Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fodder for the Imperfect

This article isn't aimed at students hunting for jobs. Rather, it's aimed at those who hire. And it encourages employers to take a risk on "jagged resume" candidates--those who don't have 3.9 averages, or who have spotty work histories, or other assorted problems.

Now, I'm not saying you should start off telling your employer that you've had issues. But if you get asked, this discussion might provide the kind of mindset you need to overcome your personal (past) demons in an interview. No, don't quote it verbatim. Do be aware, however, that prospective employers are balanced between certainties and risk-taking. Hiring a "certainty" will lead to predictable performance; but a "risk-taking" hire could pay off handsomely with a motivated, innovative person who ultimately far surpasses the sure thing.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Elf's Cover Letter

An elf's cover letter? Well--this would be the time to apply for jobs, when nobody has started gearing up for Christmas 2012. If I were S.C., I'd certainly consider this writer, who identifies what the most important tasks are, and shows how past experience looks like a good fit!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Finding your Perfection

Can you be whatever you want to be? Nope. Not gonna lie; you can't.

I will never be a concert pianist. Besides the fact that I'm too old to start now, it will never happen, simply because my pinkies are too short. I can't reach more than 7 notes at a handspan without difficulty.

The point is that finding the right job is at least as much about looking inside, finding what your skills, talents and abilities are, as looking out there.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How the World Works Now

Disaggregation. Things Fall Apart.

Thoughtful post, and a handful of comments thus far, on the new shape of jobs, employment, and the workplace. 

Sources of change: technology, shifts in the economy, downsizing ("we don't need Harry to work here anymore, so Tom and Dick are now responsible for his work... Oops, Tom--sorry, you're laid off. Looks like Dick is now doing the work of three people, for one paycheck.")

For some people, that means that what used to be a fulltime job is now a part-time "consultancy." That's a fancy term that means you don't get health benefits, and you're responsible for paying taxes quarterly because you are now "self-employed."

On the flip side, this author describes a way you can use this fracturing and falling apart to your own advantage.  It strikes me as a bit difficult; it's hard to identify what a company needs, design your own job, and then convince them to hire you. But it does suggest ways you can work from within if you've landed a temp job or a bottom-rung job. It also seems like a good trend to keep in mind when you do land a job--keep moving, keep making yourself valuable to the organization.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Job in 10 Easy Steps

Well, okay, it's not quite that simple. But this is a good checklist of the basic steps you'll need to take to be gainfully employed in the near future. It has a handful of interesting links... some with advice I'd follow, and some with advice that I wouldn't. (I hated the idea about attaching a resume to a box of chocolates.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Using Social Media

Today's post is about how you can "boost your career" (or, obviously, find one!) with social media. It has a couple of interesting case studies of how a couple of people used social media, and some solid "do" and "don't" tips. 

These tips and suggestions are not about finding a job, necessarily; but they are about how to present yourself online in a way that will get you noticed as a skilled, thoughtful contributor who would make a great employee!

As with all my posts, some contain links to websites that want to sell you something; make your own careful choices. I'm not endorsing any products or services for sale. In fact, much of what you can find out there is available through our own career counseling center.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pay it Forward: Networking

The other day, a thought struck me. I had stumbled upon a company desperately seeking tech people: coders, programmers, app developers. Now, I can do none of those things. The information kind of whizzed past my radar into the ethers.

A few days later, I remembered: I have a friend-of-a-Facebook friend who is down & out in a far-midwestern state. She did some programming work for a startup; the company stiffed her (did not pay!) for something like 6 months' worth of work.

I was able to retrieve the information from the company hiring techhies, and forward it to her.

In the process, I also realized, I've just written a letter of recommendation for a former student with whom I've kept in touch on LinkedIn. This individual isn't a techhie; rather, she's applying for a job in applying social media to a mid-sized university's alumni, outreach, giving, and engagement goals.

Well--I know for a fact that higher education occasionally hires techhies. And I know that the two sources for almost any job in higher education are (1) Inside Higher Education and (2) The Chronicle of Higher Education. Both have websites; both advertise primarily faculty jobs; but both have an "other" category of jobs including tech stuff.

So I gathered that information and sent it along as well.

Will my down & out friend get a job from any of these leads? Who knows! But this is a real-life example of how leads can come out of the blue, through a strangely convoluted trail of networking: from the techhie 2000 miles away, to a friend I know personally in my local area, to me--a faculty member with absolutely no skill or interest in programming.

Will my down & out friend ever do me a direct favor? Possible, but not terribly likely. However, I have tried to put good works out there in the universe. If it doesn't come back to me in ways that I recognize--that's cool. But if it does--hooray!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Three keys

The job market right now stinks--this article starts with some statistics saying as much. Policy and economic wonks have a variety of ideas about why: CEO pay and tax loopholes are increasing the gap between the 1% and the 99%; computers are doing the jobs people used to do in increasing numbers; the west is falling behind other global sectors...

But if there is a magic bullet for you, as an individual job seeker, here's the formula: three proven keys. 

Key 1: As a Niagara University college student, you still have the time, energy and resources (our wonderful Career Counseling folks) to research companies' and industries' wish-lists of skills. 

Key 2: You have a university brimming full of opportunities to intern, serve and volunteer, finding ways to gain the experience that will give you the edge. 

Key 3: You have the advantage of job fairs, on-campus recruiters, and a variety of friends and organizations on campus that will let you jump-start your networking efforts.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Networking at your placeholder job

For those of you who think that you are working in a job only to earn a couple of extra bucks -- think again. Here's a thoughtful post about a barrista using an outgoing personality and curiosity to make additional connections at a job that is not a "dream career" move. Sure, it's a placeholder job; but working as a barrista can bring you into contact with many kinds of people. Network!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Emotional Literacy

Interesting post for the holiday season, and the coming Boxing Day crunch. With the development of the internet, it's become relatively easy for people to gain "financial literacy." Any topic, from basic budgeting and credit card interest, to esoteric stock market maneuvers, can be had for a few clicks of the mouse (or on tablets, flicks of the finger).

