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Applying for Jobs

Are You Ready for New York?

I moved to New York City over three years ago. I'd lived in DC and Philadelphia before, but it took me many months to navigate the city. It took me two months to figure out that cabs with a light on in the middle were empty, a year to learn about alternate street parking for cars (for friends who drive into the city), and one midnight trip on the subway to learn that different stops on the same street can land you in very different neighborhoods. (If you're visiting or new in town, check out for great directions and time estimates for travel)

Living and working in Manhattan can be complicated. As I'm based here, I offer my NYC Job Seekers Meetup for newcomers and veterans of the Manhattan employment market. I also recommend Vicki Salemi's book Big Career in the Big City: Land a Job and Get a Life in New York for emerging professionals seeking their first gig in Gotham.

A former recruiter at KPMG, Vicki recently gave a fabulous talk to my MeetUp group. I asked if she'd share the following quiz with you--for those of you deciding whether to move to New York or not...

What’s Your NYC-ability?

That’s right. I’m talkin’ your Manhattan mojo and moxie. The fire in your belly that simply says it’s NYC or bust, baby! Are you truly ready to become a Gotham gal? Or are you a shrinking violet and more comfortable in the country than the big city? It’s pop quiz time, diva!

1. The thought of getting on a crowded subway during rush hour where it’s literally flesh on flesh with odors of pickle breath or random briefcases shoved into your back is

a. Part of the New York experience! What an invigorating way to start the day. For real.

b. Less than ideal, but hey: If it’s the fastest way to get to work, I’ll have to deal.

c. Gross. I’ll walk or take the bus instead, thank you very much.

2. Paying $1,500 in rent, $15 each day for lunch, $4.50 in subway fares, not to mention other expenses is

a. Worth it. You get what you pay for and NYC is worth every penny.

b. A travesty, but hey: Even though I’ll be broke, at least I’ll be happy.

c. Absurd.

3. The idea of paying a ton of money to live in a tiny apartment with two roommates, a makeshift wall, and the occasional mouse is

a. Your typical no-frills housing situation. Bring it!

b. Ick, but still worth it in order to have my shiny new life.

c. Gross and unacceptable.

4. This Thursday night you can either jet downtown to a cocktail party at a gallery opening, gallivant uptown to a private industry event at a museum, go to happy hour in the Meatpacking District, catch a celebrity book signing at Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue, or chill at home.

You want to

a. Do it all! But alas, that’s not possible. So you’ll pick two events that are closest to each other, like the book signing and museum soiree, courtesy of a quick trip on the 6 train.

b. Take a deep breath and then focus on one event, like the cool gallery cocktail party. Ooh la la!

c. Chillax. Home sweet home all the way.

5. As you’re crossing the street and a messenger on a bicycle speeds past a red light, almost literally knocking you down to the pave- ment, you...

a. Curse him out at the top of your lungs.

b. Shake your head in disbelief and chalk it up to another day as a pedestrian.

c. Curse the dude in the loudest voice possible in your head, curse the city, and make your exit as soon as possible.



Mostly As: Congratulations! A magnificent Manhattan life awaits and you’re clearly more than ready to bite into the Big Apple. The question though: Is it ready for you?

Mostly Bs: You’re almost there. It may take time to feel com- pletely ready to take on the land of the bright lights coupled with roaches, ridiculous rent prices, and a maxed-out social life. Be patient and realize that perhaps you should take baby steps by liv- ing in one of the boroughs.

Mostly Cs: New York City? Fughettabout it. Hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but since you didn’t exactly pass the test, there’s no need to push it. If you force it, you’ll be unhappy and home- sick. New Yawk isn’t going anywhere and will be here when you’re ready for its magic.

Find yourself in the A or B category? Let us know how we can help...

On the Job Hunt & The Listening Effect

I am pleased to announce that I've joined Susan Joyce and a host of other career management professionals on

I'm serving as the New Grads Job Search Expert on Job-Hunt, and will be writing a monthly column for the site. If you haven't checked out before, I encourage you to do so. The site is very easy to navigate and includes comprehensive information to help you throughout your job search process--from getting started with your first job search to how to work with recruiters and deal with a tough career transition.

In my first piece for Job-Hunt, I shared stories from my own first job, work in career management, and lessons learned from rocket scientists as well as the proverbial "water under the bridge."

This month, I focus on the importance of listening. It's not a skill that you find frequently in aListening-ear position description, but your ability to be a strong active listener can make all the difference in the interview process--and once you get hired.

For the past year, I've been taking classes in storytelling from Narativ. I'm learning how to tell stories that make an audience lean forward. I'm learning strategies to tell what happened instead of how I feel about a situation. The Narativ methodology is helping me to become a better storyteller. But mainly, I am learning how to be a better listener...without listening, you lose impact--in your job, in your ability to work with others, in your ability to communicate.

