Friday, February 28, 2014

Reference Ruckus

Well, one recruiter woke up on the wrong side of the bed when she wrote this post. But it’s fun to read. And it’s got some good insight.

In college, you’ve got FERPA. That’s the policy that prohibits your professors from saying anything about your performance in the classroom, good or bad, unless and until you explicitly authorize us to say something. Not even your mom can pry it out of us. At least  you have a chance to know about the policy; you have to sign off, opt in or out.

In the World of Work, there’s a similar gag-order. Many employers will not give references about your performance on the job—not even if they are hung in the air by their thumbs and the soles of their feet are tickled.

Why? Because employers are afraid of getting sued by former employees who believe that a reference was slanderous. Yup: the employer definitely should have said “he did an excellent job” rather than “a great job.”

The lesson(s)?
  • Be aware that a former employer may have such a policy, and may not be willing to say anything about your work.
  • Prepare alternate sources for recommendations: church, recent educational experience, volunteer work.
  • The article suggests that you ask whether an employer has such a policy or not before you agree to take a job. If not, don't work there.
  • If someone calls you to give a reference on another person who worked with you, know whether your company has such a policy in place. Yes, if you’re still early in your career, you may feel flattered you’ve been called to assess someone else. But you may be dealing with a sneaky person trying to avoid the run-around higher up the food chain.

Thanks to Joyce Tesar for suggesting this article!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Job Fare? Faire? Fear? Anyway--there's food!

Job Fair Boot Camp, Tuesday, March 11, from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Multipurpose Room, Gallagher Center
Job Fair Boot Camp is a new event where students have an opportunity to find out first hand from recruiters and recent alumni how to make it. This mini-conference will include breakout sessions on making a great first impression, using technology in the job search, what recruiters look for on a resume, networking skills, and plenty of free food.

And -- mark your calendar now for ways to put this boot camp to good use:

Career Expo, Wednesday, March 19, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., Castellani Art Museum
More than 30 employers are already registered for our annual general job fair with more being added. Companies including McKesson Pharmaceuticals, Mohawk Global Logistics, Prudential, Time Warner, and US Customs and Border Protection are hiring for full-time, part-time. Summer, and internship opportunities. Check the registered employers at

Brought to you by
Robert Swanson | Director
Office of Career Services | Niagara University
w: 716.286.8538 |

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Plan for a Long Job-Hunt

No, I am not saying that you will be unemployed for a long time. I am pointing out that you will be “on the market” for a long time—specifically, for rest of your working life.

Here’s why: 

According to JobVite, “75% of the U.S. labor force is on the job market.” Huh!? How can that be, if the current official unemployment rate for the U.S. is 6.6%? It’s because most of the people seeking jobs are currently employed.

The trend these days is to job-hop. Few people will stay at the same job for more than a handful of years. You will probably work for 20+ employers in your life, quite possibly in several different career areas.

There are lots more infographic numbers here that you can use to plan strategy—suggesting that LinkedIn is a good place to be, for example. But these numbers also mean that you can't say "whew! glad that's over with" once you find your first job. Think about job-hunting as a skill you need to learn and keep sharp for a lifetime.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Internships for Journalists

Okay: I am shamelessly passing along information from Yale University's Writing Center. But it's public knowledge on the web, and a great source of information!

There are some materials that require you to be a Yale student, and be able to say that to Yale alumni. But there's a lot of information that doesn't. And there's a whole bunch of internships for aspiring journalists all around the country--Alaska in the summertime, land of the Midnight Sun, anybody?

Cover your a...

Your application! What did you think I was going to write!?

Here's a good, solid one-shot "how to write a cover letter" that doesn't condescend, provide cookie-cutter formulas, or give you bad advice. And it has examples!

If you don't include a cover letter with your resume, you're losing an opportunity to make a case about what a great fit you are for the job. But a good cover letter is probably harder to write than a resume--because while a resume may have some recycled material (stuff you include on every version), a letter has to strike the reader as completely fresh writing.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Jobs for Justice at Open Buffalo

Thanks and a tip o' the hat to Joyce Tesar for this information!

Do you have a deep commitment to social change and share our vision for an open Buffalo? Do you want to work to promote workers’ rights, equitable economic development with shared community benefits, and economic justice for all?

CEJ and Open Buffalo are hiring for several new positions.

