Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Creating Accomplishment Statements for a Commanding Resume

When creating a powerful resume, it is important to highlight your accomplishments for each position you have included on your resume, going beyond just listing job duties. A job duty only describes what you did and an accomplishment describes how well you did it. Hiring managers are familiar with job duties, but you want to tell them something they don’t already know.  They want to know what sets you apart or what you have accomplished in your past positions that would be beneficial to their organization.

It can be challenging to turn job duties into accomplishments. Following the steps below, you’ll soon be able to change standard job duties into accomplishment statements that highlight the results and outcomes of your actions. 

1. Brainstorm. Start by taking time to create a list regarding what you have accomplished in each of your positions without worrying about wording, grammar, and punctuation.  Amy Michalenko from The Muse shared these questions for consideration as you develop your list.
  • What did I do that was above and beyond my normal job duties?
  • How did I stand out among other employees?
  • Was I ever recognized by a supervisor for a job well done? When and why?
  • Did I win any awards or accolades?
  • What new processes did I implement to improve things?
  • What problems did I solve?
  • Did I ever consistently meet or exceed goals or quotas?
  • Did I save or make the company money?
  • What made me really great at my job? 
2. Utilize Numbers.  Whenever possible, try to incorporate numbers, percentages, and figures into your accomplishments. Utilizing numbers can help the employer understand the scope of your work and the level of your responsibility. Numbers help paint a clear picture of what you accomplished that employers can understand.

3. Create your accomplishment statements to add to your resume. Utilizing the information from the steps above, you now want to apply consistent formatting to each accomplishment, paying close attention to wording, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You’ll want to start each accomplishment with an action verb followed by a description of what you did and how well you did it. The University of Utah Career Services created this table as a tool to help you develop your own winning accomplishment statements.

Action Verb
Who/What/How Many
a new policy and procedure for auditing reports
increasing accuracy rates from 65% to 90%
Created and managed
a fundraising event  for 250 attendees
that sold out and raised more than $100,000
all customer questions and concerns were addressed 
consistently receiving unsolicited praise from customers and supervisor 

Utilizing accomplishment statements is a powerful way to help your resume stand out from the pack. WGU Career & Professional Development would be happy to assist in creating accomplishment statements, providing resume feedback, or answering any additional career questions you may have.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

6 Ways to Go Above and Beyond at Your Job (and Get Noticed Doing It)

Have you ever been passed over for a promotion that you knew in the depths of your soul you had earned? Have you ever looked at your annual raise and cried/died a little inside? Have you felt overwhelmed and under appreciated at the same time? Work at any business long enough, and you've probably felt all three. The thing is, you might be the best person in your company at doing exactly what you are required to do, but if you aren't going above and beyond your basic job requirements (and getting noticed doing it) then chances are you are going to stay exactly where you are while getting paid almost exactly what you are currently making. Here are five tips on how you can kick it up a notch and get the promotion, raise, or recognition you are after.

1. Don't just come up with ideas. Plan and implement them. Good ideas are worth about as much as the whiteboards they're written on during brainstorm sessions. In fact, they're worth less. Whiteboards are kind of expensive. Have you ever sat in a meeting where everyone pats each other on the back about the great idea they're coming up with, only to leave the meeting and not see a single one of them implemented? A brainstorm is a dust flurry if no one does anything after. Take one idea from every meeting you're in, build a workable plan around it, and take it to your supervisor to ask permission to take charge on it. They may say no. You may be too busy with other projects. But you just got face time with your boss showing your interest in stepping outside your job description on something creative. You showed initiative. AND if she says yes, you get the chance to shine.

2. Be the data king/queen. Sure, management wants people who are personable and a joy to work with, but at the end of the day they want someone who knows how to move the needle. If you know what moves said needle, you're ahead of the game. Learn the big picture. If you work for a shipping company moving boxes from the belt to the truck, know how a quarter turn and pivot instead of a full turn reduces your single box load time by a full second. Know that in a four-hour shift when you used to load 1,200 boxes, using your new technique allows you to load 1,309 boxes. When your manager notices this because you point it out to them, explain how you did it. They will be impressed, and it will help them improve everyone on the team. Needle moved. You = Awesome.

