Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tips for writing a Cover Letter

A cover letter is an important piece of job search correspondence.  The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce yourself to the reader.  When you are not there to make the in-person introduction, the cover letter serves that purpose for you.  It lets the person know why he or she is recieving the resume and explains how you learned about the job opening or the organization.  It's your opportunity to sell yourself.  Here are a few tips on writing a cover letter.

Keep your cover letter to one page in length and write in short paragraphs.

It should complement but not duplicate the information on your resume. This is your opportunity to go into more detail about specific skills and/or experiences that you have that relate directly to the position for which you are applying.

Use the job announcement as a guide to writing your letter. The job announcement identifies

1) the qualifications they are seeking
2) what the job will entail
3) what skills, experiences and qualities the organization is looking for
This is your opportunity to match up what YOU have to offer with what they are looking for. So, cover letters should be written specifically for each job you are applying for. Tell them how you match the qualifications.

Personalize it.

Always address your letter to a specific person and use her name. If you cannot find out the name of the person, you should at least address the letter to a position title. For example: "Dear Human Resource Manager" or "Dear Director of Public Relations". Another way to personalize your letter is to make sure you mention any personal contacts you have within the organization or the person's name that made a referral for you.

Basically, you can break the letter down into 3 paragraphs:

Paragraph #1:

This is mostly about the organization. This is where you mention where you learned about the opening, why you are interested in the position and/or organization, mention any names of personal contacts you have in common, and compliment the organization.

Paragraph #2:

This is all about you. This is where you mention your credentials (education, previous experience, etc) and you highlight the experiences that are most related to the position. Describe your strengths and achievements and demonstrate your knowledge of the organization. You should try to address as much of the job description as you can in terms of your skills and experience.

Paragraph #3:

This is where you reiterate your enthusiasm for the position/organization. Mention how you might be following up with them and express your appreciation for their time and consideration.

If you want more information on writing cover letters, check out this Career Spot on the Virginia Tech Career Services website.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fashion Friday: Rainy Days

This week has been CRAZY for me.  Course request for Spring semester started on Tuesday and Freshmen received their mid-term grades.  Those two things always bring students in masses to Career Services.  Once they realize they have to pick out courses for next semester they start to evaluate whether or not they are actually enjoying their major.  That's when they show up in my office looking for direction and answers.  Needless to say, Fashion Friday didn't happen for me this week.  But never fear, Christina, came up with a wonderful post for today.  Blacksburg is known for many things, most are wonderful but anyone who has spent any time in Blacksburg knows that we go through phases were it seems to rain a lot.  So, Christina styled an office appropriate Rainy Day outfit.  You are going to love it.  Today's Fashion Friday is:
Isn't it great?!?!  I love a great trench coat and I am actually on the hunt for one as we speak.  I'm loving the idea of a red trench coat, check this one out I found at Target on-line. 
Living in Blacksburg I have learned to have lots of umbrellas handy.  I have one in my car, one in my office and one in my bag.  You just never know when it might start raining around here.  Rain means lots of puddles also.  Check out these stylish rain boots from Hunter.
Thanks to Christina's great ideas Rainy Days is Blacksburg don't have to be so dreary afterall.
What do you wear on rainy days to the office?


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Interviewing over a meal? My Top 10 Dining Etiquette Rules

(I found this Dining Etiquette infographic on Pinterest, the source I pinned from was Daily Dream Decor)
Interviewing over a meal can be a little tricky and difficult.  You have to manage your meal and your conversation in a professional manner.  Being well versed in dining etiquette will help take some of the pressure off.  You don’t want to spend the whole meal worrying about which glass is yours or how to pass the butter instead of focusing on selling yourself as a worthy candidate for the position.

 So, what exactly is “dining etiquette”?  According to Webster’s dictionary et-i-quette can be defined as “the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life”.  So, dining etiquette would be the conduct or procedures expected during dining.