CEJ is currently accepting applications for a Community Organizer. The CEJ Community Organizer will work in conjunction with Open Buffalo. The position will begin in the second quarter of 2014, with interviews starting in April. For more information and instructions on applying for this position, please view the job posting here.

Open Buffalo is accepting applications for the following positions:
Visit the Open Buffalo website to view these and other exciting opportunities with Open Buffalo partners: the Partnership for the Public Good, PUSH Buffalo, VOICE-Buffalo, and CEJ.

Jedi Job-Hunting Tricks

Here’s a great article from Harvard Business Review about how to make yourself do stuff you know you need to do—but that you just don’t feel like doing. Like…
  • Updating your LinkedIn profile
  • Polishing your resume
  • Networking
  • Visiting NU’s great Career Services folks
The article addresses three reasons we put things off, and ways you can understand and overcome the motivation problems.

Not your Granny's Scrapbook

The Women's Studies Program at Niagara University is pulling together a scrapbook of women's lives at NU. Remember the time when this was a "men only" seminary? Neither do I! But if we want to showcase women's contributions, who better to do it than us?

Help us create a scrapbook of the inspiring women of the NU community by telling your stories. Who influences or motivates you? Whether it's Susan B. Anthony, a family member, or your favorite teacher, we want to hear about it! Get creative with our scrapbooking supplies and share your story.

Event: Scrapbooking Women’s Lives at Niagara University • When: Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 1 to 3 p.m. • Where: VINI 209

Friday, February 21, 2014

Resume Roundup

Two posts, 15 topics between them, pretty infographic style. Actually, some informative stuff here. Yes, "proofread, don't misspell stuff" is on the list. (Duh!) But also some good explanations of how and why to write a winning resume.
Of course, for fine tuning that is exactly about your specific resume, visit Niagara University Career Services,

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Internship Info

If you haven't started your search for an internship for summer 2014, now's the time to begin. Here's an article with ten companies top-rated by interns who have worked there, and a link to 15 more top-rated companies.

Don't know what these companies stand for or do? You can look them up online! It's a safe bet that all of them will have "careers" pages prominently listing internships. The few I spot-checked certainly did.

Don't see anything that sets your heart racing? You're not in this alone! Connect with the folks at Career Services to find out exactly how to locate the opportunity that's right for you. Find them here:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Can women win at work?

I would like to think so. Here are some good starting points for women specifically:

There are some areas that we need to address as a society:
  • Women get paid less for the same work.
  • The lower pay is "explained" by a less prestigious job title.
  • Women are perceived as likely to quit because of reproductive and childrearing concerns.
  • Women find it tougher to get into the "old boys' network"--we can't talk about business at the urinal. (Or the football game, the golf course--substitute your favorite non-taboo mostly-guys activity.)

But there are some specific things individual women can do to boost career success. Things they've been trained not to do:

Monday, February 17, 2014

When do you actually HAVE a job?

It's not when you are "one of two finalists"; the employer could decide that you are not the newest American Idol.

It's not even when you get the handshake from the final person on the interview conga line. The corporation hires you, not the person doing the interviewing.

It's not even when you have an email saying "we love you! come work for us!"

If you don't have a letter (or better yet, a contract) that you can touch and lock up in your safe deposit office, you may not have the job!

Follow through, if needed; ask politely for a letter specifying your salary, title, terms of employment. Here are some ways to follow up, either for an interview from which you've never heard back, or for a clearly stated job offer:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Elevator Pitch; going down?

Here's someone who claims that the elevator pitch is an irrelevant exercise:

And here are two "pro-elevator-pitch articles" that tell you how and why to craft such a pitch:

So which side am I on? Well... both.

The first item (on Fortune and CNN Money's website--impressive sources) speaks against such canned speeches as potentially doing more harm than good, by sucking up all the air in the elevator. Yeah; I don't think you should corner people when they can't walk away from you and blat out an abbreviated LinkedIn profile without taking a breath even once.

But the second item (Bloomberg Business Week, another impressive source) lists as its first "how-to" heading "Keep it fresh." Exactly. You can't possibly prepare for every situation where you might have a chance to sell yourself, tacitly or even more directly. As the Fortune blog post points out, what you're after is a conversation, not a monologue.

