Wednesday, December 31, 2008

6 Surefire Ways to Recession-Proof Your Career

Recession fears continue to shake some workers' confidence about their current jobs. Here are some tips to help you “recession proof” your job.

§ Take a class at a local college or university and get serious about some additional training. Experts widely believe we are living in a "knowledge economy". The more committed you are to lifelong learning and training, the more recession proof your career will be. Education is very accessible today via online programs, onsite training and flexible weekend programs.

§ Keep meeting targets and objectives at work. Find ways to do more with less, work as efficiently as possible and look for ways to help your company save money and increase productivity. Keep your "Kudos File" current. This is where you keep all the compliments you have received on your work. It will help you quickly update and disseminate your resume if needed.

§ Join a professional association and become involved with other people in the same career. Maintain your contacts or connect with people you may not have talked with in a little while. Keep in mind that you are not connecting to ask for information or help, but to bring support and value if you can.

§ Volunteer for tasks outside your job description but don’t neglect your responsibilities. Become the "go to" person on the job without taking on everyone’s projects. If your company has already had job cuts, you may pick up additional assignments outside of your regular duties. These extra assignments could be a way to gain new skills. However, you do not want to take on more than your bandwidth can handle. Although you do want to be seen as a team player, you don’t want your own projects and assignments to suffer.

§ Do environmental scans both inside and outside of your organization. Pay attention to the marketplace. Don’t just watch the stock market. Stay abreast of what is happening with your company's key customers and suppliers. If your company’s suppliers and customers are having a hard time, your company may very well be facing the same issues.

§ Consider other ways to use your skills and make money part time. Do you have skills that are in demand? You might be able to earn some additional income? Imagine for example you work in a medical billing capacity for a large hospital, could you possibly take on additional medical billing work for smaller independent medical offices? Not only does this help you build a network of other potential employers who have sampled your work, it could actually lead to starting your own business.

Campus Jobs are Real Jobs Too

For many college students working while in school is a must and a reality. Whether enrolled in 2-year, 4-year or a vocational training or career education program, campus jobs are often at a premium and college students try to land them early in the semester.

One of the problems I continue to see on college campuses is that working on campus is not considered to be serious work by many students or by departments that hire them. It is not unusual to hear college students say something like – “Oh, I just work on campus”. Aside from the fact that no one ever “just works" anywhere, since all work is important, campus employment offers really significant benefits for college students. Putting aside the schedule flexibility and the short commute, college students can gain the following real advantages by working on campus:

1. Meet college and univesity staff beyond the classroom. Most employees on college campuses love to work with college students and speak positively of their experiences. University employees are always willing to support exemplary student workers with letters of recommendations or become a reference for them in a job search or internship search.

2. Gain real, marketable skills in your preferred career area. College campuses are just like other organizations with employees in pretty much every functional area. For example, business students seeking real experiences can find college internship programson campus working in accounting, finance, HR, marketing and/or communications offices.

3. Develop an understanding of the actual job search process. Many campus administrators put college students through the actual hiring process. If resumes and interviews are needed, students get to walk through the actual hiring process. On many campuses there are formal application processes and students have to do more than just show up to get hired. They actually have to conduct a competitive job search.

4. Develop actual professional soft skills which are necessary for workplace success. Office etiquette, workplace social savvy, communication skills, following instructions etc. are all valuable skills that college students need to learn.

At the urging of many college career centers, some campuses are taking a more serious look at how they model the real world of work for they college students they hire.

I was part of the rollout of such an initiative as a Job Developer at my own alma mater’s college career center, many many moons ago. We didn’t realize how cutting edge we were back then. (;> Since then I have introduced the concept to other colleges and the students and staff are better for it.

Campus jobs are real jobs too and college students need to use the opportunity to develop real networking relationships and real job skills.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Career ReEntry in Scary Times

With unemployment rate almost at 7% and the much publicized job losses, it is a scary time for people who are considering career reentry.

Over the last few months job seekers have increasingly shared concerns that layoffs have increased competition in the job market. With qualified workers in the market for jobs, some career reentry professionals fear that competition will make it harder for them to find work.

