Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Career Planning: Your Career on Purpose

Career planning in its simplest form is leading your own career based on your values and goals as opposed to simply falling into a career or allowing people or circumstances to dictate what career you choose. The definition of planning is “the act or process of making plans for something.” You have to actively engage in building a plan in order to see that plan become successful. Many people will put together their resume, start applying to positions on a job board and simply sit back and wait. However, as the definition suggests, there is “a process” or “action” involved in making sure that you are planning for long term career success. If you do not take the time to plan your career, you may end up taking a job that will have you searching again within a very short period of time.

Here are a few steps to help in assessing your current career situation and put a career plan into place.
  1. Self assessment - This will take some time and reflection. You want to identify and prioritize your interests, skills, personality, and values and understand the influence your attitudes, feelings, and beliefs can have on making successful career decisions.  You will also want to consider the impact of your career choice on your lifestyle preferences.
  2.  Occupational and industry researchUsing your self-assessment results as your guide, take time to learn about a variety of occupations and industries including job duties, employment outlooks, salaries, and educational and training requirements associated with each. You will then want to synthesize the information to identify a potential career goal.
  3. Short term and long-term goals – Once you have determined a career goal, consider setting SMART short term and long term goals to assist in facilitating your career preparation and future success. Goal setting can help keep you focused, strengthen your commitment to your career goal, and help you overcome challenges along the way.
  4.  Getting the job. Once you have established a clear career goal, you will want to put a job search plan, including strategies for the published and unpublished job market, into place. You will want to create appropriate, well developed, visually attractive applications and marketing materials. In addition, you will want to research employers to identify potential opportunities and prepare for interviews.

You may find the MyCareer Plan document helpful in creating your own career plan. Remember that a career plan is not a static plan; it is ever changing and dynamic. Once you have the foundation in place (values, interests, skills, qualifications), you will find that as you learn more about yourself, try out new things and talk to different people, your plan will adjust accordingly. The key is to follow the process and make any necessary course corrections to stay on track for the life that you have identified as satisfying and fulfilling.

For more information about creating a career plan or to request an appointment with a career specialist, please contact us.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Value of a Professional Portfolio

Have you ever been asked during an interview, “Why should we hire you over other qualified candidates?” Perhaps as you thought it over, you felt that you were a great problem solver, creative, and an amazing team-player. While this could all be true, how would you convince the employer of this fact?

One valuable way to show evidence of the skills you tout in your resume is to create a professional portfolio. Employers see resumes all day, every day and while there is no getting away from providing a strong resume, you should always be thinking of ways to answer their question and provide evidence for what makes you stand out above other candidates.

WGU Career & Professional Development has some excellent portfolio resources, found in the Career and Professional Development E-library under Academic CVs, designed to help you as you begin building your professional portfolio. It’s important to understand that this is not about “boasting” or having to “sell yourself”, but it is about showing that you have added substantial value to past employers and are eager to do so for a potential employer.

Your professional portfolio can help you show an employer that you can and will make a positive difference and this upfront investment has the potential to really pay off in the long term. For example, having all your accomplishments, skills, awards, and endorsements in one place can:
  • Help you create and update your resume with specific accomplishments and help you keep track of your growth in the industry
  • Showcase all the commendations and awards that you have received over your career
  • Show how you helped to solve problems for the company by showcasing special projects or task forces you have been involved with
  • Provide a listing of professional development opportunities that you have taken advantage of  to show how you stay current and relevant in your industry
A professional portfolio is a compilation of your best work as a student and a professional. It will be a little different for each person but it should highlight your growth, your strengths, professional references from peers and managers and provide examples showcasing your career accomplishments and work product.

To help get you started, here is a list of potential content. Remember that your portfolio will continue to grow and evolve as you do, so have fun with it and be ready the next time you are asked to share why you stand out above the crowd! For more information about professional portfolios or to request an appointment with a career specialist, please contact us.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Back to School Night" Success for the K-12 Teacher

Calling all Teachers!  As the 2015-2016 school year gets under way, remember to set aside some time to prepare for your Back to School Night/Parent Open House—the success of the evening depends on what you put into it!  This night is designed for parents and teachers to connect and work together for the success of their students.  Many teachers don’t spend enough time thinking about how to use this night to their advantage.  Below are some suggestions to get the most out of your evening!

