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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Career Exploration: What is Your Future Telling You?

When deciding on a career, in addition to discovering your values, personality, interests, skills and talents, it can be helpful to identify an ideal future lifestyle that takes into consideration what you would like to accomplish in all areas of your life: personal, financial, social, physical, and spiritual. You are defined by more than your career and it is important that your career goals align with your lifestyle ambitions and vision of the future.

Composing a Letter from the Future is a powerful exercise to help you visualize your ideal future lifestyle and a great way to generate career goals that will support your vision.

Composing Your Letter from the Future:
  1. Identify to whom you would like to write your letter from the future. Decide on a special supportive person in your life (a relative, friend, mentor, etc.) to whom you feel comfortable writing. Or, you can write the letter to yourself.
  2. Write (or type) a letter from the future - one, three, or five years from now.  Try to write a minimum of one page.
  3. Describe your life at that time and your accomplishments over the intervening years.  Write about your accomplishments in the past tense, as if they have already occurred.  For example, “I moved to…, I earned that promotion…, I finished training in…”
  4. Be as specific, detailed, and concrete as possible.  For example, don’t simply write, “I earned a lot of money.”  Such statements are too vague.  What do you mean by “a lot of money”? $54,000? $110,000?
  5.  Be imaginative, optimistic, and realistic.  Your accomplishments should be consistent with the skills, interests, and values that you have already identified for yourself.
  6.  Explain the ways in which you believe your life was successful.  Consider writing about accomplishments in each of the following categories:
    • Job or Career
    • Finances
    • Family/Personal Relationships
    • Education/Training/Certifications
    • Health/Fitness
    • Use of Free Time
    • Volunteer Activities
    • Travel
    • Home/Meaningful Possessions/Transportation
    • Spiritual/Religious Growth & Pursuits
When you are finished writing your letter, take time to reflect and answer the following questions:
    • What does this lifestyle suggest for my current work/career decisions?
    • What interests did I describe in my letter?  
    • Am I pursuing any of these interests now?  How might I incorporate them into my personal or professional life?
    • What skills do I use in my future life?
    • Is my future life style similar or different from my lifestyle today?
Find a way to use the letter as a source of inspiration and power. Some ideas include sending it to the recipient for safe keeping (when was the last time you mailed an actual letter!?), posting it on your blog, printing it and keeping it with you, posting it in a visible location to serve as a daily reminder, or utilizing the information to create both personal and professional goals, just to name a few.

Share with us in the comments below your thoughts on this exercise and any insights you may have gained. In addition, if you are a WGU student or alum, do not hesitate to request an appointment with a WGU Career & Professional Development Specialist for strategic guidance in bringing your vision to life. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Engaging Your LinkedIn Network

In today’s workforce, you need to incorporate various job search tactics to compete with those who are also on the job hunt. Social Media is an indispensable tool for your job search efforts. LinkedIn is just as important to your career development strategy as writing a winning resume. However, once you have built your LinkedIn profile and obtained endorsements and recommendations from colleagues, it is not over. Keeping your account active is important as you proactively work your network. Here are tips to help you stay engaged:
  • Where are they now? Periodically, go through your network connections. Look to see if any of your connections have changed companies, job titles, posted new content or started new conversations. Exploring connections can clue you in on new happenings within your network and give you the opportunity to reach out to those with whom you have been out of touch. If they have updated their profiles, congratulate them on a new job or comment on an update they have shared.
  • Post it! You have re-connected with your network and with people you are following, but now look at yourself. Have there been any changes in your professional life? Update your status if you have a new job, a new role, a new project, or new education or training to share. Confidently communicate you accomplishments and successes. Your ability to assess and showcase your achievements can increase your profile views. Active updates invite your network to follow and reach out to you.
  • Do I know you? The very nature of networking is to meet new contacts and to exchange ideas. This can open up new opportunities. But, should you accept every invitation on LinkedIn? You might hit “reply” first. This will allow you to send a return email instead of immediately accepting the invitation. This is a chance to inquire as to why the individual would like to connect. It is possible that this person also attended Western Governors University or they are in the same industry and simply want to build their own network
  • Company contacts. LinkedIn also offers a great way to find contacts at companies that interest you. Researching the company and profiles of those currently employed at the company can be one more step toward getting the job you really want. 
For more personalized assistance on how to leverage LinkedIn in your job search or for answers to any career question you may have, please contact our professional staff for an appointment. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

11 on 11: Career Resources for Veterans, Military Personnel, and Families

In honor of Veterans Day, November 11, WGU Career & Professional Development offers 11 career resources available to current military personnel, veterans, and family members. We salute the men and women who have served and continue to make sacrifices to protect our country.

  1. Boots To Suits: Boots to Suits commits to helping the men and women who served this country to find meaningful employment.  The mission is to achieve success in business and education while networking into quality professional positions with reputable companies.
  2. Brothers Fund: Brothers Fund mission is to help veterans fulfill dreams and business ambitions by providing them with loans to start or grow their own businesses.  
  3. Feds Hire Vets: This is an official website of the U.S. Government operated by the Office of Personnel Management serving as a one-stop resource for Federal veteran employment information.
  4. G.I. Jobs: The G.I. Jobs mission is to simplify the military transition experience using education and employment tools and resources to guide you to a successful career.
  5. Hire Veterans: Through alliances with many veterans organizations, networks, and other military agencies, HireVeterans.com has established its brand as a top e-recruiting site for the veterans of our armed forces.
  6. Hiring Our Heroes: Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, was launched in March 2011 as a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment.
  7. My Next Move For Veterans: You've served your country. No you're ready for a new challenge. What do you want to do for a living?
  8. United States Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: This website features resources to assist veterans prepare for and obtain employment.
  9. TAOnline.com (Transition Assistance Online): Founded by former military personnel, TAOnline.com has been recognized by industry experts and organizations as a top leader in providing veteran jobs.
  10. Veteran Recruiting: Veteran Recruiting (VR) is a division of Astound Virtual who has revolutionized the way military friendly employers, service members, veterans, and military spouses connect as it relates to the job search. 
  11. Veterans ReEmployment: A one-stop website for employment, training, and financial help after military service.

