Navigating the Professional World
Posted on: October 25th, 2017

So, you’ve landed your first professional job out of college – congrats! With the relief of job searching coming to an end, it can feel like the hard work of setting a good impression and showcasing your strengths is behind you. But in many ways, this work is just beginning. Beyond excelling at your day-to-day job, there are a number of ways to continue to set a good impression with your boss and colleagues. Here are five ways to navigate the professional world like a pro:

1. Dress to impress
Just because you saw one of your co-workers wear a hoodie to work last Friday, does not make it the new normal. While dress codes may vary, seek to dress on the more professional side and take pride in a well-maintained physical appearance. Not sure what to wear? Good rule to follow is that it is always better to be over-dressed then under-dressed!

2. Keep your social media clean
Your online persona is just as important as your workplace behavior and can go a long way to show maturity. Regardless of privacy settings, you should assume that anything posted online is public information. From photos to opinionated posts, only share what you’d be comfortable sharing with your boss and/or the senior leaders at your company.

3. Approach your work with humility
Some of the most attractive qualities in a new hire are the eagerness to learn, the openness to assist outside of the job description, and a willingness to do typical entry-level work (aka “grunt work”). Aim to be resourceful, but don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know the answer. Offering to pitch in on projects or tasks that are outside of your job description—as long as you are getting your assigned work done—is a great way to offer added value. Also, recognize that some of the work you may do won’t be glamorous, but that can be the nature of entry-level jobs; keep a positive attitude, and before long, you may be managing the person doing that work!

4. Drink responsibly

Navigating your first corporate happy hour can be exciting, but it’s important to remember that you’re not at the pub with your friends. Regardless of what your other co-workers are doing, limit your alcohol intake to what you can stay in control of and responsible for.

5. Keep your emotions in check
With most jobs come with a certain level of pressure, uncertainty and even conflict. Keeping your emotions in check is a sign of maturity and responsibility. Confide in friends and family when you find yourself getting emotional, but stay committed to keeping your composure in a work setting.

Although the initial, formal interview process is over, you are now informally interviewing for your first promotion. Be yourself, but recognize that your interactions (at all levels of the company) are making an impression and impacting your future prospects within the company. When in doubt, look to role models and professionals above you who are well respected to emulate their behavior and/or seek mentorship and advice.

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Skype Etiquette 101
Posted on: October 25th, 2016

Well, it’s official! The hype and excitement of graduation has ended, the pools have closed, and your friends are starting to ditch the weekly ‘Thirsty Thursday’ hangout as they have to be up early for work. Where does this leave you? Job searching – in full-on Desperation Mode. Within a job search, there are several types of interviews: phone interviews, in-person interviews, panel interviews, and the increasingly used– Skype or other video-based interviews. It’s true, there is an art to interviewing, but no worries, I am here to clarify a few important details on how to prepare and be confident in this process!

Follow Instructions- I cannot express enough the importance of (what should be) the easiest part of the interview! The first thing you should do is reply to the email confirming your attendance for the interview. If you are truly excited about the interview, it’s important to confidently accept with a documented response. This would be a good time to thank them for the opportunity. If you are unsure or unable to interview at that time, do NOT accept the invitation promising attendance or email saying you will attend. If you have questions or concerns, it is best practice to reach out and get more information or explain your situation. Most hiring managers are willing to be flexible if there are legitimate concerns. It is also not okay to confirm that you will be attending the interview 5 minutes beforehand. Don’t do it, trust me!

Test your Skype- If you can spend 3 hours FaceTiming your significant other who lives out of town, you sure as heck can find someone to take 2 minutes to test your Skype….Even better, Skype has a test function built in! Genius, I know! Test it. Please spare yourself the uncomfortable and awkward silence while you stumble to fix the sound or video. I can tell you from experience, if you are not prepared or ready at the time of your Skype, it does not look good to the hiring manager. It can also make you more nervous and uneasy when you do start the interview. We look for confidence, nice clear sound, and clear video with good lighting.

• Staging your Skype Interview- Okay, this is by far my favorite topic to discuss. Why, you ask? Every time I go into a Skype interview, I’m never too sure who or what I may see on the other side. It is very important to make sure you are in quiet place with good lighting, no distractions, and a good backdrop. Please (for your benefit) make sure your Bob Marley poster is not visible, the bottle collection you acquired during college is hidden, and your cat does not walk across the screen mid-interview. A blank wall background is a good choice or the spare room that has a desk is professional. It’s also very important not to sit on your bed, pow-wow style, constantly moving your laptop. Place your computer/tablet on a solid surface, preferably a table, and sit up straight in a non-swivel chair. Staging your setup is something that should be done the night before, not 2 minutes before the interviewer calls you!

• Attire- This should go without saying, WEAR A SUIT! Yes, it’s true that we may only be able to see you from the waist up, but a sport coat with a collared shirt and tie or a conservative blouse/dress with a blazer is important. This is your first impression and it’s an interview – your background and skill set are not the only things being observed. Men, make sure you shave, and ladies, keep your hands out of your hair and your hair out of your face. Men, I know full suits can be uncomfortable sometimes, please do not wear your basketball shorts or even just boxers because you don’t feel the need to wear a full suit. What are you going to do if I ask you to go turn another light on because the video lighting is poor? Think about it. I recommend having two solid interview outfits or power suits picked out that make you feel confident and ready to go if you are called for any type of interview.