No doubt that is a significant possibility and from what I am seeing and hearing, it is scaring many people.

My advice for career reentry professionals is to stay positive and focus on competencies and job skills. Here are some actionable steps career reentry professionals should think about:

Revisit and revamp your resumes
If there is ever a time to make sure a career reentry resume is in tip top shape, it would be now. Many online resume writing services offer free resume critiques. Some resume writers work exclusively with career reentry professionals and older workers who want to work in retirement, transition careers or return to the workforce. Here are two Career Reentry Resume Samples to use.

Sell current job skills and the need for less training
Employers want to reduce costs in a tight economy. Many employers will want to save time and money by hiring workers needing less training. Job seekers should focus on finding employment using job skills already mastered. Having required job skills and competencies can be a significant advantage for the jobseeker who hits the ground running.

Consider part-time hours and fewer benefits
Many career reentry professionals who want to go back to the workplace are willing to work in temporary jobs. Typically in a slow economy, employers find temporary, part time workers an advantage. Additionally, part-time employees provide scheduling flexibility that employer need to staff during times of greatest need.

Volunteer to learn new skills
If you are exploring career reentry into a new career and don't have the required experience immediately, consider volunteering. If you can afford to do it, volunteering is a one good way to learn new skills, get a foot in the door and establish new contacts.

Dumbest Business (Career) Moments in 2008

Just read Fortune Magazine's 21 Dumbest Moments in Business 2008. It seemed to me that we could easily reword the title as the "21 Dumbest Career Moves in 2008". Why? Because every one of those so called dumb moments in business, probably ruined someone's career or at least caused a lot of career embarrassment.

We have all made mistakes at work, I am sure. I can't imagine how I would feel, if one of my blunders made Fortune Magazine. I don't think any were as significant as the list here, but nevertheless, I know some people had some sleepless nights over many of these.

Case in point is the # 1 in the list - The CEO's of the big three automakers arriving in Washington DC in three separate private jets to beg the American taxpayer for a loan. As Fortune says, "Like someone arriving at a food bank in a limousine, the chief executives of the three major U.S. automakers spark outrage when they fly their corporate jets to Washington D.C. to beg Congress for a multi-billion dollar bailout".

Talk about a public relations blunder. Do you think anyone lost a job over that oversight?

To make amends for the error, the three CEOs decided that for their next visit, they would take a road trip to DC in hybrids. This was blunder #2 on the list.

Why wasn't that any better? If flying in on a corporate jet was an over sight, driving 10 hours to DC appeared to be over kill. Funniest part of that story is that the car driven by the Chrysler CEO, The Aspen Hybrid, will soon be discontinued. Someone was overthinking on that one for sure.

My other favorite is the CEO of Countrywide Bank, Angelo Mozilo, responding to an email and hitting "Reply All" rather than "Forward". He meant to forward the email to a colleague and instead replies, speaking ill of the home owner/customer who had sent him the email. The poor customer was actually emailing Mozilo, as the CEO of the company to get help with his home loan.

Of course, I don't think Mozilo lost his job over that one. Countrywide had bigger problems. Imagine if that had been another employee of Countrywide. I am thinking that email may have been their last.

Read the entire list here. The one about Steve Jobs from Apple was particularly interesting. If you love politics, both John McCain and President Elect Barack Obama get their props for dumb business moments also in 2008.

If I could pick, I would add Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the career as another major career blunder for 2008 also.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Three Weeks Without My Computer

If it were not for a really great Christmas holiday with my family, the last few weeks would have been horrible. Why? My computer died.

Many of my regular readers already know that my work computer became infected with a nasty virus. No one really knows the source of the virus, but the most probable source was from an infected downloaded. Since I write resumes, it is not unusual for me to receive several documents as attachments. Based on the consultants at McAfee, whatever it was, it had attached itself to my operating system. Several attempts to scan and rid the computer of these pests all failed. I finally had to get a new computer in place this past week.

Our home, at last count, has 6 computers, including mine that died. Had I replaced my laptop, which my teenager destroyed with a spill last year, I wouldn't have had to attempt sharing computers with family.