All of these resources in addition to several Military-to-Civilian Skills Translators can be found on the Resources for Veterans page of our website. We empower WGU students and graduates to explore, develop, and actualize individual career paths by providing current resources and strategic guidance. Please do not hesitate to contact a careerspecialist for personalized student-veteran career assistance.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Holiday Job Search Tips

As the holiday season quickly approaches, you might be considering taking a break from your job search. However, this could be a mistake! Despite popular belief, hiring does not come to a halt over the holidays. In fact, many organizations seek to fill job openings by the end of year that have already been allotted for this year’s budget, while other organizations are planning ahead and eager to have new employees on board as soon as the new year begins. To make the most of your holiday job search, take a look at the tips below.

Attend Holiday Events: Tis the season to socialize and be merry with your family, friends, neighbors, community, and various other groups. In addition, many regional professional associations will have a holiday luncheon or end of year networking event. Plan to arrive prepared with a 30 second standard greeting that is positive and informative. Ask lots of questions to elicit a conversation or develop a connection. Create tasteful business cards with your name, phone number and email address. This is actually one of the most fruitful networking times of the year!

Make the Calls: Holidays can be a good time to catch recruiters, hiring managers, and others at work but be smart, prepared and strategic. Don’t just start cold calling. Use the quieter time to follow up on an application, reconnect, and ask insightful questions. Also, think of someone who is in a position or industry of interest to you – send them an email introduction and follow up with a phone call to set up an informational interview. This risk might pay off.

Set a Schedule: It is easy to become distracted so set up a plan for the holiday season. Schedule your days and set SMART goals. For example, "Every weekday I will submit two applications and I will contribute to a minimum of two discussions on LinkedIn. Each week I will reach out and connect with five contacts in my network."

Know Your Industry: Depending on your goals and your targeted industry you will want to tailor your approach to looking for work during the holiday season. For example, teachers will have between now and a school district's winter break to connect with school personnel. In addition, some industries offer temporary, seasonal positions that have the potential to lead to full-time positions or serve as a way to add additional skills to your resume and expand your network.

Volunteer: Volunteering can be emotionally and spiritually uplifting. It is also a great way to network and connect with others in your community. Helping others really does help you too.

Send Holiday Cards: Send a holiday card to everyone on your networking list. Pick a non religious card that is both seasonal and professional.

Stay Optimistic: Most hiring managers tend to be more receptive to job seekers who express confidence and have an optimistic frame of mind. Use the holidays to renew and appreciate the good in your life. Also, it is okay to take a little "holiday" from job searching. Make sure to take time for activities that you enjoy and find rejuvenating.

Contact WGU Career & Professional Development: Need a resume reviewed, your LinkedIn profile updated, or interview practice? A WGU Career Services Specialist is just a phone call or email away…It turns out that career services offices are also notoriously quiet during the holidays.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Create a Resume with Personality

Resume templates are easy to use and easy to find on the internet but templates are known for boring  recruiters and hiring managers. If your resume looks the same as everyone else’s resume it will not stand out from the crowd.  Your resume needs to be the right amount of required skills and personality. This is the challenging part. “Personality” does not mean including hobbies or your favorite color. Nor does it mean using fancy fonts, colors, or images. You want your resume to reflect your work ethic, soft skills, and passion for your chosen career.

Recruiters and hiring managers suggest that resumes can stand out from the competition without sacrificing the professional look and feel. Here are a few tips to help accomplish this goal, starting from the top:

1.  Connect with Me: Make sure your contact information is thorough and complete. Use your full name, address, city, state, and zip code. Include one phone number with the number most likely to be answered and make sure you have your voicemail set up with a professional message. It is also suggested that you include a professional email address, one that uses your first and last name, if possible, and is not a work email address.  If you have a LinkedIn account, place your LinkedIn URL next to your email address but make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and not just a “cut and paste” of your resume.

2. Engage! Create an engaging summary of qualifications to grab the employer’s attention and create a strong first impression. Employers initially skim resumes, only spending 10 – 20 seconds per resume, so the top half of the page is the most important. This is your chance to introduce your knowledge of your industry and the specific job to which you are applying. It is here that you can show your strengths and diversity of experience. Elaborate on areas you have worked on that are relevant to the job description. Visit the resume library to see some examples of an engaging summary!

3. Highlight Results: In your employment section, you will want to use bullet points to highlight your accomplishments and the results of your actions. This area can include metrics, quantified achievements, and specific skills required for the job. Here’s an example:

·       Created a searchable database to log departmental reports, decreasing time spent locating reports and eliminating use of paper copies resulting in a monthly savings of more than $1K. 

Your employment section should go back 10 years or to high school, whichever comes first. You will include all of your work history within this time frame, even the jobs that are not in the field to which you are applying. An employer evaluates this particular section for relevant skills and knowledge and to see a complete work history without any obvious holes in your timeline.