The process of finding your first job--and positions after that--can be fraught with anxiety, self-doubt, and doubt: Am I really qualified to do this job? Do I have the experience that it takes? All too frequently, you may miss a really obvious skill---one that can make all the difference--and that you already have. The skill I am referring to, of course, is listening.

Several years ago, I watched an Ivy League senior with a 3.98 GPA from a relatively unpopulated state (let's call it Nebraska) participate in the selection rounds for a Rhodes Scholarship interview. He had a long list of organizations he'd been involved in as well as measurable achievements for his extracurricular efforts. But there wasn't a single activity that he was involved in that he didn't hold the top title--President, Captain, Chair. As he told the committee, "I just prefer to be in the leadership role."

He didn't get picked. The committee went with other candidates who had experience in simply serving as a committee member, a participant, a team player.

In the midst of everything, never forget: Employers are looking for great listeners who can follow directions! Often, they will hire you for this singular ability--and then teach you the rest.

That's my two cents on listening. Now I want to hear what you have to say...

Your Career & The "Premium Rush"

I live one block off Broadway on New York City's Upper West Side. This morning I was on the way to brunch with a friend, and I saw something unusual: two and a half blocks of cabs and cars all lined up on the street. Parked. Only a few of them were there. The street corners were packed with police officers, people wearing orange reflective vests, and people with microphones and wires in their ears.Traffic_blur

I heard one of them say, "How do you spell brunch?" as he typed out a message on his iPhone? And then, many of them came inside the restaurant to join my friend and I. We sat at separate tables.

I asked a few questions and learned that the crowd I saw had gathered together for a common goal: They are shooting stunts for a movie, Premium Rush. The movie is about a bike messenger, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who gets involved in a chase around the city. You can learn more about it on this blog, or via IMBD.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn't in my neighborhood this morning. Apparently the shots that are being filmed are what you will see as he zooms through traffic, but he won't be shooting the stunt.

But before I left the scene, I did take a couple of mental pictures that I do want to share with you. It takes many staff to film a movie...more than I imagined. Did I mention there was an entire side street filled with trailers and production vehicles, too'?

Despite all the job reports--the stories about lack of jobs in entertainment, for recent grads, etc.--there were people of all ages taking place in the shoot. There were people moving large scale equipment, people working to direct traffic, people who specialized in communication, videographers, technicians, and security. If I were in the movie industry, I could tell you who else was there, too. But that's not what I do.

The mental picture I left with is just how many jobs there are--to take part in a big project. Not everyone gets to be Joseph Gordon-Levitt and star in a movie,or to perform stunts, or to work as a senior producer. But if you're in a rush to land the career you want, perhaps a good way to start is by finding out all the task that go into producing the finished product of your dream job--and then look for a side door.

Do you have any experience with this? Share.

To Your Success,


Networking: Why "Who You Know" Doesn't Count

This is my contribution to this month's Career Collective offering. Career Collective is a community of bloggers that gather together each month to share thoughts on a common topic. Up this month: Strategies and best practices for networking.Networking

Last week, I wrote about visiting my twin nieces at a summer camp which teaches leadership skills. They had a great experience. Now that they are home, they are setting goals of their own. And one of them--perhaps the most widely publicized one--is to see who can have the most friends on Facebook. At last count, they are in the 700's.

How many friends can you have? And how many is too many? Is it better to have the widest network possible? Or a small circle of trusted allies?

Several years ago, a friend shared with me an anecdote that has shaped my opinion on the dilemma ever since. My friend was the golf coach at the University of Pennsylvania, and one of the friends he made during his time there was the late Walter Annenberg, former Ambassador, media mogul and founder of TV Guide.

During a round of golf, my friend was discussing his fundraising strategy with Mr. Annenberg. "It's not what you know, it's who you know, right?"

Mr. Annenberg shook his head; "No. It's who knows you back that counts."

Who knows you back? Who are the people that will return your calls, vouch for you, and help you out in a pinch? This, to me, is the essence of what a good network is--and the reason why I don't accept all friend and connection requests on LinkedIn or Facebook. I know the people I will know back. You?

Here are the other posts from Career Collective, read 'em and reap the benefits of their expertise.

