Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It all comes to a close

I have an announcement.

After six months of searching, countless hours spent combing job search sites, and dozens of applications sent without any response, I HAVE A JOB.

That’s right---Jessica Davis---Career Assistant and pseudo-professional job searcher, is employed.

When I got the phone call, I began hopping in the middle of Academic Row. Mature, I know. Considering how shocked and surprised I was, hopping seemed like the only good response. I quickly remembered that someone else was on the phone and I managed to find some semblance of a response.

So naturally, I called my Dad. He didn’t answer. Next? My mother. And of course, she was on an airplane coming to Allentown for my graduation. And the next set of people who have been anxiously waiting for something, anything, to materialize were my bosses in the Career Center. I could think of no better people to share my news with. They had listened to every concern, discussed every disappointing response (or lack there of) and have truly made this whole journey somewhat bearable. So as an aside, thank you Cailin, Alana and Laura for everything this past semester. I would not have made it out alive without your constant support and unending professional pearls of wisdom.

When asked by my friends, I was ecstatic and I was “most likely” going to accept this position. I mean, it only made sense. I had invested so much of myself into this position. My entire family has called this particular institution their alma mater. I had made it my goal Spring Semester to graduate with a job and I had one---but a large part of me was hesitating to accept. I began to think—and if anybody knows me, they know that I get in trouble when I start to over think and assess situations. One of my biggest flaws is being paralyzed by fear and soon my body (and rational thought process) began to freeze up.

You see, I am also interviewing for this same position at another University. And part of me on a very proud level, wanted to pursue this position because I had done it all on my own—no endorsements, no phone calls. But the one small detail I am forgetting is that they have yet to actually offer me a job. All I am doing is interviewing, all I am told is that they are “very interested” and even yet, their time frame does not line up with mine. It would be unconscionable and stupid to hold out on the first job in order to pursue a “maybe”. I would have to sacrifice a job—MY job that I had worked so hard to attain—for a position that I may not even be offered. It would be one thing if I was deciding between two job offers, but the reality of my situation was, I had one job offer and one that maybe-sort of-kind of could pan out. If I was on the outside looking at somebody else in this situation, I would smack them and tell them to stop being stupid. But I am very much on the inside and at this moment, very much unsure.

And thus begins my paralysis. Frightened by having to start work in July and make a move to a city where I basically know not a soul, I began to hold the second position as superior to the first. And just to be clear, when pulled up on the employment website, they are near identical. With the sage advice from my father, I began to construct a pro-con list so to outline the different strengths and weaknesses of each job. As I began to construct it, I quickly realized that there were far fewer cons for the first position than I had anticipated.

In an interesting parallel of events, I feel like committing to a job is like committing to college all over again. I vividly remember sitting at my college counselor’s dining room table, my pro-con sheet in front of me, crying. No words. No thoughts. Just tears. I so badly wanted to go to George Washington University, but I felt like I wasn’t ready for a metropolitan city. Another part of me was magnetically drawn to the University of Denver, a campus that I had fallen in love with and gotten a substantial amount of money from. But when I went to visit on the Admitted Students Day, something was irking me and I had an uncomfortable and unshakeable feeling. And lastly, there was Muhlenberg, a campus that unbeknownst to me, I had fallen in love with. With an ultimatum and a blank check in hand, I took a leap and scribbled Muhlenberg College in to “To” line.

I never looked back. On Sunday, I walked across the stage set on the College Green and received my diploma from a school that had helped me grow into the person that I am today. Because of Muhlenberg I discovered an educational path I was passionate about, a sorority, an a cappella group, a circle of friends I wouldn’t trade for the world and a wonderful office to which I went to work. Because of Muhlenberg, I have learned (although I often forget) not to question my heart and my initial feelings. I have learned to trust what I feel and despite how difficult a situation may be, not to back out.

And now I find myself feeling as if I was 18 years old again---scared and unsure but deep down aware of the decision to be made. I know in my heart that the right, and rational thing to do, is to accept the first job offered to me. I am not accepting it because it is simply a job or because it was the first one offered. I am accepting it because it is an incredible opportunity for me a grow and learn professionally, regardless of the city I am in. I am accepting this job because I have earned it, not because it was handed to me. And lastly, I am accepting this job because there is no guarantee that the other position will even be an option. This may be my first job but it certainly will not be my last.

