Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Start the New Year Off Right: With a Strong LinkedIn Profile

As the year draws to a close make sure you take some time to give yourself the gift of a strong LinkedIn profile! LinkedIn is a great tool for job seeking, professional development and most of all, networking. However, if your professional colleagues and prospective contacts don’t know who you are and what you have to offer they won’t be motivated to connect with you. A strong LinkedIn profile gives you the opportunity to control your professional online identity and develop your brand. Your LinkedIn profile can motivate people to connect, communicate and collaborate with you.

Strengthening your profile is just a few simple steps away.

  1. Use a photo that portrays a professional image of you alone.
  2. Make sure that both your Headline and Summary contain key words that are relevant to your target career and take time to format these sections to look clean and professional.
  3. Identify your target industry as well as your location to help people find you on LinkedIn.
  4. Claim your unique url. You have the option of personalizing the url that LinkedIn assigns to you which will help increase the professional results that appear when people search for you using a search engine.
  5. Showcase your education by adding relevant courses, academic projects, publications and presentations.
  6. Join professional groups that support your career goals. Groups help you connect with industry thought leaders and are a great place for you to contribute your own expertise.
  7. Request recommendations from people who really know you and the quality of your work such as former bosses and colleagues. Be sure to customize your request with a brief personalized note and provide a few words outlining accomplishments or qualities this person might mention about you. NEVER send the generic LinkedIn request for a recommendation!
  8. Carefully select and curate the skills that you list on your profile to make sure that they align with your career goals.
  9. Click the Improve Your Profile Strength link to the right of your profile for suggestions that will help you further strengthen your profile.

It is a good idea to turn off your activity broadcasts as you make changes to your Profile. That way, every change you make will not show up on your network’s activity feed which can cause unnecessary confusion.

Finally, contact WGU Career & Professional Development for a personalized review of your LinkedIn profile with one of our Career and Professional Development Specialists!

Monday, September 23, 2013

5 Professional Development Resources for Teachers College Students and Alumni

Editor's Note: This is part 3 of a 4 part series where we discuss professional development opportunities for each college at WGU. Stay tuned as we discuss resources for IT next week. See part 1 for Business College resources and part 2 for Health Professions College resources.


Teacher Professional Development is a necessity for any teacher who wants to recertify in the teaching profession.  Most states will require approximately 120 hours of professional development for re-licensure and most states allow teachers five years to complete these hours. 

Teachers can obtain professional development points (or CEU's - continuing education units) through the channels listed below.  The school district will maintain a record of those points, but it is always a good idea for the teacher to keep copies of their CEUs, professional development points, and certificates from conferences in the event a school loses them. The school or state certification officer will need a record of all professional development in order to re-certify the teacher.  Some school districts will pay for teachers to become members of an organization, so teachers should investigate that with their professional development funds.

Here are 5 ways for teachers to attain professional development CEUs:

- Complete additional college coursework in Education 

- Take advantage of on-site, school/district sponsored professional development offered after school or during planning periods

- Attend large educational conferences such as National Education Association or ASCD

- Attend regional conferences for a specific discipline (e.g. special education, social studies, science, math). A list of specific organizations and conferences can be found here. 

- Engage in online professional development opportunities. Some might have a cost associated with them, while others are free. It is the teacher's responsibility to make sure that their school district will accept these types of CEU's as professional development hours. Some reputable websites for online professional development include: 
a)      PBS Teacherline
c)      SimpleK12

 Note: A paid membership is required in both “b” and “c” for full access to their workshop calendar, however both offer some “free” sessions each week for non-members.

WGU students and alumni can find additional resources for professional development on our website. Please add more ideas or resources for professional development in the comments below.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

5 Professional Development Resources for Health Professions Students & Alumni

Editor's Note: This is part 2 of a 4 part series where we discuss professional development opportunities for each college at WGU. Stay tuned as we discuss resources for IT and Teachers College in future posts. See part 1 for Business College resources

As we noted in Part 1 of our 4-part Professional Development blog series, it’s important to keep yourself informed, educated, and up-to-date in your professional realm. Professional development is the on-going practice of attaining knowledge, skills, and practical experience to advance one’s career. 