But this article suggests that knowing how money works (or does not work) in your favor is simply not the problem. Rather, we all (from individuals to global collective) need to have an understanding of how our emotions drive the way we handle money. 

There are a few tips about starting to get a handle on that topic in the article, and a few good links worth pursuing. I doubt that any single source can give a "one size fits all" quick fix. But thinking about this angle might help you plan for your future, taking your own individual needs and motivations into account.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Power User Tips, E-Networks 

Here’s an interiew with Deep Nishar, Senior Vice President, Products & User Experience at LinkedIn. He offers three solid tips to those new to the job search for using LinkedIn, and other networks as well, both face to face and virtual. 

There’s also an intriguing new “app for that” linked and briefly described here: BeKnown, built by (the huge job-search engine) on the Facebook platform. (The logo is a cutesy bee, carrying a briefcase!) The app came out in October 2011 for Apple’s iOS, available in iTunes; it’s also available for Android. 

I’m always leery of hype surrounding brand new e-services. To gain traction, any startup has to promise the world... two years from now, will the service still be there? But I do have to say that BeKnown’s piggybacking on Facebook, and this reference from a VP of a known “mover and shaker” company (LinkedIn), suggest that it might be worth your time to explore.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Study Abroad: Not Just for Fun Anymore!

Here's a nifty infographic on study abroad's ROI ("return on investment"--that is, how much you get back for what you put in). Note that with study-abroad experience, you'll have more talents, skills and breadth to sell prospective employers--8 out of 10 Human Resources directors agree! This infographic is a good cheat-sheet for your pitch to an employer in an interview situation about how your experience gave you more skills and abilities. You'll also gain new insights into what kind of career options you might consider, as well as a higher likelihood of getting a job overseas if your employer has one to offer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Facebook can get you a job

Can Facebook get you a job? Apparently, yes! So can other social media, including Twitter and LinkedIn.The numbers are pretty startling--18 million people say they got their current job through Facebook, 10 million through LinkedIn, 8 million through Twitter.

Here's a cool infographic with some statistics, as well as the following tips:
  1. Post "notes" on Facebook, describing your job interests--in a word, network (and follow the cardinal rule of networking--give as much as you take).
  2. Follow companies you might like to work for on Twitter.
  3. Post the same picture on LinkedIn that you do on other social media, to project a consistent "brand."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Of Robots and Resumes

Sad but true.

Used to be that a human being would spend 5 seconds skimming your resume to see whether or not you looked good enough in that short amount of time to take a closer look. Now, even that work has been farmed out to a robot. Bluntly put, if a prospective employer gets 5,000 resumes, even assuming no breaks for the restroom, lunch, or even bandaging the papercuts, he or she would spend about 7 hours looking through them all. Nobody in the real world has that kind of time! (And their brains would be mush by the time they got through the first hour anyway.)

Here’s a good post on how to get past the robot, and into human hands. It’s not foolproof, but this article does have a series of strategies you can use to game the system. Lots of links to other sites are included.

This might be a good Christmas break project: setting up a strategy that will give you a human-readable resume that makes it past the screeners.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Business cards for job-seekers

A few days ago, I suggested you might consider asking Santa (or the Festivus Spirit) for some business cards for Christmas. But what to put on them?

Above is a good link to get you started thinking. This article recommends using a photo--there is some extensive discussion about whether to include the photo, in the comments below the original article.

I'd also add: be sure the card contains information that will remain current for several years after your original printing. There's no point in giving out cards that will lead to a "dead end" in a few months if someone tries to contact you.

Use Google Voice, and learn to tap it into your cellphone if you are considering changing carriers and contracts. Use an email address that won't evaporate when you cease being enrolled at NU, and learn how to get your email forwarded from your personal account to any other business or school accounts you may later open so you don't miss anything.

Email follies to avoid

Ah, those funny, funny Brits!

It’s a story to stand your hair on end—using foul language in an email intended for only one person, but accidentally hitting “reply all” and having that foul language sent out to 4,000 people!

Funny when somebody else sends the “f”-word out to 4,000 people. Needless to say, he got fired.

So the moral of this story for English majors gearing up for the job hunt is?

First, always double check the tone of your email. If need be, hit “command + S” (save the email as a draft) and come back to it in a few minutes. There is absolutely nothing so urgent that it can’t wait a few minutes to get sent. In fact, the more urgent you think it is to hit send, the more urgent it is that you cool off and take a second look at it.

In fact, consider taking the extra step of setting your message aside, printing a copy, and proofreading the print copy for tone, attitude, spelling and the like. It’s amazing, sometimes, what you can see on cold, hard paper rather than a screen. (Shred the print copy if you don’t like what you see.)

Second, always double check the “to” box of your email window. Are you sending to only the people you want  and need to send to? Should you add any names? Delete any names? Rephrase so everybody getting a “cc” will understand why you’re sending the material? Move anybody from “cc” to “bcc”?

Job Well Dunleavy Returns! - new flyer for "Job Well Dunleavy"
Prof. Mary Beth Sullivan has asked that I share this poster and message with you, after we had to postpone "Job Well Dunleavy": 

I am very happy to share that "Job Well Dunleavy" has been rescheduled! It will take place this Thursday, December 15, 4-6 pm in Academic Complex Rm 127.  It's not quite Dunleavy, but you can see the building from our new event space. We are grateful to everyone who helped us find a new space in which to hold the event and we hope you all can join us for lively stories, vivid poetry and thought-provoking film.  Please see the attached flyer and share the details with students.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Party hearty, network like a boss

Today’s link, from a blog for job-seekers in the finance industry, is “Holiday Party Rules: No Black, Avoid Drunks and Kiss Up to the Boss.”