My family waited 18 years for me to say it, but I migrated up north and proudly became a Mule. They then waited for my sister to continue the legacy, but she only screams “Go blue!”. So now, twenty one years later, I can make my family and myself proud, by going to work for the University of Florida, bleed orange and blue and finally chant, “I said it’s great to be a Florida Gator”.

Friday, April 30, 2010

I realize that a lot of my posts have revolved around the act of finding a job, dealing with rejection, being a go-getter and the basic ins and outs of job searching. But as I was sending off an application to a job this morning, it dawned on me that I had never outright provided resources for students to use. Now, I know that many people may think that finding a job is as easy as opening Google. But the truth of the matter is, there are tons of online and in-print resources that students are completely unaware of.

I have decided to dedicate this blog entry to listing and explaining my favorite websites. Here we go:

Career Connections!: Now, I know what you are thinking: This is the website that the Career Center uses so you have to endorse it---SO not the case. The beauty of this website is that when you create an account, you fill out a questionare and then you receive targeted emails based off the information submitted. Interested in Sports Management? Experience, the server that provides Career Connections, will send emails about upcoming opportunities in this field. Additionally, the Career Center will contact you if there are programs on campus that fit your interests. It is almost like a personal concierge service, a perfect tool for the busy undergrad.

mediabistro.com: It's funny how something so public can be so hidden. A friend of mine who works for Nielsen's could not believe that I had never heard of this website. For any person who is interested in the Communications field, and I'm talking marketing, public relations, web design, advertising, this is THE place to go. You can search by job, location, work level and create a list of favorites to go back to. You can also research companies on this website. In my opinion, this is the creme de la creme in it's category.

indeed.com: This website has been my favorite thus far. Like mediabistro.com, a person can search by location and kind of job they want. What makes this website even better is that a person can also search by years of experience and salary range. Too often, I click on a job description that sounds interesting, scroll to the bottom and realize that I do not have the 4 years of experience required. The ability to accurately sort jobs according to your skill level makes this website one of the most comprehensive and navagable.

simplyhired.com/newgrad: Passed onto our student body by our lovely Presidential Assistant, Alysea, this website is a new launch by simplyhired.com. Like I wrote before, all too often I find a job at a company and location I find interesting, click on it, and realize that my two summers of internships just aren't going to cut it. Apparently, the people of simplyhired.com realized this predicament. They created this website for new college graduates, pulling jobs that are in line with our skillset developed in school and the assumed level of experiences we would have.

monster.com, careerbuilder.com, jobfox.com: These three are the trifecta of job websites. Known to most people applying to jobs, they hold the most comprehensive listing on-line. I find these places FANTASTIC to do research on. I can look at organizations, browse jobs and spend a pretty fair amount of time clicking "next" because their database is that expansive. However, I cannot caution you enough about applying through a third party job server, which is what these websites also act as. Sometimes, they even require you to build a resume through them, which is limiting and frustrating. It is much easier (and one internal step less) to apply directly through the company website. On the off chance that a company does not post job listings on their site, then applying through these websites is your only option. JobFox even has reminder emails that get sent out about a job that has expired or is soon to expire, so a person knows that they have to get moving or risk their application. As long a student uses these websites armed with knowledge, they are a wonderful job search supplement.

Craig's List: Now, I know some people may be a little hesitant to find a job on Craig's list. But like anything else, there are always hidden treasures. Craig's List has an expansive list of job postings. Just make sure that there are key elements, like a location, a company name and a person of contact.

Academic360.com & higheredjobs.com: If higher education is your calling, these two websites are your new best friends. Academic360 and HigherEdJobs both have job listings in every vocation of higher education. We're talking jobs in Development, Technology serviecs, Career Services and student life, just to name a few. Better yet, a person can search by location, by department or level of work. A person can create a resume through their website and apply to jobs that way, or visit the individual school's website and apply through Human Resources.

LinkedIn: Not just a professional Facebook anymore! LinkedIn also has job postings. I promise you, this website will be your new go-to as a recent Muhlenberg graduate. You can also look up company information--added bonus!

So there you have it--the top of my list, a few of my favorites and a bevy of resources to aid your search. Now, get clicking!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's not you, it's me?

When I first started applying for jobs, I was unaware of what a rejection letter or email would feel like.

