Writing Samples: How to Make Sure that You are Never Without One

3D Concept Of A Skills Puzzle.Career coaches often find that new job seekers will avoid job postings that require anything more than a resume and cover letter. Clearly, an employer is utilizing additional requirements to assist in choosing candidate with the requisite skill sets and to potentially weed out lazy applicants (i.e., they are looking for employees that will go the extra mile). As a job seeker, you do yourself an injustice not to apply for positions that are a fit because they require more of you.

One of the additional requirements often requested is a writing sample and this strikes fear in the hearts of many recent graduates. Here are some things to consider to prepare for such a moment:

  • Write for one of the publications on campus. It will guarantee a review by an editor to make sure that the product is the best representation of your work.
  • Get your papers reviewed by the writing center. It will allow you another set of eyes and also teach you the skills that you need to enhance.
  • Write a blog. You can utilize Blogs at Baruch to get your own blog and practice your writing as that is the only way you will truly get to be a stronger writer — more and more practice.
  • Take writing intensive courses. These will require you to write regularly and get used to feedback. It’s a great built in mechanism to improve your writing and have many options for writing samples.
  • Take on opportunities to write on internship. If your internship supervisor asks you to take a shot at writing a press release or other communication, do it. However, you really want to use this more for practice as most times you will not be able to use this as a writing sample.

If you are concerned about your writing skills, then the best way to address it is to write, write and then do some more writing. Don’t avoid it as your writing skills will never improve and it will always make you uncomfortable, embarrassed and inclined to avoid job applications were one is required.

3 Things to Have on Hand When You Are in the Job Search

dreamstime_940704When you are searching for a job, there is no telling when you will meet or run into the connection that moves your search a step forward. So, you always need to be prepared for such an occasion. Here are 3 things that you should be carrying at all times during your job search:

  • Your Networking Cards – you need to have a memorable networking card that is appropriate for your field. At the very least, it should contain your field, email, phone and Linkedin profile address. If you want to include things on the back of the card, consider special skill sets, areas of expertise, certifications, a QR code for your resume. Here’s an interesting video on developing eye-catching business cards.
  • A Notetaking Apparatus – either a notepad and a pen or app on your phone. You should be taking notes about the people that you meet and what your follow-up tasks are. For example, Anna Smith, Recruiter at a Tech Firm, Met at an IT Panel at Baruch, Need to connect with her on LinkedIn and also send her the article that I mentioned from CIO.
  • Access to Your Contacts – sometimes, a networking contact may need you to make an introduction. It’s great to have easy access to your contacts so you can make an immediate introduction for them. It makes an impression. This might mean have easy access to your LinkedIn with a mobile app or having them organized in some easy to access fashion.

In your professional career, you always want to be prepared to network even in the most unlikely moments. Make sure that you are never found missing the tools that you need to be an expert networker.

No Offer, What Now?

So, you are a senior and you’re in the middle of your Spring semester and fellow seniors are starting to talk about offers and family members and friends are bringing it up. These kinds of conversations make you uncomfortable because you know what’s coming next…the big question, “What are you doing after graduation?” It makes your stomach churn, you feel inadequate, you want to yell “isn’t it enough that I am graduating? Can’t I just be happy about that for one moment before we are onto the next thing?”

Graduation students iconsClearly, you should be enjoying your last days in college, but you also need to be facing the reality that you are going to need to make a decision about what comes next or else you will languishing in the sad post-graduation blues with no one around to comfort you.

What to do? What to do? If you want to have a job after graduation, you need a plan. Here are some of things that you should start engaging in immediately:

  • Attend a job search group at the SCDC.
  • See a career counselor to develop a plan specific to your situation.
  • Get your resume reviewed, sign up for a mock interview.
  • Attend the job fair.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile and join the SCDC group to learn about networking opportunities happening off campus.
  • Start using Starr Search regularly to check for opportunities.

One thing that you shouldn’t be doing is hiding. Come out of shadows. You are not alone and we are here to help you, but we have to know you need help to be able to give you the help you want. It will all seem so much more manageable or possible with a plan.

Spring-ing Back From the Break

Summer FlowerAs we get close to the end of Spring Break, we know that the end of the semester fast approaches and for seniors, the end of your college career. Students often remark about how fast the time goes after Spring Break. So, how do you get ready to perform at your best in this intense period and make the most of this critical time? Here are some tips to ensure that you do just that:

  • Get some rest right before you return. Get a good amount of sleep and take care of yourself especially in the last few days.
  • During the weekend, create a strategic plan. Take some time to write yourself a to-do list of some of the critical deadlines and assignments ahead. This clearly includes job and internship search as this should be happening simultaneously. If you wait until the semester is over, there will be less options and more competition.
  • Plan to get help. If you are struggling in a class or if you haven’t had your resume reviewed, plan to get the help you need. Use the services available to you so that you have a partner in the struggle. With these examples, that would be the SACC center and the SCDC. However, find the appropriate help and at Baruch, there is assistance for almost any dilemma.
  • Have a sunny attitude. As much as possible, try to use the warming weather to support a positive can-do attitude. It boosts problem solving.
  • Finish strong. Make sure that you pace yourself and plan to care for yourself over the rest of the semester so that you are not burned out and have plenty of energy for finals and other end of the semester events.

