Preparing for the Real World

Spring is quickly approaching, and with it, so is graduation day for many college seniors. If you are approaching the end of your formal education, you need to make sure you are ready for the big transition ahead of you. Hopefully, you have been preparing for your graduation since you started college by completing internships, and seeking other experiences that would build your resume and prepare you for the real world. As your college career winds down, make sure you are fully prepared for the reality ahead of you by completing the suggested steps we have advised below:

 

  1. Update your Resume:
    • As a fresh college graduate, you might not have a ton of real work experience to include on your resume. If that is true, make sure you include any volunteer experiences and/or college and community organizations you were involved in on your resume.
    • Highlight any skills or experiences you have gained that are relevant to the career you want or industry you want to break into.
    • You can even include classes or school projects on your resume that might be relevant to the work you want to do in the real world.
    • If you are graduating with an impressive GPA, be sure to include that on your resume. Since you might not have a ton of work experience, it’s important to highlight your educational value to a potential employer.
  1. Find References:
    • Before you officially graduate, it’s important to compile a list of relevant references, because having good references is a critical part of the job search.
    • Reach out to any former supervisors from work-study positions, off-campus jobs, or internships. Make sure you have their permission to use them as a reference and all their current contact information.
    • You should also reach out to any professors or academic advisors that you worked closely with, or that you feel had a strong hand in your education before you leave campus for good. Again, make sure you have their permission and contact info.
  2. Start Applying:
    • While you don’t want to start applying for current job openings in February if you aren’t graduating until May, it is good to start getting your resume out to as many companies as possible.
    • Many larger corporations have entry-level programs for recent graduates that they fill using college recruiters. These types of programs usually start accepting applications prior to graduation, so that they can line up new hires to start ASAP after graduation.
    • Reach out to staffing agencies in your desired location and try to get your resume in the hands of a recruiter. A recruiter might be able to get your resume on the desk of a potential employer much faster and easier than you would be able to on your own.
  3. Attend Career Fairs:
    • Career fairs are a great resource for soon-to-be college graduates, especially those held by your university.
    • Companies who attend college career fairs are specifically targeting entry-level professionals, so they are not expecting the extensive work experience that other opportunities might require.
    • Career fairs are also great for their networking opportunities. Even if you don’t apply directly for any job openings, you can gain networking contacts from the businesses that attend.
  4. Network:
    • As a recent college grad new to the working world, your best chance of getting a job is through networking.
    • Network through your school contacts, past internships, friends, professors, and even through your parents and their contacts.
    • Most colleges also have career centers that can help you network with alumni working in your desired industry.
    • Take advantage of every resource and networking opportunity you have while you are still in school, because once you graduate you are on your own!

Random Resume Tips

Your resume should evolve as frequently as your career does, so you should constantly be improving and editing it while on the job hunt. To help you, we’ve provided a list of random tips you should keep in mind the next time you go to edit your resume’s content.

 

  1. In your job descriptions, list your responsibilities in order of importance and significance. If managing your company’s social media pages was your biggest responsibility, list that first. If you only spent about 5% of your time answering phones, list that last.
  2. List your months of employment along with the years. Employers want to be able to easily comprehend your work history and spot any employment gaps on your resume. If you don’t list the months, they might think you are trying to hide something.
  3. Include your full contact information on your resume. Some applicants don’t include their phone number on their resume because they don’t want to get bogged down with calls from recruiters. They don’t realize that by making themselves inaccessible to recruiters, they are also making themselves inaccessible to employers they might actually want to hear back from.
  4. Send your resume in a Word document if possible. Employers might not be able to open your resume file if it is saved in a PDF format, and .txt documents can be difficult to follow visually due to their lack of formatting.
  5. Don’t worry if your resume is longer than one page. The “one-page resume” rule is antiquated, and employers would rather see your whole work history on several pages than have you exclude work experience in order to fit everything on one page.

Job Searching While You’re Already Employed

Not all job seekers are unemployed. In fact, a large amount of the people searching job boards are professionals looking to make a change from their current positions. These employed job seekers have a whole separate list of rules they need to be aware of when on the job hunt, so we’ve included a few below:

 

Don’t use your work email to correspond with potential employers or submit your resume.

