Thursday, January 31, 2013

Of Purple Squirrels and Monster.Ugly

Here's an eye-opening post from Savvy Intern.

  • A "purple squirrel" is a highly desirable, sought-after candidate for employment. Yes, there are jobs; and yes, employers have a hot-list of the perfect person to fill the job. But that perfect person is as difficult to find as... well, as a purple squirrel. (I'm not sure whether this is a hoax, a meme, or genuine fact; you can look at this page and see what you think: However, when I googled "purple squirrel" I did find the common definition is a rare, desirable job candidate.)
  • There is a stigma against people who apply for positions through large job boards, like Monster. Your resume and application materials go into a black hole, no matter how perfect you sound on paper. Because face it, if you're that cut off and isolated from the rest of the world that you haven't networked your way into knowing about a job (better yet, getting a recommendation from someone already working at the organization), you seem desperate and a little creepy.
The writer for this blog, Mark Babbitt, takes issue with the notion that you cannot network if you don't already have a job, though. Read the post for more information... or flip through some of my earlier "how to" blog postings on "networking" (use the topics links toward the top of the page).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Top Secret: Hidden Jobs

Are you mindlessly drilling through Monster and its clones, thinking you've got access to "all the jobs in the world" (or in your field and desired geographic region)? There may very well be other opportunities lurking out there. You'll never know about them if you don't keep dancing--that is, network, ask, connect, and use good old fashioned hunches.

This is a brief article on how networking and serendipity can work, and why. Some good reasons employers don't post jobs (think 5,000 applications... on the first day alone; think replacement for someone who doesn't know he or she is going to be unemployed really soon...) And some ways to keep your antennae up and your intuition humming. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Business Cards

Old school technology, sure, but a business card makes you look like you consider yourself a professional. When you pull one out of your pocket at a job fair, or have one at the ready in your wallet when you make an unexpected networking contact, you look well-prepared. Above is a website listing several different resources for business cards. 

Be sure your card has a phone number, email and other contact information that will be "current" for at least the next five years. You would hate to miss out on a news flash from someone who's heard about the perfect job, only to have graduated and moved away from NU, abandoning the email address you've used while you're a student. (Get a Gmail account and a Google voice number--you don't have to pay for either one.)

Here's a good article to get you started on business card etiquette:

Be aware, though, that different countries may play by different rules. For example, I don't know from direct experience how complete the information is at this link about Japanese business card use (, but I can see that there are nuances I would need to know!

Free Cake on Valentine's Day!


Famous women's rights reformer, Susan B. Anthony, is one of our local heroes. Please help us celebrate her life's work, which culminated in women gaining the right to vote with the Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1920; attend Niagara University's annual Susan B. Anthony birthday celebration. The event will be held on Thursday, Feb. 14, from 7 – 8 p.m., in Dunleavy Hall, Room 127. At the event, Anthony's life and works will be discussed, and the winners of the 2013 Susan B. Anthony writing contest will be announced. Winners of the contest will have a chance to present their work, and everyone will get a slice of birthday cake. Any questions may be directed to Shannon Risk at Thank you for your support.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Big fish, little pond

Here's a thought--you can never be "the best" at any given employable skill. There is always someone with more experience, higher-octane beans, better references.

However, you can still be the best person for a job--if you look for multiple skills, attitudes and aptitudes you bring to the table. There are exponentially fewer people with the exact range of abilities you have.

With a stinky economy, any employer worth its salt (any organization still afloat these days, and hiring) will be looking to maximize the benefit from each hire. Someone with multiple skills--in addition to the one target area in the job description--could bring added value for the money.

The trick is doing enough research to figure out what added value you bring to the table. Maybe you're applying for a job as a writer--can you bring your hobby in photography into play? If you're interested in a job as an events planner--can you also design brochures to promote your company's services? If you're headed into sales--would you be interested in training others to achieve the same kinds of success you have achieved?

The more skills you bring to the table, the bigger the fish you seem in the eyes of prospective employers, and the smaller the pond you're swimming in.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Networking: It could have been worse!

You know I'm always nagging you to go out and network. It's just a fancy word for schmoozing, making friends in professional circles, and generally getting to know people.