This is about office parties. It contains a lot of good advice for the holidays, too—before you’ve got a job, at events where you might be networking, and more generally when you’re in public being scoped out by folks who can put in a good word for you.

I’d take issue with at least one thing--”avoid wearing black.” The classic little black dress for women can be accessorized in many ways. But the point is, don’t go looking like something that crawled out from under a Goth manhole cover—leave the skull earrings at home! For guys, don’t look like you’re headed out to a funeral after the party.

Also, worth repeating (though the article implies as much, but doesn’t say so explicitly): don’t get sloshed. You don’t want to have to extract your foot from your mouth later.

To avoid overindulging: You can always ask the bartender to fix you “something that looks alcoholic”--a gingerale in a “rocks” glass with ice can look nicely ambiguous. Or if you really do want a touch of alcohol, but want to keep your wits about you, try “fizzy water with a splash of red wine, easy on the splash.” (Or the nonalcoholic version, fizzy water with a splash of cranberry juice in a wine-glass.) In gatherings where some alcohol is welcome and even expected, any good bartender worth his or her salt will oblige in helping you make appropriate choices.

Also good advice, but a bit overstated in the title: “kiss up to the boss” (and the boss’s significant other). You’d be amazed what people talk about with their significant others in bed... make sure that if bed-time conversation is about you, it’s positive!

On your own “significant other”--if you have one, and there’s an option to bring him or her along, you should be far enough along in your own relationship to be able to have a short talk with your s.o. about what is expected, without having that chat turn into a source of friction in your relationship. If your s.o. would rather not come along—so be it. His or her discomfort will be apparent, and won’t make a good impression. If your s.o. is glad to come with—make it a point to introduce, offer conversation starters, to include your s.o. in the socializing. If you do, you’ll earn points with both your s.o., and with folks you’re networking (since you are clearly a nice, thoughtful person).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Perception Problem

The linked article today is a sobering view from the other side of the employment desk. Robert W. Goldfarb, in the New York Times Sunday business section, says many of the executives believe “that young people have been so pampered by hovering parents and so untested academically that they bring little value to today’s demanding workplace.”


So why am I sharing this information? Because Goldfarb also mentions some perceived weaknesses that you have the ability to challenge head-on, and some strategies you can take when you are hired to avoid obvious mistakes. You can mine this article for information relevant to your side of the employment desk. Some possibilities:

1. Employers feel that recent graduates lack written and oral communication skills. You can make cogent arguments about why your English major has prepared you exceptionally well in this area.

2. Employers feel that recent graduates cannot sift through large amounts of data. If you’ve read Shakespeare, Dickens, Melville or Morrison, you have good grounds on which to argue that you don’t have this problem.

3. Employers feel that younger employees have lost their energy, creativity and daring because of the tough job market. Goldfarb suggests that companies mentor their young employees—and I suggest that you seek out one or more mentors, both before and after you are hired. Network!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Networking for the Holidays

Some interesting thoughts on networking! (There’s a good link at the bottom of this page to an expanded article.)

(1)  Wear something weird. Okay, take this with a grain of salt. Wearing a light-up Santa hat at a party isn’t a bad thing. But of course, if you’re in a really formal setting (like an on-campus job fair), your idea of “something wierd” might be toned down—a bright handkerchief square in your suit’s breast pocket for gents, or a small splash of color on a scarf or a purse for ladies.

(2) Say hi. Because if everybody is standing around looking like high school freshmen at their First Big Dance—you’re not the only one to worry about approaching others. Even us old folks who should know better sometimes feel awkward breaking the ice—so your willingness to extend a hand to shake, and make some small talk (ask a question—other people love to talk about themselves!) will likely be welcome.

(3) Inject personality into your business cards. What!? You don’t have business cards!?? Maybe that’s something to ask Santa for, or a place to spend some of the cash that comes your way during the holidays. When in doubt about when and how to gracefully use a business card, watch others in action, and start out by handing out your first card in response to an incoming card. Exactly what to put on a business card might be a good post for another day!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Antidote to Zombie Final Exam Time ... This Friday Evening!

It’s that time of year! Faculty and students alike are walking around looking like zombies from all the stuff they’ve got to get finished by the end of the semester.

The English Department cordially invites you to take a break from the hustle-bustle and attend our very own, Second Annual “Job Well Dunleavy.” A poster can be found at — for your convenience, the information is:
  • Friday, December 9, 2011
  • Starting at 7 p.m., and going until about 9 p.m.
  • Feel free to come for part or all of the event
  • Dunleavy 127 (the auditorium on the first floor
Students from English and Writing classes will be reading and performing original pieces for the event. In addition to short stories, essays and poems, there will be several documentaries and photo essays shown.

Students who wish to share their own scholarly or creative work may show up at 6:30 p.m. to sign up for the open mike.

And there will be food — free food, real food! I will be going out shopping for it tomorrow afternoon, and was very successful in pleasing a variety of palates and preferences last year. Think healthy snacks, crackers & cheese, water and juice, veggies and fruits both fresh and dried.

Please invite everyone you know to cheer our students on, celebrate that light at the end of the tunnel (which is not an oncoming train), and eat some good food!

Underpublicized minor for English majors

Here’s a thought: a minor in Web Design. This relatively new minor was approved just in time to make it to page 159 of your Niagara University catalog for 2011-2013. If you’d prefer to see it on the web, note that it does not have its own page. You can find it at ... scroll down to the second minor, “Web Design Minor.” Here’s what you’ll see, in addition to a list of required courses:
The minor in web design is an interdisciplinary program that will require study in writing, communication media and computer and information sciences. It requires the completion of six courses. Students wishing to pursue the minor in web design should contact the coordinator, Dr. Mark Barner, in the department of communication studies, or Dr. Erin Karper in the English department, or Dr. Suzanne Wagner in the department of computer and information sciences.
If you have any flair for visual design, and if you have the kinds of skills that an English major possesses to start (and cultivates to a finely-honed point), then this minor could very well open up some fascinating career options. You do not have to be a math genius or computer programmer to do well in this field!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Internship Resources

The English Department would love to have each and every student work in an internship before graduation! These are unpaid jobs that allow you a taste of the working world—you can earn college credit for an internship (see your advisor)—it’s a terrific line on your resume! But how to find one?

