Thursday, March 02, 2006

Marketing yourself…yuck

I realize that today’s title flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Current job search literature is replete with admonitions to market and brand yourself, the end result being a coherent product ready for employers to pick off the shelf, as it were.

Personally, however, I find the idea mildly repugnant. And a number of Calvin students seem to agree. Modesty rules, putting us at a seeming disadvantage in job search situations.

But, there’s nothing wrong with communicating who you are, right? I mean, how else will an employer know who they’re hiring?

So, in lieu of marketing yourself, may I suggest the following strategy:


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 03/02 at 01:30 PM
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Monday, February 13, 2006

Hiring for attitude….

I visited a place yesterday where precision counts. Well, okay, I was just getting a haircut but the opening line still applies, right? I mean, who wants a bad haircut. The point is that during our extended one-way conversation (stylist as speaker and me as listener), she went on to talk about who gets hired now days and why. To quote, “We hire for attitude. Technique and skills we can teach but not attitude.”

Attitude in that setting means bending over backwards, doing more than what’s expected. And smiling graciously in the process.

So those summer and part time job experiences? Great forays into the Land of the Great Attitude, where you can perfect your approach and collect stories along the way to demonstrate your successes.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 02/13 at 02:10 PM
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Friday, February 10, 2006

MySpace…not just for kids

Looks there are plenty of people finding fascinating material on MySpace this week. That would include local high school administrators who found pics of their students drinking at a weekend party. And there’s no closure yet as some students and parents alike refuse to accept the two week extra-curricular suspension penalty. We’ll see whether or not the issue ends up in court but the issue leaves a divided student body and another illustration of unanticipated MySpace consequences.

A recent issue of Money magazine (February 2006) advises parents to “counsel teens and even post college kids to be aware of the potential long-term consequences…” (Talkin’ ‘bout MySpace Generation, p. 27). But 2 minutes and a very cursory glance at MySpace contributors makes it plain that post college kids aren’t the only ones who need advice. How about 27 year olds who admit that they are the type of person who will wait in the car to drive you away after you, the perpetrator, commit a nasty prank?  Hmmmm. And the employment sector for this person would be…..?

Evidently, removing injurious information may not be enough, as Money mag goes on to talk about search engines, such as, designed to cull information assumed to be deleted from the the web.

Best course of action, my 27 year old “friend”, is to change your profile, edit your entry and alter your on-line persona. You’ve got a larger audience than happy stud muffins reading about your meant-to-be-humorous, but nonetheless deviant, predilections.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 02/10 at 02:29 PM
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Monday, January 23, 2006

New Years, Aunt Bonnie style….

With all the schedule-destroying intrusions which have happened this past month, my actual Aunt Bonnie’s New Year’s celebration day this year is going to occur on Feb. 1. Yup. The New Years resolutions, fresh starts. All that stuff begins on my very own, personally declared “new year.”

I’ve been known to do this sort of thing in the past. Move a scheduled date to one which works better. So, for instance, if my birthday comes on a Monday, or some other “dull” day, I might move it to a Friday for that year. Given that my birthday falls on Sept. 11, I had a few years where I celebrated on every good day for a whole month.

Okay, so where’s this heading??? It’s actually more than sheer babble, as it has job search implications as well.

If you’re one of those moderately to very frustrated job searchers, someone whose job search is lasting way longer than planned, why not look at the calendar and choose a new DAY ONE? Make it at least a week away to allow yourself time to reassess what you’ve been doing and why you’ve not achieved results (the most common cause being too much time spent on Internet job boards).  Revise your plan and re-launch. Fresh-spirited and enthused.

So Happy New Years…on whichever day you choose.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 01/23 at 04:18 PM
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Thursday, December 08, 2005


There’s a little plaque which graces my wall. It’s rather crude and obviously made by hand.  But I picked it up from a street vendor a number of years ago because of the saying, “Do your homework and know your facts. But remember, it’s passion that persuades.”

I’ve posted a number of blogs over the last few months on choosing a major and career decision making but not much about passion, most likely because there’s a part of me that thinks passion, in the sense of “do what you totally love”, is over rated. There are few people indeed who remain passionate about their careers. Reality sets in sooner or later. Hopefully, what they do day to day will hold a core of meaningful activity amidst the minutia of seemingly irrelevant details.

