Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What’s it like to be a….Tax Preparer?

My job title is:
Enrolled Agent-Enrolled to practice before the IRS. The IRS gives two days of exams to certify a tax preparer knows the tax laws well enough to appear for clients before the Internal Revenue Service on the same basis as Attorneys.  I also have a Masters in Tax from Golden Gate University, a business school in San Francisco.

My actual position is:
Tax Consultant, Tax Preparer

What does a normal day look like?
I meet with clients who want tax returns prepared and consult with clients who have tax issues.  I organize the tax information that clients bring me according to tax accounting rules, prepare tax returns, give tax advice and contact the state and federal taxing authorities on my client’s behalf.

 

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Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 08/12 at 02:53 PM
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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What’s it like to be a…Pre-school Teacher?

My job title is:  Pre-school Teacher
My actual position is :
Wiper of noses, tie-er of shoes, singer/dancer/entertainer, tour guide through the wonderful world of new experiences. 
 
What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
On a normal day, I get to school about an hour before the kids arrive and prepare the day’s activities.  This might mean filling the sensory table with sand or rice or water, laying out books that relate to the week’s theme, getting out supplies for a science experiment, setting up materials for the rotating group stations, cutting out pieces for crafts, etc.  This time is also spent talking with the other teachers on my team about any concerns or noteworthy items we have about individual students.  Then the kids arrive and we spend a few minutes looking at books together until everyone gets there.  Next we have circle time (calendar, weather, prayer time, letter of the week).  After this comes a bathroom stop, followed by snack.  Following that, we split up into our rotating groups; and the kids go around to three stations, each manned by one of the team teachers - the reading room, the science/creative center, and the math/music/manipulatives center.  Each center has a specific learning activity each day that relates to the theme and/or letter of the week. An “educational play” type of activity to fill the rest of the time at that center.  After these rotations are complete, we have large motor play time either outside on the playground or inside on the play equipment (dependent on weather). Then the kids go home.  This sequence is repeated for the afternoon class.  After the kids go home, I spend a little while planning lessons and preparing materials for upcoming days or weeks.


During most of the year this schedule is pretty consistent.  In the weeks just prior to parent-teacher conferences, we spend a lot more time observing kids’ skills on specific activities so we can report their progress to their parents.  In the week just before the Thanksgiving, Christmas, or spring program, we spend quite a bit of time preparing and practicing for the program.


I’ve only taught preschool for one year, so I haven’t seen it change at all yet!

 

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Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 08/05 at 10:46 AM
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What’s it like to be a….News Reporter?

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
I go to work at 7:00 a.m, write stories, conduct interviews (over the phone in the morning), help with designing pages (i.e. organizing stories on page using inDesign, write headlines and place photos), and proof printouts before 10:45 a.m. deadline. Then plan for future stories, and interviews in the afternoon and cover meetings at night. So basically writing in the morning and reporting in the afternoon.

But it’s not very consistent because if a story comes up, I have to write it not matter when it is. So if a story comes up before I’m planning on going home, I have to stay.

With more experience has come more responsibility. Started with a county beat and then had a city beat added; started with 20 stories a month and now average 30.

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Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/29 at 10:22 AM
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What’s it like to be an….Interior Design Assistant?

My job title is: Interior Design Assistant at a small but expanding design agency


What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
A Normal Day:  I never know what to expect on a daily basis. I work mostly with designers who need my assistance for a number of reasons.  Some of the assistance I provide includes: searching for a fabric, piece of furniture, accessory, light fixture, tile, etc… that fits into a given design; making deliveries to or picking up items from clients’ homes, vendors or retail stores like Pottery Barn.  Attending every rep meeting with sales representatives from many vendors. For example, each fabric line we carry has a rep and they usually come in a few times a year to update our library and introduce us to new products. (Sometimes they even take us out to dinner!) I also take care of our company’s huge library of design materials- each item has a specific home in our library, so I make sure things are where they belong.

My job is fairly consistent throughout the year.  It does get busier during the holidays when we are shopping for client gifts, wrapping and decorating.  I have been at my job for more than a year. It keeps getting busier and I have much more responsibility now. 

 

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Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/23 at 09:05 AM
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What’s it like to be a ...Senior Architect?