  • 5 Little Secrets About Networking, @Careersherpa
  • Networking: Easy as 1, 2 , 3, @WorkWithIllness
  • How to Take the Intimidation Out of Networking, @heathermundell
  • Networking for the Shy and Introverted, @KatCareerGal
  • A tale of two networkers, @DawnBugni
  • Introvert or Extrovert: Tips for the Job Search No Matter Which 'Vert' You Are, @erinkennedycprw
  • Networking for Job Candidates Who Hate Networking, @heatherhuhman
  • Networking? Ugh! @resumeservice
  • Network, Network, Network, @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes
  • 3 ways to make networking fun for introverts and extroverts, @Keppie_Careers
  • Grow Your Career Networking Seeds Organically, @ValueIntoWords
  • Networking: It's a Way of Life, @WalterAkana
  • Social Media Networking & Your Career, @GayleHoward
  • Networking for the Networking-Phobic, @JobHuntOrg
  • Free e-book (Collective Wisdom for Share)

    In my spare time, I've been spending time with Narativ, a Manhattan-based organization that helps people tell stories. Not stories as in fibs, but personal storytelling. Narativ teaches the mechanics of storytelling. Take one of their classes, and you'll learn how to nail an interview question, how to tell a story with a Storytelling detail that makes people remember your name--or the story forever--or simply how to keep your audience awake the next time you talk in public.

    I digress. In the last paragraph, I intended to share with you one of Narativ's core beliefs about storytelling: Narativ believes everyone is "hardwired" to tell stories. We all want to tell stories, sometimes we just don't know how to start, how to shape the middle, or how to end. Or we don't know who our audience is.

    As a writer who talks a great deal about careers, I'd like to think that I'm a decent storyteller. But I recognize that the stories I tell won't resonate with everyone. That's the beauty of an anthology, right? In reading through multiple stories, there's a better chance you will find the story which resonates with you--and which makes all the difference.

    I wrote this post to share with you a new resource that has amazing stories. Penelope Trunk and Rich DiMatteo have conceived of and executed on a great, free e-book, especially made for the millennial job seeker. The e-book is called What I Know About Getting a Job and you can find it through the site Corn on the Job.  

    There are 18 job search experts on the list, all of whom have been ranked as one of the Top 25 Digital Influencers in HR by HRExaminers. I am pleased to have gotten to know several of the people on this list: Mark Stelzner wrote the foreword for the Twitter Job Search Guide, Jason Alba contributed, and Peter Clayton is a great guy who runs a wonderful career radio show,Total Picture Radio.

    You should download this book. Because in addition to having great advice, everyone who is in this e-book tells great stories about careers, and one of them may be just the thing you need to hear right now.

    To Your Success,


    Guest Post: Making Head Hunters Work For You

    In the wake of the recession, more and more employers are downsizing their human resources department.  Instead, they are using hiring agencies to fill both temporary and permanent positions.  Prospective employees are faced with a problem.  Hiring agencies are primarily working for the employer. 

    When searching for a job, it’s important to make the most out of working with the hiring agencies in your area. Here are four proven tactics for achieving that goal:

    1. Make a list of all the hiring agencies that work with companies that fit your job search.
    Not all hiring agencies are created equal.  In any given region there are often hundreds of hiring agencies. Some primarily place people with companies that specialize in construction or manual labor. Others place IT people or accountants. Find out which agencies match your employment profile: degree, level of experience, etc.  Then, make a list of these agencies and look for job postings on their websites.  Post your resume on these sites, and write your login information down. Check back weekly.

    2. Make a contact within the agency.
    Have the phone number of a specific person within each agency.  Call them when you see a job opportunity that might be a good fit on their website.  If they hear from you on a regular basis, they’ll be more likely to think of you when a new job opportunity arises.

    3. If you have a preferred company, find out what hiring agency they work with.
    Let’s say you’re an accountant and you want to work for a specific insurance company.  Other than knowing someone already working for the company or applying directly on their website, your best bet for getting a job with them is to find out which hiring agency they use to find temps and direct hires.  Call the hiring agency and ask to be put on their list of people to contact when a job with that company opens up.  Keep in mind that many temporary positions turn into full-time, salaried positions.

    4. Focus on agencies that offer direct-hire placement.
    This may go without saying, but most people who are unemployed are searching for positions that offer full benefits.  There are very few hiring agencies that offer more than the most minimal health insurance, and many don’t offer a 401k.  On the same note, there are hiring agencies that specialize in placing temps temps.  Focus your efforts on the agencies that place people directly with the company.

    Following these simple steps can help you maximize your job searching efforts. As more companies make use of hiring agencies, the successful job seeker will learn to navigate the new job market.

    Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at, researching areas of online universities. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

    Note: The Emerging Professional blog and Best Fit Forward do not endorse nor recommendations made in this blog post. One minor comment on the advice above:
    When working with a head hunter or a third party recruiting agency, always remember the following: They primarily work for the organization who pays their bills, not for you. Be extra careful to assess whether an organizational culture, dynamics, and position is the right fit for you!

    How Campus Career Centers Work & Why Most Use a Standard Resume Format

    This is Part II of my response to Penelope Trunk's post on “How to Manage an Education.”  In my last post, I talked about why you shouldn't count campus career centers out.   

    Today, I want to address Penelope's assertion that career centers cater to companies not candidates, and that one of the primary examples of this is found in the entry-level resume since most colleges endorse and teach students to write resumes using a standard format. I'm going to tackle these opinions one at time.  

