Monday, April 30, 2012

Networking: The Next Steps
This article in the Wall Street Journal confirms that the “informational interview” is alive and well, and a good source of information for people seeking entry into a specific field. It supplies an overview of how to go about getting one, and how long you should seek for your discussion. Also a strong plus: comments, warning would-be questioners to do their homework by reading up on information which is freely available on the internet before seeking an informational interview.

Another interesting take on networking: call someone you have not contacted recently for the information or networking connection. I guess it makes sense—someone you knew way back when might be more inclined to go out of his or her way to help if your friendship has gone dormant, and the other person is amenable to starting it back up again. Finally, it seems like a lot of workplaces are shifting to social media for getting work done inside a company. Thus your social media savvy is an effective networking tool for the work of job-hunting, but may also be a plus in the “skills” column for employers to consider when they think about how well you can do the job. People at work are communicating more and more through apps, and through websites designed to foster collaboration, co-editing and various kinds of communication. Take a look at this website from Daily Tekk -- — especially the categories “Mind mapping/vision boarding” and “People & project management/Team Collaboration.” There is lots of stuff out there, suggesting that a pretty large audience is buying into these different products with a structured approach to collaboration (beyond simply emailing and sharing a few documents in something like cloud storage).

Keep in mind that some activities, as this clip from the Harvard Business Review suggests, are less about networking than ego-casting. The article starts with a tale of a groom, standing up in front of the minister with his bride, who tweeted his “I do” rather than saying it aloud. The article contains some thoughtful discussion of why people sink to these new social behavioral lows—and thereby provides a checklist for your own activities. What is your motivation in networking? 

Note: The link to the Daily Tekk article was incorrectly posted above; I've corrected it 5/7/12

Friday, April 27, 2012

All About Resumes

Wow; who knew that the method English professors use—the “so what?” question as a response to academic papers—could be a useful way for you to fine-tune and tweak your resume? The above link offers some advice on how to make sure the wording on your resume doesn’t simply appear to read “blah, blah, blah” when a prospective employer spends the 5.7 seconds that are average for skimming over each resume.
Generic resumes that you drop from an airplane like propaganda leaflets across the countryside are so 20th century. Here are some tips on how to tailor a distinct resume for each job you apply for. Yup—it sounds like work. But if you want to get the interview—you gotta do the work.
Gimmicky garbage? Or eye-catching standouts? It seems that the visual “infographic” resume is on the rise. Here’s an article with links to several places that will crank your resume through your choice of templates, and give you a product that looks like nobody else’s stuff. (Except the people who also cranked their resumes through these sites.) I don’t know—I guess you have to think about where you’re applying before you go for something this unusual.

I can give you fair warning as someone who has screened my share of resumes: beware. If I cannot compare your apples with other people’s oranges, I won’t consider you for the job. If you strike me as all flash and no substance, I will “circular file” your stuff immediately. And even if the information you convey is appropriate and snappy—woe unto you if I cannot photocopy or scan your material into a pdf, so I can share with colleagues who might be co-screening alongside me. If I can’t share easily—there’s no point in pursuing you, if there are many other equally qualified choices for me to choose from.

PS: Be aware too of the machines that pre-screen your resume. See my blog post for Feb. 16, 2012 on ATS software.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Advice from Old People

Advice from your future self... or from Dirty Harry!
If your future self could send you a message in a bottle, what would that message say? Here’s a clip from someone 43 years old (eek! your parents’ age!) that I would certainly have been willing to send my 20-something year-old self. It’s a good read-through and comparison checklist. And no, I’m not claiming that I’ve got all these 43 lessons “down pat.” In fact, I could stand to work on some of these myself.

