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April 2014 Archives

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Bon voyage and best of luck! Following are fifteen pieces of real world advice I want to share with you as you transition from college to career:

 

 

1.  Go for it! Don't delay the job search after graduation as you may not realize that it takes several months, so if you haven't  already started, start now.

2. Know yourself. Know your passion, strengths, aspirations and what you want out of life.  You are in charge of your career. Know there are many ways to express your passion in a career and there are multiple paths.

3. Know the organization. Do your homework and research the organization to understand the culture and what the employer seeks.

4. Build relationships. Find professionals in your industry and seek their advice and guidance by asking good questions.  You can learn how they got a foot in the door and how they grew their career.  They may also have other contacts for you.

5. How you present yourself is key to your success. Share your story that demonstrates your interests, experiences, accomplishments and special qualities.

6. Let go of limiting beliefs and take risks. Have a positive outlook as that will impact everything. You may need to take some risks and from them you will always learn something whether you succeed or fail.

7. Not all advice is good advice. Your parents and friends may have good intentions, but know that in a changing economy, the job search process has changed.  Seek advice from professionals and career experts who have a pulse on the job market.

8. Apply for jobs that are a good fit. Don't jump at the first job offer if you are not excited about it.  You may feel pressure to take the first job you are offered in order to pay the bills, but research shows that you won't last long.  When you are motivated by a job, you end up accomplishing more and feeling more satisfied.

9. Create a strong online profile. Polish your LinkedIn profle as today more recruiters are sourcing for candidates online.  Make sure to show your strengths and what is unique about you.

10. Have perserverance in the job search.  If you are not chosen for a job, look at it as a learning experience and understand that the hiring process is complex and not an even playing field.  Ask yourself if you are presenting your best self in the interview.  If so, accept the loss and move forward.

11. Your attitude, energy and outlook matter.  Be aware of yourself and demonstrate with enthusiasm  the strengths you bring to the table. Also, stay on top of market trends and what employers seek in job candidates.

12. Exhibit a professional demeanor: Dress professionally and be aware of basic manners. Stand out from the crowd by being polished and polite.

13. Manage your expectations. Although you may be ready to leap to a higher position, accept the fact that you may need to take the necessary steps to position yourself for the future.  The more you do to master your job, make a contribution and prove yourself, the greater are the opportunities to grow your career.

14. Your first job is a starting point.  Your first job is not about making a decision for the rest of your life, but see it as a jumping off point towards your future.

15. A career is not a straight, but windy path. Discover what you like and do well that aligns with your values and this will serve you well throughout your life.

Andrea Wolf is Director of Simmons Career Education Center

Go west young grad!

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Student-Jobs-USA-Jobs-College-Graduates.jpgOne of the many benefits of going to school at Simmons is its location in Boston, a walkable city with numerous business, entertainment and cultural advantages.  Not to mention the presence of dozens of colleges and universities and upward of 250,000 students who make it their home. Given all that Boston offers, why would any new college graduate ever want to leave?   While many do stay, some grads return to their home towns for family or financial reasons, and others leave because the job market seems to be better farther afield.  And recent statistics seem to support that decision.

According to research results of the Gallup Daily tracking, conducted throughout 2012-2013 in the 50 most populous metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), Boston ranked 27 out of 50 MSAs in best environment for job creation.  Houston, Texas was ranked # 1, with Salt Lake City, Utah, and Phoenix, Arizona among the top 5 cities. While you may decide to go west for a better job market, you don't need to travel too far west.  Columbus, Ohio ranked # 2 while three major metropolitan areas in California: Sacramento, Riverside and Los Angeles ranked at the bottom.

When it comes to the job market, it depends on the type of position you are targeting, and on the law of supply and demand.  If your market research is telling you that there are relatively few openings in your field, for example, new grad nurse positions in greater Boston and Massachusetts, but your search shows more opportunities in Florida or Texas, it may be time to relocate to land that first job.

Moving away from Boston can be challenging to those who see themselves as forever part of Red Sox Nation, so it helps to remember that your first job does not require a life time commitment.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker today stays at his or her job for 4.4 years with the workforce's youngest members expecting to stay about half that time.  While you don't want to be seen as a "job hopper", two plus years of experience in your field can often make you more marketable if you decide to move back.

Are you passionate about your career direction and will relocate to be able to work in your chosen field? Or do you want to live in a particular place and will accept a close facsimile to your career ideal?  It's a question most job seekers have had to ask themselves at one time or another.   How will you answer it?

For more information about market trends, check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Massachusetts Career Information System,  and other resources on Explore Majors and Careers.