I don’t know about you but when I think about the field of architecture, I think grand buildings, creative structures, post-modern lines. But patience? That’s not a quality I normally associate with the profession. Turns out, that’s an essential. Read on for a fascinating peak into the life of an architect.

My job title is: Senior Architect (very recently retired)

My actual position is (if this differs from job title):
Job responsibilities included project management and oversight. I was responsible for leading and scheduling a group of employees and for reviewing their work. Generally, the Project Manager is responsible for a project’s client contact, schedule and budget.

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
Generally the work day is fairly consistent, averaging 8 to 10 hours per day. I think the biggest change over the last few years is that project schedules have been compressed, primarily due to the use of the computer and clients’ needs to get immediate returns on their investments.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?

In the architectural field, you are required to serve a period of internship prior to being able to take an exam for licensing. Even after licensing, a period of learning continues. One intermediate step before becoming a project manager is to be a Job Captain or Project Architect, who is responsible for project design and coordination with other design disciplines involved and works with the Project Manager.

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Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/16 at 12:34 PM
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Monday, July 07, 2008

What’s it like to be a .....Curator of Archives?

Check out the following for a glimpse into a curator’s world, where multi-tasking and creative thinking are essential survival tools:

Q. What does your typical day look like?
A.Typically I spend the first hour of the day answering email, which comes from around the world; usually inquiring about resources available in our collections. 
○ Then I move on to specific projects underway, which can range from reviewing finding aids for processed collections, to producing reports (including statistical summaries) of date we collect   for the college, the seminary, or the denomination (we serve as the archives for all three). 
○Probably ten percent of my time every week is spent in some sort of committee related function. 
○ Throughout the day I am on-call for researchers who come in and have questions about the collections – from genealogists to post-doctoral scholars.
○ I determine which collections to acquire and then spend time working on acquiring those collections. This requires a sense of what data is or may become of interest to the wide range of   researchers that will visit our collection.
○ I work on the various administrative functions (budget, personnel, etc.) necessary to run the department.
○I spend time researching and doing some writing on the history of the three member institutions (denomination, college, seminary), some of this writing is intended for publication.

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Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/07 at 11:09 AM
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Friday, July 04, 2008

What’s it like to be a…Marketing Specialist?

Marketing Specialist at a multi-national footwear company:

A typical day for me starts with checking my email.  Usually there are orders to be filled for the sales people out on the road or questions from the creative department on the projects that we are working on.  Throughout the day I do the majority of my work on the computer.  I use Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Publisher to work on catalogs and buyers guides, filling orders, coming up with and proofing ads, etc. 

This is usually pretty consistent throughout the year.  My focus changes a little bit depending on if we are working on a new line of shoes or not.  A new line of shoes means a new catalog and that makes things a little busier.  Also, after a new line comes out the sales people are making more visits to accounts so usually requests for orders are more frequent. 

I started my career path working in shoe sales, but I also interned on Capitol Hill, worked as an administrative assistant, and managed a retail clothing boutique. 
I came to the company where I am at now because a friend of mine worked here.  I was looking for a new job and she told me that I could forward my resume to her boss.  I came in to meet with him for an informational meeting.  When a position opened up, they thought of me for the job and, after interviewing, I was offered my position.

In terms of educational background, I received a BA in business and political science from Calvin.  I feel that my education, combined with my work experience is very beneficial in my position.  I gained confidence in my writing and presentation skills while an intern.  I learned leadership and problem solving while working in retail and I learned multitasking and office skills while working as an administrative assistant.  I feel that all of those skills make someone in my position successful.

One of the greatest rewards of this position is being able to see a finished product after hard work.  Completing catalogs or seeing the final version of an ad is exciting.  A good day is one that is busy with all different kinds of work.

The biggest trend/change I see in the future is the shift towards technology.  In the next 5-10 years it will be essential for people to have a good understanding of computers and technology because that is where we are headed.

For further information on marketing careers, check out American Marketing Association‘s Career Management/Ask the Expert link.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/04 at 09:47 AM
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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What’s it like to be a ____? (series intro)

Freshmen ask. Seniors ask. Even grads arrive in my office with variations on the same question. Sometimes even wistfully, they ask something to this effect, “I’d like to know where to go with my major/gifts/talents, but how do I find out what’s out there?”