My husband uses four computers - 2 MAC's and 2 PC's, all for work. I felt lost and confused trying to use the one to which I was assigned. His mouse is set to use the right and left clicks contrary to how most people use theirs and his computers are password heavy and applications light. Sharing time with the kids on their computer was just not happening.

It is amazing how one gets used to working in a particular posture and location. The chair is different, the view from the window is different and the inspirational photos I keep around me are absent.

It's good to be back!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fewer California Students Pass High School Exit Exam

One in 10 high school seniors from the class of 2008 failed to pass California's exit exam by graduation. This 10% failing rate was the highest since the test became mandatory in 2005.

Some say the reason the rate dipped was because the graduates in Special Ed programs had to take the same test.

The LA Times reported that, "Special education students' graduation rate dipped nearly 3 percentage points for the class of 2008 because of the requirement". Special Ed students can stay in high school until they are 22 years old and can continue to take the exit exam.

Some fear, however, that many who failed do not continue to take the exam after failing the first time. For example in 2006, nearly 39,000 did not pass the exam in time for graduation, and in the two years that have since elapsed, fewer than 4,800 have passed.

The article continues that efforts to narrow the achievement gap between white and Asian students and their black and Latino peers also showed little success.

State Senator O'Connell who wrote the legislation that introduced the exit exam said, "We know all students can learn . . . no matter what their economic status or native language," he said. "We must continue our efforts to close the achievement gap."

Beginning in their sophomore year, students have several chances to take the two-part test. A score of at least 55% on the math portion, which is geared to an eighth-grade level, and 60% on the English portion, which is ninth- or 10th-grade level, is required.

What do you think about an exit exam to get a high school diploma?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Your Online Past Could Kill Your Job Search

If there was ever a testimonial about how an online persona can affect your future career, check out the questionaire that potential employees in the Obama administration have to complete.

Here are some sample questions that cut right to the chase:

“If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an email, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-elect if it were made public, please describe.”

“Please provide the URL address of any websites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g. Facebook, My Space, etc.)”

“Please list, and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column, or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authored, individually or with others. Please list all aliases or ‘handles’ you have used to communicate on the internet.”

Imagine if every employer started to do this? The Class of 2009 should be wise and start cleaning up that online persona now before it is too late.

Does it mean that you won't get hired with a compromised online persona? No it doesn't mean that. The key is to make a good faith effort to fix the issue.

One of the biggest challenges I see with college students is they don't know what their image might be online. When they do find out, sometimes it is hard to get the owner of the content to do the right thing.

One suggestion is to Google yourself periodically to see what kind of online persona you have and whether or not it could kill your future career.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why College Students Shouldn't Pay Resume Writing Fees

We have been helping college students with resume writing for years. However, our first piece of advice, is always - Have you been to your college career center for help?

After years of career center operations experience, I am still always amazed how many students do not take advantage of resume writing services in college career centers.

Although not all centers have the same offerings, here are some of the FREE resume writing services available from college career centers:

- Handouts and sample college resumes appropriate for your major
- Lists of action verbs to help you get the latest industry buzz words on your resume
- Resume critiques offering feedback to enhance your resume and make it more attractive to employers
- Employer and recruiter feedback on your college resume is available through information sessions or even via email
- Online resume databases that allows you to store multiple resumes to distribute to employers who are interviewing on campus

Before considering paying professional resume writers, visit your college career center and talk to a career counselor. Many of these same career counselors work part time as professional writers for other services.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are Helicopter Parents Important? I think so.

Wikipedia defines helicopter parents as those who pay extremely close attention to his or her child or children, particularly while they are away at college. The term "helicopter parent" suggests that like an actual helicopter, parents "hover" nearby, able to swoop in quickly to address, fix or handle situations for their college students.

The term is mostly used in a derogative way on college campuses, sometimes by college career center professionals who are fielding calls from parents about job offers. Since these helicopter parents are accused of rushing in to prevent any harm or failure from befalling college students, sometimes, despite protests from the children they seek to protect.