3. Offer to help. This is one of the simplest things you can do in an office, and it is so important. Be the person who offers to help, not the person who always asks for it. Sure, ask for help when you need it. There's no shame in that. But when you hear someone complaining about being overloaded with an impending deadline, offer to help—even if you don't know their job. Offer to take their menial tasks off their hands until they finish. Don't just offer to help management. Offer to help everyone. If you are known as the person in the office who is always willing to help everyone, you will have obtained the ultimate in workplace karma. Your boss won't just want to promote you; everyone will want you to get promoted.

4. Complain less. This one can be difficult. Sometimes complaining feels SOOO good.  Coworkers bond over complaining. They feel united in their misery. In most offices the break room should be called the vent room. And jobs are FRUSTRATING. Clients can be difficult. Bosses can be horrible. Coworkers can be oblivious. One of the hardest parts of being a manager is knowing that all of this unrest exists and finding a way to deal with it without making everybody hate you. The technique most good managers rely on is working incredibly hard to keep people positive. Happy is impossible. Positive is somewhat achievable, but not easy. It involves being a mentor, friend, and complaint recipient, all while maintaining discipline, increasing revenue, meeting goals, etc. Managers know who the positive and negative influences are on their teams, even if they're not in the break room during the complain-fest. Being a positive force is going above and beyond in the eyes of your boss, especially during the busier times of the year.

5. Be visible.  Let cc: be your proxy. You can do amazing things in the dark, and no one will see them. If a tree staples a cover sheet on all of its TPS reports in a forest, and no one is around to see, did it actually happen? No. Trees don't have hands, and even if they did they couldn't operate a stapler. That is silly talk. But really…

If you have accomplishments, great ideas, good news, and a positive influence on your office, and if that is being communicated via electronic media, CC YOUR BOSS. So many people use cc as a passive-aggressive way of letting their boss know that someone else messed up. You can also use it as a passive-aggrandizing way of tooting your own horn. With the bitter brew of reports and complaints your manager or supervisor gets in their inbox in a day, being included in your good-news e-mail will be a delicious cherry on top of their gross, melted, boring e-mail sundae.

So many people say they aren't being paid enough—more people than really deserve it. Instead of being the one who always says, "I deserve more," be the one who shows it. Good luck! Now get back to work!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Stand Out with a Strong Cover Letter

“Do I really need a cover letter?” This is the question I often get when I ask people if they have one. The question is not really about needing it but about how much you really want the job.  When you’re passionate about something, you don’t do the bare minimum – you go the extra mile. That is where the cover letter comes in. It’s that extra step, the enhancement to your product (which is your resume) that can be the difference between “Hi! We’d love to have you come in for an interview” or “Thanks for your interest, we have decided not to move forward.” For job seekers who are really interested in securing that interview, the cover letter is essential.  A cover letter is your golden opportunity to share your communication skills and really highlight your value to the employer

So, let’s get started on your stand-out cover. There are several things to remember when crafting the cover letter because a poorly written one can definitely hurt your chances. Here is a list of some of the best tips to consider when you begin writing.
  1. Do not re-state your resume. Compose your cover letter as if you are talking directly to the recruiter. Imagine being stuck in an elevator with a recruiter for 5 minutes (the elevator pitch as it is widely known).  How would you make a strong positive impression that would have the recruiter itching to get back to his or her office to set up an interview with you? Think about this scenario and then start writing your cover letter. Use your cover letter to really showcase your  credentials and accomplishments so the employer clearly understands the value you would bring to the company 
  2. The first paragraph is crucial. You have to hook the recruiter right off the bat and show them why you are a perfect fit for their company. Show passion and show interest.  Make sure the employer can clearly see that you know who they are and then tell them why you are interested in working for their company.
  3. Understand that it’s not really about you. Don’t go on and on about why this position is perfect for you. Tell employers what you can do for them. Remember to put yourself in the employer’s shoes when writing the cover letter. They wrote the job description and they are focused on what they need so show them you have what they need.
  4. Don’t just focus on your past experience but clearly tell the employer how your past experience will benefit them in the future. Refer to your research on the company and the job description to help you focus on clearly showing why they should hire you. You can do this in a narrative but there are other ways to get that point across as well. You can craft a direct statement such as “Here is what I can specifically deliver in this role…” and then give bullet points using the PAR method (problem, action, result) to show exactly what you can do. Creating a table listing their job requirements alongside your matching skills is also a great way to make sure you are showing the employer how you can help them now.
  5. Never sell yourself short! Even if your experience is not an exact match, you still have much to offer. Let your enthusiasm and high energy come across. Show your transferable skills and your positive attitude. You would be amazed how your unique combination of intelligence, positivity and willingness to learn can tip the scales in your favor. 
  6. Be yourself. Showing your professionalism and communication style is important but it is also very important that you be yourself. Give the reader a sneak peek at your personality along with your qualifications. Be original and engaging, tell a story, or share an interest.  You will stand out from the pack and make an impact that can get you that coveted interview.
For additional tools and resources to assist in creating a powerful cover letter, please visit WGU Career & Professional Development. For individual assistance in crafting your cover letter, email careers@wgu.edu. We look forward to assisting you in reaching your career goals.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Guest Blogger: 10 Tips for Jobseekers 50+

