Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Job Search Traps: What To Do With a History Major

I find this particular mental trap frequently expressed by recent graduates. It runs something like this: “I majored in chemistry so should find a job in the science field.” Well, that may be true—but then again, maybe not. If that were always the case, what would those with more esoteric majors such as philosophy do?

To set yourself free from the Major=Job trap, I would suggest getting some insightful feedback on what others see as your abilities.

By way of illustration, consider Toby (name disguised), a guy with personality plus. He enters a room and the room comes alive. Everyone knows he’s there; and if you were to ask his friends about his skills, the word charisma would come up more than once. So what does Toby choose to major in? Public relations? Psychology? Business? No. He chose history. So Toby upon graduation found himself puzzling about what to do with that history major. “Hmmmmm,” he often mumbled. “Exactly what was I thinking when I chose THIS major? And Now what am I going to do?”

Fortunately for Toby, he listened to positive feedback from others—career counselors included—and landed a job in sales where his personal charisma is valued as an asset.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 09/05 at 05:01 PM
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thoughts for Parents from the Director

Glenn Triezenberg, Director of Career Development, brings years of experience in the field to his annual talks to parents of in-coming freshmen. With wit and warmth, he connects with parents on a number of levels. In case you missed that talk, here’s what he had to say:

Four points which parents need to know now:
1) It’s normal for freshmen not to know what their major is and future career will be.
2) It’s normal for students to switch ideas on major and career as they grow and mature. These are developmentally linked and experientially based changes.  What’s a parent to do in the meantime? Be patient while they develop and while God develops his will in their lives.
3) It’s normal for parents, seeing the struggle, to want to provide answers. But sometimes open ended questions prove to be more effective. Questions such as: what are you learning; what are you liking; how are you growing; what are you involved in (encouraging balance in their life style). And finally, are you doing your job? Meaning the job of being a good and faithful student.
4) It’s normal for parents to encourage students to see a career counselor within the first year of college (took a few editorial liberties with this tip to retain consistency…though not necessarily Normal, this idea is Highly Suggested). Why? Because career counselors want to get to know students as persons, find out where they are developmentally, establish a relationship and help them discover God’s will for their lives as well as how they can best spend their time and talents.

For a full list of Career Development Services, visit http://www.calvin.edu/admin/career/handouts/

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/19 at 03:53 PM
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Choosing a Major—Initial Thoughts

In all my summers as a career counselor, this one stands out for a single reason—the uptick in the number of incoming freshmen I’m seeing.

I find their initiative impressive. Meeting with a career counselor early on in their college career makes a good deal of sense on a number of levels. In addition to getting some initial questions answered, they have also begun a relationship which will grow over the next 4 years. When I meet with seniors I’ve known since freshman year, I’m well acquainted with them historically. They are comfortable, relaxed and we can continue our conversation where we left off.

But in some senses, I am dismayed by the pressure and stress the freshmen exhibit. Pressure and resulting stress over the question of choosing a major, a perfect major to set them up for career and life success. That’s a heavy load to carry since most college freshmen are just beginning to discover who they are, one of the essential building blocks of good career decision making. Values, priorities, dreams, gifts, talents, interests, and most importantly, calling—all of these are in process and subject to re-evaluation throughout life. And most importantly during that freshman year.

So what do I really want to say to the freshmen on the verge of tears over the ‘major’ question? Unless someone is considering a pre-professional program with prescribed coursework, my advice is to just relax. Give yourself time, a year at minimum, to explore. Try out dorm activities, campus clubs, service-learning opportunities, on-campus jobs and later, off-campus programs. Exploring on the outset will go a long way in preventing comments like this from seniors: “If I had to choose a major all over again, it would be a lot different from the one I chose as a freshman.”

 

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/19 at 02:28 PM
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Aunt Bonnie Returns

One would think that a near-year with no postings would be enough of a break. And what has prompted this sudden return?  Perhaps the fact that there are just too many great un-told stories floating around. Some of them untold for legitimate and embarrassing reasons—which will become obvious in the soon to be told Story of the Protruding Thong. But there are other stories which surface on a daily basis as people wrestle with everything from weighty to not-so-weighty issues. For instance, the question “What should I major in?” feels like a huge, life impacting and stress-provoking question for freshmen, closely tied to worry about making an irreversible decison. And “What do I do now that I’m out of college?” is often code for “Who am I now that my friends have moved on and I no longer have the security of a student identity or even a (good) job?” These are just two areas where people grace me with an opportunity to share in their story—its stresses, struggles and ultimate joys.