Valerie Strauss in an article for Washington Post, says helicopter parents "are needy, overanxious and sometimes plain pesky -- and schools at every level are trying to find ways to deal with them".

As colleges and universities attempt to "deal with" helicopter parents, school administrators must balance other research that shows that students with strong parental involvement do better in school. The Harvard Family Research Project found that teens, whose parents played an active role in their education, do better in school and are more likely to enroll in college.

If parental influence supports better attainment in high schools, why would that not hold true for college students? Opponents of helicopter parents would seem to say that once their children are enrolled in college, parents should immediately take a hands-off approach.

With showing a 6-year college graduation rate in the US at 56.4% in 2006 and the 2003 annual ACT survey showed that only 37.5% of two-year college students were graduating within three years, would colleges not want more helicopter parents involved?

Experience, Inc., a provider of career advice and job hunting tools for college students and alumni, surveyed more than 400 students and new graduates on the involvement of their parents in their college or university life. The overwhelming majority of college students described their parents as moderately involved. Twenty five percent of students in the survey responded that their parents were "overly involved to the point that their involvement was either annoying or embarrassing." Only 13% of the respondents said their parents were not involved at all.

Is it possible that parental involvement at the college level could enhance rather than hinder college student graduation rates and should college administrators now begin to embrace rather than reject helicopter parents?

The College Board and the Art & Science Group found that almost 30% of college-bound seniors surveyed wished their parents did more to help them look for and apply to colleges. Only 6% wanted their parents to do less.

To help helicopter parents, the College Board offers this quick 12-question quiz to help parents gauge the current level of involvement with college age children.

Whether or not, one agrees or disagrees with the outcomes of the quiz, it does offer the opportunity for personal reflection and could be the foundation of a conversation between teenagers going to college and their parents.

I moved this post and wanted to share the comments:

Anonymous said...
of course parents play an important role in the education of their children. why would people call it pesky to want to be involved? i think more partners with school is better.

June 20, 2008 5:46 PM
Marcia said...
You are correct. Students succeed when parents continue to be involved. As with all things, balance is important as children get older and take on more responsibilities.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

5 Ways to Focus on Your Education

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and so I wanted to flatter the Penn Foster College blog by sharing an entry from their vocational college blog for distance learners.
Many distance learners agree that the most difficult part of studying online is staying motivated. Because students must take the initiative to complete their courses completely on their own, without the physical presence of teachers and other peers, many students find it easy to become distracted and discouraged in their work. Don’t let this happen to you – plan ways for yourself to stay motivated before you’re tempted to stray from your books. Use these five motivational tips to stay on task:

1. Connect with your classmates. Visit our MySpace page, Facebook groups, Penn Foster Proud Group on, or even a Yahoo! Group and start conversations with your fellow classmates. Talk about your day, your studies, whatever will keep you connected, motivated and give you that sense of “classroom” in a virtual environment. Once you begin talking to fellow Penn Foster students, you may even find a few in your area that will be willing to start a physical study group! Having the support of your peers during your studies with Penn Foster is extremely rewarding and important.

2. Discuss what you learn. Find a friend or relative who has similar interests or who would enjoy hearing about your studies and let them know what’s going on in your classes. You’ll understand the material better when you have a chance to explain it out loud and will be motivated to stay on task in order to keep up with the conversation.

3. Chart your progress. Design your own map of completed classes and post it somewhere that is visible daily. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with watching your goals be accomplished. When times get hard, you can always turn to your chart and see how far you’ve come.

4. Reward yourself. You get rewarded for good credit and safe driving, why shouldn’t you reward yourself for doing well in your coursework. Whether it is a night on the town, a new dress, or even a new car, setting up a reward system just may be the extra push you need to succeed.

5. Take time for fun. If you’re spending all your time working, studying, and watching after the kids, you’ll likely suffer in all areas. Everyone needs some down time to re-group. So, set aside a little time every week for a favorite activity. You’ll be more productive when you return to your work.

What helps you stay motivated? Do you have any tips or suggestions to add to our list?