4. Beyond Paid Experience: If you do not have recent work experience or are new to the world of work you can include a volunteer section, relevant coursework and projects from your education, and highlight industry certifications. Your volunteer section would be formatted the same way as your employment section, specifying the organization, your role, and the dates. Volunteerism can also show employers that you are a well-rounded individual involved in community activities. Another great way to show personality!

5.  In Conclusion:  You can close your resume simply with the last job entry or with professional memberships or training that is relevant to the job. It is suggested not to include “References Available Upon Request”. Employers assume you will be able to provide references. You will want your references typed up on a separate document and you will typically provide references on the application and/or in an interview.

Spending some time to personalize your resume by reviewing the job description, company profile, and even the company’s LinkedIn page can show the employer the depth of interest you have for the job. Use the resume resources available on the WGU Career & Professional Development website to create an eye-catching document and before you hit the “send” button, let our professional staff review your resume and guide you through any additional ways to make your resume stand out from the crowd. We can help you to create a polished, professional document that showcases your personality while still presenting a resume that employers seek.   

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 excellent portfolio resources 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.

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, 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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

10 Online Job Application Blunders

Submitting online job applications can be a long and tedious process. However, it is a critical job search component and rushing through the application can lead to costly mistakes. Employers use online applications to gather critical data about prospective employees and to evaluate applicants based on experience, continuity of employment, educational background, and overall potential. An application is a legal document and when you complete an application, your signature and/or submission of the application certifies that the information you provided is accurate and true. Your job application creates a strong first impression so you’ll want to make sure to avoid these top job application blunders:
  1. Poor spelling and grammatical errors. Like your cover letter and resume, one mistake can send your application to the discard pile. 
  2. Incomplete information or unanswered questions. You want to make sure to follow instructions carefully and complete the entire application.  If a question does not apply, put “N/A” in the response section.
  3. Not applying for a specific position. Always make sure to select or list the job title to which you are applying. Avoid stating that you are applying to “Any” position or “Will Do Anything”.
  4. Incomplete work history or large unexplained gaps in work history. Include all positions held over date range requested. Double check your dates (most applications will want month and year for start date and end date) and make sure your application aligns with your resume and social media profiles.  Provide all data requested which can include company address, phone number, job title, supervisor’s name, salary, start date, end date, responsibilities, and reason for leaving. Address gaps in employment (if longer than 6 months) by including time spent as student, volunteering or other professional experiences. 
  5. Saying “Please See Resume”. You don’t want to skimp on the responsibilities section of the application. If you already have a strong resume, incorporate the information from your resume into your application. Make sure to highlight your skills and accomplishments for each position utilizing key words from the job description.
  6. Use of problematic words, such as "quit" or "fired". You want to be honest, however, try to include only neutral or positive information. Some “Reasons for Leaving” include: Returned to school, Company reorganized, Changed careers, Relocated, Business closed, Contract ended, General lay off due to economic downturn, and New job opportunity.
  7. Abbreviations of degree, school, and other application information. Although the abbreviations may seem standard or obvious to you, the person initially reviewing your application may not be familiar with the abbreviations and miss key information.
  8. Forgetting to include additional relevant information. Make sure to add certifications, licenses, or any additional relevant training. You may be asked to provide license/registration numbers and/or expiration dates. Also, if relevant to the position to which you will be applying, you’ll want to consider including awards and recognition, additional languages, technical/computer skills, volunteer experiences, memberships and associations, and publications.
  9. Not letting your references know that you are using them as reference. Keep in touch with your references to let them know when you have included them as a reference on your application and for what type of position. Professional references are the most preferred type of reference. Professional references are people who can talk about the quality of your work and can include supervisors, co-workers, former customers/clients, teachers, instructors, mentors, volunteer connections, etc. Professional references do not include family members.
  10. Only submitting an online job application. Even if your application is perfect, you may not hear back from the employer. In addition to submitting an online application, make sure to research the employer, leverage your network, and utilize LinkedIn to find ways to personally connect with individuals within the organization to which you are applying. Finding ways around the online application process will greatly increase your chances of obtaining an interview.
Investing time now to gather standard job application information can save you time in the long run and prevent costly errors when filling out online applications in the future. For answers to additional job application or career questions you may have, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development. We look forward to assisting you in reaching your career goals!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reboot Your IT Job Search

If you’re in the Information Technology Sector, then you know that new technologies are born every day. Some say that students are being taught and trained for technology that hasn’t even been invented yet. Let’s look at some ways to stay on top of your job search as we’re zooming forward in our techno-world at warp speed.

Don’t go crazy. You might have heard the saying, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. If you’ve been on the job hunt for 6 months or more, using the same strategy with no results, then maybe it’s time to change your approach. If you’re looking only at IT-specific companies then you might be missing out on a large part of the job market. Just about everyone uses some sort of technology today. The retail sector, financial agencies, and higher education - you name it and there’s probably a computer involved. So, when you approach your job search keep your options open to the various different industries. To widen your vision, visit our Occupational & Industry Research page for some great ways to look deeper into various company backgrounds. Then, hop over to our Employer Research page to help identify companies that might be a good fit.

Say it with skills. IT recruiters look for specific information on resumes to help make it easy for them to identify applicants based on their technical knowledge and competencies. One of the easiest ways for you to make sure that you are highlighting these competencies is to include a list of your technical skills: Operating Systems, Databases, Computer Languages and Protocols, and Software knowledge and experience. These skills should be based on the job description and industry standards. A separate section for your certifications would also be a great idea. Check out the Getting a Job section of our website for more information on launching a successful job search.

