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January 2014 Archives

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It's an exciting time with graduation approaching, but don't forget to set aside some time to start gearing up for your job search! You will soon encounter many challenges as you begin seeking job opportunities and there's so much to be mindful of---your strategy, networking, resume, interviewing, leads, and an elevator speech, the list goes on and on!  It can be a difficult road to travel alone, so why not get resourceful and find a job search buddy to make the process a little easier? 

Why a job search buddy?  The benefits are many:    

  •  Built in accountability.  Someone who will check in regularly to report out on progress, help set goals and plan action steps.  
  •  New perspectives and ideas.  Put your heads together to solve problems that come up. Brainstorm and evaluate possible solutions to create a plan of action. Use your buddy as a sounding  board. They won't hand you solutions to your challenges, but a buddy can broaden your thinking.
  •  Spotting new opportunities.  Keep each other in mind as you make new discoveries and meet new people. Share any opportunities you uncover.
  •  Support!  Just being connected with someone who cares about your progress, shares in your successes, listens to you vent, and gets you moving again when you are stuck, can make the  job hunting process so much easier 

 Tips on structuring a buddy system relationship to help you reach your goals:  

  • Set up regular check-in times in person, by phone or email, perhaps on a weekly basis.
  • Define a set length of time to converse, such as half an hour. 
  • Always commit to next steps by documenting what you and your buddy will accomplish before your next meeting. 
  • Keep the relationship reciprocal. When collaborating, make sure each of you gets a similar amount of time. 

In the shortrun, it is very likely that pairing up with a buddy will make the job search seem more manageable and in the longrun actually result in a more focused effective job campaign.

For additions resources and services to assist with seeking employment, review Manage Your Job Search in the CEC Career Toolkit, and set an appointment with a career coach.

Those mighty ducks

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"What's with all the ducks?" a student recently asked. 

If you've ever visited the Career Education Center, you too may have wondered about the rubber ducks that are displayed throughout the office suite.   A rather large Mama Duck, surrounded by baby ducks, is perched on a front desk between a sign urging students to like us on Facebook and a plastic "Career Toolkit" filed with toy tools representing career tools (resume, interviewing etc.) .  Ducks of various sizes, colors and costumes nest in every office.   In my office alone, fifteen rubber career ducks,  firefighter, nurse, chef, teacher, athlete, rock star, doctor - to name a few - roost atop the bookcase.  A holiday snowman duck, a gift from a first year student, recently joined the crew, so the collection continues to grow.
And the CEC adds to this proliferation of ducks on campus by giving them away to students.  First years who attended our resume workshops received rubber ducks emblazoned with the CEC website address.  Seniors who take our Humanities 370 class get ducks dressed in graduation gear when they finish the course.  Students who participated in a recent career workshop got "lucky ducks".  So... what's with all the ducks?

The ducks are the CEC's way of reminding students to "Get your ducks in a row."   When we use that expression, an American idiom that means get organized and prepared,  we're urging students to do the things they need to do to be ready to take the next step - whatever that step may be.  For example, if you are wondering what you can do with your major career-wise, you first assess your values, interests, personal preferences and skills, and then explore possible career directions that are a good fit before you make a decision.  If you have a job interview, you first research the organization, prepare answers to interview questions and then practice what to say aloud before you go on an interview.  You get the idea - Wherever you are in the process and whatever your career goals, it's best to get organized and be prepared.

It's January, the first month of a new year and the perfect time to get all your ducks in a row!



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New year, new you

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After a good long Winter Break we welcome everyone back to campus and the start of a new year! And while you you were on break, how many of you (be honest) made resolutions for the New Year?

Whether you made them or not, New Year's resolutions are about making improvements in your life. For college students, among those areas needing attention should be your own professional development. Did you think about it over the break, even in the back of your mind, in between enjoying times with your family and friends, schussing down the ski slope, or just catching up on sleep? Or maybe someone in the family gently (or not so gently) suggested that this is an area you might want to spend some time thinking about?  

Well, now you're back and classes are in full swing, but it's also time to put these resolutions into action. To help prime the pump, here are some possible career resolutions to get you going:

  • Seniors - if you don't have one yet, you should think about making a job search plan so you have things moving before Commencement rolls around. Have you thought about how you might reach out to your network and which industries and occupations you are going to research? And if so, is your resume up-to-date and in good shape? Do you know how to make an elevator pitch and conduct an informational interview? Do you know how to dress and present yourself professionally? Or maybe you've been thinking about graduate school. If so, have you registered for the necessary testing dates? Have you researched school options and do you know when the applications are due? Have you spoken with your academic advisor about any of this?
  • Juniors - have you done an internship yet? Over 80% of Simmons students engage in experiential (ie, workplace-based) education during their undergrad years, often as upperclassmen. The CEC recommends you do more than one internship if possible, whether in-semester and for credit, over the summer, or both. When it comes to graduation and full-time jobs, employers prize workplace experience highly. Plus the more time you spend in the workplace the more you will learn about yourself and your interests.
  • Sophomores - if you haven't declared your major yet this is a great time to zero in on the options. Talk to your advisor, to students you know in majors of interest to you, and check out the course lists in those majors and ask yourself what gets you excited. You should also check out "What Can I Do With This Major?" here on the CEC site as well as the Beatley Library Career Guides by Discipline for each major. If you've already selected your major, see if you can line up a summer job or internship that is in an area of interest and might further your career goals.   
  • First-years - with the first semester under your belt, you're no longer a newbie - congrats! As you enter your second semester and begin to look ahead a little bit, consider the types of co-curricular activities you'd like to get involved in during your time at Simmons. They're not just fun and a welcome diversion from your coursework. They also help develop different types of skills, including leadership skills, that employers value highly. You can also think about summer jobs and possible majors if you are undeclared (see "Sophomores").

Whatever class you are in and wherever you are in the career process, Step 1 is: Don't Panic! The CEC has a wealth of resources to support and guide you along the way, starting right here on the website. A good starting point is the UNDERGRADUATES section of the site, with its "Career Toolkit" and access to much more content and additional resources.

As always, if you're not certain about the next steps to take you can come in and meet with a career coach to get things rolling. 

So why not keep that New Year's resolution to yourself to "Get on top of my career stuff"? Take the first step and you're already on your way in the new year to a new you.

Photo: Courtesy of Education Connection  

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I attended a fall Career Symposium at Babson College on "What Employers Want From College Graduates" and want to share what I learned and highlight some key points.

The first speaker, Abigail Davenport, VP of Hart Research spoke of a survey her organization had conducted with 318 executives at private sector and non-profit organizations. Following were the key findings:

  • Innovation is a priority. Critical thinking, and a broad skill set are viewed as key for meeting the complex challenges of the workplace
  • Employers recognize the importance of a liberal arts education.  More than half agree that long-term career success requires BOTH specific knowledge AND a broad range of skills (aka, "academics plus")
  • Employers endorse education practices that involve students in the application of knowledge and skills to real-world settings such as internships and field placement

The second speaker, Debra Humphreys, VP of Policy and Public Engagement at the Association of American Colleges and Universities spoke on the topic of "Preparing Liberally Educated Professionals for Success in the Global Economy."  She asked critical questions on the topic of professional success and how students define post-graduate success.

The reasons that students give for pursuing a college degree:

  1. Get a better job
  2. Learn more about things of interest
  3. Train for a specific career
  4. Gain a general education and appreciation of ideas

Debra also addressed the topic of seeking long-term success and sited the Gallup Organization's research on well-being.  Over the past fifty years, Gallup has conducted research where they have uncovered five common elements of well-being that go beyond country and culture that include career, social, financial, physical, and community well-being.  They found that career well-being is the most important predictor of overall well-being.  Their research raises questions of how to measure longer term outcomes that go beyond salary as the measure of "success' to the value of helping students explore and discover what they like and do best, and of course, find a good job.  Career well-being is already central to our work in the CEC as our 5 Step Career Development Plan is a start in providing students with the knowledge, skills and resources to discover what they like and do best in order to make informed, effective decisions for lifelong career management.

Other key points that struck me:

"The premium of lifelong learning just keeps going up...the world is changing even faster.  Learning how to love learning is becoming more important - and the importance of static knowledge is going down... Students have to have knowledge and how to use it- know AND do. All learning should revolve around projects."   -- David Rattray, Sr. Director, Education and Workforce Development, LA Chamber of Commerce

Employers place more weight on experience, particularly internships and employment during school vs. academic credential and college major when evaluating candidates.   -- The Role of Higher Education in Career Development: Employer Perceptions (Marketplace and Chronicle of Higher Education, December, 2012)

Employers endorse the following high-impact educational practices with potential to help graduates succeed:

  • Research and evidence-based analysis
  • Senior projects
  • Internships and community-based work
  • Collaborative research

The good news is that Simmons has much of what employers want with a need to connect current best practices and build new ones as our differentiator in higher education.  We know that the value of a liberal arts education includes the skills employers seek today and also the skills for success in life.  We know that we have strong departmentally based experiential learning opportunities built into the Independent Learning requirement with internships, field experience and practice-based research and through Service Learning and Study Abroad.  We know that we are a student-centered professional learning community that reaches students early through the First-Year Experience and through integration of career preparation within departments and offices and through alumni mentoring programs.  We also know that professional preparation is an integral part of our liberal arts education and is central to the Simmons history, mission and strategy.

What students face today is to become career-ready in a rapidly changing work world.  This means that they need to be more actively engaged in their career development from day one.  Ultimately, they need to learn how to translate the meaning of their education.  This includes articulating the skills and value they can bring to an employer as they begin their career, and later as they manage and advance their career over the course of a lifetime.

Andrea Wolf is Director of the Simmons Career Education Center.