A Narrowed Direction: Colorado State Career Resources

Given my intended project for the end of this semester, I’ve decided to do a few blog posts pursuant with this ultimate goal. My goal is a comprehensive compilation of all (or at least the best) resources available to students through Colorado State University.  I’ll be using this week’s blog post to discuss some of the websites various departments at CSU have put together that pertain to careers.

First up: http://biz.colostate.edu/careers/Pages/resources.aspx#SelfCareerMajor

Career Resource Library Full Size

Located through the Business School, this link provides a wealth of information under the following categories:

Self, Career, & Major Exploration

This is probably my favorite of the categories in this list. Here you’ll find 4 sub categories: Self Exploration, Major Exploration, Career Exploration and General major Exploration. Under Self Exploration there are a series of links to different activities you can complete on your own intended to find the best career fit for you and to help highlight your strengths and weakness.

Of all the major links listed, if you’re only checking out one, this is where I’d start.

Career Services

Here you’ll find video seminars on cover letters, dressing for success and job negotiations among other things. In addition to seminars there are links to CSU’s Career Center, Larimer County and Colorado Workforce Centers, and CSU’s Career Management Center.

Interviewing

Within this category are various links to help you ace the interview process. You’ll find a video interview workshop, 6 ways to stand out in an interview, and an interviewing preparation guide.

Going Abroad (Work, Study, Service)

This category provides links to CSU’s Study Abroad program and additional links to informational websites like idealist.org and the US Aid, US Peace Corps and Americorps. You’ll also find websites for International Jobs and advice on International Business Etiquette and Manners.

Applications & Self-Marketing Materials (Resume, Cover Letter, Etc.)

This category is pretty self explanatory, with links to help you write a resumes and cover letters. It contains sub categories for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as additional links on references, communication tips and follow up/thank you notes.

Graduate School & Professional Development 

Sub categories: Professional Associations, Licensing and Graduate School contain links to information on real estate and accounting licensure and information on graduate schools, MBA programs and continued education.

Networking & Personal Branding

Personal Branding and Value Propositions, Networking Basics, Social Media and     Informational Interviews

Negotiating Offers & Salaries

5 Salary Negotiation Tips, Offer Negotiation Worksheet, Salary Resources, National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Salary Calculator, Evaluating and Negotiating Job Offers, Colorado Occupational Wages, and (hugely helpful for myself) Salary Negotiation for Introverts.

Occupational & Industry Information

If you’re looking for statistics on the best and worst jobs out there in terms of salary, employee turnover and market growth, this category has an abundance of links to help you find them. Starting with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, The Vault Online Business Careers Resource, Workforce Resources by State, Summer Leadership Programs, Colorado LMI Gateway and the WetFeet Online Job Seeker Library.

Special Populations

International students, Disability, Veterans, and Diversity.

Job & Internships Search

Job and Internship search tips, think key terms, locations and strategy checklist.

Work-Life Balance

Find links to local events and healthy living. Focused in Northern Colorado you’ll find information on where and when to partake in some fun activities.

Work-Life Balance Essential to Health, Fort Collins Calendar of Events, Strike a Work-Life Balance, Downtown Fort Collins Events Calendar, Northern Colorado Hiking Guide, Northern Colorado Guides, Fort Collins Meet-up Groups, Recreation Leagues of Fort Collins, and Volunteer: United Way of Larimer County

Panicking over your job choice?

So you’re sitting by the phone impatiently waiting to get a phone call where the person at the other end congratulates you on getting the job. This wait may take two days or two weeks, regardless, it usually feels like torture. Meanwhile, you obsess and pray that you’re the lucky applicant out of hundreds that gets chosen, but 5 minutes into that daydream you begin to obsess and panic that you’re  the unlucky bastard out of hundreds that gets chosen.

That’s right, you start worrying that maybe this job you painstakingly researched and prepared for is going to be fucking awful. But you’re running out of ramen and one more red bill in the mailbox means no more electricity OR internet.

ramen and dancing

I might survive several days without food,  but missing Dancing with the Stars makes me stabby.

This post is to reassure you that no matter what horrible scenarios you’ve been imagining for your new job, it probably won’t be as bad as some of these:

Turkey masturbator.

That’s right, reaching through feathers to manually stimulate a male turkey in order to obtain his semen by sucking it through a rubber tube and then blowing it into the female turkey. No joke. That cubicle position in the auditing department is sounding better and better right?!?

sexy turkey

Or how about, battery breaker.