The first round of applications, sent in December, either went unanswered or read "Dear Ms. Davis, we thank you for your interest (blah blah blah) looking to hire immediately (blah blah blah). We thank you for your interest (blah blah blah)". What their letter really said was 'You are applying for a position that cannot be held for the next four months'. But, undeterred, I kept on sending my applications and kept on waiting for something, anything, to bite.

And then, low and behold it did.

On a whim, I sent an application to the University of Maryland for a Program Assistant position. Not expecting to hear back, I received an e-mail offering an interview. Ecstatic (because in my head, there was actually hope for me), I quickly set up a time to speak. The interview, in my opinion, went flawlessly. There was a lot to discuss, not really ever a period of awkward silence and it seemed like my application would progress.

I could not have been more wrong.

Later that week, almost exactly to the day she said, I received another e-mail thanking me for taking the time to apply and speak with her, but that the needs of the University of Maryland and my experiences would not be a good fit. At first I was ambivalent. I would be lying if "Fine, well I don't want to work for you" didn't run through my head. But the more I thought about it, the more ok with it I was. This was not my dream job, nor was it in a location I was dying to live in. It was just a job I was interested in--nothing more and nothing less.

Finding a job can consume a person. We jokingly say that finding a job is in fact part time job. We have spent endless hours writing and editing cover letters, scouring websites and scheduling phone or in-person interviews. The truth of the matter is, if we were to sit down and add all of the hours we have spent job searching, we would be astounded. What seems like second nature is actually a learned habit. It is much easier to be ignorant about graduating and being a real person than tackling it head on. And when you get that first e-mail, it is almost a blow to your hard work and ego.

I realize that I have written an entry about this before, encouraging students to get right back on the job horse to fall off and that a bad response is better than no response at all. I still stand by what I wrote before---job searching is hard and it requires a person to develop thicker skin. You need to persevere through the process and keep on trucking. But in an economy like this, there are times when there are more "bad" emails than "good emails". The most important thing to remember is not to doubt your abilities or what you have to offer.

I remember sitting in my dad's office freaking out that nobody would want to hire a political science major and Jewish studies minor.

"Well, Gary, that was a total waste of four years".

But the truth is, unless I am applying to be an accountant, to medical school or be a financial analyst, my liberal arts education has made me a well-rounded application for a variety of jobs.

Sure, it is difficult not to take a rejection letter personally and think, "Well what was wrong with me?". If you find yourself thinking those thoughts, STOP. Take a deep breath. And rationally realize that there is nothing wrong with you, or your resume or what you have to offer. It may just not be the right job for you or even the right time. Just remember to keep on going.

Good luck.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You've Been Linked

LinkedIn. A website that most people thought was reserved for the working man or woman. Now, it has become one of the most used tools to finding a job.

LinkedIn can be seen almost as a professional Facebook. Information about yourself, like activities you are involved in, places of employment and education are included. However, there are no "favorites" categories, places to upload photos or a wall. In fact, the only way to contact a person on LinkedIn is to request that you be added to their network.

The beauty of LinkedIn is that it is totally free. There are, however, some limitations. For example, you cannot InMail, or contact via message, a person unless you have an upgraded account. LinkedIn allows you to connect to past employers or work colleagues, reconnect with classmates and build a professional online community. A member can import their resume or build job descriptions on their profile, request recommendations from past employers and even upload a picture.

There are different levels of connections. A "first" connection means that you and another person are directly linked. After you link with people, the website will automatically recommend people you may know. A third party in this situation (for example, my friend has a friend and I want to link them), would be referenced as a "second" level connection. You can either link directly to that person or have a middle man introduce you. Lastly, a person whom you don't know or have no ties to would be categorized as a "third" level connection.

But what I find most attractive about LinkedIn is that you are able to look at a person's professional progression. For example, if you are interested in fashion merchandising and you know a person-who knows a person-who has a cousin who worked for Barney's, you can look them up on LinkedIn and (depending on their privacy settings) see their work history. I find it to be incredibly helpful to see where a person started and the different jobs they took in order to get to where they are today.

Another fantastic component of LinkedIn? Interview research! Now we all know the importance of researching both the company and the person interviewing you for a prospective job. Unfortunately, sometimes Google only gets you so far and you are left wondering about how long this person has worked for Company A, where they went to school and what their major was. LinkedIn is the perfect place to find useful information so that you may get a read on the person you are speaking or meeting with.