If you are like me and have been otherwise occupied, such as raising a family and/or going to school, searching for employment in newspaper classifieds and job boards will get you nowhere. I’m a recent graduate, jobseeker, and over 50.  I’ve also learned a few things about today’s job market.  Here are some other tips:
  1. Don’t PANIC.  Get help.  You’ll flag quickly if you try to go it alone.  The staff here at the WGU Career & Professional Development Center will give you as much/little help as you need.  Check out everything and use what works for you.  There’s a firehose worth of information out there---the trick is finding the trickle that you need.
  2. Use Social Media.  From someone who is allergic to it, try it.  A LinkedIn profile with accurate privacy settings will get viewed, and there are jobs on LinkedIn that are listed nowhere else. There is a LinkedIn Job Search Checklist on how to set up your profile on the WGU Career & Professional Development website.
  3. Identify your passion and stay focused on it.  Thinking outside the box is okay, off-planet is not.
  4. Make a master resume with everything on it.  Cut and paste only what you need to answer the job description.  If you’re not sure what a master resume is, contact a WGU Career & Professional Development Specialist to help you.
  5. Consider a pay cut.  If it’s the job you really want (you know, the one that will make you jump out of bed Monday mornings with a smile), consider it anyway.  Current employment makes a difference on your resume.  
  6. Remember nothing is permanent.  No matter your age, your next job is not necessarily your last.  The “one job until you retire” idea is as outdated as the Model T Ford.
  7. Look for jobs where your experience is appreciated.  Websites such as Idealist.org, Encore.org, and Work Reimagined may give you new ideas.
  8. Make Connections.  Online connections are very important, but in-person connections are better. Talk with people, like the guy in the coffee line with you, or the lady that cuts your hair---you never know who has a connection for you. 
  9. Modernize your hairstyle and wardrobe.  Some say to cover the gray, but I am more comfortable and confident with natural, but nice.  If it makes you feel more confident, do it.
  10. Cut yourself some slack.  Job hunting is likely the worst, unpaid, full-time job you’ll ever have. Remember to take some time for yourself.
In his editorial column, “Between Us” in AARP The Magazine, Editor-in-chief Robert Love states, “…U.S. adults who are over 50 [are] the third largest economy in the world, trailing only the gross national product[s] of the United States and China,” so “Who’s afraid of a little gray?”

About the Author
Joy Gruver is a recent WGU  Washington graduate (Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies). Adult Educator, Amateur Radio operator,  former EMT, and avid recycler.  She has several years of experience as an adult educator and is currently seeking a position that aligns with her interests, passions, and career goals. Please visit her LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/joygruver/

Monday, September 22, 2014

Back in the Saddle: Re-entering the Job Market

Lately, students have been asking how to deal with gaps in their employment when they’re writing their resumes. These gaps range from stay-at-home parents to returning veterans. They tell me they’re nervous because job descriptions require 3-5 years of experience and they don’t believe they’re qualified. Well, the truth is people step in and out of jobs all the time.  I tell them that if they listed everything they did in their home-jobs or on the battlefield; they might come across as over-qualified. I advise them to consider the following:

Use a hybrid resume format, which is a blend of a skills/functional based and chronological based document.  A chronological resume is the most popular format but if there are holes in your chronology, it might be a red flag. Also, some recruiters say that a pure skills based resume that includes a job history section with no employment dates is a red flag. So, why not mix it up to give the best of both worlds? The hybrid style will start with a robust “Summary of Qualifications” at the top, followed by a “Core Competencies” section. The summary highlights your best practices, what you’re known for and what you’re most proud of as it relates to the job you’re seeking. The competencies section includes the things you know how to do (e.g. balance budgets, cost control, project management, client relations).