 I have learned a lot about dining etiquette over the past 15 years.  In my opinion, there are 3 main purposes for dining etiquette:

1.       To demonstrate good  manners

2.       To keep the table clean and tidy

3.       To communicate with your server

Here are my Top 10 Dining Etiquette Rules:

 1. Always follow the lead of your host.

2. Place wrappers under your plates.

3. Always pass items in their serving dishes.

4. Salt and pepper are a pair, they stay together.

5. Offer to others before helping yourself.  Offer to the left and pass to the right.

6. Do not season your food until you have tasted it.

7. Wait until everyone at your table is served before you eat.

8. Use your utensils by eating from the outside towards the plate.

9. At your place setting, remember:  Solids to the left, liquids to the right.

10. Never put used utensils back on the table.

 The way you place your utensils on your plate communicate with your server whether you are finished with that course or if you are just taking a break from eating.  There are many other rules, expectations and nuances for dining etiquette.  I won’t go into all of them here but you can visit the Virginia Tech Career Services website to learn more about dining etiquette.  These quick rules give you just enough information to prevent you from making an embarrassing mistake at your next interview over a meal.

 Bon A Petit!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fashion Friday: The Power of Denim and Pink!

Today’s Fashion Friday post is in support of Lee National Denim Day®.  Lee National Denim Day® is a fundraiser created by Lee Jeans to support the American Cancer Society®’s breast cancer programs. Since its inception in 1996, Lee National Denim Day® participants have raised more than $86 million for the fight against breast cancer.  This year, the Division of Student Affairs and Career Services at Virginia Tech are celebrating Lee National Denim Day® today.  But, I believe you can celebrate any day in October your office chooses.  This is how it works:  make a contribution to Lee National Denim Day® and wear jeans to work that day.  It’s fun and supports a great cause.  So, today’s edition of

The Professional vs. The Intern

is all about the Power of Denim and Pink.  We had a lot of fun picking out work appropriate styles that included jeans and pink.  Here’s what we came up with….


Check out these products that are in support of the American Cancer Society®’s programs and Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Essie Breast Cancer Awareness Collection
The Loft Collection

Also check out:
Tory Burch Pink Double Wrap Bracelet
Tory Burch Pink Phone Case
Macy's Pink Shop
Coach Awareness Watch
Anne Klein Bracelet

We have all been touched by this horrible disease.  I lost my lovely grandmother to breast cancer; she was only 53 years old.  She lost her battle before I was even born and I sadly never even met her.  I have two courageous co-workers who are survivors.  One of them even refers to today as “AYB Day” (that’s “Appreciate Your Boobs Day”).  Her fighting spirit and positive attitude are an inspiration.

If your office doesn’t already participate in LeeNational Denim Day® visit the website and find out more about how you can kick-off the effort.

 What will you do to show your support of Breast Cancer Awareness month?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quote of the Week: What the World Needs

I love this quote!  As a career advisor, I am always trying to get college students to think about their career planning in this way.  Too often we get caught up in what we are going to "be" when we grow up, as if graduation and their first job is the final destination.  "I'm going to be a _____________ (insert career title here:  Accountant, Doctor, Teacher) when I graduate."  or "I'm going to major in ___________ so I can work in ___________ field when I graduate".  The truth is, only about 20% of people are working in the field they earned their undergraduate degree in.  I think students should instead by asking themselves: 
  • What do I want to learn more about throughout my life?
  • What dreams do I chase?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What makes me come alive?
  • What would I do for free?
I feel very fortunate to have found my calling and that I get to work in a field and job that makes me come alive!  I followed this path, though difficult at times (ie: graduate school, student loans, low pay, evening hours), because deep down in my soul I knew that it was a career field that felt like living rather than working.  If you can answer those questions and take your gifts and talents into the world of work I feel certain you will find success and happiness down the paths you take in life.

So, what makes you come alive?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Consider getting some experience with an EXTERNSHIP

Are you interested in getting some experience and learning more about a career field you are interested in?  An Externship (or job shadow) experience might be just what you are looking for.  An Externship is a "short-term, job shadowing and learning experience, observing and working with professionals in your field" of choice.  The benefits of completing and Externship include:
  • The opportunity to network with professionals
  • Gain exposure to a career field
  • Clarify your career interests and career goals
  • Make potential connections for a future internship or job
Externships usually last anywhere from 2-5 days and can be completed during school breaks, the summer of even the academic year.  To learn more about Virginia Tech's Externship program attend one of the following information sessions:

Oct. 18
Externship information session
Smith Career Center Rm A
4:00 - 4:45 pm
Oct. 23
Externship information session
Smith Career Center Rm A
3:30 - 4:15 pm
Oct. 29
Externship information session
Smith Career Center Rm A
4:00 - 4:45 pm
Oct. 31
Externship information session
Smith Career Center Rm A
4:00 - 4:45 pm

At these information sessions you will learn more about the program and how it works, potential Externship opportunities and how to find your own exciting Externship experience.  For more information visit Career Services Externship webpage.

