Career Services

The Young Professional's Guide to Gratitude

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In the midst of Thanksgiving festivities and the highly-aniticpated Black Friday shopping, it can be hard for one to really think about what he or she is grateful for. For me, it takes a great deal of self-reflection to not only acknowledge what I'm grateful for, but to really understand why I am thankful for it in the first place. Is it because it satisfies a personal need or desire, or is it because it contributes greatly to my life and cultivates a sense of purpose within my being? I try to focus on the things that serve the latter; however, it is difficult not to be stuck in my own mind without paying attention to the external opportunities available to translate gratitude on a daily basis. 

Thankfully, moments of self-reflection always bring me back to my priorities and reaffirm a sense of graciousness in my outlook on life, especially in my pre-professional journey. I have been blessed in my career journey this past summer by working with middle and high school students in a classroom setting, while being surrounded by many accomplished women in the education field. I was - and still am - grateful for the experience because it fueled my desire to teach, and to even pursue a Master's and Doctorate in the near future. I realize that the thing I am most grateful for is the ability to serve others through my future career choice, because I firmly believe that education is the most fundamental element in the fruition of the whole person and who that person is going to become. 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I decided to write a guide on how to translate gratitude in your pre-professional pursuits that will also help you in your future career.

Keep a positive, determined outlook. This is so incredibly important. A positive outlook can transform any negative situation into something that can shape your character in ways that will help you in the future. Instead of despairing and running straight to your fainting couch (I know, I have one too), view every rejection or missed opportunity as an experience you can learn from. Experience is the best teacher a person can have, especially in the professional world. Instead of perceiving yourself as a failure, take control of the situation and convert it into something constructive. If you feel as though you did not have a particularly awesome interview, prepare for future ones by scheduling a mock-interview with the Office of Career Services. Do what is necessary right now in order to better yourself and your future career opportunities, instead of settling for mediocrity due to a previous mistake. In the words of my grandfather, who is a 94 year old former FBI agent, "Never give up!" Your hard work and determination will pay off if you pursue your pre-professional journey in a state of gratitude, as reflected in your positivity and determination.

Each day, write down three things you are thankful for. This personalized practice will consistently put what is important to you in perspective. Whether you are thankful for something as small as the yummy coffee you had this morning, or for things of pivotal significance like attending a university, it will continue to cultivate a constant state of gratitude in the many facets of your life and provide a positive shift in your perception of the career you wish to pursue. Moreover, writing down what you are grateful for at the end of each day is beneficial in times of uncertainty, because - like the aforementioned point stated - a positive outlook is what keeps us motivated, determined, and steadfast in our journey.

Humble yourself. In any internship or early stage of your career, it is crucial to approach professional opportunities in the position to learn. In the process of establishing your career, it is inevitable that mistakes will happen or you will be ill-prepared for a project proposal or important meeting; however, one of the best ways to avoid mistakes is to ask the appropriate questions beforehand. If you are unsure about a certain procedure or how to do an assigned task, do not be afraid to communicate with your boss or supervisor. They would rather you ask questions now than to hear you apologizing later, and asking questions is a great way to establish yourself in the work place. A constant stream of applied inquiry will show your employers that you are engaged in your work and determined to deliver perfection. Humility is the best way to translate gratitude in the workplace, as it indicates that you are grateful for the opportunity to learn and to gain experience in your chosen career path.

Be sure to thank those who helped you succeed. One of the most important things to remember is that there is no such thing as "self-made." Rather, our success in due largely in part by those who took the time to mentor, teach, guide, and help us in our pursuits. Make sure that you maintain and nurture your professional relationships by putting forth the effort to show your gratitude. It can be as simple as thanking your professor for an informative lecture, or writing a thank-you note to your interviewers. When you attend a Career Services event, make it a point to thank the speaker for their time - it could possibly be the perfect opportunity to make a new connection. Last, but certainly not least, if your parents or other relatives are supporting you while you are attending school (whether it is financially or spiritually), thank them, thank them, THANK THEM. Obtaining a college degree opens up amazing opportunities that were unavailable to you before, and they helped make it possible. This point also ties in greatly with humility, and such a disposition will translate in both your professional and personal life.

