Thursday, August 23, 2012

Peace Corps: Alternative to Job-Hunt?

The Insider's Guide to Peace Corps: What to Know Before you Go, 2nd edition. The above link is to Kevin Kelly's "Cool Tools" website, a thoughtfully curated list of the best solution to a panoply of concerns, problems, and stuff you never thought you needed until you see it posted here.

The economy stinks. Niagara University students self-select, to some extent, for altruism, drawn by the emphasis on service promoted under the Vincentian mission, and motivated by both religious and non-religious feelings. Put those two things together, and it's at least a possibility some of newly-minted graduates may want to consider the Peace Corps as an alternative to a job.

If Kelly recommends both the book and the experience ("The Peace Corp is really the ultimate education experience for a life in a connected world"), then both are worth taking seriously.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hype Thyself: All About Your Resume

Resumes should offer a quick overview of what you've done, with an eye to showing prospective employers what you can do for them.

I don't recommend producing a bizarre video, website, or even visually unusual resume--especially if you're not applying for a job which has aspects of the kinds of skills you can showcase in such new media. However, some food for thought:

You might set up a website resume that supplements your paper credentials. Here's a link to a handful of online sites, including one targeted to students:

Here's a balanced discussion about what to include on your resume:

The above item has a link to a portfolio of (*ahem*!) highly creative examples of resumes. Before you follow suit, ask yourself whether it will pass the "Six Second Test." That is, will the flashy appeal motivate the employer to focus for any length of time on your dazzling display of dazzling abilities? Or will the difficulty of extracting pertinent information relegate your hard work to the circular file?

Finally, here's a quick review of the basics that employers want to find, in some form, on your resume:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Questions? Yes!

Good article on how to answer what any employer should ask in an interview, whether it's a phone interview or face-to-face, an initial interview or a callback for the umpteenth time.

"Do you have any questions for us?"

You should always come prepared with something to ask. That you've got a few questions shows you're interested. What you ask (and how) is a way to communicate what your priorities are. Do not ask questions like "is the company car I'll be getting a Porsche?" or "how many days can I skip work without getting fired?" (Okay, those are pretty obvious things not to ask.)

Rather, think about what you've seen in the job listing, what you've heard from people, and what the employer seems to want--and ask how you can contribute. More details in the linked article.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Networking: Quality over Quantity

If the point of networking is to help you stay connected to people who might (eventually) be able to do you a favor in the job-world, then it follows that there might be some special strategies and tips. After all, you want quality over quantity.

Here are some ideas about how to build a network before you really need it. Innovate, and focus on people rather than results. Read this tip to find out how.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Networking Secret #1

The link for today offers suggestions about how to be the most interesting person at a networking event. It's broken into three points.

But really, these aren't three discrete points--they all add up to one strategy: focus on others.

That is, don't approach networking thinking that it's All About You. Will you likely get something out of networking? Sure. There's nothing wrong with personal benefit. But if you you walk through the door blowing a tuba at full volume (tooting your own horn, as it were), people will avoid you like the plague you are.

Instead, ask other people about themselves. Listen. Acknowledge them as human beings with needs, desires, and probably fears just like your own. (No, don't point out "I see you're as nervous as I am; we're both sweating like pigs." Yes, even the highest muckety-muck in the room likely has his or her own set of insecurities.) Compliment. Offer help, if it's within your power.

A word on tip #2, avoiding the "elevator speech": Don't avoid it entirely. Do have it squirrelled away in your memory banks where you can reach it. But don't lead with it--don't walk up to people and blatt, blatt, blatt at them before they get a word in edgewise. 

For a truly radical approach to acknowledging other people, and not soiling yourself with that icky feeling of MeMeMe self-promotion, try reviewing the Dalai Lama's "Eight Verses for Training the Mind" at Not for the faint of heart, but a god tonic for the problem of balance in the job search.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cheap Computer Programs

Microsoft Office (including Word) is not the only fish in the sea. It's just the best-known. I'm a cheapskate, so I use Open Office on my little Linux netbook--it has almost everything Word does.

However, Word is the gold standard for sending email attachments -- be they resumes or college writing assignments. However, there are a number of programs out there that can fake it. Today's link gives you some alternatives.

If you're using a non-MS Word program to prepare your resume, paper, etc., there's an easy way to allow almost any other program to open your document with little or no loss of formatting: rtf. The acronym stands for "rich text format," and is a sort of lingua franca of word-processing programs.

Prepare your document as usual. Save it as usual. Then, open the document and find the "save as" menu. That menu will usually be on the left hand side of whatever menus pull down, and will be in the vicinity of the usual "save" option.

When you select "save as," however, you will see a handful of choices. Find "rtf," and save your document. You'll get a document icon with "rtf" added to the right side after the period (the same place you would have "doc" or "wps" or whatever). You can send that file to just about anyone.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Don't Get a Master's Degree

If you're contemplating getting a master's degree just because...
  1. You haven't gotten a job yet, and think your prospects might improve with a bigger and badder degree.
  2. You've heard of this cool new master's degree program that allows you to do really weird, fun stuff you never had a chance to do because of all those philosophy and math requirements in your undergrad degree.
  3. School felt good, and now that it's over you miss it.
Stop and think.

The item linked for today does list a few good reasons to pursue more education after your bachelor's, but the ones I've listed above are none of them. 
  1. You may appear overqualified to a prospective employer, and you won't have anything more to list under the "experience" heading of your resume because grad school is going to be far more work than undergrad.
  2. Colleges and universities are hurting for money, and one way they're making the rent is by slapping together funky, fluffy master's degrees that seem like loads of fun and intellectual stimulation, but don't put a single dollar of your borrowed tuition money back in your pocket.
  3. Grow up. Sorry to be that blunt, but every grad program has its lore of the students who didn't make, dropped out, and now live on the streets.