How will you gain the experience that will give you the competitive edge you need in the job market?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Grandma’s expectations are still relevant in 2012: The Art of a Thank You Note

Recently, a young college graduate showed up in my office with a lot of questions about her resume and impending job search.  She was prepared and professional with a good since of her career goals and how she was getting there.  Her final question for me was about thank you notes in the job search process.  She asked; “Do you REALLY have to write a thank you note?  It seems so old fashioned.  I mean, isn’t that what GRANDMAS do???”. 
I sat there for a moment trying to decide how I was going to respond.  My first reaction was to explain that thank you notes are not old fashioned but rather are a sign of proper etiquette and gesture of appreciation for someone’s time, blah blah blah…. and then it hit me that thank you notes ARE old fashioned and thank you notes ARE something that Grandmas do and for those very reasons we should all still be writing thank you notes.  Good manners and advice from Grandma NEVER go out of style!

I was raised by a mother who spent her childhood in Mississippi, the only daughter to her mother who was born in Arkansas and a father who hailed from Georgia; her southern roots run deep.  Southern ladies are known for their impeccable manners.  My southern mom taught me many valuable life lessons, but here are 5 that stand out to me:

1.      Never leave the house without putting on lipstick, consider it the icing on the cake.  (Okay, I don’t wear lipstick but I think lip gloss counts)

2.     Take the time to set a nice table for holidays, guests and special occasions.  Use the china, crystal, and cloth napkins and don’t forget a beautiful centerpiece.  It shows true southern hospitality and makes people feel special.

3.     Always dress up for church, weddings, funerals and job interviews.  It is respectful, classy and a sign of how you were raised.

4.     Don’t drink beer out of a can, it isn’t lady like. (I have failed MISERBLY at this one, sorry Mom!)

And finally….
5.     ALWAYS send a hand-written thank you note.  There is nothing more personal than a note that you have taken the time and effort to write, in your own hand-writing, to express your appreciation and gratitude.

Sending a hand-written “anything” is a lost art these days.  It is thoughtful, special, and an indication of good manners and etiquette.  The receipt of a hand-written thank you note by an employer could (and most certainly has) impacted job offers.  I know of situations where students were not offered positions because they forgot to close the deal with a thank you note.   Likewise, I know of instances where receiving the thank you note was the edge that put a particular candidate above the others and an offer was extended based on the thank you note.  Take a minute to think about the benefits of writing a thank you note: 

·         If you send a note of appreciation to an interviewer, one could assume that you will show the same good judgment and consideration with your customers and clients.

·         Sending a thank you note shows, not only good manners, but professionalism.  Your future employer will view you as mature, professional and a cut above the rest.

·         It lets your future employer know you understand the importance of developing professional relationships and that you value other people’s time and effort.

·         A well written thank you note can seal the deal for a job offer and provides you with an opportunity to overcome any objections and restate your enthusiasm for the position.

So, to answer her question:  Yes, thank you notes are still an important part of the job search process and your professional development.  I hope my children will always heed their "Mimi's" good advice and even better taste by perfecting the art of writing thoughtful thank you notes.  They might be ‘’old fashioned” but that is because they are tried and true.  Most of the best things in life are!
Check out these classic and fun "thank you" cards:
From Crane & Co


From Erin Condren

 From Etsy

Thanks a Bunch (these might be my favorite)

What's your favorite way to say "thanks"?  Handwritten note, business letter or email?


