Saturday, June 11, 2011


We're getting pretty fancy over here. Check out the new blog (I moved all the old posts as well) at wordpress.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How to Find Your First Job

It's very intimidating to try to find your first "real" job after college. I remember going to the Career Planning office at my college and pouring over job descriptions in a big binder and realizing that I might be qualified for....nothing! After developing a resume that highlighted my event planning experience, I decided to steer in that direction - particularly through applying for an event-related position at my alma mater - interning at the Alumni and Parent Relations Department. It was just a summer job but it bought me a little time to figure things out.

I won't bore you with all of the details of how I made a career out of a glimmer of an idea about event planning...but I will try to provide you with some ideas about how to pursue that first job.

1. Look at what is right in front of you: Your college! There may be job opportunities or internships that would be right up your alley or at least buy you some time and help you pay some bills while you figure out what you really want to do!

2. Employment Agencies: My husband started his career through working at a temp agency that placed him at a non-profit, where he discovered a knack for marketing and is now at an online marketing company. Employment agencies get paid by companies for finding them great staff members. They WANT to find a job for you because they get paid about 30% + of whatever you make per hour. Just look up your local agencies online and send them an application. They'll typically bring you in for an interview and then work on finding a job for you among the companies that they have contracts with. It's a great way to get into some companies and can turn into a permanent position. A lot of companies are doing "temp to hire" positions lately, so this can be a great direction to go in!

3. Online Job Postings: I suggest using a variety of online websites to look through job postings. Some people look down on it, but I think craigslist is a great resource. Most companies post there and I like being able to specify by area and use key word searches. Look at the local newspaper's websites for job postings as well. If you have a favorite company, set your schedule to check their website for job openings weekly. is a good site for non-profit jobs. Other great sites are, and yahoo hot jobs.

4. Networking! Tell everyone you know that you are a new grad in need of a job. For more info, refer to this post.

Happy hunting!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Promotion Fridays

I'm starting a new series that will post each week titled "Promotion Fridays". While I'll still focus on how to get a job in my blog on the other days, I have realized that many people desire to be promoted but don't quite know how to get there. In fact, I frequently witness employees who deeply desire to be promoted but behave in ways that result in them being out of the running. Therefore, I've decided to devote one day a week on tips about how to get promoted.

Why trust my advice? In the 3 jobs that I've held over the 6 years that I've been in the work force, I've been promoted 4 times. However, the credit really goes to my father who prepared me to perform in a way that would make me easily "promotable". You see, since I was little, the number one thing my father told me (after "I love you") was "Be your own boss". In each job I've had, my dad and I would discuss how I wanted to grow, with the hopes of one day "being the boss." So these Friday postings will largely be nuggets of his advice that have served me very well. I realize that not everyone has fathers who are as knowledgable about getting promoted, so you will all get to benefit from his wisdom! Thanks, Dad!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Showcasing Your Skills Through Your Resume

Sometimes your title or position at your last job could hold you back from getting your dream job. In these situations, it's helpful to focus on the skills required to get the job you want, and showcase how you've demonstrated those skills in your previous positions.

I'll give an personal example. In my most recent job search, I knew I wanted to be in development (fundraising) for a non-profit. Although my main duties in my previous position all related to fundraising, my title was "Director of Media and Special Events". I would even attend conferences on development in that position and people would see my title on my name tag and ask me why I was there!

In order to showcase the skills a Development Director would need, I divided my work in my previous position into three categories: Development Experience, Management Experience, and Special Events Experience. Not only did it expand my resume to more accurately and positively depict my skills, it allowed me to specifically highlight certain criteria I fulfilled that I knew a hiring manager would be looking for.

This is also a good way to approach a career change. Since you'll need to find ways to show that your experience is transferable, you might as well start with crafting a resume that emphasizes those skills you know apply to your desired career. And don't forget to explain the reason for the career change in your cover letter!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Informational Interviews

Informational Interviews were quite the hot topic a couple of years ago but I hear less about them now. However, I believe that for the new grad, these interviews can be very enlightening and sometimes give you a good "foot in the door" at a company you'd love to work for.

What is an informational interview? More than anything, I think of it as a "reverse interview". Instead of getting asked a bunch of questions by an employer to see if you are a good fit for their company, you get to ask a bunch of questions OF an employer to determine if they are a good fit for you.

How do you get an informational interview? Do you have a dream job in mind? Call them up! Google the department you want to be in. Usually a Linked In profile will pop up for an individual you'd want to speak to. A little too scary? This is also a great time to work your network! Start asking your friends and family if they know anyone in _____ industry who might be willing to discuss their job with you. Inevitably, people will want to help you out and put you in touch with people who will speak with you.