And if you look at the MindTools website's step-by-step instructions, you'll see that the exercise of crafting an elevator speech can get you thinking about important parts of what you have to offer an employer. In fact, if you haven't thought hard about each of these steps--what you want, what an employer will find valuable about you--I might argue that you aren't ready for the job market yet.

Drafting an elevator speech is something like taking a test in college. You study, study, study for many hours, and then sit down to take an exam that lasts all of an hour or so. Why did you study for hours, instead of studying only the stuff that was actually on the exam? Because no exam can truly measure all you should have learned--it can only sample. You learn it all so you can present the right samples to demonstrate you've mastered the whole.

Just so, no employer can use all the intelligence and skills you possess; but you'd jolly well better be able to highlight the ones a prospective employer would be interested when that opportunity rolls around.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What's after grad school?

If you are (or think you may be) headed to graduate school after you've finished your undergrad education, especially to get an academic job, you really need to have something more concrete in your planning notebook than "I just love reading literature." Because that's probably the last thing you'll have a chance to do. (Ugh. That one was painful for me.)

To find out what the start of an academic life looks like, you can read some of the materials on the English Department website, under the subheading "Graduate school/career planning" (you've got to scroll down). Here's a link to the page where you'll find this material:

On the other hand--what does going through the grad experience get you? What does it make you into? Hopefully, the answer is not "dreadfully underemployed and cranky." Because academic tenure-track jobs may be "soooo 20th century." (More colleges and universities are hiring adjuncts at crap wages to staff their classrooms.) And your mentors in grad school have been off the academic market for at least a decade, and likely have only a vague sense of what it takes to get a job. (Shocker, right? Us old farts are behind the times.)

However, you can prepare yourself. Read Inside Higher Education (e-published only, free, 

And if you can, read The Chronicle of Higher Education. It's paper and e-published, much of it behind a paywall, but some free bits, -- check to see if you can find it in a library or through your home department... hint, hint, Niagara English students).

One resource that is free in the Chronicle: Blogs. Like this one:

Which has links to this author's own blog, here: and to another Chronicle site she contributes to:

Get to know the culture before you commit the next 10 years of your life. Before that culture eats you alive like it's a zombie.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

In a Nutshell: Job Hunting 101

Today, some basic, far-reaching ideas about how to look for jobs. - Nine common sense observations from a hiring manager about what you can do to make your job-hunt smooth, relatively pain-free, and productive. - A chock-full infographic on ways to leverage your LinkedIn profile to network. Don't let the title fool you--"How to Double Your LinkedIn Connections." LinkedIn's utility is not in collecting numbers (like Twitter "followers" or Facebook "friends"). Rather, it's about communicating and networking. - Six case studies of actual hires at nationally recognized companies; how the candidate came to an employer's attention, and what specifically impressed the employer enough to hire the person.

Resumes for Grad School

Law school, in particular. Dr. Baxter emailed to let me know that Career Services is holding a workshop "Drafting the Effective Resume."

The workshop is a special offering for the Niagara University Pre-Law Student Association.
  • When: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 12:10 p.m.
  • Where: Dunleavy 127
  • Who: Everyone welcome!
  • Topic: Writing the Effective Resume for Law School

A key component in applying to law school is presenting educational background, awards, job experience, and other items in a concise, clear presentation. This focus can also be useful to those considering any discipline in graduate school, and coming from a background in Arts and Sciences.

Monday, February 10, 2014

NU Undergrad Research Conference

Niagara University will hold its annual undergraduate research conference on April 11, 2014, in the Castellani Art Museum and St. Vincent's Hall.

Any undergraduate student conducting research may present; the conference is not restricted to honors students.

Students may give a talk of 12 to 15 minutes (panels of speakers will be arranged by area or topic), or a poster presentation (students must be available for discussion during exhibition period).

Students must have a faculty sponsor, and must complete an application form by Friday, March 21. This is a firm deadline; late submissions will not be accepted. See Kathy Sydor in Dunleavy 312.

Cite to Write Right

Next week is National Writing Center Week. In recognition of this week, the Writing Center will be working with the library to offer workshops in the library classroom:
  • Monday, Feb. 10 • MLA • 3:30-4:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 12 • APA • 2:20-3:15 p.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 13 • all styles • 2:00-4:00 p.m.
If you have questions about a documentation style or genre, stop in and ask during a workshop. Or, drop by the Writing Center •