Your words have power - use them. While we know by now that expressing your thanks is a huge part of professional etiquette, it comes down to how you say thank you. Keep a stack of thank-you notes in your desk (you can always find awesome stationary in Target's $1 and $3 aisle, for example) and make sure you send the card in a timely manner. Timing is everything, and it will show the recipient that they are important to you. Additionally, make the effort to tell them exactly what you're grateful to them for. For an interviewer, compose a hand-written note thanking them for the opportunity and the chance to meet them in person. For a professor who wrote you a glowing letter of recommendation, slip a card in their mailbox expressing how grateful you are for their time and how appreciative you are for their support. Even on LinkedIn, be sure to pass along your thanks for introducing you to a valuable connection. Once you implement this practice in your professional relationships, you will see how they will begin to flourish and become fruitful in your future career pursuits. Also, it enables potential employers to see you as a person who genuinely puts forth the effort to convey your gratitude, and for them to see who you truly are beyond the résumé.

In any profession, these pointers on gratitude will foster a fulfilled and active engagement in your pre-professional journey and, later, your future career field. In turn, you will begin to realize that your purpose is made increasingly more apparent to you within your daily life, as you seize each opportunity to better yourself professionally and thank those around you who made such resources available. While we may have legitimate worries about our future and what career field we wish to work in post-graduation, it is nonetheless crucial to our pre-professional pursuits that we remain grateful for the resources, opportunities, and chances we receive through the reserves of our universities, networks, and previous professional experiences. In the mean time, let us make the effort to emulate and manifest a grateful nature in not only our professional lives, but in our personal lives as well.

From all of us at Career Services, have a blessed, bountiful, and happy Thanksgiving season!

Awesome Online Certifications that Will Supercharge Your Resume

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As a senior, I find myself constantly reviewing my resume as I begin applying for jobs post-graduation. Since I’m pursuing the competitive field of secondary education, my goal is to differentiate my resume from the rest—I want my potential employers to think, “Wow! That’s certainly something we’ve never seen before.” However, I had—and still have—difficulty finding the time to fit additional activities in my already busy schedule. In the midst of working two jobs, taking classes full time, and living off campus, cultivating my professional portfolio often takes a backseat. 

Like many students, I need something that will work around my schedule and pace so that I can invest into my future career.

Thankfully, I did not marinate in my pre-professional preparation plight for long—I stumbled across www.udemy.com, a website that offers online courses at an insanely discounted price, as I was searching for opportunities to expand my educational knowledge. From there, I took it upon myself to explore other options of free certifications and courses online that either pertained to my potential profession or indicated my desire to better myself career-wise. 

These certifications and courses will not only help your resume and LinkedIn profile stand out, but will also diversify your portfolio in ways thought not to be possible. Additionally, it is a convenient and time-efficient way a student can educate themselves online for free, which is perfect for the busy (and often broke) college student. 

Potential employers and companies will see that you are a candidate who invests in his or herself in a professional and personal manner, as evidenced in your willingness to explore options that cultivate your career. If you put in the effort, the outcome for job interviews will increase based upon your ability to continually learn new skills that will benefit your future employer.

Here are online certificates and courses that will boost your professional skill set and widen the horizon of job prospects:

 

The Digital Garage by Google

This free, online introductory certificate enhances your knowledge of Online Marketing in areas such as Analytics, Adwords, E-mail Marketing, efficient web-search processes, social media, and more. 

As an award winning platform, the Digital Garage offers various tutorials taught by experts in the field that can be taken separately based upon your specific interests, or taken altogether so that you can receive a certificate from both Google and IAB Europe upon its completion. 

It is a perfect way to convert your communicative and technological talents into a useful certificate that will enhance your resume and career prospects, as well as place you on track to further technological knowledge.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s Psychological First Aid

This online course is not only free, but is endorsed by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs. Hosted by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, it teaches you how to help children and adults who have experienced, or are currently experiencing, psychological distress after surviving disastrous circumstances. You will learn how to connect them to mental health professionals so that the individual can begin to heal in the wake of their trauma. 

There are also other free courses offered on the website that are geared towards aiding children and military families with their specific coping needs. This is an essential course for those who wish to pursue careers in psychology, education, law enforcement, and medicine, and will definitely enhance your qualifications in the eyes of a potential employer.

Microsoft Learning: Certifications in Microsoft Excel

Microsoft has an online platform that offers many certification courses for Microsoft Office—one of the most popular being a certificate in Microsoft Excel!

You will learn how to write formulas and functions that can be useful to many career fields, have constant access to course materials and instructor, and participate in interactive lessons that will keep you engaged. 

The courses offered will turn you into an expert of Excel and will be an asset to your resume and LinkedIn profile, especially if you are interested in a career involving business, accounting, finance, and even communications. 