Begin with the end. In Steven Covey’s, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,  he mentions that the second habit of moving from dependence to independence is to envision what you want (for your career) and then come to know concretely what to make a reality. What does your dream IT job look like and what will it take to get there? Career planning is a huge part of the answer. Mapping out your career path is a great way to manage your expectations and to achieve your professional goals. WGU Career & Professional Development is here to help with everything from resume development to interview skills to IT Professional Development opportunities. We’re just a click away!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

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. Also, by choosing WGU, you are now part of an international network of WGU students and alumni. Make sure to join the Western Governors University Student and Alumni group on LinkedIn and to check out the careers of fellow WGU Night Owls.

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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Resume Recipe - How to Cook Up a Winner!

If you cook, you know the importance of following a recipe in order to create a scrumptious meal. In fact, there are several similarities between good cooking and resume writing. Let’s look at a few:

Preparation: Quality ingredients are the building blocks of great cooking. You want to start with the best and freshest you can find. The same can be said for resumes. Research targeted job descriptions within your field of interest to obtain the language and keywords you can use for the ingredients throughout your resume. Think of each job description as a recipe in which the employer is telling you what they are looking for. Key words, pulled from the specific job descriptions, will help you make your resume more appetizing to an employer.

Assembly: Like any successful dish, layering flavors gives the meal a deeper and richer experience. Resumes should be assembled so that the most valuable information is seen first. The Summary of Qualifications should be right after your name and contact information. This is your pitch to the reader explaining how you are qualified for this position.  Showing a robust summary of your best qualities and how they make you a good fit is what will move your resume from dull to delicious! Next, think about what makes you a great candidate for the position. Look to the job description for further guidance. What seems important to the employer? Lead with your strengths and position the following sections accordingly: specialized competencies (technology, business acumen, certifications, etc.), relevant professional experience and education. This layering format prioritizes the most important features so the employer sees them first and is motivated to learn more about you. To assist in assembling your resume, utilize the resume resources available on the WGU Career & Professional Development website including a brief Resumes 101 webinar, a resume builder, and a resume library with industry specific resume samples.

Let it bake. The raw ingredients and the assembly of the dish are only part of a chef’s job. Those ingredients and flavors need to meld into the delicious creation it was meant to be. Your resume is now ready to cook! You have done your research, you put the layers together and filled them in with just the right keywords, bullet points and accomplishments. Now, it all needs to marinate to create the document that results in an interview. One great way to do this, so that it doesn’t get chopped, is to send it to WGU Career & Professional Development for a review. Look to us as your test kitchen. We’re hungry to help you!

Serve it up! After you have created your resume and had it reviewed by our staff, it’s time to dish it up for your audience to consume! There are as many job boards online as there are spices to choose from. Consider using the WGU Students & Graduates Job Board in addition to other popular job boards for your job search needs.

We wish you luck in your job search and remember, we’ll always have a table ready for you to explore and discuss a full menu of other services. Please visit us often to satisfy your career cravings. Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Employer Research

Research. If you are in the market for a job or thinking about your next step, research is a vital part of making a positive impression on a potential employer. You’ve worked hard to complete your degree so now it’s time to make sure you are using every tool available to get the job or promotion that you are hoping for. Taking time to research employers that you are interested in is an essential component to a successful job search. It might seem a bit intimidating at first because it’s sometimes hard to know where to start and there’s a lot of information out there but that’s where WGU Career and Professional Development comes in. We have many excellent resources designed to help you get started in this process.

The first step is to identify what matters to you. This is an important and often overlooked step. You have to have a focus in order to reach your goal. To get started in this process make sure you review our self-assessment and industry research tools.

Next, think about what you value in an organization. Are you open to re-location? Are you interested in a large company or a small company? Is professional development important to you? These are just a few of the things you can consider as your begin researching companies.

Once you have set a foundation, you can narrow the field to 5 - 10 companies that you think would be a good fit and then begin your research. The best place to start your research is with the company’s website and LinkedIn page. You can look for the Mission Statement or the About Us section to get some of the basic information, but don’t stop there. WGU Career & Professional Development has a wealth of information on a wide range of companies including the latest industry trends.

For specific information on companies, check out our Employer Research Resources including CareerBeam (which lists company overviews, key information and business intelligence for 60M+ organizations) and Hoovers (a database with proprietary information on more than 40,000 public and non-public companies and 225,000 key executives).  Remember, the more you know about the company the more targeted your resume and cover letter will be and the more prepared you will be during an interview. Doing your research lets an employer know that you are really interested in them and not just “a job”, increasing your chances of being hired.

WGU Career & Professional Development is happy to assist you in researching employers, defining a job search plan, or answering any additional career questions you may have.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Beyond Job Boards: 6 Effective Job Search Strategies

With thousands of job boards available online today, it can be easy to limit your job search to only applying to jobs found online. However, the most effective job search incorporates a variety of strategies and time spent applying to positions found online should only be a small portion of your search. For increased job search success, consider incorporating these strategies into your job search.

1. Know Thy Self. To plan an effective job search it is time well spent to assess what you love, identifying your values, interests, personality, and passions. You’ll also want to take inventory of what you are good at, recognizing skills, abilities, strengths, and accomplishments. Finally, make sure to clarify your financial needs and lifestyle goals and ensure that occupations and industries of interest meet those goals through market research. When you know yourself and what you bring to a job you’ll be able to choose jobs that are good matches for you – which is a big WIN for you and the employer!

2. Target Your Job Search. Your job search will be more successful with a targeted approach instead of just “applying for anything”.
By following this targeted approach, your process will be more focused, networking becomes easier, and you will be more convincing in your interactions with hiring managers.