There are some listings on the NU Career Development website (although the link on their front page is broken — go to <> to get to the right place, or call the Career Development office for additional help.

However, I’ve found a link to an online resource that (as of this writing) has 16 positions in the western NY area, some of which would be a good match for an English major:
“We have one of the largest selections of paid internships anywhere with a focus on amazing business internships and hard-to-find non-profit positions.... Over 70% of college interns are offered full-time jobs after completing their summer internships.“

It seems legit; the employer pays for the listing; students do not pay to use it. Whether or not you get an internship through this site, it also seems to have some thoughtful resources: how to find an internship, cover letters, and so on.

As with any online (or face to face) service, buyer beware. Here’s a not-so-sanguine discussion about how some companies are abusing the unpaid internship concept, by getting students to work at stuff that does not expose them to any genuine career-oriented activities, but instead requires them to file papers, fetch coffee, and act as minimum-wage flunkies (without, of course, paying anything at all):
“Unpaid Interns: Real World Work Or Just Free Labor?”

You have to click through a number of pages to read this article, but it’s a worthwhile primer on what not to accept.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing careers in science

Here’s an upcoming event you might want to attend. Yes, yes, I know it’s from the sciences. But some of the stuff this guy is working on sound interesting — and  part of his comments at this lecture will be about writing... and getting paid for it. So if you’re interested in writing about science, or just interested in writing, it might be something to consider attending! Sent to me from Mark Gallo, to share with you.

 Bioinformatics Seminar Series Speaker
From Middleport to Mars:
The Life and Times of an Astrobiologist/Writer

Wednesday December 7th, 12:20 pm, 126 DePaul Hall

Barry E. Di Gregorio
Honorary Research Fellow
Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology

Barry E. DiGregorio’s scientific interests include the study of the geology, geomicrobiology and history of the Great Lakes region in the United States and Canada. Barry also studies ichnology – a science which combines the study of dissolution cavities left behind by organisms along with their tracks, trails and burrows.

Barry also has a personal and professional interest in search for life on Mars. His writings about this subject can be found in many popular science magazines and scientific journals along with his two books, Mars The Living Planet (1997) and The Microbes of Mars (2011).

Barry has also served as an astroenvironmental activist for over 12 years and is Director of ICAMSR ( <>) an organization dedicated to raising concerns about proper spacecraft sterilization, sample return missions from Mars and international space law pertaining to forward and back contamination of celestial bodies.

This seminar series is a part of the Thomas Morton Lectureship generously supported by Dr. John J. Hughes, 1967 alum.

Ninja Research Skills, Part 2

Wow! Here is a really well-organized infographic (information presented in a spiffy graphic way) on how to get more out of your Google searches.

I’m thinking that as you are researching prospective employers, this will be a very useful package of skills, strategies and tips.

Friday, December 2, 2011

You are NOT "the best"


First read this article:, Stop Competing to Be the Best, from the Harvard Business Review Blog.

Now, this blog article is about products. But when you’re on the job market, you are the product. So here’s an interesting scenario: You’re sitting in an interview for a job you really, really want. Your interviewer asks you one of those predictable, standard questions: “What makes you the best possible person for us to hire for this position?” And your response (which you give without missing a beat, because you’ve prepared for this question) is “I’m not.”

And then you offer a dazzlingly brilliant explanation. You’re not “the best,” because such a person does not exist. Instead, here are the qualities and attitudes you can bring to the job; here is the direction you can take this job. Someone else will (of course) be and do something slightly different. Each one adds value to the organization. But the organic whole of the organization, if it is healthy (and I assume you’re applying to an organization you perceive as a healthy place for yourself and others), is a syncretic mesh of the talents of many people.

Besides, claiming one person is “the best” suggests a competitive mindset; I prefer an atmosphere in which all employees recognize and support each other’s strengths.

Have a networked holiday! - Networking Strategies for the Holidays

And you thought you were going to be “off” for the holidays! When you leave NU at the end of the semester, whether you’re going a few blocks away or a few thousand miles, you will be interacting with a different group of people. These people may know someone who knows someone who has a job on offer, or at least might in the not-too-distant future.

That can include not only your parents’ generation of folks around the turkey table, but your own non-NU friends and acquaintences.

Don’t expect this kind of networking to land you a job-offer by mid-March. It will more likely take years to “pay off”--and it might not even pay off in ways that are visible to you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Meet with Anyone by Sending Email

Today’s idea: “How to Get a Meeting With Almost Anyone Through Email”

This blog post at Boston College (a cute little school I used to live next door to) has some fantastic advice, and is well worth your read.

However, as a department chair who gets a handful of “cold call” emails like this each week, I have some additional advice. In brief, don’t b***s*** the person you’re writing to. It’s the fastest way to have your email labeled “spam” for any and all future contacts.