In addition to Microsoft’s platform, there are many beginner and advanced courses on Microsoft Excel that are hosted by www.udemy.com, some of which retailing for only $12—93% off of its original sticker price!

Codecademy: Learn to Code

In this technological day and age, coding is playing a larger role in every career path as the demand for coding skills in various fields is on the rise. Be ahead of the curve, and use Codecademy! 

Codecademy is an online resource that offers free coding courses. It is perfect for those who are tech-savvy and innate autodidacts, and an extremely useful certification to have when entering any field reliant upon technology and computer programming. The website will help you facilitate the brain’s methodical faculties, as well as merge analytical skills into the technological field. 

The website boasts that 45 million people across the world have utilized the skills learned through their courses, which means that it is not only doable, but able to be applied to a number of careers.

American Association of Medical Assistants’s Medical Terminology Certification

The American Association of Medical Assistants offers a free certification in Medical Terminology that will be an amazing asset to your resume, especially if you are student considering careers in the medical field, such as Pre-Med programs or Nursing, or studying the Health Sciences. 

It trains and familiarizes you in the medical jargon implemented in healthcare settings, as well as extensive knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology. They offer practice examinations and study tools to help you ace the final certificate test, and enhances your knowledge in the field. (It will help you on Dr. Sallai’s and Dr. Curtis’s exams, too!) 

Students who wish to attend medical school will find this to be a perfect addition to their own prior medical experience, as well as a useful resource for future studies.    

Udemy: An Online Resource for Learning

Udemy features a variety of certifications and courses geared towards the enrichment of your studies or facilitating knowledge in a subject you were not particularly attuned to. Many of its courses are perfectly tailored for college students seeking guidance, diversity, and additional skills to help in their professional pursuits. 

While the courses and certifications offered are mainly geared towards business and technology, there are also many other curriculums geared towards one’s own personal development. Whether you are seeking to hone pre-existing skills, learn new ones, or simply invest into yourself as a person, the investment is certainly one that will prove to pay in spades!

Udemy has a plethora of low-cost courses, ranging from IT & Software to the Humanities. It is a wonderful resource for those who wish to grow in knowledge in many fields, as well as those who seek to better themselves on an intellectual level. Coupled with the essential assistance offered by the Office of Career Services, you will be fully prepared, confident, and secure as you enter into the professional world.

 

Whatever field you are interested in, there is an array of online introductory certifications and courses that are either free or low-cost that will bring your resume to the next level. Potential employers will wish to have you work with their company as a multi-faceted and well-rounded person, who takes the initiative to invest in yourself and your career aspirations. 

You will be well ahead of other applicants because you demonstrate your desire to learn and grow in knowledge of your craft, as well as foster the talents you already possess and make them THAT much greater as assets. 

Visit the Office of Career Services, or “The Den,” located on the first floor of the Student Union, to help begin your pre-professional pursuits and place you on the path for success!

The Low-Down on Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a critical part of any application process in order to secure a spot in graduate school. College admissions officers take these letters very seriously, and before you are accepted for an interview, you have to come across as a desirable candidate. Letters of recommendation allow you and your character to come to life in the mind of the reader and fill in the gaps of your resume. This being said, you want to ask people to write letters who will be able to craft recommendations that will be compelling and unforgettable for the reader. There are many things that you can do during your undergrad to obtain a glowing testimonial. By following this guide and thinking about the process early on in your college career, you will have a mailbox full of acceptance letters the spring of graduation. 

Letters of recommendation are important for three reasons:

  1. They illustrate your resume - allowing your future employer to get to know you in a way that your GPA and test scores can't.
  2. They attest to your personality and character - you want the writer to be someone who can deeply communicate your strengths and potential and back it up with stories and examples of times that you have excelled. 
  3. They show that professionals, whether professors, coaches, or employers, are impressed by your accomplishments and believe in your future success.

The first step in obtaining great letters of recommendation is to make sure to establish relationships with working professionals early-on in your college career. 

As far as professors go, this is best done by frequently asking questions in class and staying engaged, as well as attending office hours to ask other insightful questions which show that you are doing your own research and putting in the hours after class to make sure you thoroughly understand the material. This will put you on their radar as a student who possesses great potential and allow them to get to know you on a deeper level than many other students. A professor will be more likely to write a letter for a student that is a willing participant and frequent inquirer than a student who sits quietly in class and gets all A's. Don't get me wrong, an A is impressive, but a persistent learner with a curious mind  is even more impressive. 