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fashion Friday: Hokie Homecoming Style

(I had technical and timing issues yesterday, that's why Fashion Friday is a day late)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Quote of the Week

I hope this is true because I have been in a constant state of "hustle" for the past two weeks.  It's that crazy time of year for me and Career Services.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel though (it's called "November").  That is one reason why this is my first blog post of the week.  I do believe you have to work hard and love your work in order to be successful.  We are not entitled to anything in this world and one only gets "out of it" what one "puts into it".  So, since I love my work and have been working lots of crazy hours the past few weeks I'm hoping the "good things" are coming soon!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fashion Friday: Taking your look from the office to Happy Hour

It's Fashion Friday and we decided to tackle wardrobe transition in this issue of
The Professional vs. The Intern
I love Happy Hour Fridays! It's such a fun way to kick off the weekend but I usually have to make a quick change after work before I meet up with friends for drinks or dinner. This week Christina and I decided it would be fun to style a look that would take us from the office to a night on the town without having to do an entire wardrobe change. The key is to pick one piece that can function in both settings and style it appropriately for each situation.
Here's what we came up with...

What are your favorite "go to" pieces that work for both 9-5 and After 5?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Power Suit: Business Professional Dress that Makes a Statement

There’s a reason it’s called a “Power Suit”.  There is something amazing that happens to you, both mentally and physically, when you put on a sharp looking suit.  I stand taller and straighter, I carry myself with more confidence and I feel smart and important.  My husband even refers to me as “bossy pants” when I have on a suit.  I don’t often dress Business Professional at work, but because of how it makes me feel I will pull out Business Professional for important meetings and presentations.  Business Professional is the most formal business dress code and is most often seen in industries such as: banking, law, accounting, consulting, sales and other professional services.  It is also the dress code for most interviewing situations.

So, what does Business Formal/Professional look like?

For more detailed information about business formal dress code for both women and men visit the Virginia Tech CareerServices website.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Quote of the Week: The Power of 1st Impressions

This quote reminds me of how important it is to dress in a way that is an appropriate representation of what you want people to think or remember about you.  First impressions are a very powerful thing.  Social psychologists say it takes less than 60 seconds for someone to make an initial impression of a person.  It then takes several hours to confirm or deny that initial impression.  I have been discussing office and business dress codes this week, but this information applies to students on campus as well.  How we look, what we wear, what we say and how we carry ourselves is all part of that first impression.  As a professional, or soon to be professional, you are always managing impressions and your professional brand.

I remember several years ago a student walked into my office to ask for assistance in finding a summer internship.  She was a Fashion Marketing major and wanted to secure an internship in NYC for the summer.  From my knowledge of the Fashion Marketing program at Virginia Tech I knew the department had strong ties to their alumni base and I encouraged her to tap into that.  She told me that the alumni advisory panel had presented to her class the past week and she had missed the opportunity to speak with them at that time.  I must have had a very puzzled look on my face when I asked her, “Why didn’t you talk to them when they were here for your class?”

That’s when she broke down into tears and told me the embarrassing story of not paying attention to her syllabus and arriving to class that morning in sweats, no make-up and dirty hair in a ponytail.  Much to her surprise, her entire class was dressed to impress (after all, they are fashion majors) and that’s when she noticed the distinguished alumni panel of fashion industry professionals sitting at the front of the room.  She sat in the back, didn’t ask a single question and left as soon as class was over.  Meanwhile, her classmates spent the next hour networking and chatting with these fashion insiders learning more about the industry and how to find internships in the fashion world.  She called and scheduled an appointment to meet with me.  Although I like to think I am a wealth of important career-related information we both knew that a 30 minute appointment with me could never replace that opportunity she missed after class because she did not dress in a way that represented who she was and what she was all about. 
Don’t let that happen to you.  You never know when you are going to run into someone you want to impress!
How do you dress when you want to make a great first impression?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Business Casual: The most common and most misunderstood dress code

Business Casual, in my opinion, is the most common dress code and is pretty standard on college campuses and many office environments.  But, I also believe that many people are confused about what Business Casual actually means.  Some hear the word "casual" and equate it with comfortable and dressed down.   Don't make that mistake, business casual is a distinct category of business attire and is actually not casual at all.  It is a more relaxed version of business professional dress but it still models closely the tailored and professional look that is expected in business and office settings.

For students Business Casual dress is appropriate to wear to Career Fairs, information sessions, networking events with employers, interviews for leadership positions and jobs on campus, and award ceremonies.

Business Casual attire is where my love for the pencil skirt plays out.  A pencil skirt and peep toe shoes is probably my favorite thing to wear to work.  I feel polished and professional and able to conquer the world in this combination.  A pencil skirt can be paired with a blouse, a cardigan or a blazer, so it is very versatile and a staple in any career girls wardrobe.

