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Archive for February, 2008

Why would you choose to accept or reject a job offer?
Why would you even apply to a particular company in the first place?

These basic questions can help direct your job search. Although you might not have thought to ask yourself these questions, you should know the answer before you begin sending out résumés.

Why?

If you’re anything like I was in college, I knew what classes I had to take, what classes I wanted to take, what other people said about each course and the professors, what days and time they met. For all the money I was paying and the time it was taking, I wasn’t going to be stuck in a horrible class if I could avoid it. Don’t lose this attention to detail once you graduate.

Often, when college graduates start job hunting, they’re eager to get their first big paycheck—and rightfully so, they’ve worked hard! Just make sure you know what you want when you’re in that position.

  • How much money do you need to survive? (Hint: Don’t forget student loan repayments.)
  • What benefits (health insurance, dental coverage, vacation, bonuses) do you insist on having, if any?
  • Does the company have the culture that suits you? (For example, do you like a professional, strict environment or a casual one?)
  • Are other company perks (like charity work or tuition reimbursement) important to you?
  • Are you looking for a future at this company or just something to hold you over until you move?
  • Will you like what you’re doing on a daily basis? How about the people you work with? (This is something you’d have to investigate in interviews, since you obviously can’t know this for certain until you’re actually there.)
  • Have I checked with other people to see what kind of place this is?

The ultimate question is: What do you need to hear in order to make a decision you can be comfortable with?

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I realized that the blog has focused lately on getting you to a job, but it’s been light on some specifics. For example, tips for writing your résumé would be good to talk about right now. It’s one of the few factors in a job hunt that is universal to everybody, regardless of their position or industry.

Keep in mind that the résumé is the first (or second, technically, if you’ve included a cover letter—as you should) thing the hiring manager sees. It’s not going to land you the job, but it’s going to decide if you get a call for an interview or not. So as boring as you might find the process, writing and revising your résumé is a pivotal part of job hunting.

Here are some tips:
1. Update your résumé regularly. Whether or not you’re on the job market—maybe you’re not looking for a job while you’re in school or you’re at a job you like—you should be updating it. Why? Because you never know when you’ll be job hunting and chance are you won’t remember every accomplishment and role you’ve had months or even years ago. If you keep it current now, you won’t have to dig through your memories later on.

2. Keep it professional. I know, don’t roll your eyes, it seems like obvious advice. However, when you start to think about how many résumés are going to an employer and how you want to stand it, the urge to be cooky and funny rises. You can show your personality if you get an interview—a good sense of humor will pay off face-to-face. But you can’t control how you come across on paper, so don’t risk sounding amateurish on your first impression.

3. Find what works for you. As a recent graduate, or for many people who haven’t been in the workforce for very long, a standard résumé might not benefit your job search that much. Most people are used to chronological résumés that go through your work history, starting with the most recent job and working backwards. A functional format devotes most of its space to your skills and experience up front, breaking them down by relevant headings. For example, “Customer Service” could be a heading, followed by a list of duties you’ve performed. Then at the bottom of the résumé is a list of your job history. In a chronological format, you would focus on a previous job and then explain your duties. See which one gives a better impression.

4. Keep it relevant. If you’re in the fortunate situation of having a lot of experience in a variety of fields, you might improve your odds of getting a job if you weed out the work that’s not directly related. Employers like to see that you’re qualified for this specific job, so either leave out the jobs that don’t seem to have any transferrable skills or rephrase parts to show how they are directly related. A lot of skills are transferrable, you just have to show the employer why they are—don’t assume they’ll do the work for you.

5. Proofread. Reread it several times. Have family and friends do it, too. It never hurts to make sure your résumé is typo-free!

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Technology’s responsible for a lot of things that make life just a little more delightful: the iPod, the Wii, and, of course, Facebook’s SuperPoke. Not to mention all of the scientific and medical advances that save our lives and help us live longer every year.

But technology’s also made it easier for employees to work from home once a month, once a week, or even permanently. With e-mail, instant messaging, laptops, and handheld electronics that are all of the above and more, being at home isn’t all that different from being at the office. Employers are adding the option to work from home as a selling point for a job, while other companies are based solely on the concept of working from home.

Thanks, technology!

However, working from home isn’t for everyone. I know, I did it for 18 months. It has its benefits and drawbacks, some of which you don’t realize until you’re actually doing the work. I thought I’d give you some of my thoughts from my experience in case you were thinking of getting a job now or after graduation that involves working at home.