You spend your day hauling 100+ lb batteries to your work area where you must then break them open to remove the valuable lead cores. First though you have to drain the acid out, and despite the rubber apron, goggles and boots some acid always finds its way to your skin. Did you think paper cuts and misogynistic coworkers were bad? How about third degree burns on your belly, legs, arms and that occasional splash of acid to your eyes?

battery-scrap-drained-battery-scrap

Menial filing and data entry never looked so good.

So no matter whether your call back is coming from McDonald’s or the telemarketing firm downtown, even if it isn’t your dream job, it could always, always be worse.

McDonalds thumbs up

Acing the Interview

The Interview.

So you picked the job you wanted, now the job is considering picking you. This is often the moment when the pressure builds and panic sets in. Will they ask you to speak 4 of the 6 languages you claimed fluency in on your resume? Will you have pissed off the hiring manager you worked side by side with you in a previous job? (don’t scoff – it happened to me!) Will you know the answers to their questions, even the trick ones? The only way to beat near all of your fears and concerns is to be prepared.

1.      1. Do your homework. Stalk for a good cause instead of a creepy one.

Chances are you applied at lots of different places, so from about a week to three after you’ve submitted applications you’ll start getting call backs for interviews. Logically you should be editing your resume for every job you put out in for. With that in mind you should do your homework immediately upon getting the call back. Look up the company online, stalk the boss on social media, find out anything and everything you can (without getting noticed, obviously). Make sure to note certain words or phrases that are repeated on the company website, research job expectations for the position you’re applying for (ideally you would have done this while editing your resume), keep these terms and concepts in mind for your interview, try to use them in your responses.

  facebook stalking

Oh and just assume someone in the office is facebook stalking YOU too. Directions to set your profile to private can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuMScXx2HVo

2.Smile and the world smiles with you, frown and the toolbag picking his nose in the hall  gets your job.

 Always be eager and positive with a completely free schedule (unless you have to pick up your 6 year old at 3pm every day, he might make it across 6 lanes of interstate, but those last 5 miles under neighborhood watch are iffy), so if you’ve got permanent, immoveable responsibilities, be honest. The trick here is to come across “just won a $50 Chilis gift card” excited and not “12 year old girl that just won Justin Beiber tickets” excited.

 crying justin bieber fan

 You don’t get to sniff the fertilizer Suzy, you’re just loading it and throwing it down the trash chute.

To achieve this particular goal, try to clear your schedule the day before your interview (you’re unemployed, put down the Cheetos and turn off Breaking Bad reruns). Go over your resume, especially if you . . . “enhanced” a few parts,  run through the stereotypical questions employers ask and make sure you’re confident with your answers. Here’s a very in depth list, pick the link for the topics that scare you most. http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interviewquestionsanswers/a/interviewquest.htm

PRACTICE! Your cat won’t care, he’s happy when you’re uncomfortable.

3. Pick out what you’re wearing more than 5 min before you leave for the interview.

Maybe wash it too. Ironing always helps. If you’ve picked something that can’t be ironed, throw the polyester track suit away and go buy some grown up clothes. Aim for neutral colors, nothing baggy or too tight (unless you’re applying at Hooters), no hats, and minimal jewelry. When in doubt: (cleavage, tattoos, piercings) cover up. Ladies: stay away from spaghetti straps, anything sheer, low cut blouses, skirts always knee length or longer, and do the bend and reach test, when you bend over (sitting or standing) you shouldn’t expose underwear or flesh, same goes when reaching. The underwear peeking out over the top of your pants is, despite your super cute Victoria Secret thong, NOT professional. Gentlemen: Bend and reach test applies to you too, nobody wants to see your cute thong or your butt crack. If you’re in an office setting wear undershirts – surprise – under your dress shirts, regardless make sure your clothes are free of tears, graphics and stains. This one might seem like a no brainer but you’d be amazed at the footwear criteria in most dress codes; nothing open toed, no tennis shoes or extreme heels, be industry appropriate always!! (for strippers, lucite platforms with an ankle strap are awesome, for nurses, tennis shoes are the obvious, smart choice)

crocs at work

Crocs are not okay. Not ever. Just don’t, consider it your gift to society.

4. Perfect your travel plans.

 Know how to get to the office you’re interviewing at. I don’t mean the general area, know the streets, the building and the office or suite number. Siri can only get you so far. Doing a practice run is a great idea, it will give you the opportunity to time the drive too. Knowing where you’re going and how long it will take you to get there is important. Showing late or too early for your apt can kill your chances at the job before you even answer a question – which in that instance will probably be something like; Do you own a watch?

Im-late-anyways-Watch

Tips for Writing Your Resume

Once you’ve picked a few jobs that look good to you, the next step is making yourself look good to them.

