Thursday, February 28, 2013

Quote of the Week: Do What You Love

As a career advisor and passionate idealist (both literally and by personality temperament) I am a firm believer that you should "Do What You Love".  Ask any student who has ever taken my class or come to me for career assessments and advising.  It's my mantra!  I am one of the lucky ones, I know, that gets to "do what I love and love what I do" every day.  So, I can't help but wish that on everyone I come into contact with.  But some may question whether or not that is appropriate advice to be giving in light of these tough economic times.

Yesterday, I read an article by Katherine Brooks called Can You Really "Do What You Love" These Days? published in Psychology Today.  She discusses both sides of the "Do What You Love" coin.  Some might consider this bad advice since we are living in an economic time where many people just want a job that puts food on the table and pays the bills and can't really even be concerned with "doing what they love".  I still stand by my mantra - you should do what you love.  Maybe you can't work at your "dream job" right now, but you should still determine the parts of your work that you do love and try to do more of those things.  That will keep you more engaged and happy at work which contributes to success and well-being.  With self-assessment and self-reflection you should be able to identify your interests, strengths and personality traits that align best with you current job or future job.  Don't settle for less!

Find the joy in your work and focus on that.  Do I love every aspect of my job?  Nope!  I hate my email right now and I don't enjoy collecting data or writing reports but I push through it so I can get to the stuff I do love - advising and developing students, making presentations, teaching classes and creating programs.  Then after I do all of those things I get to work on other things I love - like this blog!  Life is just too short to spend time in a job you hate, that drains you and doesn't provide you with any satisfaction or self-confidence.  I won't give up on the dream and I hope you won't either.

I'm not suggesting that you should be naive or uniformed about the job market.  I'm a big believer in planned happenstance.  You have to be working towards something, all the while keeping your eyes open to the opportunities that land in your path.  Just because you love something doesn't mean you can make a living doing it, there is going to be hard-work, creativity and planning to make that happen. But if it is what you love, you will find a way to incorporate that into your life in some way or else you just won't be satisfied.

What do you think?  Is it too risky to do what you love these days?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Anatomy of a Resume & 5 Tips to Get Your Resume Noticed

This infographic gives some great advice and things to think about when putting together your resume.  So, how does one make her resume stand out and get noticed?  The best way to do that is to have a well-written, error-free resume that describes your skills and experience and strongly supports your objective or career goal. Here are 5 short tips I have - (some of these are specifically for college students since that is who I get to work with every day)

  1. State your objective on the resume.  The real world is not organized major so you need to state the type of job or position you are looking for - use a position title or a career field.  I still recommend that college students use an objective on their resumes to clearly state what type of job they are seeking.  Just because you are an English major doesn't mean you are looking for "English" jobs.  You need to figure out what you want to do and ask for it.
  2. Keep your resume to 1 page.  Most undergraduate students should be able to fit all their information on one page.  Employers and recruiters give your resume an initial 30-45 second scan, so often they won't even get to a second page.  You don't want them to have to hunt for information so have it all on one page if possible.  (YES, there are exceptions to this rule!  Graduate students and seasoned professionals may have a longer resume.  Mine is 2 pages and growing!)  
  3. Put all of your related experiences together in one section.  Related experiences can include jobs, internships, volunteer work, leadership in student organizations, course projects and research.  Remember, professors give your projects to work on to gain some practical experience.  Choose your projects wisely and get some great experience for your resume.
  4. Use a clear and concise writing style.  Avoiding using pronouns and writing narratively.  Use bulleted statements that start with action-oriented words to describe your experiences. Don't just describe your daily responsibilities, instead list your accomplishments and skills developed through the experience.
  5. Be consistent.  Keep your formatting and sections consistent throughout the document.  If you are including a cover letter or reference page with your resume, make sure all those documents are consistent with each other.  Use the same fonts, heading, etc.  
You don't want to resume to stand out because of bright paper, silly graphics or spelling errors and typos!

Want to know more about writing a resume?  Visit the VT Career Services webpage.  Or check out these CareerSpots videos.