Enjoy the rest of the break and prepare to “spring” into action!

Job Search Senioritis

dreamstime_15660954Graduation is fast approaching and many seniors are having difficulty dealing with this notion as they do every year. There are expectations from parents, mentors, classmates about what will happen after your graduation. There is also loss to deal with (i.e., moving forward from college and college life into a professional phase of your life). While avoiding the feelings may be a tempting option, in the end, you will only be setting yourself up for additional not so pleasant feelings after your graduation (e.g., inadequacy, self-doubt, embarrassment) and it may even be harder to deal with at that moment because then the spotlight on you will be even brighter.

Here’s a plan to address your Job Search Senioritis:

  • Make an appointment with a career counselor or mentor to develop a job search plan for your specific needs
  • Ask the counselor to help you set up a “task list” of things that you need to accomplish
  • Work on taking in the feedback from the career counselor or mentor and not defending against it or making excuses. For example, if you are interested in being an analyst at an investment bank and you have never done an internship, you may get some feedback that will be difficult to hear. A career counselor is a partner in the process — not an enemy. However, you will need to face facts at this point if you want to be employed after graduation in position with a professional trajectory.
  • Set aside adequate time in your schedule to do this (5-10 hours/wk is probably a minimum)
  • Consider how you will approach the “hard” tasks. Whether it is networking or informational interviewing, don’t leave the difficult tasks for last. Find ways to address your fears and move forward. A career counselor may be integral in helping you with this.
  • Find a way to keep yourself on track (i.e., find a job search buddy or group or meet with the counselor regularly to check in about your progress)
  • Keep yourself positive and focused on moving forward. The road can be long and process tough and humbling, but you need to consciously work on staying positive and knowing that the right fit will come along if you are in the game.

Self Confidence: Working Toward a Positive Sense of Self

Get the Job - Arrows DiagramThe process of job search can really tear a person down especially when it lasts a long time. There can be a lot of evaluation, rejection and asking people for help, which can leave you wondering ‘do I really have something to offer?” In order to answer that question with a sense of confidence consistently, you need to work daily to build your sense of self and support a healthy self-concept.

Here are a few suggestions of how to engage in healthy self-esteem building during a search process:

  • Use a set of daily affirmations (e.g., I am smart, I am a hard worker, I am personable) which you repeat to yourself in the mirror each morning.
  • Don’t tell yourself negative things. For example, “I will never get a job.”
  • If you find yourself saying something negative, correct it immediately. Using the previous example, you would say to yourself “That’s not true. I will find a job that is a great fit for me.”
  • Surround yourself with positive people, who live a positive life and have good self-esteem. They will teach you positive habits and support your efforts.
  • Celebrate positive things that happen in your job search. Even small little things should be celebrated and you should also work on moving forward from any setbacks and not dwelling on negative experiences.

Developing a positive sense of self is critical to having a happy life and also surviving a job search with your ego intact.

Getting Un-Stuck: 8 Steps to Freeing Yourself from a Career Rut

People Running in Gears to Power Teamwork and ProgressRuts are terribly common in work life and job search. When the routine has lost its meaning, is no longer yielding anything motivating and you feeling stagnant, bored and/or frustrated, it’s time to notice that you’re stuck and make a change.

Here are 8 steps to help you out of your current rut:

Step 1. Acknowledge that you are in a rut and that you want to make a change. This is key to getting out of the rut. Know that it may take some time, but you need to develop a plan and this is the first step.

Step 2. Pinpoint how you got there. Is there something that you are avoiding by not making a change? Something that you are scared of? Something new and unfamiliar? If you are not sure, ask a trusted friend, colleague or mentor, why they think that you may be stuck. Be prepared to hear something that you may not want to hear. Try to respond as non-defensively as possible by just paraphrasing what the person said to you and thinking about it for a while (i.e., days or weeks) before responding.

Step 3. Address the issue that got you there. Once you have figured out why you are stuck, then you need to face it and stop using your rut to protect you from dealing with the issue. If you are afraid of change, you need to figure out how to change this behavior in your day-to-day life perhaps by trying one new thing a day. You can also consider getting to the root cause and addressing it. You may need a career counselor or therapist to address this if you can’t work out how to address it on your own.

Step 4. Develop a plan to get out of your current rut. It’s going to take a few steps for you to get out of the rut, but plan what you are going to do and start fairly immediately to address the issue. For example, if you are stuck at a job because of financial issues, then you could develop a plan to create some stability for yourself by creating a savings plan. If you have trouble with the plan step, you can ask others who have successfully been able to get out of their rut to help you with your plan. Keep yourself accountable by sharing steps and timeline with someone you trust.

Step 5. Don’t get defeated at your first setback. When you run into issues, address them and make the necessary changes to your plan. Do not just go back to the safety of your rut.