List any volunteer or part-time projects or jobs. This shows that you’re putting your skills to work and not just sitting home keeping your couch warm. Any hiring manager will want to see that candidates are “self-sustaining” by proactively taking initiative. Make sure that you create this section to be as “business-like” as possible. You want those who make corporate decisions to take your resume seriously.

Networking… I know! This can be a tiresome buzz word but it still is necessary. Miriam Salpeter, a job search and social media consultant for US News & World Report, strongly advises to take advantage of every kind of networking tool including in-person opportunities. She says that LinkedIn, job clubs and mixers are all “equally important for job seekers who really want to solidify relationships with the potential to earn them introductions to key decision-makers at their target companies”.

Remember, your job search may take time, trial, and error but be patient with yourself and with the process. This is still a brave new world and the rules are in constant flux. Pay attention to how interviews and phone screenings go. Assess how you think you did, celebrate your progress and make course corrections along the way. In the world of job searching, patience and persistence will be your best friends. Giddy up, y’all!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

5 Tips on What to Do When You Don't Have Experience

  1. Research. Don’t send generic resumes. They’re boring and they probably don’t make you sound very interested in that specific job. Resumes and cover letters must be tailored to the job you’re applying to otherwise it’s like nailing your resume to a tree hoping someone finds it…and reads it! Pick only a few companies you really want to work for, and focus your energies on them. What is their mission? What is their branding and marketing strategy (it shows you’re paying attention to the details). Use their own website and the “About Us” link as well as Glassdoor.com to find out more about the company.
  2. Give it away. Volunteerism can be a great way to gain valuable work experience. If possible, try to find volunteer opportunities within your field but even if you can’t many employers will see volunteerism as a worth-while activity. It shows an altruistic spirit and an example of a positive work ethic. In addition to seeking out volunteer opportunities to help supplement your skills and experience, these opportunities can also be a place-holder on your resume if it shows a gap of a year or more. You would simply add the volunteer experience as though it were one of your regular jobs. Some applications include a section for job-related volunteer experience while other applications provide an “Additional Information” section where you can list your volunteer activities. You can also include the Volunteer Coordinator as one of your references. This person would be the same as your supervisor. Check out the section volunteering on our website for more ideas. 
  3. Write a well-crafted cover letter for your resume. This is more conversational than a resume so it needs to be well-written: grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. The cover letter should be no more than 3 brief paragraphs. First paragraph explains HOW you found the job and that you’ve done some research. Second paragraph should state that you have the skills that match the posted job description. These should be in bullet points, easy to read, one-liners only, and no more than 4 points. The third paragraph is basically inviting the company to invite you to an interview closing the letter with a “thank you for your consideration” and your signature. 
  4. Follow the rules then break them. Follow the HR/Application Rules (complete the online application, submit your resume, cover letter, etc.). But then contact the department you’re applying for to introduce yourself. They may still say that you have to apply via their website. Let them know that you did but you want to express that you REALLY want to work for them and that you’re excited for this opportunity to hopefully interview. Don’t come across as desperate—just excited and assertive to compete for this position. Be bold (but not pushy), what do you have to lose?
  5. Make sure you send your resume and cover letter to the WGU Career & Professional Development Center for a critique.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Career Options for Bachelor of Arts In Educational Studies (BAES) Degree

If you are student or graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies (BAES) degree, you might be wondering what kinds of career options are available to you, since this is a non-licensure teaching program.  While it is easier to get a teaching job with a teaching license, it doesn't mean that a teaching license is out of the question for you.  You just might need to take a different route to get there.

If you haven’t already done so, you should research your state’s “alternative certification program” on your state’s Department of Education web site.  Every state has a procedure for non-traditional licensing.  Some states will give you a temporary teaching license with the understanding that you need to complete their alternative certification guidelines within a year or two’s time-frame.  Other states will want you to complete their alternative certification program first and then grant you a teaching certificate at the conclusion of the program.