Photo: compliments of college-financial-aid-advice.com

Top ten career tips

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Recently I was a guest at the School of Management Spring Networking Dinner. Along with the other faculty and staff present I was asked to stand up and offer a career tip, one piece of advice to the assembled undergraduates, of whom there were probably 75 or so.

I offered my comments but it got me thinking afterward. I was not really prepared to offer just one piece of advice, and I realized I had never really stopped to condense my thinking in response to this question. Next time, I said to myself, I'll be ready.  
 
So what follows here, after a bit of reflection, are my "Top Ten" career tips: 

Know thyself - There is much wisdom in this ancient Greek aphorism, often attributed to Socrates. A true knowledge of self is the necessary foundation upon which one's career lies. If you are not aware of what you are good at, what you like and don't like, your strengths and your weakeness, you can be pulled in any number of directions, which can lead to less than optimal work experiences. In the CEC you will hear us talk about VIPS - your Values, Interests, Personality, and Skills. Knowing these, knowing yourself, can act as a sure compass to help guide you in the right direction "out there" in the real world. 

Do what you love (with caveats) - Be honest with yourself about your talent level and whether the market will pay you for what you have to offer. Many of us may know what we love to do, but do we have the ability for it? How painful is it to watch those candidates on American Idol who love to sing and desperately want to be a star, but, sadly, have no singing talent? Even if you do have the ability, ask yourself if there is a market for it. Can you do this work and live in the manner you would like? If you are not sure, do more research, ask questions, and find out.
 
Experience is the best teacher - A phrase not written by me but oh so true. The more experience you have -- the more jobs, volunteer work, and different activities you engage in in and out of school -- the more you will come to know about yourself and the opportunities available to you out there. Listen to the feedback the world gives you and come to know what you like and where you can potentially thrive. A corollary here is that even a bad experience can have a positive outcome. If life deals you a lemon, make lemonade: "That internship was horrible! Now I know I don't want to do that for the rest of my life!"

You are the product - In my role at Simmons, representing the college to the world of employment, Simmons is my brand, the five schools and academic majors are my product lines, and each and every individual student is my product. In the world of work, this is how you need to see yourself, and if you are the product, then you need to learn how to market yourself. In your elevator pitch, resume, portfolio, personal presentation -- these are all components of your self-markering mix. And remember to sell your total package, not just your major and GPA but all your experiences outside the classroom as well, leadership, service, study abroad, travel, summer experiences - all provide transferable skills and demonstrate qualities that appeal to those who will want to bring you on board in the workplace.

We all have two jobs now - In the pre-industrial era eveyone had a defined job. You started out as an apprentice, worked your way up, and stuck at the same work your entire life. In the industrial era and later in the 20th century corporate era, large organizations emerged and were more likely to hire you on and manage your career across your entire working life, till retirement, a handshake, and the gold watch. Those days are pretty much gone. The workplace has changed. Today's workers can expect a lifetime of transitions in their work, much more the norm than before, not just between jobs but between careers as well. While it may seem daunting, it is also liberating -- now you are in charge, the master of your own fate. You can go where you want and do what you want to do. But only you can manage yourself. Only you can look out for #1. Thus, we all have two jobs now: the job you are currently in, and managing your career.  

Be open to opportunities - While you can have a career plan and a path in mind, unexpected things (aka, life) happen. You meet somebody on a train and they wind up offering you a job (true story). Be open to opportunities as they arise. Then, with your evolving knowledge of self and base of experience, evaluate each one. Is it a good fit for me? Think two steps ahead: where can I go after that? Does it lead where I want to go? Career theorist John Krumboltz calls these opportunities "happenstance", the unexpected twists and turns that can have a profound impact not just on your work but your life. Be ready for them.   

Go where you are celebrated, not tolerated - This remark was delivered by a keynote speaker at a large HR conference I attended a number of years ago, and it has stuck with me ever since. Despite your best efforts and hard work, despite their having hired you in the first place, you may find that after some time in an organization you are seen only for what you are doing, not what you could do. You become part of the woodwork, taken for granted, not recognized any longer nor your true value appreciated. But you want to grow and prove that you can offer more, have ideas, have energy that is not being tapped. Then you have to do something about it, create or find a better siutation. Explore both internal and external opportunities. Helen Keller phrased it this way: "One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar".

Maintain your network - When you are first starting out in your career, networking may seem like a foreign and daunting concept - how do I do "networking" and do I even have a network? You will also think of networking as something that benefits you, a tool that can help lead to job and internship possibliites, or provide a connection in a new city if you decide to relocate. But as you spend more time in the workforce, you will realize that you become part of other people's networks, too, and that you can be just as valuable to them. The message here is that networking is a two-way street: yes, you can be helped, and you always want to be sure to show your appreciation and keep your network informed and up to date. But you can also reciprocate, be an aid to others, and then you are a member of a truly valuable network.  