What do you do to make sure your resume stands out?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fashion Friday: Mint Chocolate Chip

Today's Fashion Friday post is inspired by the mint green trend and my favorite ice-cream flavor - mint chocolate chip.  When I was a little girl my grandfather who lived in Summerville, SC used to send my mom a weekly letter.  That letter usually contained little stickers and stuff he found for me and my sibilings and many times he sent "ice-cream cash".  He would tell my mom to take us to Baskin-Robbins for ice-cream - his treat.  I loved it!!  My dad had one rule though, we could NOT get vanilla or chocolate ice-cream.  He wanted us to try something different.  That rule started my life-long affair with mint chocolate chip ice-cream from Baskin-Robbins.  I fell madly in love with it!  I still love it to this day (it HAS to be Baskin-Robbins) but sadly we don't have a Baskin-Robbins in Blacksburg anymore!  But whenever I spot one out of town I always stop and have my favorite:  A double scoop of chocolate chip and mint chocolate chip in a sugar cone with the mint chocolate chip on the bottom!!!  (If you don't know me very well, sometimes I can be a little like Sally from the movie "When Harry Met Sally" when I order food).

Here are examples of all the lovely mint green I have spotted on Pinterest and all around the internet recently.

I also found these:
Mint Pumps
Mint Sandals
Mint Bikini
Mint Clutch
If you live in Blacksburg, check out the window display in Mad Dog on Main Street.  I spotted a great mint green and black color block blouse paired with a black pencil skirt on my way in to work just this morning.  I have seen a lot of mint green jeans and I hope to see some mint green shorts soon.

Mint is a classic spring color, but I think it is also a great neutral.  It works well with other neutrals (black, white, brown, cream, tan, grey, navy) but I also think you can pair it with brighter colors as well.  It looks nice with pink, coral, blue, orange, yellow and even purple.

How will you wear mint green this season?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How "Enter Sandman" saved the interview!

Well, my office just wrapped up our Connection Job Fair.  I have worked this Career Fair each year since February 1999.  That's A LOT of Career Fairs.  And this year, we did something a little different.  Connection is a 2 day event.  The first day is the actual Career Fair and the second day is the interview day. We have it down to a science.  Interviews take place every 30 minutes in a ballroom in our student center.  We check students in for their interviews and they all wait outside of  the ballroom until the exact time when we open the doors and let the students go into their interview.  Sometimes there might be 60 students waiting to enter the ballroom.  They all look either scared, uncomfortable or stressed.  You can cut the tension with a knife.  I couldn't take it any more!  I decided we needed to have something to get them pumped up and ease the tension.  

The solution laid in the heart of every true Hokie - ENTER SANDMAN!  Every Hokie knows that when they hear the opening of that song, something AMAZING is about to happen.  See here and here.  So we pulled out our speakers, got Enter Sandman cued up and for the rest of the day each student got to hear the greatest walkout song of all time as they got ready to walk into their interview.  You could almost feel the tension leave the room each time we turned it on.  By the end of the day we were giving out high fives and cheering for each student as they walked in.  Some students loved it, some thought we were crazy old people but EVERY single student walked into their interview with a big smile on their face.  I have no doubt that smile and extra boost of confidence made a difference.  Just like the quote says:  Good thoughts will shine out of your face like sunbeams.  

So, maybe you can't blast Enter Sandman (or your favorite walkout song) before your next interview or presentation but you can certainly remember that confidence and a big smile can help you win other's over.

How do you get psyched up for important moments in your life?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Non-Verbal Communication during a Job Interview

I found this on the UGA Career Services Pinterest board.  We always tell students to be aware of their non-verbal communication when we give Interviewing presentations on campus.  But, I thought this was a timely reminder for any students who might be interviewing after the career fairs this week.  I think #2 is important to remember - SMILE!!  It puts everyone more at ease and will make you feel more comfortable, relaxed and confident.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fashion Friday: What to wear to a Career Fair

Next week Virginia Tech is hosting four career fairs on campus.  (Go here for details.)  I was busy this week critiquing resumes and helping students prepare to attend the fairs.  I also did a presentation to a Senior Seminar course on how to stand out in the crowd at a career fair.  So, students have been busy getting ready to network and put their elevator pitches to use with employers recruiting on campus next week.  I did a blog post last semester called "5 Ways to STAND OUT in the crowd at a Career Fair".  I thought I would follow up today with What to wear at a Career Fair.