So Aunt Bonnie is back. To observe, to record and to pass along.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/11 at 02:09 PM
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Friday, September 08, 2006

Is the degree worth it?

Most freshmen are still on their early college honeymoon. Still meeting new people, making new friends, mastering what seems to be at first glance a manageable homework load. But I suspect that by week five, the bubble will burst.  Bright-eyed students will soon gain the glassy glare of the sleep deprived. And in moments of weakness, some may begin to wonder if all the work—academic blood, sweat and tears—is worth it. I mean, the lure of a regular pay check and easier life style may be hard to resist.

For those future moments of weakness, print out and tape to your cell phone the following:

YES YES YES it is and will be more than worth the effort to start and complete the task.

The degree is worth every sleepless night, every missed social opportunity, every day of student poverty. And it’s worth it for more than strictly personal reasons, of which there are admittedly many (more on that in the coming days).

Yesterday’s New York Times ran an article—Report Finds U.S. Students Lagging in Finishing College—which should sound an alarm bell for every person in Congress. We can’t keep up as a nation without an educated work force. Seems obvious but evidently not obvious for a national outcry.

That’s probably further than I want to go in this first blog after my extended blog-drought. And it’s on a global scale which few of us can impact. At least today.

So back to my, at this point, happy freshmen. When week five hits, keep the goal in mind and persevere. Listen to your Aunt Bonnie. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 09/08 at 09:36 AM
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Friday, April 28, 2006

Readers Question: Should I go to law school?

Dear Aunt Bonnie-
I’m a junior who’s finally chosen a major. After considering a number of them, including education and social work, I finally chose English because I love to write. I also want to help people, as you can see from the majors I considered but did not choose. It seems like my best choice might be law. Then I can write and help people at the same time. What do you think about my idea?
James

READ MORE...

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/28 at 09:19 AM
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Friday, April 21, 2006

Take the quiz before you get the box

Some of my blog titles have admitedly been a bit obscure. So much so that sometimes I find myself reading a list of previous titles and wondering what I managed to stuff into the blog body.

So let me be right up front about this one. The quiz refers to what’s to follow, namely a quiz on how well you’re doing at your current job. Pass it and you might not receive “the box”, i.e. the one you pack with your personal belongings just before security or someone less scary escorts you out the door. For good. Often as not, that lonely walk happens on a Friday afternoon. So, check out the quiz instead.

(Hint: true or false answers work the best.)

 

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Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/21 at 12:52 PM
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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Resume Objectives—real life examples

I’m looking at a veritable tower of resumes—all real life samples from different colleges and universities—so my desk resembles that of an employer overwhelmed with choices. Lots of competition for perhaps one or two job openings. So since I’ve got this pile of gold here, I thought I’d pass along a number of objectives and let you draw your own conclusions about candidate potential.

Note: Though these objectives are all directed towards education, they highlight typical resume objective foibles.

With no further ado, then, check out the following:

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Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/20 at 02:19 PM
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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Job Fair Insights: From the mouth of a recruiter

Put yourself in this person’s place. You’re a recruiter for a coveted school district knowing that it will take the person at the end of the line 90 minutes to reach first place. By the end of the day, you will have collected 400 resumes for two open positions. How do you possibly sort through the crowd?

Well, a lunch time conversation did much to demystify the process. According to one recruiter, candidates are rated on three criteria.

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Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/13 at 12:59 PM
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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Random questions about resumes

With the job search ramping up for many seniors, I’m getting a lot of scattered and random questions about resumes, questions about small and subtle details, the sum of which ends up being greater than the individual parts.
So, I thought I’d take today to answer a few of the more common inquiries.

Q: If my resume is two pages, do you staple them together?...