But networking can feel scary for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons might include your own worries, self-consciousness, shyness. Nobody is perfect. We all mess up sometimes. You just don't want that sometimes to happen to you. Ever.

Here's a raft of stories about fullblown networking disasters--true stories. Graciously shared, I might add. All available for you here so you can read them as you prep for your next networking opportunity... and keep saying to yourself "at least that never happened to me!"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Use unpaid work to get paid work

Service is good for you! 

Yes, it's good for those people and organizations you serve. Yes, it "builds character" and makes you feel connected to the world around you. Yes, it kills time in a far healthier way than playing video games for hours at a time. Yes, it allows you to meet interesting people and make friends. Yes, it's a big part of a Niagara University education.

But service--volunteering to work for no pay, especially in causes related to your chosen career field--can help you find a real job. This article points out why and how, and perhaps gives you some ideas about how to optimize your choice of service opportunities.

Of particular interest is the first of the six reasons listed in this article: discrimination against people who are presently unemployed. State legislatures are finding it necessary to pass laws against the increasingly common practice of refusing to hire anyone who does not already have a job. As you know, just because there's a law against it doesn't mean employers won't try to squirm around it... the bias may persist. But being engaged in a fairly substantial volunteer gig helps dissipate some of the stigma that you are (a) presently unemployed, and therefore (b) unemployable, a leftover, defective goods.


Here's a list of 14 blogs that are geared toward you: young, professional, and concerned with ways to keep control of your finances. Some of the blogs listed here have solid, practical advice; others offer ways of thinking about money, spending and happiness. 

After all, the point of getting a job is at least half about living well on the money you earn (the other half is about enjoying your work and feeling like your professional goals are being met).

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On your own

Today's post is from an unusual source: Reddit. If you're not familiar with Reddit, you can get up to speed quickly at the Wikipedia site ( For more in depth, see this link: It's like Facebook, but less censored, less commercial, and has a broader range of interests and possibilities. Quick caveat: It also has some seriously rough language and content at points.

The thread I think might be of interest is a series of responses (and conversations back and forth) on the question "What advice can you give us young adults who want to move out and get their own place?"

Money management, renting, bare-bones budgeting... a very funny discussion of why you should purchase a (toilet) plunger before you really need one. Nothing is sacred with this group.

Be aware that you can click on "load more comments" links to see additional material if you are particularly interested in a subject.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A resume for the 21st century

The workhorse of job-searching is your resume.

It's like the little black dress, pearls and pumps for women; the charcoal pinstripe suit and white shirt for men. Timeless, classic.

I've seen many claims that the resume is dead--being replaced by (say) a LinkedIn profile, a video resume, something involving clever pictures and graphs (whether on paper or online), etc., etc., etc.

But I think the durability of the resume lies in the familiarity of the basic form. Anyone hiring has been around long enough to know the conventions of the resume, and to be able to locate key information without having to think too hard about the semiotics.

When I see a resume which follows the rules about where the various parts fit on the page, which uses a plain-jane typeface without requiring that I learn an exotic new visual language to understand what it all means, I feel comfortable. I can get to the point without straining to read it.

That said, your resume should be written for the 21st century. You don't sign your letters "the subscriber hereto begs to remain your humble servant." Likewise, you don't want to use gunky language--the word "objective" at the top is now considered passé, as is the phrase "references available upon request."

Fine-tune your resume-writing for 2013 with the links above.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Job Boards: Conflicting Advice

The "job board" is dead! The "job board" is very much alive! Ugh--who to believe?

It is tempting to believe in a magic bullet. Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed... In fact, if you want a list of mega-super-sized online sites listing millions and millions! of high-paying! jobs! for free!, you can surf on over to

Take it all with a grain of salt. As the first article from the Brazen Careerist suggests, there are some serious flaws with job boards. You may not be applying for jobs that are actually open. You are faceless among thousands of applicants who have seen the same job-opening. And the bottom line is that job boards are commercial enterprises--somebody is getting money for hosting the website, be it through advertising or other sources.

Blogging4Jobs seems to suggest the opposite, at least as a trend for 2013.