If you aren't interested in obtaining a teaching license but would still like to work in the field of education, consider the following career options as alternatives:

  1. Educational Centers such as museums, zoos, theme parks, science centers, aquariums, renaissance fairs and summer camps all need directors and staff to handle their educational programming.
  2. Opportunities exist to teach English abroad through private organizations.  Some of these positions require you to move to the country and other opportunities allow you to work from home and tutor on-line to international students.  If you want to work for DODEA (Department of Defense Education Activity), you will need a teaching license.  In addition to teaching internationally, you could also consider the role of Foreign Exchange Program Coordinator and create exchange programs for schools in your community.
  3. Textbook Companies need curriculum developers, textbook writers, textbook editors and sales representatives to sell their product to local school districts for textbook adoption.  A quick Google search will give you a list of US Textbook companies to research for opportunities in your area.
  4. Business corporations need corporate trainers, educational consultants, professional development facilitators and motivational speakers to train their staff and keep their employees current on trends within their industry. Most businesses will post these positions on popular job search engines.
  5. Testing centers across the country also have a variety of positions to fill in education.  Positions such as test developers, proctors, assessors, quality assurance and security jobs are also available to those with education based backgrounds.  Many of these positions are located in a certain geographic region of the country, but if you’re willing to move, there is great opportunity in this industry.
  6. Support roles within a school are a natural way to land a full time teaching job.  Obtaining a job as a paraprofessional, coach, tutor, resource teacher, teacher’s aide, substitute teacher, daycare or preschool teacher are great ways to get your foot in the door at a school to network every day with the administration.  Finding a role in this area, while simultaneously pursuing your alternate certification program for your state, leads to a great opportunity for the following school year to get your first classroom.
  7. Consider returning to WGU for your Master’s degree in a specialized field.  There are a lot of educational opportunities available to you that don’t require a teaching license.  In K-12 education, you could assume roles as a media specialist, technology specialist, curriculum developer, learning specialist and reading coach.  In higher education, opportunities such as academic advisor, adjunct professor and mentor don’t require a teaching license, but usually will require an advanced degree.

If you have further questions about these types of roles, please visit WGU Career & Professional Development to take our career assessment and explore more career options.  Before applying for any position, remember to have your resume reviewed by one of our specialists.  You can e-mail it to careers@wgu.edu in a Word document and we’ll get you some feedback for improvement!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Great Summer Reads from the WGU Career E-Library

As summer gets underway you might be looking to add to your summer reading list. Stop by the WGU Career E-Library for some relevant information and resources to enhance your job search and career. Do you have questions about industries that might interest you? Are you wondering how to handle a recent job loss? Are you interested in resources for job seekers with disabilities? The WGU Career E-Library has information that can help you answer these questions (and then some).  Let’s take a tour!

  • One of the featured resources in the WGU Career E-Library is the Riley Guide. Here you will find comprehensive online information and resources to assist you in your career and job search.  The Riley Guide brings you the latest information on career management resources on the Internet. Simply use the alphabetical index to locate your area of interest and you’ll be directed to the best sites available. 
  • WGU also offers excellent resources to research a variety of industries from First Research and Hoover’s, Inc. These tools provide hundreds of industry profiles, covering over 1000 industry segments. Profiles include in-depth data and are continuously updated. There is even a feature with industry specific questions you can ask in an Informational Interview. 
  • Interested in opportunities in federal service? The Career E-Library links to Go Government – a one-stop shop for how to find and apply to federal government jobs.
  • The Career E-Library also features job search and career development resources for veterans, job seekers with disabilities, LGBTQ job seekers and mature job seekers. 

WGU Career and Professional Development is ready to assist you in compiling your summer reading list. We are happy to answer any questions you may have, help you navigate the plethora of resources available and also point you to additional resources. In addition to your summer reading, schedule an appointment with one of our specialists to talk through your next career steps.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Face Time: Interviewing Tips from the Inside

By now you've probably had a few interview experiences in your life. But they really never get much easier. Even the most seasoned professional gets a little nervous while waiting to be called in for the big interview. One sure way to help calm those nerves is be as prepared as possible. Preparation is half the battle.