You don’t have to leave home.
Pro: Well, you don’t have to leave home. You can sleep a little later, avoid the morning and evening commutes, and stay in your pajamas all day.
Con: When you don’t have a reason to leave the office, it can be easy to work longer than you normally would. Eventually you start associating your home with work, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

You don’t have to put up with people in the office.
Pro: You don’t have to put up with the nosy cubicle neighbor or year-old leftover meatloaf in the office fridge.
Con: Except for the phone calls you make, you’re not interacting with people outside of your home—if you live with anybody. So things can be boring.

There’s nobody leaning over your shoulder all day.
Pro: You have the freedom to work at your own pace (assuming you get the job done) without worrying that your boss will be standing behind you.
Con: If you don’t have self-discipline, you might slack off.

You’re schedule is (probably) a little more flexible.
Pro: If you want to get up early, you can start working when most people are barely heading to the office. Or if you have a doctor’s appointment, it’s easier to make arrangements when you’re home.
Con: People think you can take off time whenever you want, so expect phone calls and visits. You have to make it clear that, while you have some flexibility, you’re still at work.

Plenty of recent graduates are excited about the prospect of never leaving their favorite chair in the house in order to get all their work done. This generation is probably the most knowledgeable when it comes to technology, so the opportunities are there if you want them.

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The one thing soon-to-be graduates all feel is the pressure of the future. And it’s strange how you feel it regardless of your plans.

“Am I too young to already have my career path mapped out?”
“Am I too old not to have my career path mapped out?”
“I think I know what I want to do…but does it have to be forever?”

Bottom line: Aim for something.

First jobs can often be shots in the dark or something you’ve been researching your whole life. You might think you know what you want, but quickly learn that’s not the case. Or maybe you just want to feel out an industry to see if it fits. And maybe it is the perfect match. It’s common to try out different fields before you make a decision—this of course doesn’t mean you switch jobs every two weeks. But your first job doesn’t have to be the only job for the rest of your life. It might be, or it could be temporary. So look at it as a learning experience. (Cliché, I know–but it’s true.)

Here are a few jobs and industries college grads often gravitate toward to give you a little guidance that also have transferable skills.

Sales agent – For people with a knack for business, a job in sales is very often their first post-graduation stop.
What you learn: Invaluable interpersonal communication skills. Even the best degrees can’t prepare you for working one-on-one with clients and all the unique situations that come with them.

English teacher – Teaching English either overseas or here in the U.S. has become a huge career option. Globalization means more people trying to learn English in order to do business.
What you learn: Just how much patience you have. Teaching is hard, and teaching English to non-native speakers is extremely difficult. It’s a rewarding path that requires patience and determination.

Public Relations – Majors in communication, public relations, journalism, business and even English are finding plenty of job opportunities in public relations, whether it’s with a PR firm or as a spokesperson for a non-PR company.
What you learn: Quick thinking, creativity and grace under pressure. No two PR jobs are identical, and they’re good ways to get yourself out there and network with people.

Information Technology – IT’s a huge field, so there are obviously dozens of different subsections within it. Nonetheless, technology is a growing field that continues to play a huge role in business, so there’s a definite future.
What you learn: How to be a problem solver. From little mistakes that people make to aggravating bugs that you have to fix, you’ve got a lot to deal with.

Accountants – Plenty of jobs in finance are popular among new graduates, and accountants are one of the top.
What you learn: Whether or not you’re ready to be submerged in numbers. You spend a lot of time training to go into the financial field, and some people get there only to realize they like working with numbers but they’d rather be in a different position than accounting. Others are quick to learn that it’s even better than they thought and that they’ve found their calling.

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It’s too cold to do just about anything these days. As pretty as the snow can be, it’s been a long time since the sun shined on many parts of the country. And as much as I love my job, it gets tiresome being cold all day.

Athlete or Coach – What better way to stay warm than move your muscles and get sweating?

Firefighter – Okay, so maybe this one keeps you to warm (you are under heavy clothing as you fight those fires), but it’s a

Chef – Never mind the heat of the stove, you’ve got pressure to be daring and hip and still make tasty food. People take food very seriously, and that means you need to also. But that also means you get to taste it, too!

Dancer – Dancers could fall in the category of athletes, but they really deserve their own mention because they have to not only be fit to do all that moving around, but they also have to make it look effortless.

Construction – Even when it’s freezing outside, construction crews are out working hard. And while I don’t think you can forget how cold it is when you’re in the midst of winter, they’re constantly moving and working up a sweat.

Home-worker – What’s warmer than never leaving your house? The home-based market is growing quickly in all fields. Regardless of the weather, you get to stay in your pajamas and work in the comfort of your home. Not bad, huh?

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