Resume Humor Ecard

Writing a resume is often one of the most intimidating steps in obtaining employment. The writer must be cautious to use good grammar, include key terms or phrases relevant to the job requirements and provide all information in a concise, coherent layout. These are common areas where applicants tend to trip up, seemingly inane details that feel far less important than your obvious skill and enthusiasm for the job. You want a resume that is professional – indicative of your own conduct in the workplace and eye-catching – why you’re different, and better, than the rest. Essentially your resume, from the colors to the text to the format, are a reflection of you. But understand that the first person to look over your resume will generally not be the hiring power, it will be someone else lower on the totem pole looking for any reason to discard it. This weeding out process varies from company to company but it’s an important aspect to keep in mind as it requires your resume to have both aesthetic appeal AND substance. So with these thoughts in mind, read over the following steps for some tips and industry secrets on how to write a great resume.

1. Choose a font and a format that are easy to read through without being forgettable.

Those individuals weeding out bad resumes are looking for any excuse to throws yours into the trash, they just have so many to wade through.

Things like cursive, tiny, or otherwise hard to read font make reading the resume more trouble than it’s worth. A 30th generation resume copy from Kinkos has blurred lines, poor paper quality and comes across as rushed and cheap. If you don’t value this job enough to produce a high quality resume copy, how much effort will you extend in the job if you actually get it?

Research templates online or through your word processor to find a clean, uncluttered layout with clear, sharp font to build your resume in. Remember, first impressions are everything, so limit your bullet points per job and use minimal color, it’s generally advised to abstain from graphics all together just to be safe.

2. If you choose to include an objective at the top, be specific.

“I am seeking a position with your company to make the world a better place, to grow as a human being and to put my skills to use for you.”

Well isn’t that lovely and . . . . pointless. By just applying for the job, the employer knows you want it and the paycheck that comes with it. In exchange for that paycheck the company expects to utilize your skill set pursuant with their goals. So a vague objective statement like the example above isn’t news to them, it’s not telling them anything they didn’t already know.

Be SPECIFIC. “My name is Jane and I’m looking to align my experience and education in dental hygiene with a dentist in Dallas, Texas that shares similar ideals for providing friendly, high quality care.”

An employer’s eyes will be drawn to “experience”, “education”, and “friend, high quality”. This is an objective that presents Jane as a qualified individual with people skills. Specifying her location implies Jane has reasons to stay local, reasons that may act as additional motivators for her to perform well and maintain her job over the long term.

3. Research what your employer is looking for.

Read through the job listing several times to pick up on key terms or phrases that your employed will undoubtedly be looking for. How can you relate your previous experience, education and training to align with the company’s goals?

You’ll want to keep your skill history from each previous employer concise and relevant to the position you’re pursuing. Consider reworking sentences, exchanging words and phrases to better match with the ideals your potential company listed in their ad. There’s bound to be lots of other applicants, they only want the best one.

4. Consider your resumes audience.

Imagine writing a resume for the most narcissistic, selfish individual you’ve ever met. That’s essentially who you’re aiming this information at, your potential employer doesn’t care about every job you’ve ever had or every “skill” you’ve acquired in your professional career. They only want the details of assets they can use, everything else reads as desperate filler.

For example: Jane was trained and licensed to drive a fork lift, reach truck and stock picker at her previous job. Now Jane is applying for a receptionist position at a telemarketing firm where these previous skills are irrelevant.Her potential boss at the telemarketing firm has no use for an employee trained to drive heavy equipment. Jane would be better suited to list her abilities gained indirectly from her previous experience. For instance, Jane works well in noisy, chaotic environments, (often translated to “Works well under stress”), Jane multi-tasks and thrives in fast-paced, challenging environments.

The point here is to work through seemingly unrelated past work experiences to discover and include the pertinent, applicable skills wrought from the old for use in the new.

5. Be clear, concise and unique.

Proceed with caution, and at your own risk.

Alright, you’ve made it through the worst of the process, deciding what to say, how to say, and where to put it. Now you’ve got to make it jump off the page, grab the reader by the collar and demand their attention – in a good way.

There are lots of little ways to gracefully stand out from the crowd without coming off as unprofessional or obnoxious. I once got a callback for a job, beating out hundreds of applicants, simply because I titled my resume email as “Pick me, I’m Perfect!!”.  Everyone else titled their emails with their name followed by the job description, or some variation thereof.

My favorite way to differentiate myself from the crowd is through humor. I justify this by telling myself that I don’t want to work anywhere or for anyone that doesn’t have a sense of humor. I am intelligent, educated, and hilariously clever. Why settle for one or two in an employee when you can have all three in me? I’ve included some example of resume humor (admittedly some extreme instances that I don’t recommend) that beautifully showcase what a sprinkling of quick wit and self-awareness can do.