Source - Penn Foster blog

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Reading, Riting, Rithmatic and Now..Ringtones? Classes via Blackberry?

In an attempt to make education even more accessible, The Louisiana Community and Technical College System this month introduced its innovative LCTCSOnline. The system is being promoted as one of the first education systems to offer college courses on a cellular device.

"Anytime, anywhere, no matter where you live in Louisiana, you'll have access to higher education," said LCTCS President, Joe May.

Effective January 5, 2009, LCTCS will offer 21 primarily education and business courses via cell phones at a cost of $63 per credit.

Here's more from the Shreveport Times:
The program was funded with a $500,000 grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents and developed in only nine months with the help of Pearson Custom Solutions, which designed the technology and the courses; AT&T, which worked out the cellular transferability, and the Public Service Commission.

"We placed our money wisely," said Sally Clausen, commissioner of higher education.

"Our investment will pay dividends."

About 800,000 students across the U.S. are enrolled in online courses, Clausen said, but "Louisiana is the first to offer them on a cell phone. I'm proud to be a part of it."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Competition for College is Getting Steeper

I commented on this post yesterday and wanted to share the posting here. It is a guest post from Todd Johnson at College Admissions Partners

Many of the most selective colleges are starting to release their application numbers for 2007 and as expected the number of applications at many of these very selective colleges again set records. Here is the bad news: (bad news if you are not a very competitive candidate)

Harvard applications are up 18% to more than 27,000
Princeton applications are up 6% to 20,188
Stanford applications are up 2.5% to 24,564
Brown applications are up 7.5% to 20,505
Duke applications are up 5.4% to 20,250
University of Virginia applications are up 3.8% to 18,776
University of Chicago applications are up 18% to 12,267
Northwestern applications are up 12% to more than 25,000
Amherst applications are up 17%
Dartmouth applications are up 10%

But enough of the bad news because there is some good news also. According to a survey of 386 colleges by the National Association for College Admission Counseling the average college acceptance rate is still 69%.

In other words, as long as you are willing to consider a school outside the most selective colleges, there is still a reasonable acceptance rate with most colleges. As always, don’t get hung up on the name of the college. Find the best college for your needs and if it one of the most selective, have a good safety.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Plaxico Burress Shoots Himself in the Career

Any of us who have worked with new professionals to help them start and manage careers, can’t help but wince every time we see another promising professional sabotage their own career.

In this case it is Plaxico Burress.

You don’t have to be a huge football fan, I sure am not, to know his name. It has that ring to it. That sound that affixes it to your brain the first time you hear it.

The latest news is that Plaxico Burress has being arrested on weapons charges because he allegedly shot himself in the thigh? If that news wasn't bad enough, it seems the incident took place in a nightclub. Who, except someone with bad judgement, goes into a nightclub with a gun?

This is just the latest in a string of news about poor judgment from athletes who seem bent on destroying their own careers.

Of course this destructive behavior is not just limited to just athletes. Although not everyone takes a gun into a nightclub with them, others make bad choices as well.

Remember Denning McTague? The intern who tried to sell historical documents he stole from the US Constitution Center on eBay?

Without getting into the psychology of why some people might be predisposed to harm themselves professionally, there may be some things that professionals can do to avoid shooting themselves in the career.

- Find a mentor whose behavior you can model and whose judgment you trust.
- Stay grounded. It is really exciting to be in the limelight or even just be the new superstar at work. However, keep your focus on a long term career and think through the excitement.
- Ask for help. Be honest with yourself and ask for help if you feel things are slipping out of your control.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Laid Off Workers Take Over the Factory

To use a famous quote from an Oscar winning movie in 1976, Network, the employees at a Chicago manufacturing company seemed to be saying, "We are mad as hell and not going to take it any more!"

About 200 employees, very upset about lost vacation pay, disappearing medical insurance and lack of severance pay, have staged a "sit-in", at the factory where they worked. The company failed to give the 60 days notice that is required by law before shutting down and instead only told workers 3 days before closing the doors.

Workers were also angered by the fact that the management team did not show up for a meeting scheduled for this past Friday.

