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.