Like Facebook, a LinkedIn member can join groups. Now these groups are far from the "If this group reaches 1,000 people Jon Smith will shave a lightning bolt into his head!". No, they are quite the opposite. Professional associations, intern networks and companies all have groups that a person can join on LinkedIn. They can notify you about all kinds of information, from job postings, to apartment openings, to an alumni association bar night. In an age where so much is reliant on the internet, LinkedIn has found the ability to perfectly fuse professional and social outreach and networking.

And of course, LinkedIn wouldn't be this amazing without a job listing section. Employers can post job listings on LinkedIn and while it may not be as comprehensive as a site like Monster.com or Indeed.com, it is another resource to add to your list.

There was a misnomer that only people who are established in the work force needed a LinkedIn account. I can assure you, nothing could be less true. As part of our work training, each Career Assistant was required to create a LinkedIn account and become familiar with the website. At first, I "linked" my family, my past bosses and a few of my friends who had already created accounts. I steadily received notifications from people I went to school with, friends who had graduated and old acquaintences that I had lost touch with. Now, more than ever, finding a job is heavily reliant on not what you know, but who you know and what you do with it. LinkedIn is simply another way to put feelers out and make connections that could benefit you in the long run.

Now, I understand that people won't spend their time 'stalking' someone's LinkedIn account nor will they think to log into it when wasting time. But if utilized correctly, LinkedIn can serve as a positive supplement to a person's job search and professional path.

On that note, Link away.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Unpaid Internship: Friend or Foe?

Applying for jobs post-graduation forced me to toy with the idea of doing yet another unpaid internship. Two summers ago, I interned for a non-profit organization and on Capitol Hill. Last summer, I interned for The Clinton Foundation. Each time, my parents graciously underwrote the cost of me living in fairly expensive cities. I realize that those opportunities were a luxury, not a right. My parents gave me the opportunity to take advantage of new cities, developing opportunities and the chance to find out what I was passionate about. But now, four years of private school tuition and two unpaid internships later, I am forced to re-evaluate just how willing I am to essentially work for free.

It is common knowledge that most, if not all unpaid internships, have an element of mundane, administrative or secretarial work attached. My time at the non-profit organization was spent doing hours of research and observing meetings. But at the end of the day, I had my own cubicle, e-mail address and telephone extension. At the very end of the summer, I was given the opportunity to spearhead a project and realized that the old adage is true, "you have to start somewhere." My experience on the Hill though, was quite different. My family joked that I had become an expert cuban coffee maker, because in fact, I started each day making Cuban coffee for the entire office. Not a complete waste of time though, because I realized how much I did not want to work in politics. And this past summer? I, again, did an unpaid internship, but this time for Clinton Global Initiative, one of the most prominant organizations in humanitarian efforts world-wide. But this time my intern experience was more comprehensive: I attended weekly 'Brown Bag' lunches, which provided speakers of all backgrounds to come in and talk to us about how they got where they are now. Without question, the icing on the cake and the metaphorical paycheck was having the opportunity to meet President Clinton, who is one of my personal heroes. In my eyes, this internship would provide me with the leverage (not to mention name association) to really take my job search full speed ahead.

In the April 2 edition of the New York Times, there is an article discussing the legitimacy and legality of unpaid internships in the for-profit environment. Now don't get me wrong--if I could have an paid internship with a non-profit I would be all of it. But many of them do not have the funds or capacity to compensate interns, and while they are not glorified volunteers, they are not monetarily rewarded for their work.

Officials in Orgeon, California and other states are filing claims that companies whom they believe are in violation of minimum wage laws. The Labor Department says that it is cracking down on firms that fail to pay interns accordingly. They maintain that a for-profit employer or a student seeking a for-profit internship should pay or be paid, respectively. More interestingly, The Department reports that many employers failed to pay interns even though their internship programs did not comply with the six federal legal criteria that must be met for internships to be unpaid. These include training that mirrors training given in an academic setting, the intern does not do work that regular employees should be doing and that the employer does not "derive immediate advantage" from an intern's work.

According to the Career Development Center at Stanford University, unpaid internship postings have nearly tripled in the last two years, fueling student desires to pursue unpaid opportunities. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, in 2008 nearly 50% of graduating students held internships, nearly tripled from the 17% who did in 1992.