3. Develop Marketing Materials. As you are job searching, you want to create a brand, as you “sell yourself” to companies. You can market yourself effectively through a host of tools including your info-mercial, resumes and cover letters, portfolios, social media profiles, and eventually during your interview. WGU Career & Professional Development is here to help you craft and fine-tune your marketing materials!

4. Network. Networking often sounds a lot scarier than it is. Networking is simply exchanging information with individuals to enhance your career and job search. 
  • Identify your network including family, friends, former colleagues, neighbors and anyone who has connections or is a connection that relates back to your job search goals. Identify individuals who work for the companies you would like to work for and seek introductions to current and former employees so you can do research on the best way to get hired.
  • Utilize LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a professional social media site designed specifically for networking and is an essential tool to incorporate into your job search. Also, by choosing WGU, you are now part of an international network of WGU students and alumni. Make sure to join the Western Governors University Student and Alumni group on LinkedIn and to check out the careers of fellow WGU Night Owls.  
  • Join professional groups and associations. Make time to attend industry events, trainings, and other in-person opportunities to meet like-minded professionals.
  • Conduct informational interviews. An informational interview is a meeting in which a job seeker asks for career and industry advice from an individual who is working in an occupation or industry of interest.  The job seeker uses the interview to gather information on the field, to find employment leads, and expand their professional network. The key to remember is that during the informational interview, you are NOT asking for a job, but gathering information.
5. Manage Your Job Search. Manage your search by keeping track of the jobs you have applied for and the correspondence you have had with an employer.  Consider creating a folder in your email account for job searching, with emails you send and receive. You can also create a folder on your desktop to save job descriptions, cover letters, and resumes.  Creating an Excel spreadsheet can be a great way to keep track of the jobs you have applied to and the interactions you have had relating to different positions.

6. Follow- up. 
  • Keep track of dates that you submitted applications and if possible, follow-up on the application with a phone call or email one to two weeks later.
  • Utilize LinkedIn to identify hiring managers and recruiters. Invite them to connect and review your profile, reiterating your interest in the position to which you applied.
  • Say thank you to any individuals who provide information and assistance along the way whether it’s an employer, friend, or networking contact.
  • Keep your network updated on your progress. If you are contacted for an interview because a connection passed along your resume to the hiring manager, provide them with an update and definitely thank them for their efforts!
For additional individualized support in developing a strategic job search plan, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development! We look forward to working with you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to Get to the Next Level in Health Information Management

So, are you ready for your next level role within Health Information Management (HIM)?

What is your next level? As noted on the AHIMA Engaged site, the HIM field is open to professionals at different education and credential levels. What can you do to prepare for a career in the HIM world? It is never too early to start gaining experience working with medical records and electronic health records in any capacity. What does this mean? As a student, you are in high demand for part time positions with duties ranging from filing to scanning and data entry. These simple tasks can get you into a clinical setting in preparation for possible internships and later full time jobs. The students that are working full time in a clinical setting can go the extra mile by getting involved in HIM projects, pitching best practices or joining a committee at work that would improve IT skills.

Gaining experience in any capacity distinguishes you from your peers. It shows your current employer that you are invested in the process and it tells prospective employers you are forward thinking and will be a great asset to their team. Try some of the following strategies to help you stand out:

  • Network: The benefits of networking are immeasurable. You can contact a WGU Career Specialist to discuss networking strategies. 
  • Get Creative: Don’t be afraid to step out and use your creativity to help others on your team. 
  • Demonstrate Leadership: Show your leadership skills by creating guidelines regarding your job functions or a job aide describing how to complete a difficult function. 
  • Identify Areas for Improvement: Look around your department and determine what processes you can improve. 

The fun really begins when you find an opening for a position of interest! Get prepared by researching the company and ensure that your resume is updated. Create a unique cover letter for the position. WGU Career & Professional Development has resources to help you get started. Be comfortable with the wording; it should sound like your own words and not a template. Your resume should state your accomplishments and you should be prepared to address and elaborate on these accomplishments in an interview. Make sure to bring your manuals and other self-created materials to your interview as you will need to use them to elaborate. After all, this should be the best sales pitch for the job you want!

Last but not least, answer questions honestly and demonstrate how your skills can benefit the company you want to work for. Don’t just dress the part; remember you are there to have a conversation with your prospective employer. Good luck students!

About the Author

Sandra Goddard is an Area Supervisor at MRO Corp and a Health Informatics graduate of WGU. In her previous position with a behavioral health organization, there were limited opportunities for growth so she decided to gain experience by participating on various committees related to IT projects, coding implementation and training. She utilized her IT skills and additional knowledge gained through her coursework to simplify processes and train her colleagues. After ten years with the behavioral health organization and graduation on the horizon, Sandra began applying for management positions. She produced training manuals to demonstrate how her experience would be an asset for new staff training in both HIPAA and ROI procedures. Her hard work and job search preparation paid off as she was offered the Area Supervisor position for MRO Corp. MRO Corp is a vendor and the position allows for a multitude of EMR experience and networking. As an Area Supervisor, she is constantly learning best practices at different sites. As the saying goes “Hard work brings great rewards” and this is true in the HIM field.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Playing Hard Ball with Soft Skills

Today’s job market continues to be highly competitive. Most employers are looking for employees who bring a solid education and proven job performance. Beyond the specific job skills required to do the role, employers also want to know what kind of person are you. Are you a team player? How do you treat your customers? Do you take initiative?