Seek a higher purpose - I will echo the evening's keynote speaker, Mary Finlay, Professor of Practice in the SOM and former Partners Healthcare CIO. While there is a necessity to manage your own career and meet certain financial and other personal exigencies, if your work is solely for yourself you will burn out and become disillusioned very quickly. Simmons' core purpose of "Transformative learning that links passion with lifelong purpose" is not a hollow phrase. Working for a larger purpose, something that provides lasting benefits and is of value to others, provides a deeper and sustaining motivation. Being engaged in something larger than yourself can get you up in the morning and keep you going, not just for days and weeks but months and years. Taking an even broader view, the world faces many complex challenges in multiple arenas, some on a truly massive scale and of an unprecedented nature. We need all the dedicated talent we can get to face these challenges.    

It's a marathon, not a sprint - For most, the first several years out of college are a time of continued exploration and learning, albeit in the worplace versus the classroom. You will try on different occupational roles and see what fits (see "Know thyself" and "Experience is the best teacher"). Some of your peers may seem to have it all together (usually they don't) and some may actually have a clear and defined path early on, what I call the "lucky few." But most use the defining decade of the twenties to sort things out before eventually finding their path. You do not have to have everything figured out all at once. Be patient. Let things unfold, and learn as you go. As American poet Walt Whitman said: "All truths wait in all things / They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it."

Your job is not your life - While income and how you spend your working hours are clearly central, and Gallup studies show that career well-being is the most reliable predictor of overall well-being, don't freight your job with fulfilling every aspect of your life. Other dimensions of your life  -- personal, family, physical fitness, involvement in community, activities of interest (music, rock collecting, reading, travel, whatever) -- are also important and should not be neglected. Whitman again: "Of course I contradict myself - I contain multitudes." Embrace the multitudes and pay attention to those aspects of yourself too. Or, put another way, "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy" (or Jill a dull girl).

Sometimes you need help - Have you ever seen a boxing match? When the bell rings to end the round the boxer goes back to his corner, slumps onto his stool, and gets attended to by his trainer and manager. That's what a career coach can do for you. They are in your corner. They help you take a break, step back from the action, work out a strategy, and get refreshed before you head back into the ring. While a lawyer attends to your legal needs and a doctor to your medical needs, a career advisor can help with your career needs. While at Simmons and as an alum, you can make us of the career coaching expertise on staff in the CEC.     
 
Be mindful of retirement - The "R" word may mean little or nothing to you now, but at some point, way out there on the horizon, your everyday working life will come to an end. And as the current run of Prudential TV ads is reminding us, many of us will be living far longer than previous generations, into our 90's and beyond, so we better be prepared not to outlive our retirement income. Plan now, save now, and you will thank yourself later.  

My final word on this is that there is no final word. While the foregoing are deeply held beliefs I might add another one here or there over time. And OK, for those counting there are more than ten tips here, which is the point. A career is a complex, organic, growing and evolving thing, and you can't boil it down to just ten immutable pearls of wisdom. It is an ongoing challenge, but one that Simmons grads are both prepared for and up to.

So what was the one tip I gave at the Networking Dinner? "Eisenhart's Theorem": We all have two jobs now.

Mind the (skills) gap

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A regular topic of discussion that comes up amongst career coaches and career service professionals is whether employers of recent college graduates more favorably value hard skills (such as subject area and technical expertise) or soft skills (such as critical thinking, communication, and generalized problem solving).  The answer, according to a recent article in Forbes, is often that both types of skills are needed to succeed in the job market, and a gap has emerged between the skills employers expect to see in new employees in entry-level positions and the skills that candidates present on their resumes and in interviews. This connects the post-recession employment crisis to what appears to be a skills crisis in college graduates.

So, how does one acquire the needed skills to succeed on the job market?  Hard skills can be developed in college through experiential learning, most notably in internships and other employer-based experiences in your field.  You can search CareerLink for internship opportunities that have been posted specifically for Simmons students. 

In terms of soft skills, a liberal arts education has likely provided you with much of the knowledge and abilities you will need, but often students and recent graduates can have trouble translating classroom learning and experiences into examples of proficieny in job-applicable skills.  For help making this leap, please contact our office to set up a meeting with one of our career coaches.  They will be happy to review your academic experiences with you and guide you towards seeing how those experiences reflect job-ready soft skills that you already have.

By using the resources available at the Career Education Center, Simmons College students can be sure to make the jump over the skills gap.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Author: WillMcC