And thus presents the Catch-22. Many jobs now require some sort of experience, yet the opportunities to get this experience are often saved for the elite. It is expensive and often times, an economic burden on a family to subsidize their child's expenses in another city. Many families rely on the supplemental income a summer job provides, or in other cases, the student serves as their own economic support.

What is important to remember is that internships--paid or unpaid--serve as a valuable teaching tool and stepping stone into the "real world". During my undergraduate career, I was ok with "working" 9-5, commuting in the morning and staying after if need be. In my eyes, I was earning my keep---keep that would come in the forms of letters of recommendations, a pathway to more prestigious internships and now, hopefully a job.

While there is speculation as to the fairness of unpaid internships, it is also important to remember that without them, you may never find out what your true passion is, what kinds of work environments you hate and what paths you may want to pursue.

For the full article, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/business/03intern.html

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Let the countdown begin

It seems surreal that we only have 40-something days left in our undergraduate career. Like other students, part of me is ready to graduate. I am ready to embrace the next step, a new city and begin the next chapter of my life. And like other students, I am sad to leave the tight-knit community we have called home for the past four years.

I find it funny that 50 days, nor the Senior Fair and picking up my cap and gown served as a wake up call. Both events, monumental in name, scream to seniors "THIS IS IT. ITS THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!". But it was the first job interview, the real preparation for the next step that jolted me.

I think it is a lot easier to be "ready" to graduate when your fate is unknown. You aren't bound to a plan or any responsabilities. But I see having a job as having a plan. And with a plan comes structure. And structure signifies the end of being a carefree college student.

We are presented with a unique situation: In order to proactively search for a job, one must start early. You can begin to send out resumes in December, network and pour over job listings. But many organizations or companies are not willing to hold a job until May. So you either don't hear anything or are told that they are looking for immediate hire. And the cycle continues until the Spring, when places are looking to hire and your timeline is more prevalent to their organization. It is almost like you are penalized for being proactive and then BAM! April rolls around and you start to feel the crunch of a looming graduation.

The first interview was incredibly rewarding--it reinforced that my skill set and background was relateable to someone and something and it was a nice payoff for the dozens of applications I had sent out. But it also signaled the beginning of the end--the end of Muhlenberg and days of school-centered responsabilities.

I don't want to stay in college forever, but I also regret rushing to verbalize my desire to move on. I propose that we enjoy what we have left as Muhlenberg students and Allentown residents and take the next step, one application at a time, in stride.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's not about what you know, but who you know

It has become extremely evident that finding a job in today's economy is somewhat reliant on people you know. When I first started college, I thought that networking was cheating--it was as if I wasn't smart enough or qualified enough to get a job or internship on my own. But what I failed to realize is that networking serves as a step up and an endorsement. To have someone call on your behalf isn't cheating the system, it's playing the system. Today, simply submitting a resume and cover letter isn't going to cut it. It isn't about what you know anymore, but rather who you know. So break out the iCal or the Outlook and start downloading V-cards. Trust me, you are going to want as many as possible.

I have a hard time writing about myself on this blog, but I feel the only way to drive this point home is to in fact, write about my own experiences networking. My dad, in all of his professional glory, has racked up a substantial number of business friends and associates. With his help (and first round of e-mails) many of his friends offered to speak to me on the phone and send out my resume. I expected the worst--many places weren't looking to hire someone just out of college or there weren't any openings to begin with. But the fact that my name and resume were circulating was a giant leap in the right direction.

My dad always tells me that people who are successful in their jobs probably got help along the way and many of those people are willing to pay it forward. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, nor is it an indicator that you are incapable of finding a job on your own. It just means that you are exhausting all possible options and nothing bad can come of reaching out. Take it from me---I was the queen of "I am doing this on my own". So I applied for an internship, told my Dad (who told his business associate who incidentally worked for this person) and less than 24 hours later, I was offered an internship. Now--I am aware that most people have to go through rounds of interviews, and I just got lucky. But instead of being excited, I felt guilty, like they hired me because they felt obligated. I soon realized that there was no obligation to hire me, that I landed the internship on my own merit, but her phone call only made sure that my resume was given a deeper and better look.

The moral of the story is not to be afraid to reach out. Contacting someone, even if just for an informational interview, is more proactive and sometimes more effective than blindly sending applications. Networking is an effective job search tool and it should be utilized, just like a finely crafted resume and cover letter.

Don't be afraid to cast your line---chances are, something will bite.