Here are 5 resources for professional development for health professions college students and alumni. 
  • ExploreHEALTHCareers.org ExploreHEALTHCareers.org is a free, multi-disciplinary, interactive health careers website designed to explain the array of health professions and provide easy access to individuals seeking information about health careers. Whether you are new to healthcare or are researching the next step on your career path, ExploreHealthCareers.org gives users a reliable and comprehensive source of accurate, up-to-date information about the health professions. Links to professional associations, funding opportunities, and enrichment programs for each field are also provided.  
  • HEALTHeCAREERS Network - HeCN is your destination for healthcare careers and professional development opportunities with news, information, events, career resources and employment opportunities – all specific to your career path. Healthcare job categories include: Administrative/Executive, Academic/Research, Healthcare Information Technology, and Nursing. 
  • Professional Associations - Almost every occupation has a related nationwide professional association. These associations usually have a nominal membership fee which allows access to resources such as ongoing education, journal subscriptions, networking, job listings, and annual conferences/seminars. Find the professional association related to your occupation here or search the web for your desired professional association
  • SmartBrief - SmartBrief delivers free, targeted business news and information by industry directly to your inbox. You can subscribe to as many "briefs" as you'd like. Each email brief contains headlines and news relevant to the topic of your choice. SmartBrief publishes more than 40e-newsletters in health care including nursing news and information, health care IT news, and news for health care CIOs. 
  • Social Media - Effectively using social media can be a great, no-cost way to develop professionally. Join relevant health professions groups on LinkedIn and get involved in discussions. Follow thought leaders, health care industry experts, and news organizations on Twitter. Subscribe to health care blogs or start you own blog! 
WGU students and alumni can find more ideas for professional development on our website. Please add more ideas or resources for professional development in the comments below!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

5 Professional Development Resources for Business Students & Alumni

Editor's Note: This is part 1 of a 4 part series where we discuss professional development opportunities for each college at WGU. This week's focus is the Business College. Stay tuned each week in September as we discuss resources for IT, Health Professions, and Teachers College. 

Whether you are currently employed in the position you desire or searching for a new position, it never hurts to keep yourself informed, educated, and up-to-date in your professional realm. Professional development is the on-going practice of attaining knowledge, skills, and practical experience to advance one’s career.

Here are 5 resources for professional development for business students and alumni. 
  • Professional Associations - Almost every occupation has a related nationwide professional association. These associations usually have a nominal membership fee which allows access to resources such as ongoing education, journal subscriptions, networking, job listings, and annual conferences/seminars. Find the professional association related to your occupation here or search the web for your desired professional association. 
  • Social Media - Effectively using social media can be a great, no-cost way to develop professionally. Join relevant occupational groups on LinkedIn and get involved in discussions. Follow thought leaders, industry experts, and news organizations on Twitter. Use Pinterest to generate creativity and brainstorm. 
  • U.S. Small Business Administration - Many business degree graduates pursue self employment by starting their own business. The U.S. Small Business Administration website provides resources, tools, and services for individuals looking to start their own business.
  • Entrepreneur.com - The Entrepreneur website offers articles and resources on many business topics including start ups, technology, money management, marketing, and franchising. Even if you don't currently own a business or are not looking to start one, these resources can help you learn a new skill and keep you current on business topics and trends. 
  • SmartBrief - SmartBrief delivers free, targeted business news and information by industry directly to your inbox. You can subscribe to as many "briefs" as you'd like. Each email brief contains headlines and news relevant to the topic of your choosing. Topics include leadership, business, healthcare, travel and hospitality, retail, technology, finance, government/nonprofit, and more. SmartBriefs are an easy and efficient way to stay on top of industry news. 
WGU students and alumni can find more ideas for professional development on our website. Please add more ideas or resources for professional development in the comments below!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Avoid These Top 5 Resume Formatting Blunders

An eye tracking study conducted by The Ladders in 2012 found that recruiters initially spend only 6 seconds reviewing an individual resume. The study’s “gaze tracking” technology showed that recruiters spent almost 80% of their resume review time on the following data points: Name, Current title/company, Previous title/company, Current position start and end dates, Previous position start and end dates, and Education.  Beyond these six data points, recruiters did little more than scan for keywords to match the open position, which amounted to a very cursory “pattern matching” activity. Because decisions were based mostly on the six pieces of data listed above, an individual resume’s detail and explanatory copy had little to no impact on the initial decision making.1

What can we glean from this study? Although strong resume content is important, it is critical that your resume be formatted in a way that is visually appealing so that the reviewer can quickly locate the information they are seeking. To make sure your resume is not quickly discarded, avoid these 5 resume formatting blunders!