What do these have to do with job-seeking and career building? Nothing... and everything.  Because “getting a job” is not the be-all and end-all of your college career, or of your life. It’s a part of that life, and something that seems to loom large when you don’t have it all together yet. Having a job makes other things possible—things like paying bills, having certain kinds of fun, and providing you a comfortable enough life to figure out what your purpose in life is. But the job itself isn’t the purpose—only a stepping-stone to the purpose. The job, or the career, should abide by the values in these 43 lessons just as much as the rest of your life should.
Actually, this link contains advice not from the movie character Dirty Harry, but from Clint Eastwood. It’s stuff that was old when he heard it—and probably sounds old to you, coming from a guy who will celebrate his 82nd birthday in a month. But the site where I found this post points out that the advice is still circulating as fresh news for job-seekers and career-builders. And hey, the site is worth visiting if for no other reason than to see the “classic movie lines” video clip embedded at the bottom... from back when Eastwood had hair! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Red Hot! Summer Internships Available

Two terrific opportunities for summer 2012 for English majors:
Internship in New York City for an individual with editorial and social media experience, some interest in architecture or design. (Many thanks to Ms. Mary Beth Sullivan for bringing this to my attention!)
Internship in Western New York for an individual with marketing and public relations skills, promoting regional summer programming through a not-for-profit organization. (Many thanks to Dr. Jamie Carr for bringing this to my attention!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

All's Fair in Job Fairs

From U.S. News & World Report, here is a great article on job fairs. It’s not enough to show up in your best suit with a smile, a shoe-shine, and copies of resumes in hand. Everyone else will have those “plus factors” too. What is your “wow” factor?

If you go to a large event, you need to distinguish yourself from the competition. This means making a memorable impression (a positive memorable impression, rather than a negative one). This means, among other things:

  • Having your “elevator speech” well honed and practiced. “Tell me about yourself” should not elicit a deer-in-the-headlights stare, or an incident involving spilled coffee.
  • Knowing what kind of employment you are seeking, and what your qualifications reasonably suit you for. “I’ll take anything from rocket science to pushing broom!” sounds wayyyy to desperate, and probably indicates that you’re qualified for neither job.
  • Researching the companies represented at the event will help you make solid connections. A job fair is not the time to be asking “now, what was the name of your company? how do you spell that? and what do they do?”
For 20 extra bonus points, what famous work of drama, winner of the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and a Tony for Best Play, did I allude to in the second sentence of this posting?

Monday, April 23, 2012

All About Networking

You can build a network while you are still in college — how and where to turn:

Too shy to network? Here’s a pep-talk from a shy person who has learned to network, and describes the process. Remember—if you are feeling shy, probably a lot of other people in any given situation are also feeling shy. Bond over your shared shyness!

Standing in a large room full of strangers is probably what comes to mind when you hear “networking.” But don’t forget to seek opportunities for more extended discussion, like a business-and-networking lunch. Here is a good article on the unspoken rules for doing lunch:

And finally, “lurking”--silently visiting websites where others gather, not joining in the conversation or giving any indication that you’re there. Can that also be part of networking? You be the judge after reading:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Trayvon Martin, Panel Discussion April 24

Diversity Advocates [of Niagara University] Presents:
The Trayvon Martin Case
A panel discussion, featuring:
Dr. Kalen Churcher, Communication Studies
Dr. Julian Hayter, History
Dr. Tim Ireland, Criminal Justice
Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Castellani Art Museum, Gallery 1

Flyer here

Where the Jobs Are

Here is a trio of useful links, offering advice on where to look for jobs, and what kinds of “green” jobs are out there, and how to make the most effective search.

First, where? Here are some hard, research-based numbers. Yes, I know that many of you will be saying “I absolutely refuse to move anywhere beyond 50 miles from home.” Well—you may have to. On the bright side — one of the top handful of cities includes Syracuse, and it’s not that much further than 50 miles away!

Second, what kind of future do you want to be building as you work? If one strong answer for you is “green”--environmentally conscious—then here’s an article (with many links elsewhere) outlining places to look:

After all, are you really only in the job market to make a quick buck, or do you want the work you do with your life to have some kind of positive impact on the world around you?