    • Use only your personal contact information, including your home/cell phone number when applying for jobs.
    • You might not be the only person with access to your work email inbox, especially if you work for a large corporation or government agency.

Don’t make calls to potential employers while at work.

    • Don’t assume that no one can hear you making inquisitive phone calls to companies about potential opportunities in your cubicle or office.

Don’t job search while on the clock.

    • Your current employer is paying you to work for them, not to job hunt. Do all of your applying and job searching on your own time.
    • There is always the chance that someone will catch you checking out the job boards instead of working, and this could result in you leaving your current position sooner than expected.

Be considerate of your current employer when scheduling phone or in-person interviews.

    • If you get the opportunity to interview with a new company, whether in person or on the phone, try to schedule it so that you don’t need to take a whole day off from work.
    • Ideally, you should schedule interviews over your lunch break so that you don’t have to take any time off. If that is not a possibility, try to schedule them first thing in the morning or at the very end of the day, so that you can either come in a little late or leave a little early without missing much work.

Give plenty of notice before quitting.

    • If you do end up accepting a job offer, make sure to give your current employer plenty of notice.
    • Two weeks notice is the generally acceptable amount of time, but every situation is different.

 

Five Common Resume Mistakes

Having a great resume is key to being successful in your job search. Your resume is typically the first impression an employer has of you, so it’s important that it properly represents you. To help, we’ve listed five of the most common mistakes job hunters make on their resumes.

  1. Too much personal information:
    1. Employers are going to hire you based on your work experience, not on your favorite hobbies. Your resume should not have a “Personal Interests” category. In a job interview, if your interviewer mentions his love of volleyball, then that would be an appropriate time to mention you share the same interest.
    2. It’s not necessary to mention your marital status or children on your resume. Again, a potential employer is only interested in your professional background.
  2. Spelling and grammar mistakes:
    1. The easiest way to get your resume rejected is to submit it with uncorrected spelling and grammatical errors. A potential employer will see a resume with a lot of mistakes and assume you are careless or sloppy in your work.
    2. Make sure to edit your resume several times before submitting it to a company. It also helps to have someone else read it over, a new set of eyes are more likely to pick up on any small mistakes.
  3. Length:
    1. While it’s important that your resume is not excessively long, you should not exclude relevant work experience just to fit everything on one page. You don’t want a potential employer to discount you because you left off relevant experience.
    2. At the same time, you don’t need to include every position you’ve had since the beginning of your career. Some of your past jobs might not be relevant to the current position you are applying for. Feel free to leave off the coffee bar you worked at through grad school if you have more relevant experience to include.
    3. You also want to avoid having too short of a resume. If you are a recent college grad and have only worked at one or two positions, try to expand upon your responsibilities to lengthen your work history. Also, you can include extracurricular activities you participated in if the experience you gained from them seems relevant to your career.
  4. Too busy:
    1. Don’t use a ton of fonts and creative detail on your resume. Keep it simple, so that an employer’s eye can easily follow your work history down the page. There is no need to go crazy with bold and italicized fonts in different colors.
    2. Avoid using borders and underlines to separate sections on your resume. As long as you have everything labeled appropriately, an employer will be able to understand it.
  5. Missing critical information:
    1. Make sure the header of your resume includes your full name, address, phone number and email address. If an employer doesn’t have your full contact information, they won’t be able to reach you to set up an interview or offer you a job.
    2. List the month and year you started and finished each position on your resume. Job seekers avoid adding dates to their work history for various reasons, but this is a huge mistake! It makes employers feel that you are hiding something.
    3. List the appropriate job title for each of your positions. New employers will most likely get employment verifications on your work history, so it’s important you have all the correct information. If there is a discrepancy with your job title or dates of employment, your new employer will be suspicious.

Keep these five easily avoidable mistakes on hand next time you update your resume and you’ll be sure to land a great job in no time!

