Friday, October 28, 2005

The not-by-sight journey

In the few spare minutes I’ve had today between appointments, my mind’s been wandering in a few directions which, after more thought, seem to be related.

One part of me is still relishing an appointment with a student I got to know a few years ago, not long after her near fatal accident which left her with significant brain damage. I could rightly nickname her “Smile Girl” because that’s all I’ve ever seen on her face, despite the pain, set backs and struggles she’s gone through. And she’s put that smile to good use when she’s gone back to the hospital to encourage and mentor other accident victims. “College? Sure!” she tells them. “It just might take a little bit longer.” Who would have thought that Smile Girl herself would now be a senior looking towards graduation?


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/28 at 12:09 PM
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Cover letters: sample introductory paragraphs

Yesterday’s blog on cover letter guidelines—helpful in a general sense, right? But you may still be puzzling over ways to jump into that first paragraph. How do you start when you don’t know what to say?

To answer that question, I’ve included a number of alternative first paragraphs excerpted from
Cover Letter Magic, hopefully enough to get you started.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/28 at 10:35 AM
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cover letter tips

Though most of my appointments of late have been freshmen and sophomores seeking a suitable major, walk in traffic has been more concerned with the job search. And what stumps most people is the process of writing a cover letter.

Most cover letters follow a 3-4 paragraph format, but there are ways to make sure those brief paragraphs flow with fascinating text.

Cover Letter Magic, one of my favorites on the topic, lists the following Top 5 Cover Letter Writing Tips especially for new grads:


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/26 at 08:10 AM
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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

‘60’s flashback

What to do after graduation.  A topic I’ve covered a few times in the past. But today’s New York Times nails what I’ve observed in my office as well, grads seeking a Fanciful Detour before the real career begins.

The author profiles a few grads working at what looks like non-traditional post-grad jobs, everything from driving a bus across country to leading tour groups to applying to the Peace Corps. The kind of thing people in the 60’s did under the rubric of expanding our life experience.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/25 at 11:58 AM
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Friday, October 21, 2005

Another resource for choosing a major

I met with a student today who was shying away from a major she loves because she didn’t think it could lead to any careers in the future. Yes, what does one do with a philosophy major?

Well, there’s a link on our Career Development web site just chock full of that sort of information.  In fact, most students react with that eye brow raising look of surprise when we visit it together.

So, check it out. And, if you’re a student here, be sure to follow up with a visit to your local career counselor so that we can develop a plan that’s right for you.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/21 at 01:18 PM
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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Upper class-person advice on first year stress

Comment of the day today comes from ChiChi, a female student who’s weathered the academic storms for a few years now. Here’s her advice worth reading:

... I just want to tell the freshmen and sophomores (especially those who feel like they have it all planned out, or that they need to), it is OK to not know what the next semester is going to look like. Some people are probably freaking out cos they started the semester thinking, ďXYZ is going to be my major, and I am going to do ABC with it and become a successful EFGĒ, but now that they are taking the classes required for that major, they have realized that they donít really like it as much as they thought they would.

Well, donít get all stressed about it. Honestly, I will tell you (and this is out of my own personal experience), you may not be 100% sure about what you want to major in until your junior year. My AER has changed about 5 times up until now. I am not saying slack off and donít decide what you are going to do with your life, but donít freak out if you donít. It will all work out eventually.

As always, I’d love to hear from others who have changed their majors. If you’re new to this process, just click on the comments link to add your thoughts.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/20 at 12:59 PM
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Freshmen advice

It doesn’t take an astute observer to notice increased stress on everyone’s faces. A typical reply to the generic “how’re you doing?” invariably runs something like…“great but really busy.”

Given that context, is it any wonder that I’m seeing so many freshmen with worried expressions on their faces? Add up their composite stressors—leaving home, adjusting to a room mate, coping with loads of homework, fitting in a social life, adding a job, juggling relationship issues—and it’s a wonder that there are still so many smiles.

So today’s blog is really along the lines of “auntie” advice. To any and every freshman reading this….get through your first semester and, as much as possible, postpone the big major-choosing and life-long-career decisions for another semester at least. Unless you’re decisions revolve around pre-professional programs with their more restricted course selections, give yourself some time to explore the plethora of core courses. What you love and what you hate within those offerings will be part of the open and closed doors along the way.

So, listen to your Aunt Bonnie and take 10 minutes today to head outside, let the wind blow through your hair, smell the fall in the air and catch a glimpse of the turning leaves on the trees. Catch the glory of the Lord in the moment.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/19 at 08:29 AM
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Friday, October 14, 2005

Tips on working a job fair—to the max

The first time I walked through an in-progress job fair was the spring before I started my job as a career counselor. The event was held right here on campus and I was employed, so there was no reason for my fright & flight response. What was I afraid of? A room full of strangers? Not knowing what to say? Looking foolish? Probably. Anyway, I just about ran out of the room…in a professional sort of way, of course.

I later found out that I’m not the only participant with the jitters. Which is why I’m recommending this great web site——to help stave off some of the anxiety these events can produce. It took a bit of exploring but I finally found their golden resources on what to do while at the job fair.

And here’s one more tip I commonly pass along. As you enter the room, look for the lone and lonely booth. The one where the recruiter is standing all by him/herself and looking longingly at the other booths with long lines. That’s the place to start. Break the conversational ice with someone who’ll be genuinely glad you stopped by. Make their day and build your confidence at the same time.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/14 at 08:42 AM
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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Treasure hunting at your local job fair

Tis the season. Yes, even news paper columnists are commenting premature retail Christmas ornaments lining store isles.

But the season I’m thinking of is the annual round of college job fairs. Here at Calvin we run ours cooperatively with a consortium of colleges and universities, drawing a sizable crowd of employers.

So you may be thinking…what’s the deal with the treasure hunt subject line?


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/13 at 08:16 AM
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Friday, October 07, 2005

The internet and your job search

Blogs are subjective. There’s no way to get around that fact. But sometimes they’re more obviously and blatantly biased, as you’ll find with today’s topic. I have OPINIONS on doing an internet job search.

On the positive side, the internet offers speed and possibilities. At your fingertips. Personally, I love it. It’s the first place I go to research most things.

And, on the good side, I actually know people who’ve gotten jobs, good enough to actually be referred to as professional positions, and they found them on the internet. E.g. just as I was about to trash a major job posting board, my very own nephew, who limited his search to that self same job board and, contrary to my advice, used nothing else in his job search, found a job through that service. Well, shut my mouth. I tempered my critical remarks after that, at least for a while.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/07 at 09:50 AM
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Moving into new territory: differentiating resume writing from academic prose

New ground indeed. Don’t mean to make the title sound scary for risk-adverse people but, for seniors, moving to “resume style” takes a bit of getting used to. The same style which has guaranteed success with your profs will prove to be a turn off with employers.

So, here are some tips to earn employer commendations in the best form possible, namely an interview:


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/05 at 09:44 AM
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Monday, October 03, 2005

Freshman advice from a sophomore who survived the the first year

If you’ve been reading any of my blog entries, you’ll know that most of my good ideas come from the people I meet. Life would be boring without the constant stream of interesting people who cross my door.

So, I decided today to ask my friend/student worker/consultant-on-real-student-life for ideas on today’s blog. She promptly came up with a list of student, especially freshmen, related comments. Some of them fun and some serious.

Here are Jamie’s Top Four Tips: (Or “What’s Good Enough to Sound Like it Came from
a Parent but is Straight from a Student’s Mouth”)


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 10/03 at 09:53 AM
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