But when you connect passion—defined here as what keeps you up at night; what you long to see righted, fixed or restored; or, more positively perhaps, what brings you joy—with life calling, the two concepts help set life direction which transcends specific jobs or careers. 


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 12/08 at 10:47 AM
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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Talking turkey at Christmas time….or, some thoughts for parents

So, did “the topic” come up over Thanksgiving break? If you have an underclassman in the family, the question might have run something like this: so, have you decided on a major yet? Taken any courses which look interesting and might lead to something? For parents of seniors, the tactful, roundabout approach may have been abandoned for something more direct like—so, what are you planning on doing after gradutation?

In case your questions ended in a very short conversation, Johnson and Schelhas-Miller in their recent book, Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money The Essential Parenting Guide to the College Years, include some very helpful advice.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 12/01 at 01:21 PM
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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What you don’t need to know first

I was talking with a very bright sophomore this morning about choosing a major. With a next- semester-choosing-a-major-deadline looming, he was still not sure about what to go. When I suggested he come in to talk it over, his reply was that he couldn’t do that because he couldn’t come in with any ideas.

Actually, Not/Nada/Nope. You don’t need to come in with ideas. That’s where we, the career counselors, come in. We’re here to listen and talk things over, to look for and discover together your strengths. So, all you who are waiting until things clear up, wait no more. Just show up. We’ll do the figuring out part together.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 11/29 at 10:42 AM
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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Key liberal arts skill hits media coverage

Key Liberal Arts Skill Rates Major Media Coverage. Well, that’s not exactly the intended point of today’s NY Times article on gaming design and academia but it certainly illustrates a crucial point, namely how liberal arts skills build fascile minds, ready to meet present and future challenges over a wide spectrum of issues. Of particular interest to today’s blog—critical thinking skills.

Note the following quote by Bob Kerrey, better known as the former Nebraska senator, who now finds himself in the role of academic president:
“...if you just look at the surface of people playing games, you are missing the point, which is that games are all about managing and manipulating information,” Mr. Kerrey said. “A lot of students that come out of this program may not go to work for Electronic Arts. They may go to Wall Street. Because to me, there is no significant difference - except for clothing preference - between people who are making games and people who are manipulating huge database systems to try to figure out where the markets are headed. It’s largely the same skill set, the critical thinking. Games are becoming a major part of our lives, and there is actually good news in that.”

There you have it. Critical thinking skills. Add that to the rest of what’s mastered at Calvin and you end up with a skill set for life.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 11/22 at 04:39 PM
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Friday, November 04, 2005

Crucial conversations

Whether it’s an intimate conversation at home or high stakes discussion at work, everyone eventually needs a bit of advice on handling heated conversations. And that’s what I came across this week in my search for conflict management material, a nifty little web site on
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.

You can, of course, purchase the book through this site. But they also offer free material, stuff to launch your self assessment boat as you explore your (conversational) Style Under Stress or fill in a second questionaire designed to help determine how well your family, team, and organization handle crucial confrontations.

In summary, let me close with one of the following maxims. Or rather you can close with the phrase of your own choosing (hey, it’s Friday afternoon when one cannot expect profundity or maybe even lucidity):
—a stitch in time saves nine
—to be forewarned is to be forearmed
—bad choice makers end up as wrong road takers (a rather homey aphorism I just made up upon exiting today’s blog).
Happy weekend!

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 11/04 at 03:09 PM
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Employer comment on choosing a major….

With input too lengthy for the comment section, a local employer emailed me directly with her perspective on choosing a major. Read on for her sage advice….


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 11/03 at 04:26 PM
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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Can career counselors wave magic wands?

Envision the following scenario:
Person X wakes up full of hope. While brushing their teeth, an internal dialogue goes something like this….“ah, today’s my appointment with that career counselor. Finally. It took me three weeks to get in. But by the end of the day I’ll know (choose one) a) what I should major in
b) which career I should choose c) where there’s a decent job opening.” That kind of internal monolgue would bring a smile to anyone’s face, right?

As much as I would like to, however, I cannot do any of the above. I would love to know which major/career is perfect for every person and have a pocket full of job openings waiting to be filled. But I don’t. And sometimes people leave without the 100% clarity on the next step they were wishing for.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 11/02 at 09:10 AM
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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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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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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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