The hiring process is a complicated one. It involves lots of “moving parts” including people. There are several people who play various roles during the hiring process. The cast of characters include: The Recruiter, The Hiring Manager, The Boss’s Boss, Potential Peers, and The Admin. Treat each one of these with the utmost respect and professionalism. From the moment you walk into the office to the moment you walk out of the building. They all will have a role in your being hired ….or not.

Treat the interview more like a conversation than an interrogation.  There is more to evaluating a candidate than meeting hard skills. As the applicant you must be able to fit into the company culture and be flexible enough to possibly take on various jobs. Preparation may go beyond the one page job description, it may also include your knowledge of the company history, current projects, insight into strengths and weaknesses, etc. Make sure you take full advantage of our website to help research company profiles. This will help you get a jump on the competition.

If you can approach this situation with the mindset of talking about your strengths and how you believe your past jobs have prepared you for this position, then you can speak from a place of power. You have more control than you may realize. However, you still need to be able to demonstrate your key accomplishments and how these relate to the job at hand for which you are applying. It may help to have a portfolio together with necessary facts and figures that tie you and your experience to the position. It’s OK to have a notebook of bulleted lists of information you want to recall. You don’t have to memorize your entire work history. A list of accomplishments that match the “required qualifications” from the job posting may help you maintain your focus. Make sure you review the list of Interview Questions on our website so that you can have a preview of what might be asked. And, don’t forget questions of your own! Having questions related to the job shows you care and your strong desire for the job. One of the questions should be, “What’s the next step in this process?” and “How will you communicate with me about your decision”?

Lastly, don’t forget to take everyone’s business card and send a Thank You note. Be patient during the waiting game. If you haven’t heard from anyone, it’s OK to call as a follow up but wait at least two weeks.  Make sure you visit WGU Career & Professional Development for more interview tips.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Managing Your Digital Dirt

Digital dirt is the information you put out on the Internet -- your hobbies, your photos, your rants and raves. Digital dirt can also include inflated academic achievements, radical political views, off-color jokes or YouTube videos. Some extreme examples include negative comments about neighbors or former employers. Anything you post on Social Media is potentially open for the entire cosmos to read. Privacy settings are not fool proof, so don’t be naive. You want to use Social Media responsibly.

What you might not realize is that your “digital dirt” can also affect your job search efforts. Today’s recruiters use Social Media to find, source and connect with talented candidates. WGU Career & Professional Development can help turn your digital dirt into digital gold. Employers use Social Media to screen applicants and there are plenty of cases where some Facebook profiles, blogs, and postings can derail job prospects even before an interview is considered. I've had recruiters tell me that certain job offers have been revoked due to a closer look at the candidate’s Facebook and Twitter activity.  Find out how you can enhance your profile so that you can avoid this from happening to you?

The safest and quickest way to put your best Facebook forward is to clean up your profile and your entire account, if necessary. Remove any questionable materials, sayings, comments, etc. “Repurpose” your Facebook and Twitter accounts to look, read and feel more professional. This can make the difference between getting a job offer or being passed over.

Stay in control. You can choose who can post comments or tag you in photos. Stay tuned in to your account and scrub any salacious comments or racy pictures that make it to your account. Unfortunately, you could be buried in digital dirt due to “guilt by association”.

Google Thyself. This is also commonly known as “narcisurfing”. Search for yourself on the web and see what comes up. You can also set up Google alerts from the Google dashboard to see if your name comes up in any searches. If there are any unflattering pictures of you they can be either removed from your Flickr or Instagram account or you can adjust your privacy settings to help filter them out. If you do nothing, eventually the content will drop off or get pushed “down further” in the results in favor of other competing content. But, it would just take longer.

Another way to reduce the visibility of any negative or questionable content is to create positive content which will affect Search Engine Optimization ratings (SEO). SEO is based on keywords and phrases used in internet searches. Posting and publishing positive SEO information about yourself “pushes” the other, negative, content further and further down in the search results. You can also re-write your personal profiles on sites like Facebook and Twitter which carry more SEO power.