  • Resume templates. You are unique and your resume should be too!  Resume templates are easy to spot and using a template can be interpreted as a lazy way to create your resume. Templates are often in a table format making it difficult to make your own adjustments. In addition, information in tables can be difficult to read by an Applicant Tracking Systems. (WGU Students and Alumni : use our resume builders to craft an attractive resume!)
  • Multiple fonts and text sizes. Choose ONE standard font, such as Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman, or Garamond to use throughout your resume. For the body of your resume, you want the font size to be between 10 – 12 points. Whatever size you choose, be consistent throughout your resume!
  • Font style overkill. Bold, Italic, underline, and CASE are all ways to highlight key resume information but you want to do so sparingly. Too much highlighting can minimize the effect and make it harder for the reviewer to identify key information. Focus on the areas mentioned above that the reviewer is seeking: name, position title, company name, start and end dates, and education. Make sure to highlight similar information the same way throughout your resume.
  • Poor use of white space. Blocks of dense text can be intimidating to a reviewer and make it difficult to identify key skills and qualifications. On the other hand, too much empty space on a page can make it appear that you are lacking in experience or spread critical information across multiple pages unnecessarily. Manage white space by customizing the amount of space added before and after paragraphs and be sure the spacing is consistent throughout your resume.
  • Misalignment. If alignment is not consistent, the reviewer will waste time tracking down information sought. It is suggested that you align your text to the left (rather than centering your text) since we read left to right. Typically, you want the left side of your resume to contain the most important information, such as your employers, job titles, and your achievements and/or responsibilities. On the right side of the page, to create visual balance, you’ll want to include information such as dates and/or job locations.

For more resume formatting tips and resume creation information, please visit the WGU Career & Professional Development Center. To submit your resume for review, please fill out the career appointment form and attach your resume (in Microsoft Word or rtf format) to the form.

1.     Evans, Will. (2012). Keeping an eye on recruiter behavior. TheLadders.com. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http://cdn.theladders.net/static/images/basicSite/pdfs/TheLadders-EyeTracking-StudyC2.pdf.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Substitute Teaching: A Daily Job Interview

As summer winds down and the school year begins, it is important for teachers who don’t yet have their own classroom to think about substitute teaching.  While the uncertainty of daily substitute assignments certainly has its drawbacks, it is imperative for teachers to look beyond them and recognize all of the opportunities that become available through substitute teaching. 

If you believe substitute teaching is just being a “guest teacher” at a different school each day, you aren’t thinking proactively!  You should consider each day as your chance to interview at that school.  What you do, how you act, and how you network each time you are there are catalysts to get your own classroom sooner than later.  Setting a goal, creating an action plan, and executing that plan are the keys to getting the job done. 

The list below contains four reasons why you should consider substitute teaching as a valuable tool in your job search.  Hopefully it inspires you to get on your local school district’s substitute list today!
  • Networking – Substitute teaching allows you to get your foot in the door and start interacting with faculty, staff, and administration.  Once you get on a substitute list, you must use every day to your advantage.  Seize the opportunity to spend time with fellow teachers, administrators, and department chairs.  Do not waste the chance to let them know of your qualifications and your interest in obtaining a position at the school.  When a position opens, you want them to immediately remember your name and call you first for an interview.  Networking is key in getting your resume to the top of the pile.
  • Numbers – Every teacher should know that student enrollment controls the number of that school’s faculty.  Over the summer, a school forecasts what their anticipated enrollment will be and hires faculty accordingly.  What you might not realize however, is that those enrollment numbers fluctuate the first 6-8 weeks of the school year.  Once final counts are complete, a school might get additional funds from the state to fund one or more teachers a few weeks into the school year.  If you are already in the building as a substitute teacher and heavily networking through your daily sub assignments, you have increased your odds in obtaining one of those newly available positions.
  • Intel – While on a school’s campus you become privy to information that the general public doesn’t know.  You may learn of long term substitute teaching experiences such as FMLA opportunities, military transfers, or teacher retirements.  You also can learn about those same opportunities at neighboring schools by chatting with teachers in the faculty lunch room and keeping your ears open throughout the day.  Obtaining information like this gives you an edge in the application process and it allows you to appropriately strategize your networking. 
  • Personal Experience – Often times, student teachers are very lucky and immediately get hired by the school where they did their demonstration teaching.   For those who don’t have that opportunity, they often rush to find an open position in any school without fully considering their options.  Substitute teaching is unique in this aspect.  It allows you to experience various schools and each school’s culture.  Maybe you prefer the discipline policy at one school over another.  Perhaps the administration/faculty are more friendly and helpful in school A, compared to school B.  Substitute teaching at a variety of locations isn’t always convenient, but it certainly allows you to research a school before you decide to interview with them. 