So, what does Business Casual look like?
1.  This is the classic pencil skirt, sweater and black pumps.  This look is a timeless staple for career women.

2.  A tailored, sheath dress is classy looking and can easily have a jacket or blazer added to model the look of a suit.  Open-toed shoes are acceptable for business casual.

3.  Tailored, solid colored pants with bouses, shirts and blazers are appropriate for business casual.

4.  A wrap dress is another classic wardrobe essential and it flatters most every figure.

For Women:

Pants (creased and tailored, solid colors are best)

Skirts (length that lands at or above the knee)

Tailored dress Tailored shirts, blouses, knits, sweaters and cardigans

Blazers and jackets

Both closed toed and open toed heels are appropriate, boots, booties and flats (some sandals)

Jewelry and accessories (such as belts, scarves, watches) should be classic and conservative Hose are not required but the weather should be considered (walking around campus in Blacksburg in February with a skirt and no hose might make someone question your judgment and good sense)

A structured bag or a small purse coupled with a business bag

For Men:

Khaki, gabardine, cotton, wool pants (jeans are not considered business casual)

Long-sleeved button down shirts, polo shirts and sweaters

Sports coat

Ties are not necessary (when in doubt err on the side of too formal)

Dark socks Leather shoes and belt
Smart Casual and Business Casual are very similar.  The main difference is wearing jeans.  Jeans are not appropriate for the Business Casual dress code.  Smart Casual also allows for a little more variety in style and the ability to incorporate current trends into your work wardrobe.
Which casual dress code do you prefer, Smart Casual or Business Casual?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Smart Casual: Looking SMART in the Office and on Campus

This week I am going to focus on business and office dress codes.  After spending an hour at the job fair last week I realized that many students are not clear on what it means to be "dressed up" for the job fair.  Unfortunately, I saw way too many mini-skirts with platform, open-toed shoes.  I was also discouraged to see that some women are wearing workout clothes to their sorority chapter meetings and professional organization meetings.  There are all kinds of ways to be “dressed” and each one is appropriate in its own time and place.  It is important to your personal and professional success to understand the appropriate attire to wear for different events and occasions.  So, this week I will try to break it down for you.
Today I will introduce many of you to "Smart Casual".  Smart Casual is a relatively new dress code that often bridges the gap between Casual and Business Casual.  Casual dress would include jeans, shorts, tank tops, flip flops, tennis shoes, TOMS (with the exception of the wedge TOMS) and would not be considered appropriate to wear to most office and business settings.  I will discuss Business Casual in my next post.
Smart Casual is a casual, yet polished, “smart” way of dressing that is practical in more relaxed environments where it is still desirable to look professional and put together.  Smart Casual is appropriate in many places and can often transition from the office to school and community meetings, shopping, and happy hour.  It is how I would recommend students dress for their student organization meetings (including fraternity and sorority informal or business meetings), Student Government Association, etc. or any organization in which you hold a leadership position.  Your peers will take you more seriously when you are dressed “smart”.  Students should also consider dressing smart casual when they meet with faculty and advisors on campus.  This is probably my favorite way to dress, in general.  (Although a pencil skirt is my favorite way to dress in the office, but more on that when we cover business casual and business professional dress.)  Smart casual is versatile and appropriate for a variety of settings and occasions.
So, what does Smart Casual look like?

For Women:
Jeans (dark wash or trouser cut), slacks, skirts or a dress
Blouse, sweater, turtleneck, knit tops and other dressy fabrics
Layer with cardigan, blazer, or fashion jacket
Trench coat, pea coat, or other wool coats
Heels is usually best to dress up your jeans, but you can also wear boots, booties and flats
Accessorize with scarves, jewelry, belts and professional bags  (this is a great opportunity to show a little of your personality and be a little less conservative - note the green heels and animal print flats)

For Men:
Jeans (dark wash, not faded or ripped), trousers and chinos
Long-sleeved dress shirt, crewneck tees, polo shirts, sweaters, knit pullovers (ties are optional)
Sports coat or blazer (a must if you are wearing jeans)
Leather loafers and boots and a belt
What do you think of SMART dressing?  Does your office allow for smart casual in your company dress code?  Do you dress like this for meetings on campus?

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