Good question. How do you know where to head if you don’t know what the destination will look like? What’s it like to be a doctor, lawyer, or social worker? Or going beyond the obvious, what’s it like to be a child life specialist, a credit analyst, an archivist? A marketing specialist or actuary? What do these people do every day and how do you know if it will a good fit for you in particular? 

Of course, there’s always the web. One can start researching careers at sites like Career Browser or the gold standard of them all, O*Net. Great sites. Helpful information but, at best, still generic. Not personalized. Not necessarily what you have been gifted to do.

What I typically suggest is that people follow up with their own informational interviews, i.e. that they spend time with a professional who can pass along rubber-meets-the-road type of advice. Stuff you can’t get from books.

So to help students in that fact finding endeavor, I have decided to put on my own research cap and run a series of blog entries straight from the mouths of professionals in the field. It’s all up and coming under the title of “What’s it like to be a ______?” So check out the forthcoming stories or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you’re interested in letting students know what you do every day.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/01 at 02:26 PM
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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Networking 101

What the rest of the country is just beginning to experience has been a way of life for us living in Michigan. Signs of a weakening economy are so ever present that we’re sometimes past the point of noticing. We’ve been driving—or with the increased price of gas, maybe biking—past evidence of a shrinking economy for nigh onto many months.
Which led me to think that it just might be time for some good news in the form of my Person of the Week, alias Theo. Theo’s got one more year of school left, his 5th year, and he admittedly started looking for internships very late this year. What he’s got going for him, however, is a hefty load of sheer persistence and a dash of flexibility (full time/part time/unpaid with part time paid elsewhere—you name it). That plus the ability to network with about everyone he knows.
So, what does that networking look like? In this case, it takes place at the local gym where Theo is well known and well liked. In between bench presses or during water breaks he approaches senior sweaty buffs with a simple question about internship options within their work place or possible referrals. And he’s getting a number of sympathetic and supportive responses, as most of these people would love to have a hard working guy such as Theo around. Nothing is clinched yet but it’s looking pretty optimistic.
What Theo does naturally may seem more of a stretch to others. But networking is a skill which anyone can master. Here are two easy ways to get started:
• First, take a fresh look at your environment. Who do you come into contact with as you work, worship or play? Theo isn’t doing anything different by heading to the gym; he just mined that normal, everyday routine for possibilities.
• Think about what you have to offer an employer and include some of those skills in your conversations, making use of lead in’s when talking about yourself such as the following: adept at, experienced with, comfortable with, trained in, or skilled at.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 06/04 at 02:44 PM
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Buzz About Strengths

If you haven’t heard about Strengths, i.e. naturally occurring abilities resulting in consistent excellence in a given activity, the concept is soon to be part and parcel of every water cooler discussion. As popularized in widely circulated books such as Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham, strengths talk has infiltrated selected college campuses and and become part of corporate culture as well. It’s not uncommon for someone to list their top five strengths on their resume, figuring that “those who know, know”.  Marcus Buckingham himself is scheduled to appear on Oprah this week and reveal his secret to a better life, a better you.

There’s a lot to be said for the theory. In brief, the Strengths assessments enable an individual to discover their top five strengths out of a list of thirty four possibilities. Time and energy then can be devoted to developing those strengths rather than endlessly trying to shore up weaknesses, an endeavor which at best leads to mediocrity.

For some, personal strengths discovery has been incredibly encouraging, providing language to express what may have only been intuited on a gut level. For others, I’ve noticed a more tepid response. But in those cases, little has been done beyond reading through the results in a cursory sort of way.

Interested? If you’re a current student at Calvin, you can find out more about Strengths Finder by emailing Aunt Bonnie. Or call the Career Development Office and ask for Karen.

All the best from Aunt Bonnie, aka Ideation/Strategic/Input/Adaptability/Empathy

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/16 at 01:55 PM
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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How to communicate strengths to your boss

The buzz is all about using Strengths at work. So much so that employees sometimes get confused.
Check out the following readers question.