What should you ask? Since you are taking up some of this person's time, it's crucial that you prepare your questions in advice. Remember, almost everyone likes to talk about themselves, you just need to ask the right questions. Ask them about their career path, how they got this position, if anyone mentored them, what their favorite part of their job is, what they dislike, what challenges they face, where they think the industry is headed, what do they wish they'd known when they were in your position, what advice they have for you....Clearly, there are a ton of questions you can ask, so make sure to create a list.

Don't forget to follow up! At the very least, send a thank you note. At the most, send cookies. Better yet, bring homemade cookies in an adorable box with you. Yes, I was on the receiving end of cookies last year and was very impressed with her forethought. Remember, this is a chance to build your network and possibly get a job, so don't forget to follow up in a gracious way.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Don't Talk Yourself Into Taking Jobs

In my last job search, I ended the selection process three times with different organizations because I knew that I didn't actually want to work that job every day. At the time, I knew that I still needed to find a job very soon but my husband was very supportive and encouraged me to wait for the right position. As he told me the other night, a job is a long term relationship. It requires commitment. In the same way that I as a hiring manager have to pay attention to every "red flag" with a candidate, you as the candidate need to focus on every possible sign that this may not be the job for you.

A few red flags to look out for: If you don't "click" with the hiring manager (usually your new boss). This is a big one. Another: you would only work in that job because it would be a good "step up" from what you are doing now. Wait for the right job. It's not worth it to work a "place-holder job" - you won't be satisfied and it's not fair to the employer.

There some similarities to dating here. Don't focus so much on being liked that you forget to think about what you want. Don't morph yourself into who you think the employer wants to hire. If your skills and talent isn't a great fit for the company, move on. The worst thing you can do is talk yourself into doing a job you don't want and pretending to be someone you aren't. As Shakespeare himself said "To thine own self be true."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to Use Your Network to Get a Job

"Networking" has become quite the buzzword lately. There are stats out there that say that 60+% of all jobs are obtained through networking. Everyone is trying to expand their Rolodex in order to find that one person who knows that one other person who knows of that perfect job me it can sound like a bit of a crap shoot. I have never gotten a job through networking, although it has helped me get an interview. I've only once hired someone I knew outside of a work context and that was for an internship several years ago.

Here's my theory on networking - if you know HOW to use your network and can follow up an initial introduction with a solid resume and interview, than you may land a great job through it. Otherwise it's just people exchanging business cards and engaging in some awkward mingling.

I don't think having a BIG network is all that important. You can have 1,000 Facebook friends and still be out of a job. I would rather have a couple "connectors" (to use Malcolm Gladwell's phrase from the book "The Tipping Point") who I can rely on. I'll give you an example - my best "connector" is my mother-in-law. She's lived in the same community for practically her whole life and seems to know just about everyone. Not only is she universally liked and consistently charming, but she is not afraid to make introductions. In fact, she thrives on them. I have never seen someone work a room like this woman. I'm a bit skeptical of the purpose of chambers of commerce but she once brought me to a local chamber meeting and I couldn't believe what I experienced. She already had at least 5 people she had planned to introduce me to and had already let some of them know I would be attending. She stayed by my side the entire night and took me to each person saying "This is so and so, he might be a good contact for photography for your company, let me introduce you." She had a purpose for each introduction and expertly orchestrated each meeting. I felt like I could have just handed her a stack of my business cards and she could have represented me all by herself. You see, you don't need a ton of casual acquaintances you have to maintain minimal but consistent contact with throughout the year. Plus, who has time for that anyway? You just need one Jeanne Schwass. The one interview I've had because of networking? Yup, it was through her.

Now, the second step to successful networking is that you have to have a purpose and know how to use your network. That means, telling the right people what you need and how they can help. Otherwise networking becomes a very vague and fuzzy activity. When we were first planning to move to this area, I emailed my mother-in-law my resume and told her what kind of job I wanted. And she was off! She told friends from church, she sent emails to our family and her work contacts, and she updated me on her progress. You see, connectors are thrilled to help and love the joy of sharing the gift of their network with others.

NOTE: When you are trying to obtain a job through utilizing your network, it's all the more important that you handle yourself professionally and respectfully. Because your behavior reflects on your network and you may have some personal connections to the hiring manager, it's critical that the situation with the utmost care. Send thank you notes for interviews, be honest about your interest in the position, and always follow-up in a timely manner. You don't want to damage your reputation through your conduct regarding job interview. And ALWAYS thank your connector and praise her in your blog! :)