It appears that monthly sales for the company, Republic Windows and Doors had fallen from $4Million to $2.9Million during the last month.

Although not a popular practice here in the United States since the 1930’s, a little bit of internet research showed that it is not uncommon in other countries for workers to “take over” companies.

Case in point, a few weeks ago, Vivex, makers of windscreens for cars, was taken over by 360 workers in Venezuela because of the non-payment of the "utilidades" or profit bonus. Workers are demanding that the government nationalize the company and look at the books to verify company losses.

Thank heavens there are no such chants, yet, for the government to take over companies like Republic Windows and Doors. However, one has to wonder what is to come. Have we set a bad precedence for choosing to bail out some companies and not help others? If Congress chooses to support Ford, GM and Chrysler with a $17B bridge loan, who will be next in line?

Who is going to bail out the millions of small businesses that may have to close their doors?

Employees need to really stay focused on their work evironment and scan the horizon for possible changes that may impact them.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thinking About a Job in Construction

If you are thinking of jumping into the construction industry keep in mind that big builders reported big losses in 2007. The continuing real estate slump is resulting in job losses among construction workers and those in related jobs. In fact, unemployment for construction workers hit 9.4% in December 2007, with just under a million people out of work in the industry. However, pay close attention to what kind of stimulus package rolls out of Washington DC. If the planned infrastructure enhancements are approved, there may be room for new hires in construction.

Some reported builder losses in 2007:
-Hovnanian lost $469.3 million in 2007
-Toll Brothers lost $81.8M in Q4 2007
-Pulte Homes posted a 2007 Q2 loss of $507.6M

If you work in construction or a related industry, stay positive and start exploring your options at these construction job search sites:
Construction Work
Craft Staffing
Dry Wall Florida

Friday, December 5, 2008

More Education and Training Means More Pay for Women

Did you know that high school graduates earned 25% more than high school dropouts in 2007? Also, women who drop out of high school were twice as likely to be unemployed women who graduated from high school.

Here is what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says: (Based on full-time workers 25 years and over)

Education - Less than High School
Unemployment Rate in 2007 - 8.2%
Mean Earnings in 2006 - $24, 136

Education - High School
Unemployment Rate in 2007 - 4.3%
Mean Earnings in 2006 - $30,251

Before considering dropping out of high school, explore all your options with a high school counselor or advisor.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Employers Lowering College Hiring Projections

Every year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers,(NACE) surveys employers to get a sense of their projections for new college hires.

In light of the nationally uncertain economy, NACE did a follow up survey August to October.

Below are industry results from the 146 employers who responded to this follow-up survey:

Agriculture: -14.2%
Construction: -19.6%
Manufacturing: 0.3%
Distribution & Utilities: -17.6%
Trade: -7.4%
Finance & Insurance: -6.2%
Business Services: -3.1%
Professional Services: 1.7%
Government: 19.8%

Before you give up on your preferred industry you should note the following from NACE:
Employers who participated in both the August and October polls (N = 146) are expecting to decrease their original hiring levels by 1.6 percent. Nevertheless, when compared with the number of actual hires from these firms for the Class of 2008, the expectations for the Class of 2009 are still 1.3 percent ahead of last year’s actuals.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Laura Bush Planning her "Career" After the White House

I saw Laura Bush on Meet The Press this past weekend with Tom Brokaw as she talked about her work with the women of Afghanistan.

As Mrs. Bush outlined much of what she had done in her role as First Lady to champion the cause of women globally, I sensed she was preparing for her new life and "career" beyond the White House.

Didn't think about it until just now, but does one refer to being First Lady as a career?

Whether you call it a career or not, her transition from the White House to whatever she does next will be pretty similar to career transitions made by many women every year.