    On the Statement that "career centers cater to companies not candidates"

    On most campuses, Penelope's right: employer needs frequently set the schedule for career center programming. The academic calendar for on-campus career fairs, presentations, and interviews for summer and full-time jobs is often set first by employer priorities--and schedules at peer institutions. (Many employers have a short list of target schools that they visit for on-campus recruiting. Naturally, if your school makes the list--they generally want to stay on the list as this translates into potential opportunites for you!)

    Just as there are many different types of colleges and universities--from liberal arts to applied science and engineering, from large public universities to small schools with student populations of under 500--there are many different types of career offices. Frequently, you can assess a career center's mission by its title:

    • Career Services: Office offers comprehensive services to students and employers
    • Career Development: Focus of office may rest more with education than on employer outreach
    • Career Placement: Focus of office often more heavily skewed towards providing employer services and connecting students with advertised opportunity.

    The question of whether career centers are catered towards students and employers is a tricky one, and one which varies from campus to campus. Frankly, inside the Ivory Tower, this is often a chicken-and-egg issue: Frequently the budget for career services operations is at least partially dependent on fees raised by employer activity such as interviewing, job postings, and career fair participation. Many of these offices use money raised by employers to pay staff, run programs, and keep the lights on. (This can be a major stressor on Career Services leadership, especially in a lean economy.)

    There's also a big misunderstanding in the marketplace on how employers post jobs and how they work with career offices. The companies that do come on campus to interview students typically have more than one thing in common:

    1. They are well-established and large enough to be able to anticipate need for entry-level or junior hires at least nine months in advance (traditionally most full-time recruiting takes place during fall term)
    2. They have specific, pre-defined roles they are looking for.
    3. They recruit at more than one campus.

    Most college career centers do arrange their services to  meet the needs of these employers. Again, often their budgets depend on it--and students generally want to be able to interview for jobs.

    A vast majority of college career centers in the U.S. follow guidelines for career services and employers established by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. These guidelines are designed to ensure that all students have a fair shot at jobs--and that college career center staff and faculty can't play favorites in recommending one student over another. To me, these guidelines make sense...

    But throw in the guidelines, career center staff budgetary restrictions, and employers who recruit at multiple schools and you get the dilemma that Penelope talks about--

    Most colleges endorse and teach students to write resumes using a standard format.

    Penelope's right on here: most schools have a standard resume template that pretty much specifies how you should write up your experiences for employer review. If you're at a progressive school, you might be presented with three or four examples of how you can develop your resume. But most places set guidelines for how you need to write up your education and degree information.

    These standard formats help schools live up to NACE principals of fairness and they help employers do a quick scan of your skills and experience in comparison with you peers. But, again, Penelope's assessment is on the mark: Standard formats don't help all students, and especially not those who have non-traditional experience that doesn't align well with a rote format.

    Outside of the campus career center employer match game, employers and recruiters evaluate candidate resumes in aggregate. Often, a first pass at these resumes is made by scanners looking for keywords relevant to the position. These keywords need to be at the top of your resume, and you need to learn how to play that game, too...because once you graduate--you may lose out on being called for an interview because you don't look relevant enough--even if you actually have the skills! A big reason for this? Most schools don't tell you that your Education section needs to be moved out of first place on your resume after college...In fact, I don't believe I've ever seen a Career Services resume writing guide for alums that includes this information--a major omission--if you ask me. Not creating your resume to align with these systems can lead to this:


    Need to update your resume so that it's scannable and passes the relevance test? Check out my e-book, Has Your Resume Graduated from College?

    And be kind to your college career center...if you feel something's missing in their coverage of how to find a job--suggest a solution and offer to help them. (Many offices love to hire current students and alums as volunteers, and colleges frequently hire students to help out as student workers. You can make a difference!)

    Alexandra Levit's New Job, New You

    A book review to kick off the new year…Alexandra_levit_

    If you’re looking for it, there are hundreds of different sources of career advice. What’s important is that you find a source that speaks to you when you need it. Some job seekers prefer straight forward how-to guides. Others prefer videos or podcasts. I’ll read anything, but my favorite sources of career advice are the ones that come with stories attached: When I can see how other people have made a transition, it’s easier for me to see how I might make an adjustment myself. Have you ever found that to be true? What works for you?

    One of my favorite sources of career stories is Alexandra Levit, author of “Who Scored that Gig?” and “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College.” A career columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Alexandra is also a great story-teller. Today, I’m writing to give a plug for her latest book “New Job, New You.”

    Ever experienced a moment in life where your “out of work” experiences make you want to refocus your career priorities? Or simply hit a wall at work and know that something has to change? Such realizations can be exhilarating—and paralyzing, especially when you don’t know what to do next.