Talk to the professors in your field of study about the career path that you plan to follow. Listen to them when they give you advice about grad school and make sure that you are doing your own research on each school as well. Before writing a letter of recommendation, a professor will often ask the student, "Why do you want to go into this field?" Be prepared to answer this question. You wouldn't make a $100,000 purchase without thorough research and thought - you shouldn't go into grad school like that either. Weigh your options and make sure that each program you apply for adequately suits the career goals that you aim to achieve. 

Create a time-line during the beginning of your junior year which lists the dates that each of the schools/programs you plan on applying for need your application and letters of recommendation. After this, set a rough date for when you will approach those whom you would like to write your letter. 

Know the specifications for each program - Do you need five letters from professors? Do you need a letter from a past employer? Is it not specified? It is important to know exactly how many letters of recommendation are required by each post-grad institution to which you will be applying. Each school may have different specifications as far as the number of personal and professional references needed, so make sure to double check and make note of that early on!

Choosing the right people to write your letters of recommendation is the most important part of this process. Students will want to follow these five tips when it comes to choosing the perfect candidate to write their letters: 

  1. Choose people that will give strong recommendations - not people that know you vaguely. 
  2. Choose people with high ranking credentials/experience in your field that will explain why you are a good fit for the position that you are applying for.
  3. Choose someone who will speak to your growth.
  4. Choose people that will help your resume come to life (those who will explain why you excelled in either school/work/sports etc. and what you, uniquely, are able to bring).
  5. Choose people that will give insight into both your personality and your character.

Always, Always, Always ASK IN PERSON! It is important to approach the professional that you are asking in the right way when asking for a letter of recommendation. Plan what you are going to say, and most importantly, BE BOLD! You shouldn’t feel nervous about asking your professors to do this for you because professors with juniors and seniors EXPECT to be asked for letters of recommendation.

However, it is important to remember that professors are very busy people. Although most would love to help you out, they may not have enough time if you ask them to write a letter too close to your deadline. Try to ask at least 3 months before your letters need to be submitted in order to ensure that you have allotted more than enough time for the letter be written and sent in to the correct institution.

Here are some steps you can follow to make sure the process goes smoothly:

  • Write down a list of your accomplishments on a “brag sheet”, or provide a copy of your resume, and talk about your plans and goals with them so that their letter is appropriate and reflects upon your achievements 
  • Provide the writer with all necessary information that is given to you by the schools to which you are applying, such as the exact details/website/date for submission. Do whatever you can to make the process easier for them. They are doing you a favor and will appreciate the help.

Waive your right to read the letter. I know it may sound scary and you are probably dying to know what the writer has said about you, but keeping the letter confidential allows the reader to know that all of the information in the letter is candid and truthful.

Write a thank you! Professors or other professionals are not required to write these letters, they do it as a favor! make sure to thank them for their time and detailed recollection of their time with you.

 

 

An Introvert's Guide to Networking

As a college student, I am often asked 3 questions:

What do you want to do with your life? (Yikes.)

How do you intend to get there?

Who do you know who will help you achieve that goal?

The first question is huge and sometimes overwhelming. The second question is also big and confusing, and requires a lot of Providential input. But the third question— this is the one I have the most control over, and the question which has the potential to control the other two. 

The pressure of building a solid professional network is already present in the minds of career-seeking students. But it can be difficult to get out of your comfort zone to speak with someone new. You're not alone if you find networking scary, pointless, or confusing. Here are a few reasons to network, and some tips for doing it well.

Prepare

Before you enter a professional event or social situation, ask yourself what you want to walk away knowing. For myself, I always want to walk away knowing a person. I desire to know where she is in life, how her past led her there, what brings her joy, and where her hopes lie. In short, I desire to establish a relationship by knowing and being known by another. At the end of a good conversation, I will exchange contact information with the individual in order to maintain the relationship, and BAM! I have inadvertently added a real person to my network..

If this sounds familiar, that's because it is. We typically make friends by falling into conversation about some mutual point of interest, and if we want to keep in touch we will exchange phone numbers. Networking does not just mimic relationship-building; it actually is relationship-building.

If you have friends, you can network.

I would advise introverts (and, well, everyone) not to enter a professional event with the intention of building your network. With such an intention, the people in the room may become “potential connections” rather than people. Conversation goes differently if you are eager to display your resume and inquire about job opportunities. Often, people can tell when they are being used as a means to some end. They do not appreciate it, and ultimately neither will you.