Let me give you some examples:
  • “Win a trip to Paris! All you have to do is round up 30 students who are willing to pay through the nose for our tour, and you as a faculty member travel for free.” (Yeah, like I really want to exploit y’all like this.)
  • “I have written a book. You must assign this book to all your students as required reading, and here is why.” (The writer knows nothing about what I select for my course reading lists.)
  • “I have written a very interesting book. I need a proofreader and ghostwriter. I can’t pay anything.” (Chortle.)
  • “You have been selected for inclusion in our exclusive Who’s Who Among Low-Ranking Administrators!” (As long as I pay a $1,000 fee, I can have a 2-line listing in a book nobody will ever read; additional info, of course, costs extra.)
  • “Your department website needs to link to our informative site on master’s degrees, because it’s really good advice for your students.” (On closer inspection, the site is a commercial listing for four online colleges which don’t even offer an English degree. When I googled the sender’s email, I discovered she had used identical language for motorcycle parts listings.)
  • “I wish to teach a course in Linguistics at Niagara University, and I require a $10,000 per course salary plus benefits. I’m that good.” (We don’t offer Linguistics; we don’t have adjunct faculty teaching upper division courses; and we don’t pay that kind of money. You can be Harold Bloom for all I care, the answer is “no.”)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Job Seeker as Hero

English majors should know all about these kinds of archetypal stories that can be used to describe your own situation. Here’s a cool post on how the various stages of job-hunting are very much like setting out to slay Voldemort:

I especially like the first comment that’s been posted, to the effect that using this framework in a job interview can make your impression on a prospective employer all the more memorable. And I know you English majors know all about story—plot, setting, character... all that stuff. You have the edge!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Your Thanksgiving homework

Cloud computing.

Every semester at the beginning of classses, I suggest that my students know something about this. Every year, I seem to be getting blank looks. It’s time for this to stop.

Here is a simple, summative article that pares down to the minimum what you need to know about getting into the cloud:

If you’re familiar with Apple’s new iCloud, or Google’s music streaming service, or Picasa or Flickr for photos, you’ve got the general concept. Basically, you “own” a piece of real estate out there on the internet where you can store your stuff. What stuff? You can store music, of course, or pictures. But more importantly for those of us who are not artists, you can store documents.

It’s probably something easier for you to experience than for me to describe—which is why I’m recommending this article with a curated short list of five services. I personally use DropBox and every day. Each has slightly different features and interfaces—one is good for some things, the other is good for other things.

These are “freemium” services. That is, you get a starter package of space; the company makes its money from those who sign up for more space. Unless you are storing film, image or sound, though, you’ll likely be able to live happily within your means.

Now—what can these cloud services do for you? Here’s a short list of imaginary scenarios:

  • You’re writing a paper due for a class tomorrow. Your hard drive crashes. But you’ve got all your working files syncronized to the cloud. You can go to any computer with internet access and continue working.
  • You’re at a job interview. You forgot to bring an extra paper copy of your resume (shame on you!) But your resume is online; all you have to do is hop on a computer and print a copy—not only saving the day, but impressing your employer-to-be.
  • You’re at an airport. Your flight is delayed; in fact, you’re sleeping overnight in the terminal, and not by your own choice. You have an important project that has to be on your boss’s desk by 9 a.m. tomorrow morning—and you’re not going to be physically present to turn it in. You don’t have access to a computer. But you flip open your iPhone or your Android phone or your tablet, and make the completed project available by a link you create on the spot.

While you’re on break, consider starting an account!

Just Say No

Gasp! You mean you’re telling me it’s okay to turn down a job offer?!

Here’s a great article with some thoughtful advice:

As the title promises, it’s a solid checklist of elements you might consider when turning down a job—and trust me, there are some you should turn down. I’ve kicked around the block before I become a department chair long enough to have seen some screaming stinker offers, and even to have worked in a few of those stinkers.

But it’s also a good read (or refresher) for how and when to frame questions about salary, benefits, working conditions as you are going through the process of looking for a job. For example, if you’re heading out the doors of Niagara University for your first real job, it’s difficult to know when to expect your prospective employer to discuss salary. Heck, it’s even hard for us folks with several lifetimes of experience to do that. (You know, of course, that you-the-job-seeker never, ever raise salary first—you always let the employer open the subject!)

This is also a great article for the point between the job offer and your acceptance—that grey area when you are courting and being courted, not quite signed on, but definitely entertaining the idea. If you only get one chance to make a first impression, then this time in Limbo of being “not quite employed” is an excellent opportunity to raise tactful questions about the terms of employment that will make your (hopefully future) employer respect you even more... It’s one thing to hire a new employee, but it’s another thing entirely to support and appreciate that employee as he or she continues working and moving up through the ranks.

Finally, if your intelligent, carefully-phrased questions lead an employer to rescind (take back) a job offer... trust me, you did not want to work for this bozo.

How to Suceed in Business

This item caught my eye recently: “Venture For America Wants To Create 100,000 New Jobs By Matching College Grads With Startups.” Read the original article here:

It’s based on the idea of “Teach for America,” which takes recent college grads and places them in underserved communities as teachers—even if they don’t have an education degree.

But “Venture for America” is interested in placing up-and-coming graduates in business positions, not education positions. I know English majors have the skills, the savvy, the chutzpah, to succeed in business. However, they might feel left out of the loop with concepts, official certification, or other intangibles in a very, very competitive job market. So much talent can go to waste! And so many start-up businesses in need!

The idea described in this article is to place very smart people in start-up companies as fellows. That’s something like interns—but pretty durned well paid interns (the website mentions salaries of $32K to $38K plus the gold standard of a Real Job, health benefits.

I’m neither endorsing the idea nor expressing skepticism; as with any opportunity, do your research and listen to your gut instincts. Start-ups are, of course, less stable than Fortune 500 behemoths. But then again, Steve Jobs (God rest his soul) started Apple in a garage. From my quick read-through of the materials, this concept seems to be based on legitimate ideas and economic principles. Hey! You never know!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

12/04/11 deadline to contribute: Job Well Dunleavy

Calling all writers and artists! See the flyer here:

Join us for “A Job Well Dunleavy 2011”! This event will showcase creative and scholarly work from Niagara University students including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, film, music, scholarly papers, poster presentations, acting and photography.

To participate, send a brief description of what you’d like to contribute including any technology required by Sunday, December 4. You’ll be notified of results by December 6, and be on the stage by Friday, December 9! See attachment for complete details. Contact Mary Beth Sullivan in English 716.286.8455 with any questions or to contribute work.

This is a terrific opportunity to put a line on your vitae, enjoy free refreshments (I do the shopping--any requests?!) and build a little fun into your start of the weekend.