Finally, here is a link to the Wall Street Journals “how to” section, with clickable topics like “How to Identify Industries That Are Hiring”:

Not all of these tips are tailored exactly to the needs and concerns of recent college graduates. However, you won’t be one of those forever; and the advice is universal enough that you should get plenty of good stuff by combing this site.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What social media jobs are hot?

What kinds of jobs are out there for Social Media? Companies and organizations have caught up with the revolution sparked (or perhaps more modestly, made visible by) Facebook. They understand that in order to compete for business, and for support, they need to have a media presence.

But many companies are run by people well over their 20s—into their 30s, 40s, 50s or even beyond. How well do your grandparents understand social media? Yep—I thought so. Not much. Granny has a Facebook page where she keeps in touch with her grandkids. Gramps actually has an iPad but has yet to get the hang of more than a few apps; mostly its his glorified Kindle.

Now you understand why people of that generation are looking for people like your generation, English majors, who can help them establish and nurture an online clientele. It’s less about technical expertise, and more about knowing the memes, the netiquette, the subtleties of the web.

This article has a description of job titles (or at least, broad categories), what each kind of job does, and how much you can expect to make doing that job. Each of the job titles is also a clickable link, which will bring you to a somewhat more in-depth discussion of what, how much, and the steps you can take to become the proud owner of the title.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Here are five job-search tips “that almost nobody follows.” They’re all pretty obvious stuff: personalize, network, practice, think ahead to what employers will want to know about you.

If these are such all-fired important things people should do, then why don’t they?

Ah, the excuses:

It’s got a great video clip from Michael Jordan—talking about failure (in a Nike commercial)--and a list of reasons people give for not using the job search strategies that will work.

The excuses boil down to “I don’t like feeling unhappy; I’d rather ignore the situation than face failure again.” But failure is how we learn. Failure is how people like Michael Jordan learned to be Michael Jordan, and how the people holding jobs you would like to see yourself holding 20 years from now started out.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Is your English teacher too tough? try employers!

Arrogant, or absolutely dead on? This link gets you to a fairly length email from a prospective employer, who found it easy to reject a large percentage of the 900 people who applied, based on — well, simple stuff like failure to follow the directions.

The tone of the headline, and the NSFW (not safe for work—don’t open this if your work environment is sensitive) caption on the picture where the link led made me think I was in for a juicy treat. That is, I expected to see something nasty from an employer who was spilling his guts, perhaps partially justified. But you know the thrill—the person on the other side of the desk acting badly, and proving that we’re all human.

Instead—it all seemed perfectly rational and calm in tone. “Here are the things you should do, and avoid doing, if you really want the job you just applied for.” The comments (you may need to click on “show all”) seem to be about 90% in support of what this employer has written in his blanket rejection letter. Most of the commenters point out that they rarely get any feedback, so this is indeed valuable information.

And I got to thinking — isn’t this exactly what I’ve been writing on assignment papers I get as an English teacher all along? Follow the directions. Don’t puff up your ideas. Don’t use crazy typefaces. Don’t turn in your freewriting as a final draft.

Sometimes students take offense after I’ve worked hard to supply constructive criticism (including what is good about their work). They look only at the grade and get mad, don’t read my comments, and get increasingly angry when their grades don’t improve after a first paper. They get defensive and tell me that I have failed to “respect” them. They write mean (yes, mean) things on end-of-semester evaluations.

But I think this link may give you a sobering reality check... your English professor was nice, compared to what a prospective employer may be thinking. And most employers won’t give you the time of day if they don’t want to invite you for an interview, in part because it’s too time-consuming to respond individually to the many who didn’t make the cut, and in part because we live in a litigious society where you might turn around and sue them. You probably wouldn’t win a lawsuit, but you could certainly be a nuisance (yes, there are horror stories about that, too).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bad reasons for going to graduate school

In this link: Bad reasons to go to graduate school... and (at the end) some good ones.