    Enter Alexandra and her comprehensive conversations. In New Job, New You, Alexandra tackles seven common “game changers” that can lead you to re- examine your career—family, the desire for independence, the quest to learn more, the pursuit of money, passion, setbacks, and sheer talent (or the natural gifts you’ve been given). She ignores celebrities and the “exceptionally lucky” and provides five “real life stories” of career exploration and change for each “ball game” followed by practical advice.  Reading the book is the equivalent of having 35 intimate conversations with people who’ve been there, and then leaving with the “questions you need to ask,” and a short list of resources to get started in forging your own path. Naturally, this doesn’t do your exploratory work for you in your own career search, but it’s a great start and an easy read for 20 and 30-somethings interested in making lifestyle changes or another career transition.

    Lessons Learned From Cheering On MLB's Most Lovable Losers

    This is the final installment in a three part series from recent grad, sports fan, and PR enthusiastic Megan Ogulnick. Megan is currently searching for her first full-time job, you can find her on Twitter: @MOgulnick.

    I was born bleeding Cubbie blue. Cheering on the Yankees or Dodgers was never an option. It was embedded in me like DNA. I had brown hair, green eyes and I was a Cubs fan. At a young age the charm and personality of the Cubs got me and I watched more Cubs games than I did cartoons. The first time I entered Wrigley Field, my fate was sealed. The atmosphere, the sounds, the tastes and smells, the ivy covered walls and the old-school scoreboard. It was enchanting and my heart still skips a beat every time I return. The Chicago Cubs have a power over me that words can't describe. It's a love, a passion, a union that only Cubs fans can understand. They can give me the ultimate high, but have the power to bring me to indescribable lows.Cubs

     I was sitting in section 205 on October 14, 2003 as the Cubs were 5 outs away from making it to the World Series for the first time since 1945. In my face paint, handmade Cubs shirt and Cubs print pants; I hid behind my hands too nervous to watch. Hiding was a good idea. With 5 outs to go, Moises Alou lost a foul ball to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Alex Gonzalez let a ball go through his legs, Mark Prior imploded,  and the Florida Marlins went on to score 8 runs. All with 5 outs to go! This wasn't the only time the Cubs were the reason I cried for hours. Being a Cubs fan means enjoying the highs, but expecting the lows. People ask me constantly, "Why are you a Cubs fan?" Why? Why do I cheer on a team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908? Why do I support an effort that is 101 years in the making? Why do I constantly set myself up for disappointment? I had no choice. I was destined to be a Cubs fan. And while my mom constantly reminds me "Why do you love them so much? They don't give anything back to you!" I know that's not true. The Cubs have taught me the importance of loyalty, dedication and persistence. Being a Cubs fan has prepared me for anything and given me invaluable skills I use daily. Sure I'd like a World Series ring, but a few, good life lessons will do for now.

    “If at first you don’t succeed..”

    We've all heard the saying, "Practice makes perfect." The great thing about this saying is that it can be applied to anything we do in life from playing sports to landing that perfect job. Practice is the key to success and is something that even the most talented athlete does daily. After an 8-game winning streak the Cubs won't cancel drills just because they're doing well and a player won't just hang out in the clubhouse during practice if he's batting .380 in June. The best keep going. They keep practicing. They keep honing their skills. They try each and every day to better the athlete they were yesterday. Texas Ranger pitcher CJ Wilson said, "We practice every day despite having played the same basic game for over 20 years...Think about how weird that is!"

    The same applies to the job search. It is rare to find someone who wakes up one morning and is just naturally good at interviewing.
    It's a skill and something we need to practice. Rehearse answering important questions in the mirror, set up mock interviews with family or educators, research keys to successful interviews and go on actual interviews as often as you can. My friend Sarah recently went on an interview with a company that she didn’t know much about. While she was apprehensive at first she saw it as an opportunity for practice. The interview only lasted two minutes, but the point was that she gained more experience and knowledge through it. No harm there, right? You can’t win every game, nor can you knock every interview out of the park, it takes practice, dedication, and persistence. Someday I will have the home run of all interviews and land that perfect job, but until then practice makes perfect.

    Perseverance "Yet we still believe it's gonna happen. Maybe this year, maybe next year, maybe in 50 years. We'll wait."- No Love Lost, ESPN

    Sports have taught me some important life lessons including, dedication, preparation, practice, experience, and persistence. However, I feel this last lesson is truly the most important; perseverance.
    It was Wednesday, October 14, 1908 the last time the Chicago Cubs won a World Series. 101 years ago. Chicago fans are constantly reminded of it and the players are too. Yet at every Chicago Cubs home game you'll be pressed to find an empty seat, the crowd will be cheering louder than even the day before and the players will sprint out there with one goal in mind; win. The Chicago Cubs understand the definition of perseverance. They eat, sleep and breathe it. Regardless of any obstacles, the cynics or their history, the Cubs know that one day they will win the World Series and until then the only thing they can do is put everything they have into every game they play.