Friday, November 18, 2011

12/01/11 Event: Student Culture Expo

Update of information posted earlier this month!

Date: Thursday, December 1st from 7-9pm
Location: Castellani Art Museum, Main Gallery
Description: The event will serve as an opportunity for students to showcase their works of art, photography, or verse; as well as a time for other students to view the work of their peers. There will be food and five door prizes.

Contact Info:
Host: Laura J. Brownlie (Intern for CAM)

Official event logo:

Shameless plug

If you'd like to read the speech I was asked to deliver to the Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society, Alpha Alpha Zeta chapter, at Niagara University on November 16, 2011 -- here it is. Enjoy!

Witty Personal Finance

Here’s one for the long haul: personal finance lessons, in a blog post titled "14 Personal Finance Lessons You Never Learned in School."

What I like about it: three things.

First, it’s stuff I can get behind myself. I’m 56, and have time-tested most of this writer’s recommendations.

Second, it’s by someone young enough that he’s got the right to be giving advice to folks in their 20s. If I said this stuff, I’d just get eye-rolls. Can’t blame you—I would have rolled my eyes too.

Third, it’s witty and worth reading—my favorite of his 14 lessons begins this way: “Don’t Date Girls Who Own Small Dogs they Carry in Handbags.”

Here are the 14 Lessons:

And here’s the author’s self-intro video, worth watching just to see how someone who felt he had no direction pulled it together: Fair warning—he eventually wants to sell you stuff that our great Career Development folks can also supply. But that’s okay—it’s worth checking out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ninja Research Skills!

I have to admit that, while this is a great article — it was this delicious phrase that caught my eye:

“So when you see a job posting, your mission is to use your ninja research skills to find out who will be making the hiring decision, and to get your resume into the hands of that person.”

This article has some excellent material on how stuff works behind the scenes, and why merely firing off letters and resumes into the Great Beyond won’t do you much good. (This strategy might certainly benefit the post office, but it won’t get you a job.)

Fair warning: the site “Blue Sky Resumes” is a commercial website. They offer useful information, but they also want this information to encourage you to trust them enough to give them money for their products. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that — but bear in mind that as Niagara University students, you have access to a terrific Career Development office full of people itching to help you! And Career Development is free to you... or rather, you've already paid for their services with your tuition dollars.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Today’s tip is one that I imagine many of you will laugh at or blow off. It’s about why to save for your own retirement.

The point is that if you start saving for your retirement when you are young—in your 20s—you will have much more money in your Golden Years fund when you reach retirement age.

Here’s an article to read:

A quote from the article can give you a sense of why: “To illustrate, imagine that you invest $2,000 a year for 20 years and it earns an average of 8% per year. Over 20 years, you would have invested $40,000, but due to the magic of compounding, your pot of money would actually be worth close to $100,000.” (To make this more understandable: $2000 per year is $166.67 per month.) In other words: even if the next 20 years are worse than average in terms of how well the stock market and other financial products are doing, you can expect to at least double your money—if you start young.

Age 67 may seem a long way off for someone who’s 20-some-odd years right now. It sure did to me when I was in my 20s. I guarantee that perception will change as you get older—your 20s will seem like “almost yesterday” fairly soon.

If you don’t have a job as soon as you graduate (and an employer-sponsored retirement plan to which you can contribute), get yourself to a reputable bank and start asking for advice. Shop around a bit and compare. Ask relatives. Go online and do some searching. And plunk a few dollars into retirement each month, even if it’s not much. Yes, I know—there are school loans to pay off, cell phone contracts to feed, and so on.

But the handwriting is pretty much on the wall that if something does not change radically, Social Security as we know it today will not give you even the poverty wages it doles out today to retirees trying to live only on that source.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Interviews: Q and A

Today’s suggested reading is really about two things:

First, this blog entry  discusses the one question you will be asked in any job interview—whether you hear it expressed clearly like this or not. Every interviewer wants to know what you will do on the job. Now, you can’t puff a lot of hot air — you can’t talk about how you are going to leap tall buildings in a single bound — without describing what you have done in the past. But the point of mentioning your accomplishments in the past is to show what value-added you can bring to an employer in the future. After all, what interviewer wants to hear that you gave his or her competition a great advantage in the field in your last job, without also hearing that you’ll be able to bring an even greater advantage to your new and upcoming employer? The only real question, no matter how it’s dressed up and ventriloquised to sound like something else is, then, “what will  you do in the future?”

The second important concept that’s in this blog post is about calibrating your answer. It gives you some solid phrasing on which to build, ways to avoid sounding too wishy-washy, namby-pamby... in a word, how to avoid sounding like a “yes-man” (or woman). Any employer worth your interest and time does not want you simply to show up, do what you’re told, and tell the boss how great he or she is. That’s a suicidal path in the business world. Employers want people who can think for themselves. After all, that’s why they specified that applicants must have a college degree, and why you went out and go that degree. Remember, your degree entitles you to seek, find and hold onto a job that does not require you to ask “do you want fries with that?”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

11/23/11 Deadline; 12/01/11 Event: Student Culture

The Castellani Art Museum and the English Department’s very own Aquila Literary Journal will host a Student Culture Expo on Thursday, December 1. Santa comes early this year!

In order to get your artwork. photography or written work considered for inclusion, please contact Ms. Laura Brownlie at no later than Wednesday, November 23.

A special suggestion from someone who knows how this sort of thing works: Please do NOT, repeat NOT wait until the last minute. Ms. Brownlie is doing a great service for students in being the collection point for your materials, but she needs some down-time just like we all do over the holiday break. I’m sure she’d appreciate submissions earlier than the first day of the Thanksgiving break... Even if you will have something ready for her by the deadline, you might want to drop a quick note ahead of what you’d like to share, so she doesn’t get whomped by a tidal wave at 11:59 p.m. on November 23... followed by a string of “desperate” pleas for consideration by latecomers.