Medical Assistant Vocational Training Program Checklist

Found a really great checklist for you if you plan to attend Medical Assistant training in a vocational program. Here is a quick summary from Medical Assistant blogspot:

1. Contact the vocational training school or online program and ask questions.
2. Ask if the program is composed, managed or taught by experienced medical assistant professionals.
3. Review the program syllabus.
4. Find out the program's success and pass-rate, the percentage of students that graduate successfully, sit certification songs and land jobs.
5. Ask about the vocational training program refund policy.
6. Choose only courses that meet your specific educational needs and goals.
7. Check the vocational school's recognition and accreditation status.
8. See if the website has a blog or public forum to read comments from students.
9. Examine the vocational school's address. Is it a physical address or virtual.
10. Ask around and seek advice from professionals in the field.
11. Know what employers want and the future outlook of the medical assisting career.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

International Exposure is Good for College Students

Read a new blog post at YSN and wanted to share this article excerpt I wrote last year about the value of international exposure to new college grads.

Study Abroad programs are becoming increasingly attractive as more and more college students seek meaningful ways to spend college breaks or explore true diversity of cultures. Additionally, as students return and share their positive experiences, others sign up to head overseas as well.

Two great resources for students considering studying overseas are and Semester at Sea. is a comprehensive online source of information about educational opportunities for high school students, college students or graduate students wanting to study in other countries. It includes information on summer programs, internships, service learning programs and overseas volunteer opportunities. The information is easy to follow and is sorted by subject, country or city.

Semester at Sea, run by the Institute for Shipboard Education, gets academic sponsorship from the University of Virginia where students can apply for credit for the 2007 summer trip. This trip will have students traversing the Western coast of Central America and South America. Stops this summer will include Chile, Peru, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Financial aid is available to help students cover the $8000+ cost of the just over 2 month journey onboard the floating university. The Fall 2007 trip is scheduled for stops in Japan, Thailand, China and India while Puerto Rico, Brazil, South Africa and Mauritius are on tap for the Spring 2008 journey.

No study abroad program is without risk and students and parents should do all the required due diligence to make sure these experiences do not end with less than positive results. Some general advice to be safe on a study abroad experience are as follows and include some tips from the University of Chicago's Study Abroad program:

1. Be alert at all times. Remember you are in unfamiliar surroundings

2. Trust your instincts

3. Be cautious and protective with your cash

4. Observe political gatherings from a distance

5. Learn where the nearest police station, hospital and embassy is located

6. Stay sober and away from drugs and alcohol. This is not the time to lose focus

7. Be particularly alert while on public transportation and in public places

8. Be mindful of new friendships that develop too quickly

9. Make copies of all your important papers. Keep a set of copies with you as well as leave one at home.

10. Be inconspicuous and try to blend in as much as possible. Avoid being the noisy tourist

11. Check in often with home. Have somewhat of a routine so that folks at home will know if you are off schedule.

30 Career Lessons from Barack Obama's Campaign

It's been almost a month since the Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, won enough electoral votes to become the 44th president of the United States of America.

At that time I wrote a list of 30 career lessons that I thought that everyone could learn from Barack Obama's campaign.

I thought about it a bit and decided that these lessons were important enough to share with my high school readers as well. It really is never too early to start thinking about long term career planning.

1. Set personal goals
2. Stay away from those who say “You Can’t”
3. Plan and prepare for the long haul
4. To land a meaningful job, prepare for a really tough interview
5. Keep improving through the job search and beyond
6. Develop a personal board of advisors for support
7. Surround yourself with a diverse group of people with diverse thoughts
8. Develop a backbone. Even successful careers can have disappointments
9. Think around, outside and under the box. The way forward may not necessarily be clear or straight ahead
10. Don't expect your career paths to be logical to everyone looking on
11. Don’t burn your bridges behind you. You may need a reference or two eventually
12. Be mindful of what your associations can say about who you are
13. You don’t need to have all the experience in the job description to apply
14. Job descriptions get rewritten all the time
15. Be open to the fact that you might be underestimated
16. Some people will like you for the job and some will not
17. Some will laugh behind your back when they find out you are applying for a certain job
18. The real work begins after you land the job
19. Know your competition and do not underestimate them
20. Think transferable skills. eg. What skills did I develop as a community organizer or PTA President that could be valuable when changing careers.
21. You may have to say things during an interview to impress your future boss
22. You have to build consensus to move ideas forward
23. Keep track of your accomplishments; no one else is obligated to do that for you
24. You may find people want to hang around you, just because you are successful – not because they care
25. Education and training mean something
26. Hard work and discipline pays off eventually
27. It is not a shame to strategically plan your career
28. Many people are not working in their college majors
29. The more people who support you and your ideas, the more successful you will be
30. You are always preparing for your next career opportunity, regardless of what you are doing.