Talking to People

This might be the scariest part. To ease your nerves a bit, feign confidence up front. Stride toward an individual or a small group, depending on what you are most comfortable with, introduce yourself, and express interest in the person or persons. Try to pose meaningful, open-ended questions. “Where are you from” and “How long have you been with this company” are fine, but they tend to bring conversation to a halt. 

Instead, try to get a feel for what the person enjoys talking about. Maybe he is proud of his latest project at work or the progress his toddler is making with the alphabet. This should go without saying, but when the person speaks, listen to him. Do not let your mind wander away from the conversation, and certainly do not interrupt.

When it is your turn to speak, talk about what you enjoy. Tell stories and be vulnerable. The more you reveal about yourself, the more this relationship-turned-professional-connection has the potential to benefit you. If you have no idea what you want to do with your future and the question comes up, lay out your options and interests. Perhaps your new friend can help, or perhaps he has a connection who can help you take the next step.

Talk In-Person

One of the biggest temptations for introverts is to do the majority of their networking online. Online networking—for instance, through email or LinkedIn—is a great tool for publicizing your name and repertoire for future employers. But it should not be your primary tool. 

Before going digital, I maintained a physical portfolio of the professional relationships I had formed, including individuals’ names, occupations, contact information, how we met, and something memorable about them or our encounter. 

With this information, I could call or email someone with the following:

“Hi,Jared! We met last year at the Pro-Life luncheon in Tallahassee. You might remember that you helped me clean up after I dropped a glass of water on the floor! How have you been?"

"Last time we spoke, you mentioned that your daughter was deciding on which college to attend. Where did she end up?"

'Right now, I’m looking for a summer internship and would love the opportunity to work with your pro-life organization if there are any openings. If not, do you know anyone in the field who I could get in touch with?” 

It's far easier to find commonalities with someone you've me and spoken with than with someone who you've only emailed. Try giving people a call first, and following up with an email later.

Digital Connections

After joining LinkedIn, I began to form my digital network out of my preexisting relationships, which made remembering personal information much easier! LinkedIn also provides a huge advantage in your networking--the ability to see friends of friends. These people, called 2nd level connections, are individuals you are not connected to yet, but whom you could be connected to easily through your mutual friend.

As a result, LinkedIn allows you to find many more people than you could have found otherwise, including people that are in exactly the field you wish to enter.

A mistake introverts might make with online networking is connecting with as many people as possible…including strangers. One time, an older man with an unusual name and strange profile picture asked to connect with me on LinkedIn. No note of introduction, and the only thing we had in common was a mutual friend. I reached out to that friend and asked her how she knew the man. “I don’t,” she replied. “He wanted to connect with me, so I let him.”  

These sorts of individuals will most likely not make or break your employment opportunity. I advise you to only connect digitally with people you are familiar with in reality. We would not approach a stranger on the side of the road and request them to join our professional network, and the same prudence should be applied to the internet. 

The Secret Weapon

Often, I imagine that networking means reaching out into the big world, blindly searching for people who might be able to help me find a future career. With this image, networking seems daunting. Here is my preferred image of networking: looking to my right and left at those who are already near to me. 

Yes, it may not seem like “networking,” but establishing a professional relationship with the people you already know and love is—in my experience—the most useful form of networking.

In the spring semester of my freshman year, I was considering a career in law. Before undergoing preparation for law school, I wanted to discern this path by participating in a legal internship. I began applying for all sorts of law internships, but because I was a first year undergraduate with no experience in the field, nobody wanted to hire me.

During a casual phone conversation with my younger sister, I explained that I was frustrated because I could not find an internship. To my surprise, she replied that her AP Calculus teacher told the class earlier that day that her husband—an Assistant United States attorney—was going through internship applications. I asked my sister to put in a good word for me, assuming nothing would come of the encounter. 

The next evening, the teacher’s husband called my cell phone and said, “If you want an internship with the United States Attorney’s Office, send me your resume, cover letter, and transcript first thing tomorrow morning.” I got the internship and spent my summer writing legal documents, organizing discovery, transcribing prison calls and interviews, meeting with federal agents, and attending court proceedings. 

The experience was exciting and enriching. Through the internship, I formed relationships with individuals who then became part of my professional network, and they connected me with other professionals in varying fields. In addition, the internship taught me enough about myself to dissuade me from pursuing a career in law. But I never would have had the experience if I hadn’t turned to the people who were already around me.

So what's the secret to networking? Don’t discredit the power of your closest relationships, and be open to finding relationships at every turn.