The event itself will be held Thursday, December 1 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Castellani Art Museum’s main gallery, with food provided by catering services on campus. This is a great honor for the Aquila. The Castellani is one of our top-tier venues for events since it’s got the “wow!” factor; and they are including free food! Folks, the Aquila has arrived!

The event will be completely free for all students to attend. The purpose of the event is to promote the Castellani as a resource and an interesting place to hang out, bring friends, and keep an eye on. They have an amazing, dedicated, warm staff of folks, and they’re one of Western New York’s “best kept secrets” with a world-class collection and set of exhibitions. I cannot recommend them enough to you!

11/15/11: Peace Corps

Who: A representative from the Peace Corps, Anthony Trujillo

Where/what time
  • Conference Room in Lower Level Gallagher Center (Room 110) for a meeting with faculty and staff, 11:30 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.
  • A table set up in Gallagher Center from 10 to 10:50 a.m., and from 12:15 to 1 p.m.
  • Visiting several classrooms in between those times
More info
  • Contact Stephanie Newman - Assistant Director, Career Services & Internships - Niagara University - (716) 286-8539,
  • The October 20, 2011 post on this blog, with a link to a FAQ set of questions I posed at

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

11/30/11: Shakespeare Conference

Shakespeare! The Niagara University English Department is pleased to present a mini-conference featuring papers from Dr. Philip Collington's senior seminar English class on Shakespeare's romantic comedies. Our special guest speaker this year will be Sarah Gutman, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Buffalo.

For more information, please see the flyer here:

No reservations, no expectations that you'll stay for the whole thing, and free refreshments! Wednesday November 30, 2011, 5:30 to 9 p.m., Dunleavy Hall Auditorium on the first floor of the building.

To go or not to go, that is the question...

Free e-book on interviewing

If you’re willing to type in your name and email address here --

You’ll be sent a link that allows you to download a 28 page book: 70+ Tips to the Perfect Interview: Advice from Leading Job Search Experts, Career Coaches, Recruiters and HR Professionals.

My full disclosure: I see that the site has “com” at the end; the people behind it probably hope to sell you (or maybe 10% of you who supply your info) something eventually. But I also have to say that I’ve leafed through the material, and I am impressed. You see—I am on the other side of the table when the department is hiring both fulltime and adjunct faculty members. I really, truly wish that some of them had read some of the tips here!

Some may seem obvious—for example, if you’re having a phone interview, for heaven’s sake use a land-line in a quiet place! No battery worries; no barking dogs or shrieking kids in the background.

Other tips give you more than enough starter material to ask employers open-ended but useful questions when the interview says “so, do you have any questions for us?”

A few of the strategies may make you feel like a used-car salesman (maybe even the one from Fargo, the movie...!) So adapt and use as you see fit.

And I believe that a good English major, reading between the lines and reverse-engineering the material in this e-book, might get a sense of how to set up a resume or cover letter which will actually get the interview.

One tip I would like to add (from a true-to-life incident): if you send anything by postal mail to a potential employer, especially a resume, do not, repeat NOT use a return-address label with a cutesy kitten or other goofy image on it. (Yup—we got an application for a fulltime tenure-track English professor like that a few years ago. Not hired.) Because more of us are opening our own mail in these days of belt-tightening; don’t assume that a “meaningless” secretary is opening and discarding your mailing envelope.

(PS--There's no such thing as a meaningless anybody. I've been a secretary, and I know how easy it is to sabotage somebody if they treat "the help" in ways that are less than respectful.) 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pre-Law Workshop

Pre-Law Workshop II  Cracking the Law School Admissions Process -- see the flyer here:

If you’ve ever been even vaguely interested in parlaying your English degree into a law degree, this might be a great opportunity to find out more. Dr. Pete Baxter is both knowledgeable and a terrific speaker—I’m sure that if you come away from this presentation thinking “law is not for me,” you’ll still find yourself enjoying your time.

An English degree would make a terrific complement to credentials as a lawyer! Lawyers work with language all the time. From my experience—they don’t always do it terribly well. I worked for lawyers as a secretary and a paralegal before I became an English professor—and some of them have real struggles getting their thoughts on paper! If you’re good enough with writing and speaking skills to get an English degree, I guarantee that you’d have an advantage over many of the lawyers out there.

So there’s my confession for the day. Consider attending this meeting; where else can you get this kind of sushi-bar sampling of careers than while you’re at college?

Friday, November 4, 2011

How LinkedIn is more than Facebook for Grownups

You may have read about LinkedIn, a social networking site that I’ve mentioned a few times. I’ve been touting it to you as a networking, career-helping destination in cyberspace which you can leverage—not only as you look for your first job, but also throughout your professional life.

Here is a terrific one-stop article that will give you a sense of why, and more importantly what:

An especially nice feature about this article is that it has hot-links which take you directly to LinkedIn when you click them. A handful of examples:

  • ways you can make either visual or written materials available for prospective employers to read—a whole portfolio, free!
  • joining groups that are related to the industry or general area in which you want to work.
  • how to tweak your profile with headline, keywords and other features in order to stand out as a strong candidate for a job.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Everthing you always wanted to ask about social media

My generation is jealous. We call our students, who were born in the late 1980s or early 1990s, “digital natives.” That means you grew up after the internet had been invented—in fact, you grew up while it was booming.

Me—I remember sitting down at my first Macintosh computer in 1984 or 1985. It had all of 128K RAM, no hard drive, no ports worth doing anything, and modems (you remember—the hardware before wifi?!) that took a degree from MIT to figure out how to hook up. Overly-ambitious salespeople told us that a box of a dozen 400K floppy disks would store enough programs and data to last us a lifetime!

But I’m willing to bet that there are holes in your knowledge. A lot of stuff has been invented and taken off in the past decade which you might not yet know how to run. If you’re 22 now, Facebook was invented when you were 15—you’re probably all over Facebook, because it was marketed to your age group.