Please feel free to share any of your thoughts or experiences as a substitute teacher in the comments below. We’d love to hear your story!  In addition, if you are a WGU student or alum, please request an appointment with a WGU Career and Professional Development Specialist to develop your plan for successful substitute teaching.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

6 Reasons to Follow @Owls2Work

The WGU Career & Professional Development Twitter account (@Owls2Work) premiered a few months ago and we are excited to increase our number of WGU student and alumni followers. Here are 6 reasons why you should follow us!
  1. We share cool, relevant information related to career development and job searching. From articles related to career motivation and networking, to links to virtual career fairs and resume writing tips, we tweet quality content from sources you can trust.
  2. We have lists. If you’re new to Twitter and not sure who to follow, you can subscribe to one of our pre-made lists, which will instantly provide you access to a handful of industry experts in your field. We offer a list for each college: Business, Health Professions, Information Technology, Teachers College. Simply go to our Twitter homepage (after you’ve logged in to your account), find our “Lists” section, and subscribe to those that interest you.
  3. Stay up to date on Career & Professional Development events. As WGU students and alumni, you have access to all of the services we provide. Twitter will help you stay informed of what we have to offer. We tweet our calendar of events and post reminders of upcoming webinars.
  4. We have even more lists. Are you currently job searching or interested in career advice? We have two additional lists of Twitter profiles that you can subscribe to and instantly have access to some of the most popular job searching and career advice Tweeters.
  5. We follow back! We always “follow back” WGU students and alumni.
  6. We want to hear from you. We would love it if you tweet us related content that we can share. Tell us about your career adventures and job search successes. Similarly, you could provide great advice and tips to your WGU peers on career development and job searching. 
      Even if you don’t have a Twitter account yet, you can still check us out on Twitter. Also remember that the WGU Career & Professional Development is able to help you make the most of your social network profiles in relation to your professional image and job searching. Check out the resources on our Social Media section of our website. We hope to see you soon in the Twittersphere! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Career Lessons from "The Internship"

The Internship (2013) stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as two recently unemployed salespeople who apply for, and receive, summer internships at Google. Antics and inappropriate jokes ensue as the comedy unfolds, but we can glean some nuggets of truth relating to internships as they apply to our career paths.

***Anti-Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t worry, no plot details will be shared and your viewing experience shall not be ruined by this blog post!***

Lesson #1 – Internships provide valuable experience. In the movie, the interns complete a variety of tasks : creating an app, solving a programming code error, acquiring a new sales account. Most internships, if structured properly, have individuals performing job tasks that allow for growth and learning, as well as applicability to future employment in that occupation.  If you’re switching career fields or don’t have much experience in your desired future occupation, an internship can be a great way to add relevant bullets to your resume.

Lesson #2 – Networking is key.  The characters in the movie must work in teams, relying on each other’s skill sets and learning from one another to succeed in the given task. The interns also have the ability to engage with employees and leaders at the company. Having someone in your network to turn to when you need assistance with a particular task is invaluable and building relationships with interns and full time employees in the company is a great way to enhance your network.

Lesson #3 – Internships lead to opportunities. The Nooglers (i.e. what interns are called at Google) are told up front that the team that wins the most challenges throughout the summer will be offered full time jobs at Google upon graduation. This is often the case with most companies. They invest time and resources into their interns and often turn to their interns if and when full time positions arise. It’s a mutually beneficial scenario for both the company and the intern. It also is important to note that the first two lessons impact this lesson: making the most of your internship experience and establishing relationships with individuals at the company can enhance your chances of full time employment with that company.  

Find more information on internships and even search for opportunities on our website.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Career Planning: A Little Strategy Goes a Long Way

Many of us spend more time planning our next vacation, designing our dream kitchen, or researching cell phone plans than we do developing a clear plan for our career success. If you feel that your job search is floundering or your career is stalled, a career plan can be the answer that moves you forward.

Most of us understand that having a career plan is a good idea, but we get stuck when it comes time to actually create the plan. Think about your career as a company whose success you are deeply invested in. How would you manage your career differently if you were running a company? How would you plan for the future success of your career if you ran it like a company? Successful companies and organizations use a strategic tool called a SWOT Analysis to help them stay current and ahead of the competition.  SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

The SWOT Analysis is a great tool to use in career planning since it prompts you to think about your current situation and your career goals in unique ways. Download the SWOT Career Analysis Worksheet and follow these simple 5 steps:

1. Begin your SWOT by writing your targeted job title at the top of your worksheet. This is your goal for the SWOT.  You can use a SWOT for long term career planning - what is your ultimate career goal? Or for short term goal setting - what is the next position you would like to attain?  Either way, deciding on a specific job title keeps your SWOT focused. (If you are not sure of your job search goal, take some time to invest in career exploration.)