    The truth is, the job search can be exhausting. Constantly being told "no" by companies can take its toll. And being turned down for positions you've dreamed about can be heart breaking. I know, because the Cubs still haven’t offered me an interview. Regardless, the important thing is to keep going. Never take no for an answer and never accept failure. My dream is to work in sports and I won't stop until that dream becomes a reality. A baseball player doesn't quit after going 0-for-4 in an important game and neither will I. Now, let’s play ball!

    Hats off to Megan for this expansive "job series." And if you're interested in hiring her, please feel free to give her a shout!

    Networking for Introverts

    Today's blog post is authored by Catherine Ho, a recent Stanford grad and fundraising researcher at a large arts nonprofit. She spends much of her time networking, solidifying her long-term career goals, and advancing her interest in brand marketing. I asked Catherine to write a guest post after noticing her ability to ask thought-provoking questions on Twitter.Catherine_Ho (She also has a great knack for summarizing news and sharing interesting trends on Twitter.)
    As you'll see, Catherine chose to wrote about a topic of interest to many of the job seekers that I work with--networking strategies for "introverts." (Thanks, Catherine!)

    Transitioning into a new industry with little to no experience can be daunting. Over the last 2 years since graduation, I've taught myself the basics of successful networking.
    As an introvert, networking never comes naturally. It requires quite a bit of planning and mental preparation. I see too many of my peers dismissing the power of networking as they sit comfortably in their jobs.

    Regardless of whether you are job searching or not, networking can open many doors. With a lot of hard work, I've been able to secure a few volunteer and part-time opportunities that will boost my work experience in my chosen industry. If you excel at what you CAN control, you can trust in yourself that key contacts will come out of the woodwork and see you as a dependable, eager, curious learner. Confidence is absolutely key for introverts.

    Tools needed: Linkedin, Twitter, resume, professional organizations, and of course informational interviews. The informational interview has been the most valuable for me because it is widely accepted as a way to meet people and receive real insight about a company or industry. Your mileage may vary. Utilize what works best. Here are my five recommendations:
    1. Take Chances

    When in doubt, take every little opportunity given to you. If you are nervous of the meeting's outcome, just remember that the worst thing that can happen is that he/she says no to your request, in which case you'll move on to the next possible contact. Last month I was given the option of meeting a CEO of a food startup for an informational interview either over the phone or at their office. I chose to go to his office despite the fact that it was all the way across town and quite early before my workday. This decision made a world of difference for me. I was able to get to know the company culture, study their product packaging, and meet one of the CEO's colleagues. I was also less nervous than I would be over the phone. I'm now working with his colleague on a very exciting volunteer project that will give me valuable experience to show to potential employers.

    2. Know Your Objectives

    Know your objectives before each and every point of contact. Have an agenda prepared before your meeting and do your best to stick to it. Make sure it includes thoughtful questions prepared in advance in addition to your research of a company. During the meeting you can gauge what direction the meeting is going and shift around your agenda as you see fit. To research the company, study the latest press releases, Google News and Finance, note any major changes in investor news and stock prices. A great resource is your local business times, well as Fast Company, BusinessWeek, and other business-related periodicals. If needed, prepare rough phone scripts and key points in notes form. I sometimes get flustered over the phone, so this helps me with my confidence level because I don't have to think on the spot about which questions I will ask. Obviously, this structure requires a bit of effort and preparation beforehand, but it will allow you to guide the meeting with ease and confidence.

    3. Practice, Practice, Practice

    As an introvert, I find that the only way to improve my networking skills is to have more face-to-face time with potential contacts. It has become a skill that I can turn "on" when I'm in the right mindset and about to enter a networking event. Strike a healthy balance of online and in person networking. Joining a professional organization is also a great idea. I'm an active member of a great professional organization called Future Women Leaders in San Francisco. It has helped me learn how to effectively network while learning key business skills in the company of similar young professionals. Develop a busy schedule of networking events, which you can often find advertised online. Practicing face-to-face made me more confident as a person and has positively affected my social life as well, which is a huge bonus for me!

    4. Be Professional, No Matter What

    Always be as professional, courteous and polite as you would want them to be with you, even if you think the meeting was a flop. Think positively and don't let your own perspective cloud your judgment because you have no idea what the second party is thinking. Apply all the skills you learned about personalized emails, prompt thank you notes, and common courtesy in full force. Always ask if there's anything you can do for your contact. You are not networking just for a job; you are networking to build a great group of trusted professionals you can turn to in future times of need. Demonstrate your maturity level and your awareness in the importance of networking, which is often unexpected in young professionals.