How to Improve Your Career in 2016

A new year brings new opportunities and the chance to set some new goals for yourself and your career. Here are some ideas for how you can improve your career this year:

  1. Learn a new language: diverse communication skills are highly desirable in the workplace.
  2. Pursue a new degree or certificate: a higher degree or certificate could be your ticket to a promotion.
  3. Build your professional network: attend local networking events to meet professionals who could help you in your career.
  4. Take a trip: international experience is another highly desirable skill.
  5. Use your vacation days: many professionals argue that taking time off from work can result in higher productivity levels upon your return.
  6. Take on new responsibilities: build your experience by volunteering for new tasks.
  7. Exercise more: exercise can help decrease your stress levels, which will make you more productive at work.
  8. Wake up 10 minutes earlier: allow yourself more time to get ready in the morning to ensure you are always punctual for work.
  9. Talk to your boss: ensure you are on-track and meeting expectations by keeping an open line of communication with your supervisor.
  10. Organize your time: always keep your calendar handy to ensure you never miss a meeting, deadline, or call.

 

Bragging as a Benefit

Bragging is generally unacceptable, especially in the workplace. You never want to be perceived as arrogant or egotistical, so you avoid patting yourself on the back in public. As a job seeker, sometimes it is important to brag a little bit, especially in a job interview. You don’t want to be arrogant about it though, so learn how to brag in an acceptable way in our advice below.

  1. Know your strengths:
    • If you are going to brag in an interview, you have to be honest about your abilities and strengths.
    • Focus in on things that former supervisors or coworkers have applauded you for.
    • For example, if a supervisor frequently complimented your writing abilities, that is something you should highlight in an interview.
  2. Brag about your success:
    • If you helped your former employer meet their sales figures or exceeded your quarterly goals, be sure to mention that in an interview.
    • You should definitely mention any instance from your past positions where you went above and beyond the call of duty.
    • Potential employers want to know what value you can bring to their company, and listing specific figures you met or increased in a former position is a great way to show them.
  3. Don’t exaggerate your abilities:
    • While you are highlighting all the great qualities that will make you a fit for a position, be sure you don’t let things get out of hand. Exaggerating your abilities is pretty much the same thing as lying to a potential employer.
    • For example, if you are proficient with the Microsoft Office Suite, that doesn’t make you an “expert,” or mean that you are capable of using Excel to do anything an employer might need you to.
    • Be honest and let a potential employer know that you are confident and comfortable handling a task, without leading them to believe you are an expert at it.
    • On the other hand, if you are an expert at a task, be sure to tell them. Any certifications or training courses you have taken are definitely worth mentioning.

 

If you can learn how to brag in a tasteful way, without exaggerating your abilities or being overly arrogant, you are sure to have many successful interviews in your future.

Why Your First Post-Graduate Job is Important

When college graduates receive their diploma and start their job hunt, they typically assume that the “education” phase of their life is over, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Your first job out of college will teach you innumerable, valuable lessons that you will carry with you through the rest of your career. Find out exactly how important your first “real” job is by reading on below:

  1. You will get a reality check: Starting a full-time position will require you to be somewhere every day at the same time for most likely eight or nine hours a day. Recent college graduates used to waking up at ten, going to classes for a few hours and then returning home will surely have to make a big adjustment for full-time work. In the real world there is no such thing as “skipping class” or “playing hooky.” You will be accountable for your time and a low attendance record will result in more than just a bad grade.
  2. You will learn to be professional: Immersing yourself into company culture will require you to adhere to a dress code, and it will teach you how to speak and interact with others in a professional manner.
  3. You will learn how to prioritize: In college, you were given an assignment, specific instructions, and a due date. In the real world, work is not always so black and white. You may be given several assignments with conflicting deadlines and importance, and you will have to learn how to prioritize your workload.
  4. You will make important networking connections: If you are lucky, your first job can be a great starting point for your career. You can make valuable connections with people who can help you progress within your desired industry or career. In college, most of the networking you did was probably through your professors or parents, but in the real world you can make connections of your own.
  5. You will learn and gain experience: The most important thing you will gain from your first job will be valuable knowledge and experience. The hands-on experience gained in a full-time job will teach you lessons you could have never fully grasped in a college classroom. You will make mistakes and have successes that will teach you life lessons you can take with you throughout your career.

 

 

Saving Money on an Entry-Level Salary

When starting your career as a young professional, one of the most important life lessons you need to learn is how to manage your money. For a lot of young professionals, this is the first time in their lives that they have had sole responsibility for their finances. Rather than celebrating your financial independence by blowing your paycheck recreationally, concentrate on saving up as much as possible. We have provided some basic advice below that we hope can help young professionals keep an eye on their spending and boost their savings!