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Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/06 at 09:02 AM
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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Getting the most out of your references

Someone recently asked me to fill out a reference for them. Thoughtfully, they provided a brief “cheat sheet” so that I’d be up to date on their past experiences. I thought this was a good idea and felt well prepared to gush over them. Until I took one look at the reference form, that is. As it turned out, I could only fill in 50% of the questions about that particular person. Though I knew them well within one context, the reference form asked for information beyond that bandwidth. Sadly, I was not sure whether I’d be of much help at all.

Resulting advice? Make sure you cover your bases when asking for references. If your reference has not observed you within a certain setting—and here’s where it helps to review the questions on the reference form—prep them. Let them know in detail who you are across the spectrum so that they have an adequate base from which to speak.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 04/05 at 12:09 PM
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Thursday, March 30, 2006

It’s spring. Do you know where your job search is?

Serious spring fever hasn’t hit yet but it’s pretty close. With temps hovering around 65 and birds singing, the last thing most students want to do today is sit in a library. Even worse, contemplate The Job Hunt, synonomous for many seniors with an identity shift from life long student to professional. Too much to deal with at one time. So head-burying may seem like a better option, fueled by internal phrases like “I’ll find something when I graduate. It shoudn’t be too hard. Something will work out.” Anything other than face the frightening fact that in a few weeks you will no longer be a student.

So if the Big seems to much to handle, how about taking a few baby steps? Consider completing one of the following in the next week.

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Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 03/30 at 01:27 PM
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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Would You Steal This Job….

I recently came across a site running what I would love to cover—mini stories of actual people from a rather interesting spectrum of jobs. Check out Would You Steal This Job for at least a cursory introduction to jobs like community director, college recruiter and photographer, just to name a few. If you’ve found yourself wondering, as I have, what’s that job like? Well, here’s a place that will provide you with a quick glimpse. Not exactly a day-in-the-life-of, but at least some sites for further research.

And, a closing note for today. Aunt Bonnie will be taking spring break until the last week of March when blogging will resume.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 03/15 at 03:04 PM
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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

When to use resume and cover letter templates…

I know of few people who get all geeked about writing their own resume or, much less, constructing a cover letter. So, the quickest way possible to complete this onerous task is to revert to a template—pulled from MS Word if you’re looking for a way to basically fill in the blanks or copied directly from other resources.

There. The job is done and you’ve got something ready for your job search, right? Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense that you’ve got something to distribute but no in the sense that it may not be all that effective.

Here’s what I mean. Suppose you’re an HR specialist who sees literally hundreds of resumes a day. What would grab your attention more, a resume from the very predictable Word template or one where the writer took a bit more care to craft its contents? The answer, I’m sure, is obvious. After a while, it takes effort to get past the same-old same-old template look and really pay attention to the contents, even if it’s great stuff.
So, best use of the template in my personal opinion is as a structure for your initial draft. After that, ditch it in favor of something more distinctive.

On to cover letters. Again, there are samples all over the place. But here’s my suggestion.  Tweak and adjust the standard stuff so that it’s really you who’s coming across.  This is especially true if your particular job search does not match the sample cover letter. For instance, I heard from someone today who ended their cover letter with a phrase saying that she would call in 10 days to check on the possibility of an interview. Good stuff normally. That’s how the sample letter was worded. However, the companies where that person was applying did not provide names or phone numbers, thus rendering the phrase meaningless and inappropriate for that particular employer.

So, take resume and cover letter samples as just that—spring boards for your own creative additions and subtractions.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 03/14 at 02:50 PM
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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What to do after graduation….

Join the lines at job fairs? Meet with on campus recruiters? Post your resume on a job board? Sometimes the post graduation options seem endless and confusing.
If none of the above hits your hot button, let me suggest a book I’ve used in multiple appointments lately, Work Your Way Around the World by Susan Griffith. I pulled it out again this morning with someone who had spent a semester in London and was itching to return. Organized geographically, it was a snap to find pithy and practical information on working in the UK. Everything from variations in visas and employment prospects to pay and working conditions. All good stuff to know before you go.
So take a trip to the bookstore before your trip off shore and make use of leg work someone else has done for you.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 03/08 at 05:11 PM
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