While your specific job skills and certifications may get you noticed, your soft skills can tip the scales in an interview. Hiring managers are looking at leadership qualities, attitudes, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and other personal attributes that are essential to career success. These interpersonal skills are becoming more and more in demand when employers are assessing applicants to determine if they are a right fit for the job.

Some specific areas to keep in mind as you’re assessing and promoting your own brand are:
  • Accountability
  • Problem Solving
  • Time Management 
  • Collaboration
  • Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Active Listening
  • Leadership
  • Initiative
  • Relationship Building
This is just a small sample that can be found in job descriptions. Take time to assess your skill sets and discover the unique strengths and value you bring to an employer. This way you will be prepared to discuss them with employers. Don’t forget to incorporate these skills into your resume by crafting bullet points that showcase accomplishments you have achieved through your soft skills. Soft skills also play an important role in your LinkedIn Profile and Skills sections, and even during interviews when asked, “Tell me about yourself.”

We’re eager to help you explore other ways to use your soft skills during your job search. We have robust professional development resources that can help you to increase your interpersonal effectiveness, and workplace productivity.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Using a School District's Website to Your Advantage

As you begin a job search, it is tempting to follow the “one resume fits all” approach because it is easier and saves time when you have a variety of jobs to apply for. However, mass producing your resume and sending it to every school within an hour’s drive is definitely not the way to go. The best approach to apply for any job is to individualize your resume and cover letter for each position within a school or district.  Once you have decided what schools you want to apply to, the next step is to visit the school or district website before completing your application documents. It contains information you can use to your advantage as you prepare to start your job search. The following three tips will help you analyze and extract valuable information from a school’s website that you can use to increase your interview chances.

  1. Data –Most schools will include the previous year’s performance data on their website. As an applicant, you should look for the grade issued by the state, along with the current results of the state standardized testing. If it’s not listed on the website, you can find this information on your state’s Department of Education website. Select an area where the school did well (perhaps their reading scores increased) and an area of deficit (maybe their mathematics scores dropped) and incorporate that data into your cover letter. Be sure to compliment the school on what they have done well and then demonstrate how hiring YOU can help them overcome their current challenges and achieve success for next year. 
  2. School Improvement or Mission Statements – Every school will have a mission statement or school improvement plan on their website which drives next year’s performance goals. Investigate these goals and incorporate them into your resume and cover letter. If possible include performance metrics in your documents to show your experiences or successes in these areas. A school will find great value in you as an applicant if you can demonstrate student performance growth in their areas of need.
  3. Networking – Often times it is difficult for teachers to network within a school unless they have the benefit of substitute teaching at that school. One alternative is to find the “Staff Directory” on the website and isolate other faculty members who can assist you. Look for the “Department Chairperson”, “Curriculum Leader” or “Team Lead” for the grade/subject you want to teach. These team leads are the next best thing to meeting with the principal. They know their departmental needs, budgets and open faculty positions. Contact them via e-mail or phone and request to schedule a “job shadow” day or an after school meeting. Use this time to ask them questions about the school, any teacher questions you have and if they think there is anticipated growth in their departments. Leave a copy of your resume with them and express your interest in future openings. Be sure to follow up with a thank you note within 24 hours. If you’ve made a positive impression and a position opens up, the lead can approach the principal with your name and contact information. Remember, you will need to be fingerprint cleared to job shadow a teacher during the day. If you don’t have clearance, set up an after school meeting instead.

Once you have used the above tips and created your resume and cover letter, don’t forget to send it to WGU Career & Professional Development for review.  We’re happy to provide suggestions and feedback for making your application documents the best they can be.  Visit www.wgu.edu/careerservices to schedule an appointment with one of our Career & Professional Development Specialists.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

4 Professional Development Resources Every WGU IT Student & Alumni Should Know

The pace of change in Information Technology is faster than it has ever been and professional development can help you keep current with emerging standards. Below are four resources for Information Technology professionals to stay up-to-date and engaged.  These informative sites can enhance your knowledge and the skills needed to ensure continued career success.

  1. Dice - Dice is the leading career site for technology and engineering professionals. In addition to the over 82,000 tech jobs posted on Dice, Dice provides tech news, insights, advice, and talent communities. Dice Talent Communities bring together like-minded techs in specific fields and serve a place to follow industry news, access focused job postings, and learn best practices and industry trends.
  2. IT Communities - As an IT professional in the digital age, it is important to tap into and engage with resourceful IT communities. There are numerous communities to choose from and we've listed just a few that might be worth checking out: Bytes IT Community, CIO, Mashable, Github, IT Managers Inbox, ReadWrite, Reddit Technology, TechRepublic, Spiceworks, and Stack Overflow.
  3. LinkedIn - LinkedIn includes thousands of IT-related groups covering networking, applications, hardware, and security. Potential groups to consider joining include: WGU Students and Alumni Official Group, Chief Information Officer (CIO) Network, Cloud Security Alliance, Desktop Support Professionals, The Enterprise Architecture Network, and IT Specialist Group. 
  4. 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. SmartBrief can help keep your finger on the pulse of everything technology. Smart Brief IT subscriptions include: News for IT industry professionals, News for software and services professionals, and Education insights and advances in technology.