We’re at a point in the economy, job market, recovery—the whole gestalt—where you and everybody else have a nifty little piece of paper with some initials printed on it. Look, ma! A degree! Here’s a link with a truly depressing take on what your undergrad degree is worth. Spoiler alert—this article raises the problems, and contains some amusingly cynical writing, but doesn’t say very much about what the solution is, except that it’s “innovative.”

And the educational market is at a point where those schools which are not Ivy League institutions (and even some who are) are scrambling for more enrollments. There is a dip in the number of students headed to college. There is a dip in the pockets of people willing to pay for college. There is a dip in the number of students looking for solid undergraduate education rather than on-line fluffer-nutter sandwiches.

Put those together—tough job market, struggling colleges—and what happens? Why colleges will invent new master’s degrees to entice people who have no clue what to do at the end of a bachelor’s degree. It’s a way to keep the cash cow rolling, a way to pump more money out of you (or whomever you’ve borrowed the money from).

Before you get serious about signing on the dotted line for a graduate degree, take time. Talk with employers you think a masters might appeal to. Talk with college professors who have mentored you. There are good reasons to get a masters. But there are also some reasons that are smoke-and-mirrors.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One question YOU ask can get you hired

Well—okay, there are no absolutely sure things. But here is a VERY clever, inoffensive strategy for getting the maximum leverage out of a job interview. Even if there are multiple interviews scheduled for the position you want, using this one question is sure to impress, and very likely to get you to the second round.

Fifty extra bonus points for you English majors who know enough grammar (having been the targets of my red-pencil comments on your papers) to spot the error in the way the question is phrased! Hint: it’s a common error in written material; although it’s becoming more common in spoken English, it is still “bad” grammar in formal written English.

Summer Slacking

Summer plans. Ah, the vast empty space on the calendar. Okay—I know most of you will be working, possibly taking a class or two. But still, when the sun stays out until after 9 p.m., time seems to stretch to infinity... and the before you know it, you’re staring at the end of August and school starting up again.

I really like this article. In a word, it suggests pacing yourself. As in, it’s easy to procrastinate the summer away because you have so much time that seems like it will be available forever. And  you do need (deserve) some down-time away from cranky professors and stuff you may not enjoy until you look back on it through the haze of time 20 years from now.

So: set some modest goals. Write them down. Tell a few friends, maybe make a pact. Some of your modest goals might include visiting the Career Center here at NU, once or maybe even twice. (You can even use their extensive online resources if you’re not physically in the vicinity.) Or starting your LinkedIn profile activity. Or writing a blog so you can show off your “personal brand” (that is, develop a portfolio of stuff that prospective employers might find the tipping point to where they want to hire you, over all other candidates).

It doesn’t matter what goals you set—as long as you set a modest handful.

Summer is almost here!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Free e-books

Free for the asking, either online or to download to your computer or iPod/iPad/other tablet — pdf copies of the following titles. Click to download; you don’t have to supply your email address or sign up for anything.

Insider's Guide to Networking
Networking for introverts, tips on what NOT to do when networking, using the Internet for interviewing and strategies for maintaining an active network.

Insider's Guide to Interviewing
Interview planning, taking control of the interview situation, advice on closing, salary negotiation.

Insider's Guide to Resume Writing
Your branded value proposition, telling stories and contextualizing them, common mistakes on resumes

Insider's Guide to Job Search
A broad overview: key words and concepts (which employers may know and expect you to be able to speak about); how to check out companies beyond simple Google searches; how to overcome (or at least manage) your fears about job-hunting; personal branding; and strategies designed for executive job-hunters that will make you seem cool and sophisticated.

Lots and lots and lots of stuff. Maybe too much stuff—certainly more than you can put into action in a day! However, the value of such a large compendium of materials (some 60 pages per book) is that you can browse and get ideas for your job-hunt strategies. You can prime the pump, discover new strategies for your repetoire, and generally brush up on what others are out there doing—so they don’t beat you to it.