2. Next you want to identify the STRENGTHS you already possess that are relevant to your goal. Again, try to be specific. For this step, stay focused on the strengths that are internal to you - the knowledge, skills, and abilities you bring to the table. In terms of the position you are seeking, ask yourself:
  • What do I do well?
  • What unique skills do I bring to this position?
  • What do others see as my strengths?
3. Once you have identified your internal strengths, you will want to look at the other side of the coin. What are some of your WEAKNESSES in relation to the job you are targeting? It is important to be honest and specific in this step. Remember that once you know where the gaps are, you can work to fill them.  Think about:
  • What skills, knowledge, and abilities am I lacking?
  • How can I overcome these? (For example, attending an educational seminar or volunteering for a project.)
4. Now it is time to look beyond your internal qualities and think about OPPORTUNITIES. These are external possibilities that you can capitalize on in order to move closer to your goal. Start generating your opportunities by asking:
  • Do my strengths unlock potential jobs in industries or with employers that I haven’t considered?  
  • What are some areas of growth that exist within my current company or industry?
  • What technologies can benefit me?
  • What professional associations or LinkedIn groups might present new possibilities?
5. The final step in your SWOT Analysis is to identify external THREATS. These might be obstacles, competitors, or other hurdles you may encounter on your journey to accomplishing your goal. This critical information allows you to plan ahead in order to identify and overcome any challenges. Consider the following:
  • What industry trends might harm me?
  • Who are my competitors and what are their strengths?
  • Which of my strengths and opportunities might help me overcome these threats?

Once you have completed your SWOT Analysis, you will have a better idea of your current career situation in relation to your goals.  This is the first step in career planning!

Share with us in the comments below your thoughts on completing a SWOT analysis. In addition, if you are a WGU student or alum, please request an appointment with a WGU Career and Professional Development Specialist to discuss how to further develop your strategy and take your career to the next level.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

4 Tools for Career Research

On Google alone, there are over a billion searches for information conducted each day. The possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to what and how to research. All of these options can become quite overwhelming when it comes to researching information related to job searching, preparing for an interview, networking, finding opportunities for professional development, and career planning. Here are four tools you can use to research jobs, companies, industries, and careers.

1) Web search engines like Yahoo, Google, and Bing are most often turned to when people want to find information. The key to using these search engines in your research is to use parameters to help you focus on the information you truly want. For example, use quotations around words to ensure your results contain that specific phrase (e.g. “jobs in Orlando” will return results specifically about jobs in Orlando).  The minus sign (-) can also help you remove content that you’re not interested in. For example, let’s say you are not interested in any theme park jobs that might show up in an Orlando based job search.  Enter “jobs in Orlando –theme parks” as your search parameters to exclude theme park job opportunities.  Remember that the more specific you are in your search criteria, the better the results the search engine will return for you.

2) Perhaps you’ve been offered an interview or know that you specifically want to work for a certain company. Exploring the company website is a must. The company website is a great way to quickly learn what that company does, who their leadership is, and begin to understand their company culture.

3) If you're not using Social Media as part of your research strategy, you need to. Both LinkedIn and Twitter allow you to follow companies and engage in conversations with them. Many companies post jobs on both of those sites. Joining a professional associations’ LinkedIn group or following them on Twitter are great ways to network and develop yourself professionally. Similarly, you can “like” the Facebook page of a company or professional association.  Many companies have YouTube channels, where you can get insight into their products and services, as well as the company culture. Depending on the company or professional association, you might also find them on Pinterest or Google+, so be sure to check out whatever social media avenues interest you.

4) Career & Professional Development Website - We have assembled some of the best and most reputable career research tools on our website. Visit our Occupational and Industry Research page for tools such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook, ONET, and the Riley Guide.  Those tools allow you to learn more about specific occupations and provide national and local data related to expected job growth and median salary.  Our Employer Research page provides you with several databases to search U.S. and international companies. You can also utilize Glassdoor to get an inside look at companies via employee reviews. Lastly, be sure to check out our Career E-Library for additional research tools, including resources related to diversity and careers.


Do you have a favorite career research tool you’d like to share? List it in the comments below or tell us about your experience with one of the research tools mentioned above.