Our professional staff is dedicated to your success! Let us help you achieve your career goals. Please contact WGU Career & Professional Development.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Confidence: Your Most Compelling Qualification

You sent your resume and cover letter in for a review to WGU Career & Professional Development and your resume is now beautifully formatted, your credentials are front and center and you have crafted the perfect accomplishment statements. You’re all set for your interview, right? Well…almost. Before you go into that interview, you want to make sure you have your most compelling qualification in place: confidence. True confidence has an amazing way of bringing attention to you as an individual in a way that your qualifications, credentials and past experience on paper, simply cannot. Now don’t get me wrong – of course an employer needs to know that you can do the job and have the proper credentials to back it up – but those are the preliminaries. During the actual interview, it becomes more about the rapport that a hiring manager feels or doesn’t feel as you answer questions, and that rapport deepens when you share who you are and what you have to bring - with confidence. It’s true that some people have a natural confidence but confidence stems primarily from a sense of worth and overall preparedness and so it is a skill that can be developed.

So, if you struggle in the area of confidence, be encouraged! Here are some key strategies to help you engage more effectively with employers and make you a strong contender in the job market.

Do not focus on what you don’t know, what you don’t have or what you consider a weakness. There will always be something you don’t know or don’t have and dwelling on that is a confidence-stealer. Focus on what you do know, what you are proud of accomplishing and what stirs your heart. Write it down, look it over, and speak it out, over and over again. WGU Career & Professional Development has some great tools to help guide you in the process. Take advantage of our free self-assessment tools designed to help you in determining of your strengths.

Be prepared. The more prepared you are the more confident you will be. Preparation means that you have taken time to know who you are and what you value in addition to researching the specific industry, company or role. It means that you have selected popular interview questions, actually prepared answers for these questions and practiced those answers in front of the mirror, friends, family or a career advisor. You have contacted professionals in the field, you read articles, books or blogs daily – you have basically immersed yourself in the thing that you are preparing for. This constant focus and dedicated practice will give your confidence an incredible boost.  The Career Center has several resources that can help you prepare.  Check out the Interview Question Library for a sampling of questions to prepare and then utilize the Practice Interview Software to record an interview. It’s a great way to observe how you look and sound during an interview and identify areas for adjustment. For additional feedback, you can email your recorded interview to careers@wgu.edu. In addition to interview resources, WGU Career & Professional Development offers employer research resources to find relevant articles or company information and informational interview resources to use as a guide to setting up and having conversations with professionals in the field.

Learn from setbacks. An article by Fast Company on job search strategy confirms that how you view setbacks in your job search can impact your overall career success. If you choose to view a setback as a learning opportunity, you can go back over the process and identify areas for improvement. Some key lessons could include reviewing and refining your answers, having a friend or WGU Career Specialist do a practice interview with you using the new information you have acquired and doing a little more research on your selected company. Taking these positive, forward-thinking steps will ensure that you are even more prepared for the next round. So settle in your mind that you will continue to press forward, even after setbacks, and create your own future. This will make it easier to relax and just be yourself, which is a natural breeding ground for confidence and success!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

5 "To Dos" Before Leaving DT

As you approach the final weeks of your DT, your excitement is no doubt starting to set in.  You’re almost done your field experience, graduation is right around the corner and you now have some tangible experience to put on your resume.  It’s a wonderful feeling to be almost finished with your requirements!  That being said, now is a good time to reflect on your DT experience and start thinking about your career.  You’ve spent the last nine weeks taking care of your students.  Now, you need to start thinking about what YOU need to help you obtain a teaching position upon graduation. Here are five recommendations for you “to do” before you leave DT:

  1. Collect recommendation letters: Make sure you leave your DT experience with a minimum of three to four recommendation letters in your professional portfolio.  Make a list of faculty members who have seen you teach and can attest to your success in the classroom.  Consider asking your host teacher, clinical supervisor, team teacher, department chairperson, administrator, literacy specialist, guidance counselor, etc.  Assuming your DT is a twelve week experience, ask them for a letter around week nine and follow up with them two weeks later.  Their letters should include commentary on your professionalism, your classroom management, your demeanor with students, your creative lesson planning and your overall presence as a teacher.  Be sure to collect these letters before DT is finished and then write each person a sincere thank you note.  Don’t ever accept a letter of recommendation that you haven’t seen.  If the person can’t openly give you a positive reference, then they probably won’t be a good reference to a prospective employer.
  2. Invite administrators to your classroom:  Be confident enough to invite the principal to observe a great lesson you’ve planned!  After the observation, ask him/her for a quick meeting to discuss the pros/cons of your lesson and ask them what you could improve on.   If they give you positive comments, ask them for a recommendation letter.  If they give you some things to work on, make those improvements, invite them back for a second observation and request a recommendation letter at that time.  
  3. Journal: Take the time each week to write down one or two stories you remember from the week’s events.  Perhaps it will be about a great lesson, a classroom management issue you successfully solved, or it might even be something you wish you could do differently.  As you start to interview, principals will ask you for anecdotal stories to share about your classroom experiences.  Reading your journal the night before your interview will equip you with real experiences that showcase your strengths and also remind you of how you corrected your weaknesses.
  4. Gather Professional Portfolio Contents: It is wise to create a professional portfolio of your educational career to take with you to interviews.  During your DT, there are many opportunities to gather important documents to begin assembling this portfolio.  Some documents to consider: your formal and informal observations, recommendation letters, kudos from parents and students, student work samples and corresponding lesson plans, professional development trainings, photographs of your classroom and bulletin boards, your updated philosophy of education and your updated resume.
  5. Practice Interview: Be sure to schedule a practice interview with your principal before you leave your DT school.  This is your chance to experience real interview questions and to see how you perform under pressure.  At the close of the interview, ask the principal for feedback on your performance. You should also take this chance to ask him/her about their anticipated staffing needs for next year to get an idea if an opening might be available.  If you would consider working at this school as a full time faculty member, be sure to share that enthusiasm with the principal and keep in touch with him/her throughout your job search.  

