerBuilder.com‘s annual survey.

Here are some key stats from the survey:

  • 79 percent of hiring managers say they plan to hire recent college graduates this year, up from 70 percent in 2006
  • Nearly one-in-four hiring managers (24 percent) expect to hire more recent college graduates in 2007 compared to last year
  • 42 percent of hiring managers anticipate increasing starting salaries for recent college graduates in 2007 and only four percent plan to decrease them
  • 36 percent of managers plan to offer between $30,000 and $40,000
  • 16 percent will offer between $40,000 and $50,000
  • 12 percent will offer more than $50,000
  • One-third of hiring managers require a minimum 3.0 GPA requirement
  • One-in-ten requires a 3.5 GPA and above

What does all this mean for you, my friends? Well, a few things. First, you need to get your butt out to career fairs and meet all the recruiters who are interested in you. This will not only increase your chances of scoring a job (or at least an interview) but you’ll also add a contact to your list.

Secondly, if you didn’t make the grade, you still have the opportunity to sell yourself to an employer. Brent Rasmussen, Chief Operating Officer of CareerBuilder.com, offers these tips for recent college graduates in their quest to get noticed:

Do your research

As you’ve heard numerous times, it’s important to know the nuts and bolts of the company, but you should also be familiar with the culture. Will your personality clash with others in the company or will your working styles match? These are things employers consider. In fact, 25 percent of hiring managers said that a recent college graduate who is a good fit with the company culture is the most influential factor in their hiring decision.

Don’t take experiences for granted

You’ve probably had an internship or two, which looks great on your resume. But don’t forget about all of the other things you did in college, too: Student government, volunteer work, involvement in the Greek system and team sports can all be applied as real world experience. And trust me, experience is important to these guys –  21 percent of managers cite it as the most influential factor in their decision to hire a recent college graduate. So identify things like leadership or management and highlight these  activities both in your resume and your interview.

Do show enthusiasm

Contrary to popular belief, job interviews aren’t a one-way street. Preparing your own questions not only shows the interviewer that you are interested enough to do your homework but also will give you an idea if the job is something you’d even like. If that isn’t enough to sway you, consider this: 21 percent of hiring managers say that asking good questions and showing enthusiasm weighs heavily on their hiring decision for recent college graduates.

For more info on job searching and interviewing, visit CBcampus.com

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Months before graduation, I was set on moving to New York City.  It was the place to be for the industry I hoped to get into.  But being a small-town Iowa girl, come graduation, I chickened out.  I had no idea what to do or where to go.  My roomate came to me one day and suggested we move to Chicago.  So we did.

My parents found the idea less than thrilling and rightfully so.  I was moving somewhere where my cost of living would triple and with no job, I had no idea how I would support myself financially.  But, while it’s easier to find a job when you’re already living in an area, long distance job searches are doable.  Just use these tips before you make the big move:

Research

As with any job hunt, research is the key to success, but even more so with long distance job searches. You’ll need to research your target location. A small town may not be a haven of low-cost, crime-free living and a big city may have few opportunities in your chosen field, Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. writes in her book, Making the Big Move.

CB Campus and Careerbuilder.com can help you find jobs in almost any location in the United States. You can also try reading the business section of local newspapers in the area you’re moving to; this will give you an idea of the job market in your desired location.

Networking

Ever heard the old mantra, “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know?” It couldn’t be truer.

Tell friends, family and colleagues about your plans to relocate and ask them for contacts in the area. Then, make a list of potential employers (this will also help jump-start your social life). Facebook and MySpace are also great resources to find friends living and working in the city you are moving to. Everyone always knows someone, and even though you might feel awkward or pushy contacting them, it’s always worth a try.

Knowing someone who lives in your featured destination will also be a key factor in my next tip…

Cover Letter and Resume

Employers can be turned off by out-of-state applicants, so ask a friend or relative living in your target city if you can use their address on your cover letter and resume. Or, if you’ve already secured a house or apartment in your new city, use that instead of your current address.

If you’re lacking friends in your target town (don’t feel bad – I was too), make sure to include a specific date you might be in the area to interview. For example, I used the dates I would be in town apartment-hunting and was able to set up two interviews during that time frame. It’s also useful to include a moving date so employer is compelled to take you seriously.

Good luck!

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