Thursday, February 4, 2016

Can We Talk? The Art of Conversation

Before people used social media, there was social engagement to build one’s network of friends and professional colleagues. Dale Carnegie, award-winning author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, said if you want people to be interested in you, you first must be interested in them. The art of conversation seems to be pushed to the back burner in today’s texting culture. Conversation is an important and necessary skill for today’s professional. The following are a few tips to start and engage conversations so that you can win friends and influence your professional networks:
  1. Flattery Will Get You Everywhere! Compliments are a great way to lead into a conversation. Starting on a positive note is always the perfect first step into a discussion, and it makes the person feel good about themselves. Be careful, however, to make sure that your compliments are sincere and genuine.
  2.  Small Talk Can Have Big Effects. Deep and meaningful conversations often start with small talk. Talking about the weather, your hometown, or the event you are attending is a great way to build rapport. Not only can this skill help pass the time but it is also beneficial in the workplace. 
  3.  Dance Through Your Conversations. Engaging in conversation with one other person or a group is much like dancing, there is a leader and a follower. These roles can easily change, the follower can quickly become the leader. To allow for an easy and fun experience, ask questions but keep it light. Pay attention to the conversation and listen for opportunities to ask questions. “Oh, I find that very interesting, can you tell me more about ____________________”.
  4.  Stay Engaged. Showing interest in the people with whom you are talking is the best way to show your professionalism.. Finding common ground is a good way to remain in the discussion. Keep your phone out of the conversation. Nothing kills a networking conversation quicker than checking your email or texting. If it is necessary to leave the group, politely remove yourself by saying, “Excuse me but I need to step away. It was nice chatting with you.” If you are able to return and re-engage in the conversation then simply approach the group but don’t interrupt a discussion already in progress.
Following these suggestions can help you feel more comfortable at professional and social gatherings. You can use these tips to start building your own conversation “rules” and starters. Remember to collect business cards and to have your own business or calling cards available to follow up with new friends.

For more information and tips on small talk and networking conversations, use our WGU Career & Professional Development resources and if you want to practice with some simple and light conversation starters, contact us for an appointment to chat! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Create a Professional Portfolio Utilizing LinkedIn

Creating a professional portfolio is a great way to stand out from the crowd. A strong portfolio tells your unique professional story in a visually appealing way showcasing your work, accolades received, and professional and educational accomplishments.  LinkedIn is the perfect platform from which to showcase your online portfolio. You can create a profile that goes beyond you resume providing your network and potential employers with a compelling picture of who you are as a professional.  To turn your profile into a professional portfolio, consider the steps below.
  1. Edit your profile. Under Edit Profile, you will see that for each section and for each entry under experience and education, you can add media including documents, photos, links, videos, and presentations. You can select content living online or files stored on your device. For ideas on what to include, review this list of potential content.
  2. Market your content. Once you have added the content, you can edit the title and include a description. The title serves as a caption, visible on your profile, and the description will appear when the content is selected. You can include several types of content and media under each section, if applicable.
  3. Be creative. There are numerous ways to use content and media to tell your story. You can scan in thank you notes or accolades received, take screen shots, create infographics, link to blogs or websites, incorporate photos, showcase superior academic tasks, the list is endless. However, remember to keep all content professional and relevant to your career goals and aspirations. For creative inspiration, check out the LinkedIn Official Blog Don’t Just Say It, Display It: Visually Enhance Your Professional Story on your LinkedIn Profile
  4. Share your portfolio. Include a customized LinkedIn URL on your cover letter and resume. Consider referring to specific portfolio content in your cover letter, inviting employers to visit and review your work. Also, through LinkedIn, reach out to recruiters and hiring managers, inviting them to take a look at your new and improved profile that showcases your unique professional story and what you have to offer. 
For individualized assistance with your professional portfolio and any additional career questions you may have, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What You Need to Know About Applicant Tracking Systems

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that enables the electronic handling of employer recruitment needs. Nearly all major corporations use some form of an applicant tracking system to handle job applications and to manage resume data. Applicant tracking systems are error-prone and if your resume isn't formatted a certain way or doesn't contain the right keywords and phrases, your resume can end up in a black hole, never to be seen by a human eye, despite your qualifications.

To increase the chances of your resume getting through an applicant tracking system,
consider the following tips:

Utilize Key Skills and Qualifications
  • An ATS runs on keywords. Start with the job description and make sure to incorporate key skills and qualifications directly from the job posting. 
  • Don’t stop with the job description. Check the Skills section of the LinkedIn profile builder for keyword skills that relate to your industry/profession. 
  • Research the industry and similar job descriptions from different companies to ensure you have a comprehensive set of key skills and qualifications included in your resume. 
  • Use unusual words at your own risk! ATS software is programmed with common words. If you choose to use unusual synonyms, they may not be caught by the ATS.
Focus on Formatting
  • A single column, Word document is best, as PDF’s are easily misinterpreted by an ATS.
  • Avoid tables and graphics. An ATS can’t read graphics and tables are typically misread.
  • Length does not matter to an ATS. A resume should be as long or as short as you need it to be without going over 2 pages. 
  • Avoid excessive creativity. ATS software is not creatively savvy. Consider having a couple versions of your resume – one for the ATS and one in a more creative, eye appealing format for humans.
Tap into the Power of Networking
  • Employee referrals from a well-respected employee are often given priority over the online-generated candidate pool. Look to your network to see if you know anyone within the company who can help get your resume in front of a recruiter or hiring manager. 
  • Schedule informational interviews at companies of interest with individuals in roles similar to those you in which you are interested.
  • Expand your network. Utilize social media like LinkedIn to connect with recruiters and hiring managers. Attend networking events and professional meetings, conferences, or conventions. Join professional associations. 
  • Networking is the best use of your time. Learn, engage, and follow up!
Contact WGU Career & Professional Development for a personalized resume review and career assistance. We are here to help!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Interviewing: Tell Me About Yourself

Most interviewers will start with a request to “Tell me about yourself.” Even though it is an easy request to anticipate, it often causes undue stress and anxiety, resulting in rambling responses that include complete life stories. With a little preparation, you can use this question to clearly articulate your strengths and accomplishments, setting a confident, positive tone for the rest of the interview.

To craft a strong response, start by carefully reviewing the job requisition, researching the employer, and asking these questions:
  1. What strengths do you have that are pertinent to the position? (3-5)
  2. What are key accomplishments that have benefited past employers and are relevant to this position? (1-2)
  3. What personal traits (or soft skills) do you have that complement your other skills?
  4. What educational credentials enhance your employment background? (diplomas, degrees, and professional certifications)
Create a script including information from your answers.  Keep your response relatively succinct. It is surprising what can be said in just 30 to 45 seconds.  For example:

My passion is numbers. With more than five years experience in accounting, I have been recognized for completing complex accounting projects under stringent time restraints. In my current role as a fund accountant, I generated over $230,000.00 in cost savings by identifying expense reduction opportunities. I enjoy collaborating with others to understand my employer’s pain points and addressing problems head-on.  My bachelor’s degree in accounting is a strong foundation for my accounting career and I am currently on track to obtain my CPA License by this October. 

In most instances, avoid sharing personal matters or ancient work history. Instead, focus on highlighting:
  • how you can do the job
  • what you have previously accomplished 
  • how you can help the organization
Practice with your script until you feel confident, but avoid memorization. Your response should sound natural and conversational. With a thoughtful, prepared response, you are bound to make a memorable and positive impression.

For additional interview preparation resources or to schedule a mock interview, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development. We are here to help.