    5. Trust Your Instincts
    Be prepared for a lot of "no"s and non-answers. Realize that you will not always be able to connect or "click" with a person. Choose to cold-contact strategic people that you feel would be great to have and trust your instincts. Raid your alumni database. If you hear of a name mentioned by someone, research how to contact them. If you read an article by an author you find fascinating, find that person. Be persistent and proactive! It's easier these days to find people with LinkedIn, web search, and email. For the contacts that stick, update them regularly (quarterly is a good rule of thumb) with each major stepping stone or ask them out for coffee and a chance to get out of the office to catch up. This will keep you on their radar. Many people are impressed and flattered to be asked to share their knowledge and advice.


    I have met some true gems through my networking, and I will never forget their kindness, taking a chance on me as I navigate into an industry in which I have little to no experience. Most importantly, be sure to pay it forward when you have reached your success! Best of luck.

    You can find and connect with Catherine on Twitter: @catherinewithac

    How to Navigate a Career Fair

    After attending several career fairs in Manhattan with only 14 employers, I'm starting to see small signs of a turn-around: longer (if not "2006 long") lists of employers attending career fairs. Nice. With that, and the impending arrival of fall career fairs come September, here are my suggestions for navigating a career fair.

    1. Take it seriously. Unless you are a visual art major and it's a "casual career fair," dress well--no 479608_shaking_hands jeans, tight clothes or white sneakers. Think: Summer's over, even if it's still warm outside. Ties, jackets, dress pants, dark shoes and socks for men. Shirts that don't show the navel and skirts or pants that don't defy gravity for women. Err on the side of conservatism. "She wore WHAT?" is always a perennial discussion among recruiters.

    (Also, breath mints are always in vogue. Chewing gum at the fair or smoking outside--bad idea.)

    2. Bring copies of your resume, but don't be disappointed if the employer prefers not to take it. Companies have rules and internal procedures regarding applicants. Occasionally, these rules will dictate that they can't take resumes. (Did you know some employers are legally required to preseve any comments they write on your resume at a career fair?")

    Most employers will require you to apply for positions online to be considered as an official applicant. So don't be turned off by the line, "To apply for a position, go to our website.

    3. Know who you want to talk to in advance, and have something interesting to say. Chances are good that you've heard a lot about the elevator pitch, and for good reason: You'll have under 30 seconds to introduce yourself to employers.

    Here's a cheat sheet to know what to say: Every good introductions should include two pieces of information:

    • A summary of who you are and what you are looking for, and
    • An ice breaker that shows you are familiar with the organization's project and services--and culture. (I often recommend searching Google News by organization name, reviewing websites, and reviewing employer profiles such as Hoover's, Vault, and WetFeet.) Many job seekers don't do this, and taking the time to read in advance can help you stand out.

    Not sure what you want to say? Check out, and the site's pitch wizard. It will help you condense and revise your "stump speech."

    4. Don't be afraid to spend time with the "lonely employer." Job fairs can feel like popularity contests with lots of candidates in one line, and other booths that are almost empty. Stop by and say hello to the quiet tables, too. You may be surprised at what they have to offer, and it can be a great time to get one-on-one advice from the employer's perspective.

    5. Get to know other job seekers at the event--especially when you are in line. Your next lead could come from the person standing in front of you or behind you in line. Making friends with others interested in the same company may seem self-defeating, but it isn't--especially given that you may have different interests, skills, and experience in terms of job function. Remember the common job search rule of thumb that over 60% of job offers are the direct result of networking!

    6. When you talk to employers, keep your conversation focused and brief. Introduce yourself with a small handshake. Job fairs often feature long lines of candidates, and can be daunting to employers. Keep your ears open as candidates before you talk to employers, and consider introducing the employer to the candidate behind you in line if the discussion veers along a path of mutual interest. You demonstrate you are a team player when you introduce your "competition" with ease and present their interests, "This is Ben and he's also interested in brand management." When you demonstrate a high level of cooperation and courtesy, you can make an employer more willing to share their own business card--which, in turn, gives you a great vehicle to follow-up after the event.
    7. Come early or stay late--and help employers or event organizers out if they are interested. Career fairs can be an exhausting endeavor for employers and fair exhibitors: Volunteering to help someone out can be a very smart way to get your foot in the door later--and to stay top of the employer's mind later.

    This is my career fair "short list." What is yours?

    Preparation, Pitching, and the Perfect Interview

    This is the second installment in a three part series from recent grad, sports fan, and PR enthusiastic Megan Ogulnick. Megan is currently searching for her first full-time job, you can find her on Twitter: @MOgulnickMegan_ogulnick

    Baseball is one of the most superstitious games in the world. Players may say you make your own luck, but watch that same player as he makes an effort not to step on the foul line. Between eating fried chicken before every game, taking batting practice in multiples of 3 or wearing the same warm-up jacket before each start, baseball players have numerous ways they get ready for a game. Of course, not all of them have to do with superstitions. I met Ryan Dempster, starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, in Texas during a 3-game series against the Texas Rangers. Since my uncle works for the team I got to be in the park before everyone else. Regardless of the scorching heat, Dempster ran bleachers around the entire stadium before each game. Just one of the ways he prepares. Whether it's taking batting practice or watching film, baseball players do whatever they can to fully prepare for each and every game.