As I mentioned before, your online profile and results from SEO searches like Google can affect your job prospects. Brand-yourself, the online reputation company, says that 75% of HR departments are required to Google applicants. So, you better look good online! They also claim that 85% of hiring managers make a decision to advance your application or not based on your Google results. We can help!  Contact WGU’s Career & Professional Development Center to find out more!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Informational Interviews

By now we have all heard that networking is the key to a successful job search – “it is not what you know but who you know.” Informational interviewing is a powerful (and underutilized) networking tool that can jump-start your career. Review the 5 W’s and the How of informational interviewing and schedule your own informational interview today!

An informational interview is an interview in which the goal is to gather facts and opinions from someone with expertise and experience in a specific field or position. It is important to remember that an informational interview is NOT a job interview. They are investigative opportunities for you to derive information about a job, company, industry, career space or person. They are led by you as the interviewer.

An informational interviews allow you to:
  • Explore your career options and clarify your goals 
  • Learn more about an organization, their needs and the requirements for a particular job 
  • Network with decision-makers and expand your professional network 
  • Generate job leads 
  • Build confidence in yourself, your job search process and your interview skills
  • Demonstrate professionalism, initiative and motivation to a prospective employer by  taking control of your job search by interviewing an employer before you even apply a job! 
Identify with whom you want to interview or what industry, company, or specific position you are interested in learning more about. Once you have an idea of with whom you want to talk to ask family, friends, coworkers, students, alumni, and others in your immediate network if they know of anyone they can put you in touch with. Don’t forget to connect with people on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and other social networking sites (remember there are WGU groups on LinkedIn and Facebook).

There is no time like the present.  Informational interviews are helpful to conduct during career exploration or to utilize as a networking tool during your job search.

Meeting at the interviewee’s work place is more convenient for your interviewee and can also give you a better feel for the job and organization.  However, over the phone or via video conference are other methods to consider, especially if you are conducting the informational interview long distance.

Send a brief email to the person you want to interview explaining your background, career goals, interests and what you hope to gain from the interview. Make sure you state clearly that you are just seeking information – not a job. Request a 20-30 minute appointment .

Prepare for your informational interview as you would for a job interview. Research the person you will be interviewing, their profession and their company. This advanced research shows the interviewee that you are professional and that you respect their time. It also allows you to focus on acquiring information that is not readily available through websites and company brochures.

Prepare questions to ask ahead of time and consider bringing a current copy of your resume with you. However, only share your resume if the person you are interviewing has expressed interest in seeing your resume!

Show up to your appointment professionally dressed and on time. End the interview by thanking the interviewee for their time and asking if there are other people they suggest you talk to. This is a great way to grow your professional network.

Send a thank you note within 24 hours of your interview thanking the person for their time and briefly describing what you learned from the interview. See if your interviewee is on LinkedIn and invite them to join your network. In addition, send periodic updates on your career progress and be sure to let them know if you apply for a position with their company.

Visit the WGU Career & Professional Development website for more information on informational interviews or contact us for individual assistance.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Job Searching: Chill Out!

Job searching has its own stressors so staying physically and mentally healthy during this time is vital to maintain balance!

Mary Eileen Williams, author and columnist for Huffington Post, suggests “four key ways to help boost your spirits and keep your momentum going”:
  1. Avoid isolationism: Start your day like any other in your professional life. Get up early, take a shower, have a good breakfast, get dressed and send out a million resumes. But make sure those resumes have been critiqued by someone you trust and make sure you visit the WGU Career & Professional Development Center
  2. Write out a financial plan: This can seem like a mundane thing to do but it must be done. A healthy lifestyle during job searching can also extend to your bank account.  Make a list of your most necessary expenses: rent, mortgage, utilities, food, medicine, gas, etc.  Then make another list in a second column of things you can live without: cable, certain memberships, the gym, going out to dinner, movies, etc. It’s not permanent. This is what I call “The Austerity Plan”.  Involve the entire family with this plan so everyone is aware of the details and you can all support one another. 
  3. Track your progress and make it tangible: By tracking your networking efforts, people you meet, phone calls, and emails can give you a sense of progress.  As humans we need some sense of control and that we are contributing to society. Tracking your progress and showing tangible results can help elevate any stress. 
  4. TLC:  Work is an integral part of human nature and it’s by our work and contribution to society that we add value to our own sense of dignity. So, with this said, take care of yourself. Take time to relax, be with your family/friends, eat right and get enough sleep and exercise. And, know that you will soon return to the welcomed ranks of the gainfully employed!
            “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”–Theodore Roosevelt

            Monday, February 10, 2014

            How to Be Successful at a Virtual Job Fair

            We do most things online these days. We shop, we search for recipes, we even look for love through virtual dating services. Why not attend a job fair from the comfort of your own home? Virtual job fairs allow you, the applicant, and employers with open positions, to meet just like at a traditional job fair. Instead of booths or tables, you might meet in a chat room. These chat rooms are provided by online services specifically designed to manage these networking events.