Appropriate attire for a career fair is Business Professional or Business Casual.  If you have a suit, you should wear it.  Remember, you are trying to make the best 1st impression you possibly can.  Looking "the part" in a business suit is a great way to start.  But, some of you may not have invested in a suit yet.  Maybe you are a freshman or sophomore looking for an internship for the summer or a co-op position.  If you don't have a suit, model the the tailored professional look as closely as possible.

  1. Wear a watch.  If you need to be checking the time while at the fair, use a watch and not your cell phone.  Recruiters might mistakenly think you are more interested in Twitter or text messages than talking to them.
  2. If you don't have a blazer, use a cardigan has a great layering piece that models the look of a suit jacket.
  3. Wear natural looking make-up and nail polish - and make sure you wear it.  It will make you look more polished to have thought through the details of manicured nails, natural lip gloss and blush on your cheeks.  It's February and most of us could use a little color on our face so we don't look washed out.  Luckily, spring break is just 3 weeks away!
  4. Consider wearing a kitten heel.  This is a lower heel that may be more comfortable to stand in all day at the fair.  May sure your shoes are polished and professional looking.
  5. Carry a padfolio into the fair with copies of your resume, a notepad and pen.  They often have a pocket where you can keep the business cards you collect at the fair.
  6. Wear simple and classic jewelry.  You can't beat a pair of diamond stud earrings for a touch of class and sophistication.  And don't forget other details like a belt.

Now, let's look at what NOT to wear:

  1. Inappropriate shoes.  Platform heels and strappy evening shoes are not appropriate for a job fair or a business/office setting.  Plus, your feet would be miserable by the end of the day.
  2. Skirts that are too tight and too short.  Your skirt should fall right above your knee so that when you sit down your thighs are covered.
  3. Cell phone.  Please leave it out of the fair.  Constant checking of your cell phone makes you look immature and unprofessional.
  4. Backpacks.  Don't bring big bulky backpacks into the fair.  They don't look professional and they can be cumbersome.  Please carry a professional padfolio and small purse/wristlet for keys and other essentials.
  5. Big bags/purses.  Although this purse is lovely and classy looking it should be left home also.  Same idea as the backpack, it is just too big and hard to handle in a crowded fair.
  6. Sleeveless shirts.  Again, this peplum top is beautiful and trending right now and would be appropriate in an office business casual setting.  But, it is not your best option for a career fair because it is sleeveless and not tailored enough.  If you are going to wear a sleeveless top make sure you layer it with a jacket or cardigan.
  7. Riding boots.  Riding boots are certainly in style right now and may be appropriate is some office settings with a dress or skirt, but they are not a good choice for a career fair.  Again, you are trying to model the business professional look and riding boots would not fit that criteria.

Good Luck at the fairs next week!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Quote of the Week: I'll look back on this and smile

I've often heard it said that when people reflect back on their lives they have more regrets about the things they DIDN'T do, rather than what they DID do.  You've been given this one amazing life and you just have to go for it!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

UPDATE: Scored the dress from my Spring Wish List

Remember this beautiful dress from my Spring Wish List post??  Well, I stopped into my favorite Loft store at the First and Main shopping complex in Blacksburg last night right before I met my family for dinner at El Rodeo.  This dress was on sale 40% off (originally priced at $89.50) and I had a $20 Loft rewards card.  So, I ended up getting this dress from my spring wish list for only $30.  I would say the "planning ahead shopping strategy" was a success for this particular item.  YAY!

I never pay full price at The Loft, there are so many coupons and discounts out there!  Where do you score the best deals?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to ask for a Recommendation Letter or Reference

Recently, I have received several requests from students to write recommendation letters and/or serve as a reference for them.  I am always happy to help out and I take writing a recommendation letter seriously.  I get asked to write recommendation letters for graduate school, undergraduate research and student leader positions on campus.  Students also ask me to serve as a reference in their job search.  I spend a lot of time on it and I write letters specific to each student.  In order to make the process as easy as possible for your professor, advisor, or supervisor consider these suggestions on how to ask someone for a recommendation letter or to serve as a reference.