• Communication- It may be the last topic mentioned here, but it’s definitely the most important! To anyone who rolls their eyes when adults say “communication is key”, you best listen. During an interview this is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest skill set your interviewer is assessing. Make sure you speak clearly, avoid using headphones at all costs, test your microphone the day before, and do not, I repeat, do not have a snack waiting during the switch of a twofold interview. Speak with confidence and know your resume inside out. Your resume should be an outline of your experiences, but during an interview, it is your job to tell your full story. There should be no need to look down or read off of your resume – you know the contents better than anyone else. Smile during your interview – it is okay to laugh and have fun while speaking to your interviewer, just remain professional as it is still an interview! Ask questions, but don’t sound like a broken record by quickly google-ing “top interview questions”. Again, not going to help in the long run! If you do your homework about the company, you should be able to prepare questions relevant to the position and company. Watch your ‘eye contact’ (I say that in ‘ ‘ as you are in a virtual setting). I know you look good, but stop staring at yourself in that little box down in the corner or only looking at the screen – you need to make eye contact with that tiny camera at the top of your computer – that is your eye contact during a Skype. I’ll say it one last time, communication is key!

Every Skype interview should be treated as seriously as an in-person interview. Several companies conduct Skype interviews for your convenience so in return it is important to remember to value their time. I have conducted countless Skype interviews and time and time again candidates do not take advantage of these simple tips that can determine the outcome of an interview. I encourage you to take these basic steps to help you be successful the next time you are called to connect via video!

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Owning the Career Fair: 5 Tips for Leaving with an Interview
Posted on: January 12th, 2016

We’ve all seen the flyers around campus, received the emails from Career Services, and had professors promote it at the end of class: the career fair is this week, don’t forget to attend!

Career fairs can feel like the Hunger Games of entry-level employment. Rows of booths are staggered across the gym floor, there’s that low, buzzing hum from the fluorescent lights up above, and crowds of fellow classmates, friends, and teammates are all dressed in their Sunday best, clutching a portfolio of resumes in one hand and the career fair program and map in the other.

I attended my first career fair at the University of Notre Dame, the school across the street from my own alma mater. Kid you not, I walked in, surveyed the hunting grounds, had a brief panic attack, then walked straight back out all the way home. I later convinced myself that I still had the spring career fair to find an internship or job. PSA: Do not do this.

Now that I’m older, and [arguably] wiser, I’ve had the opportunity to be on both sides of the booth, as a student and as an employer. I’ve made mistakes, gained some insight, and can offer some advice to ensure you’re not just attending the career fair but that you’re engaging your audience and walking out with an interview.

  1. Dress to Impress: Your appearance (whether you like it or not) is the first thing employers will notice about you. Gentlemen, wear a professional business suit. If you don’t have one, borrow one from a friend or family member. Ladies, you have a few more options. Any pantsuit, dress and jacket, or skirt and jacket will work well for the event. Be extremely cautious of length and cut on dresses, skirts and even shirts. If you’ve worn that cute, black skirt to your favorite bar for dollar beers on a Thursday night, keep it on the hanger, and find another option.
  2. Don’t Operate on the Buddy System: Fly solo. If employers see you and your BFF hopping from booth to booth glued to the hip, it screams that you’re not ready for a big kid job. You want to portray yourself as the mature adult that you are—independent, invested, and professional. For my second stab at the career fair, in order to avoid falling into the friend trap, I didn’t tell a single friend what time I was going.
  3. Perfect Your Elevator Speech: This one takes practice. One of the first things an employer will ask is, “Tell me about yourself!” For such a simple question, it can be tough! Kathryn Minshew, CEO and founder of The Muse, has a good, simple formula to use when navigating this trickster of a question. “The formula I really like to use is called the Present-Past-Future formula. So, first you start with the present—where you are right now. Then, segue into the past—a little bit about the experiences you’ve had and the skills you gained at the previous position. Finally, finish with the future—why you are really excited for this particular opportunity.” Think of this formula as an organization tool rather than a memorized speech. Practice a few times in front of the mirror or with friends prior to the career fair, but don’t become too robotic and rehearsed. Employers want to see your personality.
  4. Research, Research, Research: Your school provides the list of the employers attending prior to the event, and you have access to this thing called the Internet! Make sure to research the companies that you find interesting. What’s their mission? Why do they do what they do? If you walk up to a great company, and ask them “so, what is XYZ?” your interaction isn’t going to be very memorable. First impressions are extremely important, and you’d be amazed at how a little research can give you an edge on the competition.
  5. Send Thank You Notes: Employers meet hundreds of candidates. They leave the fair with stacks of resumes, a quasi-reliable memory, and are probably off to a do it all over again in a few weeks at another school. Send genuine, personalized thank you emails to everyone you met. If you’re seriously interested in a particular company, send a handwritten note via snail mail in addition.
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