This fifth step, the pursuit of the “it” factor and safe-for-work uniqueness has inherent risk. While virtually all other resume advice you come across will advocate for the safety of sameness and shades of gray (E.L. James has forever ruined that expression btw) in resumes, interviews,  and workplace conduct. 95% of the time it’s an accurate assumption and truly good advice, but as social media overtakes all areas of life, not simply our hours of leisure, the world – employers included – have every opportunity to see who you really are. For some of us this is scarier than others. My point though, is that who you *really* are shouldn’t be a bad thing, and finding little, (work appropriate) ways to express your true colors will make you more satisfied at the job and inspire lasting bonds with coworkers who will gravitate towards your authenticity.

Writing a resume is almost as much fun as staring at your phone waiting for it to ring then holding your breath for the person on the other end to say “I’m sorry to inform you . . .” or ideally, “Congratulations! . . .” But it doesn’t have to be impossible and I hope the few points I’ve detailed above will help to make the task even a little bit easier.

Remember that your goal is to articulately and convincingly persuade someone to give you money for doing work that hundreds of others are just as qualified to do. You’ve got to prove that you aren’t simply better than the rest, you are the best. I know it, you know it, your friends know it, so take a deep breathe, put finger tips to keyboard and get it in writing.

Resume Humor 1Resume Humor 2

Picking a job for more than the money

With debt and college loans at an all time high, the American public is struggling not to get ahead, but simply to break even. So it’s easy to disregard all other faucets of job provided it pays. In the short term, this method seems simple and effective enough. Show up, get paid. But under the surface, self sufficiency is much more complex than being competent and being present. I propose a few questions to ask yourself as you submit resumes, go for interviews and wait for call backs. Answer honestly and help yourself to find a job that offers more than just a paycheck.

1. What is important to you? Where do you get your fun fix?

Do you play videogames at home on the couch whenever you have a spare moment or do you participate in community sports league several nights a week? By knowing and acknowledging the things you do for fun, you make them a priority in your life – and that’s important. All work and no play makes everyone a dull soul. Consider the time, both length and frequency, that are required in a given week for you to achieve some degree of contentment and satisfaction with your life. Maybe it’s important for you to have a job with the flexibility to make 90% of your children’s extracurricular activities or perhaps you need Sundays off to attend your polka group, the only day of the week it meets.

Regardless of when or how you get your kicks in life, you’ve got to get them. It not only makes you a better person, but it makes you a better employee too. If you have something to look forward to, it makes putting in the required time to get there that much more bearable. If you do something fun and fulfilling every week, then those long days at work appear more manageable because you know your efforts will be rewarded beyond simply the financial means to do so.

Money means nothing if you haven’t the friends to spend it with nor the time to go out and spend it. To apply this logic to the job hunt, think in terms of compromise. Can you handle doing work you don’t necessarily love if it promises the time off to do the things you do love? Will you take a night or an evening shift if it means you’ll work an opposite schedule of everyone in your social group? Will you take a job that offers flexibility as it relates to your home life if it means you’re available by technology 7 days a week?

2. What about the future?

Such clichés like “Carpe Diem” and the cringe inducing “#yolo”, serve to remind us to live in the moment, seemingly good advice right? Except that as we age and acquire more responsibilities in the form of mortgages, healthcare and children, we tend to look ever increasingly toward the future. It follows naturally then, that when looking for a job we want one that will grow with us.

The longer you work the more skill you learn and the finer you hone them, making you a more valuable commodity every year spent on the job. It makes sense to find an employer who will recognize and reward your commitment and growing skill. As you job hunt consider employers who offer retirement packages, programs that pay back student loans, or exceptional insurance or savings plans. These are all perks that when combined with your salary go a long ways towards securing your future and personal peace of mind.

3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Finding a great job is all about finding a good fit between what the employer can offer you and what you can offer your employer. Are you eternally enthusiastic? You’d be great in sales and marketing. Are you bored easily? Make sure you find a job that offers daily variety in the tasks you’re asked to complete. Do you struggle to play well with others? Look for positions that afford you the opportunity to complete your work in a quiet, solitary setting – maybe work at home options!

Don’t be afraid to be honest with your employer. Be confident of your strengths and aware of your weaknesses. When you acknowledge a skill deficiency make sure you express an openness and an enthusiasm to grow it into a strength. No one is perfect, despite what a resume or a facebook page might lead you to believe. Admitting you are human, albeit a dependable, trustworthy, problem solver, shows a willingness to grow, to learn, and aspire to highest levels of productivity.

These are all questions to consider when skimming the want ads for a job. It’s not just about what you can offer them, but what they can offer you too. A happy person is a productive person, a good life at home will translate to a good performance at work.