            So, let us help you get your career to where you want it to be. Here are some tips:

            1. Research: After registering for the job fair, you’ll probably have immediate access to the companies who will be attending. Take the time to research the company’s background and be knowledgeable about the jobs they’ll be featuring. This will help you to answer any specific questions the company representative may ask and allow you to show your qualifications. 
            2. Stay Connected: As part of your preparation, make sure that your electronics are working well. A day or two before the job fair, check that your internet is solid and strong, your webcam (if using) is up-to-date and works well. Give it a test. 
            3. Prepare Your Space: Make sure that your room or home-office is in order. Get rid of any “visible” clutter from in front of your webcam, just in case the company wants to conduct a meet and greet. Not every company will require camera time, but it’s best to be prepared. 
            4. Look the Part: Again, just in case you’re on-camera, dress professionally. No whites or pastel colors. No patterned tops or shirts or loud ties. Keep it conservative and simple by wearing black or navy, white or cream-colored tops. Accent colors are ok but avoid patterns and any bright, loud colors. They just don’t do well on webcams. Business casual is always a good rule of thumb. 
            5. Go with a Companion: Prepare your “companion documents”. Have your resume reviewed through the WGU Career & Professional Development Center so that you have all of the relevant information at your disposal. You will also want to have any research notes organized and easily accessible. 
            6. Work Your Network: Remember, this is a networking event. Don’t expect an on-the-spot interview. This type of event, like any other job fair, is more about gathering information and building rapport. 
            7. Practice an Attitude of Gratitude: Make sure that you send a thank-you to the company representatives that speak with you. Get their name and email address. In today’s techno-world, email thank-you notes are growing in acceptance. In a survey of more than 500 HR managers, 87 percent have said that an email thank-you is an appropriate method of reaching out to employers after networking events. 
            8. Follow-Up: One great way to stay connected and to follow-up with the companies is to connect with them on LinkedIn. This will allow you to interact with the companies after the job fair, and help grow your professional network. Remember, that the WGU Career & Professional Development Center staff can help you with your LinkedIn profile. Just request an appointment to get started! 

            Good luck and happy job hunting!

            Tuesday, January 21, 2014

            Shine in Your Next Interview Using "STAR"

            If you have been on an interview lately, most likely you have been asked behavioral interview questions that start out with “Tell me about a time…”, “Describe a situation…”, or “Give an example…”. Behavioral-Based Interviewing is based on the theory that the most accurate predictor of future behavior is past behavior in a similar situation. Interviewers want to learn how you, the interviewee, acted in specific employment-related situations.

            The most effective way to answer behavioral interview questions is to become a great story teller. Too many interview answers use vague examples or link a string of buzzwords together. This might sound impressive but the information will be forgotten by the end of the day. People remember stories and you also become more animated, engaging and smile more when telling a good story.

            To craft a good interview story, utilize the STAR approach.

            • Setting: Give your job title and the name of the company where you worked
            • Task: Summarize the specific project and/or problem you faced
            • Action: Describe the actions you took to achieve results
            • Result: Describe the results and quantify them, if possible. Interviewers not only want to know that you have the capability; they also want you to demonstrate that you have obtained results. Sharing your results and accomplishments in stories is essential. 

            There are a wide variety of questions out there so you will not be able to prepare for each specific question. However, you CAN arm yourself with a small arsenal of stories that can be adapted to many behavioral questions. The beauty of a good story is that it often highlights several strengths. For example, if you have a story about a time you resolved a difficult issue for a customer, you are highlighting both your customer service skills and your ability to solve problems!

            To create your own arsenal of stories using the Interview Preparation Worksheet and to access additional interview preparation resources, visit the WGU Career & Professional Development Website.

            Completed your preparation and would like to practice? Schedule a mock interview with a WGU Career & Development Specialist!