  • Build a relationship with the person (advisor, professor, boss) and make sure you are making a positive impression.  Talk with the person about your career, academic and personal goals so she can address those in her letter.
  • Always ask the person first!  I don’t enjoy being caught off guard by receiving a phone call or an email from someone asking me to fill out a reference form on someone that did not confirm with me first.  Asking first allows the person to let you know if she really doesn't have time right then to commit to writing the letter or talking with a potential new boss.  This is to your benefit because you want your references to be able to take the time to provide a positive and well-informed recommendation for you.
  • Provide your reference with appropriate information to help her write the letter.  Always provide a copy of your resume and a description of the job, position, organization or graduate program.  If you haven’t had a conversation with your reference about your goals, make sure you explain why you are interested in this particular experience.  Explain to your reference any experiences from your past that connect to the current position you are applying for.  Send her links to the website for more information and provide a mailing address and/or stamped envelope if appropriate.
  • Keep your reference updated on the process and the outcome.  Always send a note to thank her for her time and support.  See more about thank you notes here.

At some point in time, every college student is going to need a reference or recommendation letter for something.  Make sure you are getting involved on campus and taking advantage of networking and developing relationships with faculty, advisors and administrators on campus. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fashion Friday: Spring Wish List

Winter this year in Blacksburg has been brutal the past month.  It has snowed every Thursday and/or Friday for the past 5 weeks.  Along with the snow we have had below average temperatures, freezing rain and horribly windy days.  I really hate winter!!!  I constantly daydream about the day I will be able to move further south where my heart and soul belong.  Although I enjoy living in a region that experiences all four seasons (just not all in one day which has been known to happen in Blacksburg) it really makes me mad when the weather conditions impact my wardrobe choices.

Needless to say, I'm ready for Spring.  Not only for the warmer weather, but for the change in wardrobe options, colors, and styles.  Here is what I have my eye on for this Spring:

  1. A colorful trench coat has been on my list since last fall.  I spotted this one at Express a few weeks ago.  It comes in a variety of colors.  I love the idea of cobalt blue with white pants!
  2. A new purse.  I found both of these on (a new discovery for me).  The yellow one is most affordable and the mint green one is a beauty from Kate Spade which is probably out of my price range but I will keep watching for sales.
  3. This silver watch from Michael Kors is beautiful.  I tried it on a few weeks ago when I was shopping in Greensboro, NC.  
  4. I've been eyeing this green peplum dress from The Loft since it first arrived in the store.  I will be purchasing soon.  It will be great to wear for many different occasions.  With a few changes in accessories it will work great in the office, for church (Easter Sunday) or for a conference I'm heading to in April.  
  5. A white cropped blazer.  I've been searching for one of these for over a year.  It will be great for layering in the office and so adorable with jeans this spring and bright shorts and heels this summer.
I'm trying to take the great shopping advice from J's Everyday Fashion and pick out what I want to buy ahead of time so I can be looking for the best deals on what I already know I want.

What is on your wish list this Spring?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Monogram crazy - Love my talented students!

Look what one of my peer educators just made for me...

It's a Lilly Pulitzer computer background with my monogram!  How cute is that??

And she also did this...

It's a background for my phone with my monogram in chevron - my favorite!!


Friday, February 1, 2013

Fashion Friday: Bright Blazers

I am so excited that bright blazers are a style trend right now!  I'm looking forward to wearing them to brighten up the rest of my winter and through the spring.  When I was in college we all wore jeans, boots and blazers and I always loved the look.  But, the look has come back in with a new twist:  Bright Colors.  In a recent post about how to dress for a professional presentation (here) I styled the look with a bright blazer and I showed you the bright blazer I actually wore for my presentation.  I love this trend for 3 main reasons:

  1. The bright blazer adds a pop of color to a sometimes neutral office wardrobe.  It models the business professional look but allows for a little personality and flare.
  2. A bright blazer is great for layering, it is useful with unpredictable office and weather environments and is a great three season staple.
  3. It is a great transitional piece.  You can pair it with a pencil skirt or slacks for the office and then put it together with jeans or shorts for a more smart casual look or a night out.

Here are some looks with blazers that I have spotted on Pinterest lately. I'm loving all of them.

How do you like to wear a blazer?

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