Are People Happier With Their Own Jobs During a Recession?

It would appear so.
At the same time that Gallup polls say 82% of Americans think this is a bad time to be looking for work, 91% of people in another survey are saying how satisfied they are with their own jobs. Does that surprise anyone?

Here is what Gallup says, “At a time when Americans' ratings of the country and of the nation's economy are near record lows, the percentage of U.S. workers feeling "completely satisfied" with their jobs -- now 48% -- is at the high end of the range seen in the past eight years”.

Add that to the other 42% of workers in the US say they were “somewhat satisfied” with their jobs and you are left with only about 9% sharing that they were dissatisfied to any degree with their current jobs.

It makes sense to me that as the job market becomes tighter and layoffs increase, people are more prone to reshaping their perspectives of their own jobs and looking at their work in a different way.

I think it is at times like this that the “glass is half full” principle takes over. Instead of thinking about their own career dissatisfaction at work, people begin to be more grateful about being able to work or having a job. A bad economy will make our own career issues seem not so bad.

I conduct a Career Makeover workshop every quarter for staff in a midsized company. My audience last week was smaller than they have been for the last 4 years. A quick poll of the group found, not surprisingly, that these working people were pretty satisfied with their own work. None were anxious to make any career changes, but thinking more long term.

In fact the audience for that session was much more optimistic about opportunities in their own company. They were much more willing to look for opportunities to build careers inside of the company rather than think about jumping ship.
It made me think about how bad it must be for the 9% who were "somewhat dissatisfied."

It just goes to show that so much of our care with our jobs and our careers is really in how we think about the situation. When we reframe our perspective on work and employment, we can probably become happier with our own jobs.

Reminds me of the old saying which internet research attributes to the Italians, “I felt sorry I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Why Baby Boomers Will Have to Work Longer

Ok...finally the economists are admitting it - we are in a recession and it seems that we have been in it for the last year.

Most of us already knew that right? I have been talking to Baby Boomers who see 401K's shrink and visions of planned retirement disappear.

The latest McKinsey Glogal Institute report shows "two-thirds of the oldest boomers are financially unprepared for retirement. Many are not aware of their predicament. This lack of sufficient resources will not only mean a less comfortable retirement for tens of millions of households but also depress spending in the overall economy."

Additionally, the report states many Baby Boomers actually do not want to retire and continue to work. In a tight job market, the competition is strong for Baby Boomers seeking work.

Some thoughts about finances before making the next career transition:
1. Find out the real financial situation is and will be after retirement.
2. What guidelines will affect working and receiving retirement payments from employers?
3. Will you work part-time or full time?
4. Can you continue with your existing employer in current career?
5. Can you "phase" in retirement?

So Your Summer Internship Has Not Turned Into an Job Offer

You are working hard in your internship, it is approaching the end of summer and you still have not heard from the company about a full time career offer for after graduation. Do you have any idea why?

I met up with a colleague in HR this afternoon and we chatted about her company's internship program this past summer. Of course we discussed who made the cut and who didn't. It turns out that particular intern stood out and not for the right reasons.

This intern stood out for wearing, not one but two 3/8 inch "diamond" studs to work every day. Additionally this intern was known around the building to be constantly on his cell phone, as he walked the corridors. The last straw was the fact that this intern would fall asleep constantly in meetings.

I pondered our conversation on my way home and wondered why so many college students still don't fully understand that internships are an invaluable opportunity to impress employers.

Of course it has been said before, but the following may be worth reading again:
The 10 Secrets of Interns Who Get Full Time Jobs
In Search of the Perfect Internship
Cell Phone Etiquette for College Students