  • Promote the evening as much as you can.  This is your one chance to get all your parents together in one spot to educate them about your class.  Send notes home in folders, use email and texting options, make sure it’s on your school marquis and if you have the time, call parents to invite them or use robo-calling web resources if your district/school allows it.
  • Make your classroom inviting with student work samples, vocabulary word walls and posters that reinforce your classroom curriculum.  Take the time to straighten and wipe down your desks, empty your trashcan and make your own desk look presentable.  It is always a nice touch to have the students create something for the parents upon their arrival.  A note or drawing from the child to the parents is always a hit.  The reverse also works well---give each parent a post- it-note for them to write their child a note and leave on their desk for the next day.
  • Prepare your attire.  Look like the professional you are.
  • Arrive early so you are not rushed and have time to prepare your materials.  
  • Check your technology if you plan on using it for your presentation.  For tips on innovative ways to use creativity and technology in your classroom, visit the “Classroom Tip of the Month” presentation library.
  • Prepare your textbooks and classroom resources to show parents how to help their child.
  • Create a parent sign in station to obtain current, accurate parental contact information.  Ask for their email, phone, work phone and inquire about their preferred method of contact.  Consider having a few extras at your sign in station:  Some hand sanitizer, mints or small chocolates, flowers, pen, paper and business cards to make everyone feel welcome.  Likewise, create a “kid station” with some crayons, paper and books for parents who bring their child to your session. This keeps them occupied without disturbing your session.
  • Have your business cards with your contact information available.  If you don’t have business cards, put your information on the board and encourage parents to snap a picture of it with their cell phone for future reference.
  • Have an agenda for yourself of exactly what you want to cover during your session and stick to it. Ask parents to hold their questions until the end so you can cover what you need to.  Be sure to include a little information about yourself and not just your classroom.  
  • Spend some time talking about your grading policy.  Parents want to know how you will assess their child so they can assist at home.  Be sure to include any extra help/tutoring sessions available to them.  If you have an on-line grade book, provide them information on how to set up an account and any tutorials so they can use this resource successfully.
  • Prepare a handout to distribute to parents at the end of your session.  It should contain everything they need to know about your class:  how to contact you, classroom resources, on-line resources, your discipline procedures, your homework policy and anything else unique to your particular classroom.  You could also include important, upcoming dates (testing, field trips, etc.) so parents can block off their own calendars, accordingly.
  • Keep your gradebook/computer closed.  Encourage parents who want to have more in-depth conversations with you to set up a parent-teacher conference at a later date.
  • Compose a thank you email the next day to all parents who attended your session.  Send a different email to all parents who didn’t attend letting them know what you covered and providing them the same information.  Put the handout you created in student folders and include it as an attachment to both emails.  
  • If you are unable to attend Back to School Night, let your parents know through as many communication channels, as possible.  Consider taping an envelope to your door which contains a handout for parents to take in your absence.  If you are able, you could offer to host your own Back to School Night session at a later time at your school or via a web based meeting space.

For other great professional development tips, visit the WGU Career & Professional Development website at www.wgu.edu/careerservices.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Salary Negotiations

Salary negotiations can be intimidating and confusing, often raising questions like “How much should I ask for?” or “How do I know what my net-worth is?” With a few simple steps, you can quickly answer these questions and provide employers with an appropriate salary expectation when an employer requests salary information on an application or in an interview.

  1. Research your net worth. Consider your experience, skill-set, capability to successfully do the job and your education as it relates to the industry. Websites such as Salary.com and PayScale can help in determining an appropriate salary range based on your skills, experience, and education. 
  2. Research the company. Beyond knowing your net worth, is it also important to research the company. Websites such as Glassdoor and CareerBliss allow you to gather salary information based on company name and job title.  Every day thousands of people share their salaries anonymously allowing you to see what employees earn at companies worldwide.
  3. Reframe. Compensation is more than a paycheck. We all have to pay the bills but compensation can also be included in benefits such as insurance coverage, vacation and sick leave, flexible schedules, and much more. These “perks” can be monetized and add value to your quality of life—personally and professionally. In an interview let the company know that your first priority is to make sure that you both agree that this is a good fit and that you’re well qualified for the position. You don’t want “numbers” to become a distraction. 

Job candidates often think that there is no leverage to negotiate salaries today and the first offer must be accepted if you want the job but you may be leaving money or additional benefits on the table. Although there is no guarantee that an employer will raise your salary, with a little research and confidence you might be surprised at what can happen. For additional assistance with salary negotiations or any additional career questions you may have, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development.