Step 6. Celebrate the tiny successes in your plan. Don’t just celebrate the end point, but all the middle points as well that get you to your goal. Also, be conscious of the way that you celebrate and that this doesn’t constitute a setback (e.g., if your issue is financial, don’t celebrate by spending money). Celebrate in a way that reinforces your progress.

Step 7. Reevaluate your plan periodically. Make sure that you are moving forward with each step. If not, reassess.

Step 8. Enjoy the success and happiness that results from being out of your rut!!

 

Sharing Your Talents to Lift Your Spirits

dreamstime_xxl_20415347Sometimes a job search can drag on longer than you may have expected. The average length of time in 2012 to find a job was around 40 weeks — that’s 10 months! Many job seekers don’t have that information before they start the search so that they can have realistic expectations or make the necessary plans and arrangements to be able to cope with that length of time. Some job seekers tend to think that they will be the exception and have a job within a few weeks of starting their search.

Realistically, it’s likely to be a long search with a lot of concentrated effort doing many things that you do not like including attending networking events, reaching out to colleagues for informational interviews and going out on a lot of job interviews. With so many tasks that tend to stretch you and your confidence, it’s important to do things that remind you of your competence. Moreover, when asking so many people around you for help in your process, it can affect your ability to believe that you have something to contribute.

An easy way to solve this is to consider regularly volunteering your time and your talents to people who need it. Get involved in your community, not only will you feel good about how you are spending your time, but you can also add it your resume to cover gaps. Be strategic. Choose volunteer activities that use your specialized job-related talents (e.g., bookkeeping for a non-profit, social media or web design for a community center, developing a marketing plan for a local business). The key will be to work on pitching yourself which will also help you refine your “elevator pitch.” Once you are working with this organization, it will keep your skills fresh and remind you of your competence.

So, don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself and bemoaning the fact that you haven’t found a job yet. Take your talents and offer to them to someone who needs them. It will help them and you, too.

New Year’s Resolutions 2.0

You make resolutions every year, but often in a few months, you are not sticking to those “new year new you” plans. You have good intentions, but they never seem to pan out. The difficulty often is related to the notion that if you plan or think it that you will do it. Well, as psychologists and career counselors, we know that this is not necessarily true. There are a variety of factors that go into successful behavior change and here are some of those variables that are critical for behavior change that are in your control:

  • Past Successful Experiences – If you can look back at past experiences of succeeding at setting a goal and/or changing a behavior, you are more likely to do it again. So, make a list of your past achievements and use them as motivators for your current goal and proof that you can do it.
  • Experiencing Success Through Others - Surrounding yourself with others that have had a similar goal and have achieved it helps you to know that it’s possible and you also learn from their experience.
  • Mentoring and Constructive Feedback – It’s important to receive regular feedback that will help you move forward. That feedback should be positive and provide action steps to correct action that may not be assisting you in reaching your goal.
  • Emotional State – How you feel also affects your success. It’s important to have feelings that you attribute success to while working on the goals. This usually includes excitement, happiness, and even a little anxiety. If you constantly feel like working toward your new goal is depressing or agitating, you are likely to give it up.
  • Break the goal into small pieces – You want to have a series of accomplishments on your way to completing your goals. When things feels overwhelming, always break it into smaller pieces, set reasonable timelines and present yourself an appropriate reward when you have reached your mini-goal.

Living in a digital age may also help you in changing those difficult behaviors that will lead to being the person that you aspire to be.

  • Consider using social media platforms like Pinterest to create a motivation board.
  • Use sites like Facebook to find your mentors and get constructive feedback from close friends.

New Year’s Resolutions can be a life changing goal setting experience, but you have to have the tools to succeed. Just saying it is often not enough.

Job Hunting Tasks to Put on Your Holiday To-Do List

The holidays are a great time to focus on certain tasks related to your job search. It may seem like you can take a break during this time, but it would be a loss. Here are some activities you might consider:

  • Share your career dreams with people you meet at holiday parties when they ask you about yourself and ask them about their career paths. It’s an easy way to network and learn about other people’s journeys. Don’t be shy about sharing. It’s a way to connect with others and let them know who you are and what you are looking for.
  • Fine tune your goals for the new year. Consider what needs to be improved about your job search and make concrete plans about how you will improve the items in a measurable way.
  • Take advantage of days off from work to get administrative tasks done. Make sure that you are keeping a spreadsheet of positions applied to, hard or digital copies of your applications and the position description, and a detailed to-do list.
  • Get involved with your alma mater. There are a lot of end-of-year alumni festivities. It’s a great time to get reconnected with your school and alumni offerings (job search support, free or reduced cost access to search databases).
  • Talk to family and friends. Often the last people that job seekers talk to are family members because they are concerned about unsupportive comments or constant check-ins. However, your personal network can also be a rich source of contacts. During the holidays, you may have unprecedented in person access to them so consider speaking to each and every family member about your search.

Holiday times can provide great opportunities to step up your job search. Think about the ways the holidays can offer you a new way to open up some doors.