Dear Aunt Bonnie-
Discovering my personal strengths made me pretty excited, especially about using them at work. But when I started sharing my discoveries with my co-workers, their response was to basically say that I need to forget about my strengths and just do my job. After all, that’s what I’m getting paid to do.
And now I’m confused. I was going to talk to my boss about my strengths and opportunities to use them in the office. But what if he reacts the same way?
Signed, Achiever/Command/Developer/Discipline/Maximizer

Dear A/C/D/D/M-
Though it’s unfortunate that everyone at work didn’t share your enthusiasm over Strengths, approaching your boss might still be a good idea. Depending on how you approach him. Anything smacking of entitlement—like, these are my strengths and I don’t want to do anything that would not make use of them—will not go over. Every single position on the face of this earth includes interesting as well as uninteresting tasks which simply need to be completed.

If, however, you approach your boss using wording which helps him understand how you can be most productive in reaching office goals, he/she might be more receptive. The key is to make this a conversation rather than ultimatum.

There’s a great book out, Lifescripts by Stephan Pollan and Mark Levine. Though it won’t cover your Strengths discussion specifically, it does provide a helpful grid for pre-planning conversations such as this.

All the best in using your strengths!
Aunt Bonnie

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/02 at 04:13 PM
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Getting back in gear…

Re-starting a blog is just like any other lapsed activity. One has to exert a significant amount of energy to kick start before momentum takes over. Take exercise, for example. Due to a lengthy post-surgery recovery last summer, I found myself slouching rather than standing, panting rather than breathing and discouraged rather than hopeful. The way back to functional fitness looked like the proverbial mountain. But with a little help from my trainer-friends at the local health club and a lot of persistence, I’m back to where I was a year ago—or almost.

So too with the job search. Seniors arrive on my (office) door step in various stages of preparedness, from those just getting started to those in need of an encouraging word after months of seemingly fruitless searching. The point is, they come. One at a time. Scared or enthused.

If you find yourself with your head in the sand, ignoring all that awaits after graduation, start the first step by showing up. Because despite the dismal prognosis filling even the most positive of publications, people are still uncovering opportunities, finding jobs and moving on.

To quote The Source: as your day, so shall your strength be.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/02 at 02:41 PM
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Friday, September 28, 2007

Job Fairs: Looking Good on Less

You don’t need big bucks to avoid looking like a job fair horror. It’s unfortunate, but these are events where first impressions count—a lot. Not beauty necessarily. But certainly Neat and Tidy.

While writing this, job fair horrors from the past float through my mind. Rumpled and crumbled clothes. Wild and wind blown hair. Random resumes sticking out at odd angles. Nothing, however, that could not be fixed with an iron, a comb and a folder. You get the point. Finesse the small things for a put together look. Neat and Tidy opens doors.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 09/28 at 10:19 AM
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Job Fairs 101

October 10. Big crowds. Meet and greet. Schmooze. Introduce yourself. Gulp. It’s enough to make the most intrepid extrovert freeze.

So here’s a tip on breaking the ice at job fairs, especially helpful if you’re a new-bie.

Upon entering, take a deep breath and pause long enough to survey the room. Invariably, there are a few lonely recruiters. Tables with no student lines where recruiters sit or stand in lonely and sometimes bored attendance. Start there. Whether or not you’re interested in that company is not the point. The point is breaking the ice and establishing a toe hold in a sea of new faces. And, chances are, that lonely recruiter will welcome the chance to talk with someone. Who knows, you might learn something new along the way.

See you at Careerfest. Wednesday, October 10 from 2:00-6:00 at the DeVos Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 09/28 at 10:02 AM
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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Major Selection: a long distance view

I started the morning with a question for my Brain Trust, a group of professionals I see on a regular basis. What career regrets do you have? A number of them said that they were doing exactly what they had always wanted to. One always wanted to be a nurse and that’s exactly what she’s currently doing. Another said she would be doing something else if only she could make enough money doing it—which resulted in a sizable tangential discussion of exactly what that other non-lucrative job would look like.

Yet another friend came up with the follow gem. She said that she wished she had not given up so easily on her college dream. It seems that during the summer following her junior year, she took a few pre-law classes at Stanford. One of them, a course on argumentation, turned out to be a beast, leaving her with the impression that law consisted entirely of adversarial encounters within a court room. As she later discovered, the legal field is extremely broad and filled with multiple options for using a JD degree. By then she was well on the way to another less satisfying direction.

So for all of you undergrads hitting a few bumps in the road, talk with someone who knows your dream job well before you give up its pursuit.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 09/16 at 04:15 PM
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