Before you start applying to school districts after your DT is complete, you should get a professional resume critique from the WGU Career and Professional Development Center.  You want to have professional resume that showcases your best self when you are applying to school districts.  Request a resume review today: www.wgu.edu/careerservices

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How to Highlight the Value of Your Degree from Western Governors University

Western Governors University (WGU) continues to prove itself as a forward thinking, reputable, and accredited university that is leading the way in competency-based education. However, there may still be a few employers who have misconceptions or negative opinions regarding online education. Below are a few tips to help address any concerns that may arise.

  1. Share that WGU is regionally, NCATE (teaching), CCNE (nursing), and CAHIIM (health informatics) accredited (depending on your program). Regional accreditation is through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, one of the major accrediting commissions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation given to institutions.
  2. Point out that WGU has nationally recognized programs. For example, in the Teachers College, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recognized WGU’s secondary teacher program as number one out of 2,400 programs.  Also, Accounting Today listed the top 5 affordable online bachelor's degrees in accounting and WGU's accounting program was listed as #1. Even if you are not pursuing your degree in teaching or accounting, these recognitions lend to credibility. Keep an eye on the WGU Newsroom  as there continues to be numerous articles written reflecting the success of WGU programs and the online, competency based model. Pulling tidbits from these articles can be helpful.
  3. Create a portfolio that contains some of your harder tasks and projects worked on demonstrating what you accomplished across different content areas.
  4. Print out a copy of the letter explaining WGU’s grading policy available on the WGU Career & Professional Development website to address any concerns regarding a lack of GPA. 
  5. Highlight that WGU is a nonprofit university and is not in the business of making money. Tuition rates have not been raised for 7 straight years. 
  6. Several programs have you earn industry certifications in addition to your degree. Emphasize how your education through WGU prepared you to successfully achieve the certifications in addition to your degree.
  7. Remind employers how WGU has partnered with several states to help state residents obtain access to quality education.  
  8. Focus on the self-discipline and transferable skills required to earn your degree such as prioritization, time management, goal attainment, and love of learning.

Western Governors University continues to grow and the quality of its students and graduates becomes more and more evident. Employers are seeking WGU graduates rather than questioning the degree.  For those few skeptical employers that remain, hopefully these tips will help you get your foot in the door and provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate how much you have learned! For additional career guidance and support, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Goal Setting: Open Up Your Imagination

It’s the first of the year and many people take this time to reflect on their life and also to think about how to make this year better than years before. New Year’s resolutions abound as people think about health, relationships and careers. I am among that reflective group and as I have done for many years now, I sat down to reflect on the past year and to set new goals for this year in my journal. My philosophy in journaling is that life is already trying to impose limitations on me, so when I write down my visions and goals, I always take the limits off and just write it out the way I see it in my imagination. Your thoughts and imaginations really do influence the course of your life and my life is a prime example. As I went over all my old journal entries, I was simply amazed at how many of the things that I had written down had come to pass. I can clearly see many of my goals and aspirations from my journals in my life today.

At the WGU Career & Professional Development Center, we work with students daily, helping them with proper methods and techniques for creating the perfect resume or cover letter. I advise students everyday on the best way to do a job search or how to connect to other professionals on LinkedIn. These are all very important career tools, however, I find that sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the right methods and techniques and really miss out on the opportunity to let your imagination have some space. There is definite value in actually taking the time to imagine what type of career you want and then setting a goal to reach for it.  A recent article from Mind Tools confirms that two people can have a similar education, ability and opportunity, yet see very different results in their lives and careers. Why the difference? The difference lies in the fact that successful people take the time to think about what they really want and then they take the initiative and set goals that will equip them with the necessary knowledge and tools needed to achieve that success.

So, here are some simple tips that will hopefully inspire you to let your imagination have some playtime and help you get a little closer to your goals and aspirations!

  1. First, take a note pad (or your computer, if you prefer) and just begin writing down what you’d like your career to look like without consideration for any limitations. This is your brainstorming session so let yourself really get into it
  2. Next, write down 3 or 4 things that would need to happen to make your goal a reality
  3. Find a place to put your goal where you are sure to see it over and over again
  4. Every step toward your goal counts, so take a minute to  congratulate yourself every time you find yourself reading an article, checking out a lead or talking to someone who can give you insight into obtaining your goal
  5. Let your dissatisfaction with your current situation be your fuel and keep you motivated
  6. Get it settled in your heart that not making the goal the first or even the fifth time does not mean you won’t make it
  7. Don’t just write it down once. Keep writing your goal and updating it at least yearly and more often if possible
  8. Watch as your goals begin to materialize with each step!

This is the simple method that I used to see many of my goals come to fruition. I always wanted a career in coaching, so every year I would write down in my journal that I would go to graduate school and ultimately get into coaching. I didn’t know exactly how it would work out because there were so many demands on my life but I wrote it down anyway and reviewed it every single year. Each year when I looked over those goals, I would get inspired and I would read a book or look into my company’s tuition reimbursement plan or talk to someone already working as a coach. Writing the goals down every year and then reading it over always inspired me to take some action, no matter how small. I am happy to share that I have achieved success in both of these areas and you can do the same! Yes, there is time and effort involved- as with anything that is worth doing, but the satisfaction of creating the life and career that you have imagined makes it worth it! Happy New Year!

About the Author
Adenike Makinde is a career specialist for Western Governors University.