As always, if you’re feeling truly lost, Niagara University’s Career Center is the one-stop, personally-tailored, friendly resource that you’ve already paid for with your tuition dollars. If you have not yet stopped by this year (this semester, this month, this week...), you owe it to yourself and your career to make these terrific folks your best friends!

Who you know is what you get

Anybody can blather on about where to look for jobs. Uninformed opinions (as your education at Niagara University should be teaching you) are worth less than the paper they are printed on. Turning over rocks to look for jobs doesn’t work too well.

Here are some research findings about one company’s analysis of its own hiring practices. The company, Silk Road, describes itself as a “provider of cloud-based social talent management solutions.” In other words, they match jobs and people. Data is based on almost 10 million applications for nearly a quarter million jobs. The article is from Forbes, a top business magazine.

Some of the results, in a nutshell:

  • Successful candidates from “external” sources (outside the company) use online job aggregators. The article supplies a list of top online sites.
  • Individual company “career” websites (listing what jobs are open) produce even more successful candidates who are hired.
  • Candidates who have a referral get the most jobs. 
In brief, this article suggests that big job-posting sites are good starting points. But you should also be targeting companies you want to work for, checking their job sites maybe once a week to see new postings. And you should network, network, network!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Savings made painless

Today’s link from “Budgets are Sexy” is about saving — how to, why to.

It’s got some good ideas for automating your saving, making it painless, ending up with a substantial chunk o’ change by doing fairly minimal things.

One of my favorites: keep your change in a jar. Don’t (of course) drop it into one of those “cash for coins” machines (what a weird concept—as if coins are not cash?) Instead, roll them up, or bring them to a bank, to get something more portable than a big jar o’ metal. I have fond memories of my family saving this way for “special treats.” About once a year, we kids would roll up all the coins (mostly pennies) and finance a special night out at a fancy restaurant or something.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tooting your own Horn

Toot your own horn (the subject of this 3-minute video clip) without peeing on your shoes (the title of the book by Julie Bauke, the person being interviewed in this clip).

How many of us can accept a “thank you” or “great job,” or talk about a recent accomplishment, without feeling like we’re bragging, or feeling a need to downplay how significant that accomplishment is? If you do have this problem, you might want to look at this clip. It gives good practical and philosophical advice about putting compliments into perspective, acknowledging them, without overstating or bragging.

Of course, if you are still looking for a job, you are (or should be) tooting that horn to somebody who does not know you well enough to compliment you (yet). You have to be persuasive as you say good things about yourself. If you think about the advice offered in this clip, there are some good strategies here. Praise others as you talk up your own good points—give credit to others where it is due, and demonstrate that you’re a team player.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Human Trafficking Conference at Hilbert

Our very own Dr. Larry Boxer has passed along an email about an upcoming conference that may be of interest, at Hilbert College at the end of April. The conference is free; more information appears on the flyer here:

This is a very timely subject; I’ve been following Nicholas Kristof, one of my favorite writers in the New York Times Sunday papers. One of the most recent issues he has tackled is human trafficking here in the U.S. It seems that the same company which owns the Village Voice owns a website That website is a leading site for trafficking—selling, as in for sex—women and girls in the U.S. Kristof recently discovered and publicized the information that Goldman Sachs, an international financial giant (investing, banking) owns a 16% share of this website.

You can see a brief discussion at Kristof’s blog at, and at the New York Times at

If you have any sympathy with the Occupy Wall Street movement of last year, or want to learn more about an important area of social justice right here in our back yards, this information may be of interest to you.

Seek Summer Internships Now

Here’s a great pair of links if you’ve just realized the calendar has dropped another leaf, and it’s April — a scant month away from exams and that lovely open expanse of time called summer.

Make the most of your summer this year; set yourself up with an interesting, resume-worthy internship that will lead to lots of networking opportunities, friendships, and expanded confidence.