  • Buy groceries instead of take out: You can save hundreds of dollars a month by buying groceries and preparing your own meals instead of eating restaurant food.
    • Bring your lunch to work
    • Use a thermos for home brewed coffee instead of stopping at the local coffee shop
    • Make large dinners and save the leftovers to eat later in the week
  • Have a set percentage of your paycheck deposited into your savings account: This way money will be added to your savings automatically without you having to make the conscious decision every week to put it there.
    • Adding a small percentage of your paycheck to your savings every pay day will add up over time and provide a good foundation for your savings
  • Avoid spending money on full-priced retail clothing: Joining the real world typically means purchasing a whole new wardrobe full of business appropriate attire.
    • Outlet stores provide the same quality and style pieces as the retail stores, but at greatly reduced prices
    • Try to shop only when you have a good coupon to use or know of a great sale
  • Find a roommate: Rent and living expenses are typically the heaviest burden on a young professional’s finances.
    • Search the internet and classified ads for roommates before moving to a new location
    • The more roommates you have, the less your share of the rent will be

 

Top Ten Rules for Job Seekers

Every job is different, and so is the application/interview process for each job. While it’s difficult to create rules that will apply for job seekers everywhere, we have done our best below. Check out the rules we believe are applicable for any professional looking for work:

  1. Always bring a few copies of your resume to an interview, whether or not you were asked to.
  2. Always read job descriptions thoroughly and research companies before submitting an application.
  3. Always err on the side of overdressed rather than underdressed when choosing your interview outfit.
  4. Never show up more than fifteen minutes early for an interview. (Unless otherwise instructed by your interviewer)
  5. Always include your address and contact information on your resume.
  6. Review your resume frequently and revise it as necessary.
  7. Always specifically follow a hiring manager’s instructions regarding applying, following-up, interviewing and/or testing.
  8. Never call a potential employer to ask a question that could easily be answered with a perfunctory search of their website.
  9. Always ask your interviewer for a business card so you can follow up appropriately.
  10. Never lie about your dates of employment or your reason for leaving your past employers.
  11. Never wear strong perfume or cologne to an interview. A great interview can be ruined if your fragrance irritates your interviewer’s allergies.

 

Being Punctual

Punctuality is a critical quality for any professional to have. While this may seem obvious, a lot of professionals struggle with being on time in this busy modern world. Even unemployed job seekers need to be aware of time frames and deadlines when interviewing for and applying to jobs. For now, we will focus on the importance of being on time for a job interview and provide some rules to help make sure you are always punctual in the future.

Rule #1: Don’t be late.

  • If you realize ahead of time that you are running late for an interview, call your interviewer immediately and let them know your situation. Be sure to apologize for the inconvenience.
  • In a tough job market, hiring managers have their pick when it comes to capable candidates. Even showing up five minutes late for a job interview could disqualify you for a position.
  • If a hiring manager can’t trust you to show up on time for an interview, they have no reason to trust that you will be on time for work or meet project deadlines.

Rule #2: Being too early is the same as being late.

  • Do not show up more than fifteen minutes early for a job interview unless you were otherwise instructed.
  • Showing up too early for an interview can make you appear desperate to hiring managers. Think of a job interview as a first date, you wouldn’t want your date to think you were overeager or desperate either.
  • The same as if you were late for an interview, a hiring manager will attribute you showing up a half hour early to your bad time management skills.

Rule #3: Know where you’re going ahead of time.

  • If you have time and are unfamiliar with the area, visit the company’s office prior to your interview so that you know exactly where you’re going and how long it will take you to get there.
  • If you don’t have time to physically scope out your route, use the Internet to plan it in advance.
  • If you are driving to your interview, make sure you know where you are going to park. You don’t want to be late because it took twenty minutes to find a parking space.

Rule #4: Show up early, but don’t go in.

  • The best advice we can give you is to intentionally allow yourself extra time to get to your interview. This will give you some wiggle room in case you run into unforeseen trouble such as traffic or delays on public transportation.
  • Even if you don’t hit any delays and end up outside of the office twenty minutes early, don’t go in! Find somewhere nearby you can kill time prior to your interview such as a coffee shop or deli. Use the extra time to review your notes one last time.