You can look at niche job boards, specializing in a narrow band of industries and concerns; I've already included some links on this blog to how to find this information. (Type in "job boards" in the search box, upper left corner.) You can also check out the final article from UnderCover Recruiter about how to use job boards effectively.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NU Celebrates MLK Week!

Project Angel Shoes Community Service - Kiernan Center Front Gym     
Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 - 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Niagara University’s Institute for Civic Engagement (ICE) is hosting a service-learning activity to support the Sustainable Sandals project, which annually distributes hundreds of thousands of gently worn sandals from the Cave of the Winds to impoverished areas across the globe. Volunteers will process the sandals at the Kiernan Center. Snacks and refreshments will be provided. To join the project stop by or call MISA 716.286-8510.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Fact & Photo Exhibit - Glynn Atrium
Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 - 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Bisgrove Hall’s Glynn Family Atrium will be decorated with an assortment of posters and images highlighting pertinent facts relating to Dr. Martin Luther King and his legacy.

MLK Day Youth Program
Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 - 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
The MLK Day Youth Program involves hosting 65 local youths who will experience a day of learning, service, and exploring the opportunities that are ahead with a college education. Their day includes a reading activity and book giveaway sponsored in part by Scholastic Books Family and Community Engagement Program. They will also participate in the Project An- gel shoes community service activity. Rounding out the day, they will take a tour of the Niagara University campus and have an opportunity to ask questions to a small panel.

MLK Day Speaker & Mini Concert
Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 - Castellani, 6:30 p.m.
The Honorable Judge Hugh B. Scott, NU alum, and board of trustee member, will be our MLK Day speaker. Preceding his presentation there will be a mini concert rendered by St. Martin Deporres, a guest choir of our Campus Ministry department.

Student Voter Registration Drive - Lower Level Gallagher
Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 - 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Students will be able to register to vote as well as get some basic history on voting rights and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work in this area. This activity will be sponsored by various members of the MISA Board, Diversity Advocates, and NUSGA.

Ted Gong - Resolution of Regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act       
Thurs. Jan. 24, 6:30 p.m., Castellani
It is said that for over 100 years, the violence and injustice of anti-Chinese laws in the United States had gone officially unacknowledged, and the history had become largely forgotten. Ted Gong is a founder and co-chair of the 1882 Project, which actively worked to uncover this history and bring about the Resolution of Regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Rethinking Affirmative Action - Dr. Michael Durfee
Fri., Jan. 25, 1:25 p.m., Gallagher, MPR
Instructor of Urban History,      Dr. Michael Durfee, will do a presentation on the current state of Affirmative Action. He will also touch on Civil Rights movement and it’s aftermath.

Remembering 1882 Panel Exhibition   
All week, Jan. 21-25, Castellani
Castellani Art Museum will host an exhibit that documents various points in the history of Chinese Americans as they relate to the 1882 Project and the Chinese Exclusion Act. The exhibit will be up during the week of January 21st.

Donations For Non Perishable Food Items
All week, Jan. 21-25, Bins In LL Gallagher
Two food collection bins will be located in the lower level Gallagher Center throughout Martin Luther King Jr. Week at Niagara. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to bring non perishable food items which will be brought to the Food Bank of Western New York to assist local families in need of help.

Student Volunteer Opportunities MLK Week
Contact MISA Office for details -, (716) 286-8510

  • Community Missions: Preparing Dining Area, Serving Food, Cleaning Service Areas, Arranging Food Pantry Items, Sorting, folding and storing donated clothing items
  • Heart, Love, & Soul - Food Kitchen: Serving & Preparing Food

Writing Contest Deadline

It's almost here -- the deadline for the Susan B. Anthony Writing Awards I mentioned in a post way back in September 2012:

The deadline is coming up soon--Friday, January 25 at 5 p.m. in the Office of Academic Support, Seton Hall, 1st floor. Details for submissions and cover sheet for identifying information are at Cash prizes will be awarded at the Susan B. Anthony Birthday Celebration on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 7:00 pm in DNL 127. Contact Ms. Sharon Green, who is Coordinator of Instructional Services at the Office of Academic Support, Seton Hall, NU. Phone 716-286-8071, email

Don't catch the Flu while at NU

Hi, all. Welcome back to one of the easiest places to catch a contagious disease... a college campus.