But what about LinkedIn, blogging and QR codes? Can those help you? If you’re not sure, today’s link is to a site you might find useful: It’s designed for small business owners, not college students—and probably for people in their 30s or 40s. If you’re feeling like there is a piece of your digital repetoire you ought to use, but don’t know how or why—this site has short animated videos which can show you.

And if you already know all this stuff—at least it’s a handy link for you to pass along to your parents or grandparents! (Assuming you want them to be able to read your tweets.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Privacy is 'an old people issue'"

I found the subject line quote from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman interesting; it appears in this article:

On today’s website, you’ll find a discussion with lots of good links to ideas which will help you stand out if and when an employer has enough interest in hiring you to do a Google search for your name.

One of the most interesting links:, which claims it’s a free service allowing you to create a visual CV (curriculum vitae, or in other words a resume). I’ve got to admit, their samples look compelling! I’m not sure how much effort you would need to put in to look like the samples — but I would imagine that making the effort to explore the site and do a mock-up (even if you don’t actually use it) will help you think about ways to articulate your skills and abilities.

Note that while the first link, Blue Sky Resumes, has some solid free tips and ideas, it does eventually want to sell you something. However, our Career Development center c
an give you anything Blue Sky can offer and more—remember, NU’s Career Development center has a serious stake in helping you find a job!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why to clean up your Facebook info

Today's interesting story: how your employer can spy on your internet presence without even knowing where the "on" button on the computer is.

It’s about a problematic new way for employers to check your profile on Facebook without having to have any tech savvy themselves. Rather, they employ a go-between, this company called Social Intelligence Corp., which sends a bot (a programmed computerized robot—something that simply responds to a few key words, without having the human understanding of context) to check out your profile.

Frankly, I think it’s more than a little creepy! The Good Lord alone only knows how misunderstood some of your comments could be when taken out of context. I’m not sure I would pass muster, and I’m very clean (even my 88 year old mom can see my profile!)

But it might give you a sense of why it’s important to keep the Facebook pages clean, and save the (ahem!) more interesting aspects of your social life for private messages!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Get Hired Book for 2011-2012

New and improved Get Hired Book, updated by Career Services.

You can get your own copy by stopping by in the Lower Level Seton Hall office... where you should be going on a weekly basis anyway to familiarize yourself with the superb resources that we have available to you FREE (well—actually, you’ve paid for these resources with your tuition).

You can also download your own copy by going to, and clicking on the link to the pdf version.

Or you can see a kooky picture of me holding up the copy I just got in the mail here: 


Today’s post: how to make your resume stand out, from U.S. News and World Report:

The advice given here may seem obvious. However, whenever the English Department posts an ad for a new faculty member, I am surprised at the number of people (yes, holding or close to holding a Ph.D.! in the premier field for language use!) who have one or more of the problems mentioned in this short, sweet, to-the-point article.

I should also mention that this post comes from a group I've joined on LinkedIn, a really superb place to get advice and information about your career, the job hunt, and anything professional. If you haven't yet joined LinkedIn, consider doing so now--it's easy and fast, and you can fill in your profile a little at a time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Could-a, Should-a, Would-a

Bob Swanson in NU’s Career Development office forwarded me this link. To quote from the article: “An April 2011 survey conducted by Braun Research on behalf of Adecco Staffing U.S. found that 71% of 500 recent four-year college graduates would have done something differently to prepare for the job market.”

That is, here is information straight from the mouths of newly-graduated college students looking back with 20/20 hindsight at what they might have done differently before leaving college.

If you see yourself in any of the “10 worst mistakes,” you still have time—just like Ebenezer Scrooge recognized when he was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come—to mend your ways for a better future!

This Thursday: Bruce George

This sounds like a great event — I certainly recommend it for all English majors who want to round out their study of English with a really contemporary perspective, crossing disciplinary and genre boundaries. Many thanks to Michael Gaut, one of our own highly talented English majors, and David Blackburn, our MISA coordinator.

Lecture by by Bruce George
3:30pm on Thursday, October 27th
Third floor, Bisgrove

Mr. George is an NU alumnus and originator/co-creator of the Grammy Award Winning HBO Production "Def Poetry Jam." He is also a former national slam poetry champ and an entrepreneur holding several positions which promote spoken-word arts and urban-inspired literature.  He co-edited (and had work featured in) "Bandana Republic," a collection of poetry and other writings compiled from former gang members and their affiliates. 

Mr. George's lecture will explore the influences and effects on and of art in the forms of (but not limited to) cartoons and other television, film, and literature.  For his unique involvement with modern poetry and his various creative writing endeavors, the events organized during his visit might be of particular interest to students in the English and Writing Studies programs.

Later that evening, in the same location, Mr. George will conduct a creative writing workshop at 6pm, followed by a poetry showcase at 7:30 where students will be encouraged to read from that which they have wrote or from previously written material. 

(See related post on this blog for October 14, 2011.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Do it now!

Here is a terrific article titled “8 things college seniors can do now to prep for the job search later.” I would argue that students at any point in their academic career can benefit from devoting time to these steps.

An overview of the 8 things you can do:

1.  Clean up your tweets, your Facebook postings, anything in cyberspace. Don’t let a single rude tweet or skanky photo tank your career.
2.  Hang out at career services. Even if you’re not sure what you want them to do for you, go in and tell them that!
3.  Tweak your resume. Find ways to make yours stand out without breaking decorum and sounding goofy.
4.  Spell names correctly on your resume and cover letter. One typo can send your materials to the trash bin.
5.  Ask for letters of recommendation now from the people you want to write for you. Get onto your recommender’s radar.
6.  Network. Go to events, do informational interviews, ask friends, former employers, club members. Return the favor—pass your friends’ information along.
7.  Intern. You may have to scout out your own ideal opportunity. Start now thinking about what your ideal internship would be.
8. Start an online portfolio of writing, resume, references, video clips, etc. Offering an online portfolio can help you avoid cluttering up your resume while still displaying your best stuff.