But seriously, folks. Any institutional setting (military base, assisted living facility, etc., etc.) has lots of disease vectors--new people coming in with germs and viruses they are immune to, but to which you may not be immune. We swap germs, mix & match, and if our luck is running really badly, our hallowed halls will sound like the depths of a T.B. ward within a month or so. 

Studies have shown that frequent hand-washing is effective. Using hand sanitizer in between trips the restroom. Not touching your hands to your face after contact with suspect surfaces (telephones, door handles, desktops...) Yeah, we might as well all go live in bubbles, I know. 

NU is trying to do its bit to stop the flu by scheduling a flu-shot clinic. The fewer people who contract the flu, the healthier we all are on average. If you do catch the flu, having gotten a shot is likely to mean your symptoms are less severe, and clear up more quickly. 

The only catch: you must sign up for this one-shot (pun!) clinic in advance. I have been told by our Head Nurse & public health advocate Lori Soos that the clinic must draw at least 25 pre-registered people in order to run. 

Thanks in advance for contributing to my health (as well as your own).

FLU SHOT CLINIC - Wednesday Jan. 23

Independent Nursing Care will host a special flu shot clinic on Wednesday, Jan. 23, from 11 a.m. until noon, in the Health Services office. PRE-SIGN UP IS NECESSARY TO GET A FLU SHOT. All NU students, employees, and family members are invited to attend. Insurance cards must be presented at time of service. Please check out the Health Center website at for a list of accepted insurances. Cash payment for vaccines will also be accepted at the following cost: $25 flu shot, $35 flu mist. Questions may be referred to student health services at ext. 8390.

For more information, here's a pdf from NU's employee assistance program, Triple Track:

Friday, January 11, 2013


This post suggests that rather than graduating and moving back into your parents' basement, you should consider a job outside your field of preparation and expertise. Benefits: you'll gain new skills and networking opportunities, develop confidence in your abilities to handle a curve-ball, and distinguish yourself with an unusual combination of skills or experiences in your next go-round at the job hunt.

For the same reason: take courses that stretch your abilities. Maybe the title sounds vaguely interesting; maybe you've got an intellectual itch you'll only get to scratch while you're in college (gee, I wish I knew more about...) It doesn't matter. Try something different; you'll learn to think outside the box, and you might even find you like several corners of that odd box you're inhabiting temporarily. In fact, this is the reason most colleges make you take courses which are "unrelated" to your major.

This is also the logic behind the 2008 much talked-about took How Starbucks Saved my Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everybody Else by Michael Gates Gill. (Rich guy burns through his money, gets divorced, fired, brain tumor, becomes a barista and finds happiness.) Or if you haven't got time for the book (mixed reviews on Amazon), you can get a sense of the story here:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

First Job Jitters

Forget about what you can do for your employer on your first job after you've graduated college. (Or at least, set it aside for a moment.)

What can your first job/employer do for you?

Quite a lot, actually. Here's a thoughtful article about what kinds of self-assessment and transition-from-college work you should be doing. 

Also, as the second-to-last paragraph of this article suggests, a clear understanding of some of the macro-level stuff about careers and jobs can take the pressure off of you to find "the perfect job." No job is perfect. There's plenty to learn and ways to move toward an even better match for your interests and goals no matter what job you've landed.


Killam Fellowships Program - Study in Canada
The application deadline for the 2013-2014 open competition of the Killam Fellowships Program ( for undergraduate students is Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. The Killam Fellowships Program is an opportunity for Americans to spend either one semester or a full academic year studying at a university in Canada. The award carries a value of US$5,000 per semester, and includes a health coverage allowance. Feel free to contact Dr. Shannon Risk for more information at

Buffalo Branch, American Assn. for Univ. Women, seeks applications
The Buffalo Branch of AAUW seeks applications for its 2013 Catalyst for Change Scholarships. The organization will award three $3,000 scholarships. The Catalyst for Change Scholarship will be awarded to students who have demonstrated success in a grassroots effort that has effected positive change for women or girls. The application deadline is March 1, 2013. Visit or email Susan Clements, chair of the  Catalyst for Change Scholarship Committee at