    This same attitude can be applied to the job search. Sure you won't find me eating fried chicken before every interview, but I do have my set ways of preparing. Here are some steps I take in preparing for an interview:

    1. Research: As soon as I have an interview set up, I make it my goal to find out as much as possible about the company. Look on the web, ask friends, ask family or anyone you may know in the industry. It is important to know the company’s reputation, objectives, values and goals. Know their brands, products and important clients. The more you know about the company, the better equipped you'll be to customize your answers. Interviewers will be impressed with your knowledge of the organization and it will show your dedication to the position.

    2. Review Your Qualifications: You know how great you are, but it's important to be able to articulate that. Before going into an interview think about the skills necessary to succeed in this position. Do you need to be organized, have good time management, have good writing skills or be good with people? Now, customize your own skill set to the position you are applying for. In addition, be able to articulate how you have put those skills in action recently. Use examples to prove your point and demonstrate your skill set.

    3. Prepare Questions: The job seeker isn't necessarily the only one being interviewed. It is important for the interviewee to ask questions as well to see if the company is a good match. Before heading to an interview prepare questions to ask the interviewer. Examples of these are, "What are the responsibilities of the position?”,  "What qualifications or skills are you looking for this person to hold?" and  "What are the goals for this position?". Interviewers will evaluate you not only on your answers to their questions, but also the questions you ask them. I try to prepare at least 5 questions prior to each interview.

    4. Be Prepared!: I know this seems obvious, but this is key. Besides what I discussed above, also make sure to have extra copies of your resume, have your portfolio prepared (or multiple copies if you’d like to leave a few behind) and have your outfit ironed and ready the day before. Know exactly where you are going and allow enough time to purchase train tickets, get gas or take the bus to wherever the interview is. Don't wait until the last minute to get everything organized. You want to have a clear head going into the interview and being prepared ahead of time will help you with that.

    I recently spoke with CJ Wilson, a relief pitcher for the Texas Rangers, about preparing for games. "The key is to focus on the process of what makes you successful. We make a routine where we do stuff in the same order so that our minds and bodies have all the tools needed to go out and do the job." If you’re a real sports fan you know what you need to do to succeed. We see and hear about it everyday. Players taking batting practice, pitchers having a catch on their off-days, teams watching film before an upcoming game. Whether in sports or in your job search, if you prepare properly you’ll have all the tools necessary to succeed. I’ve always been complimented on my interviews and that’s because I follow the steps I laid out above. I research, I prepare and I set myself up for success.

    Whether you're a baseball player or recent college graduate, preparation is key.

    Megan applies lessons and inspiration learned from sports for her job search. How do you set yourself up for success?

    How to Make a Tough Decision (& Choose the Right Job)

    I write a great deal about finding a job. Finding the right job that fits your skills and a good work environment that makes you want to stay is equally important. This is why I named my practice, Best Fit Forward: I think it's essential to know your own skills--as well as what you are looking for--throughout the process.

    Taking a job is like jumping off solid ground on a rope swing: Once you've made a decision to move forward, you need to ensure a safe landing. As soon as you leap, you have no choice but to hang on with all you have, and pay attention with hope for an easy entry. It's okay to be picky selective in deciding when to jump. You should be. After all, when you accept an offer you are making a commitment. Can you believe you just signed up to spend a significant percentage of your waking hours with individuals who you've only met once or twice? Would you choose to spend over 40 hours every week with a potential partner after two dates?  Probably not. Rope_swing

    Recently, I asked my dad an ethicist--for advice on how to weigh a difficult decision. Here is his suggested guide, modified slightly for the job search.

    1. Take the time to write your thoughts down. What are the specifics. Do you have all the information you need to make a decision? Will the position allow you to leverage your natural strengths? Are there aspects of the job that will challenge you to work in ways that don't play to your strengths? (If yes, how will you overcome your weaknesses  compensate or adapt?)

    2. If you anticipate a gap in your job function or potential problems with organizational dynamics--how will you "mind the gap"? Are there people in your current network or in the new organization who can help you? Determine the best way to approach the problem.

    3. Assess the opportunity and figure out where it fits into your overall career "life cycle." It's easy to think about year one, but what are your goals for the next 3-5 years? 5-15? How will this opportunity help you prepare for others? How will your decision affect others in your life--your friends, your family, your community?
    4. Is your opportunity aligned with your values and ideals? Can you imagine yourself working with your potential co-workers? Do your prospective co-workers appear to be on the "same page" as you are in terms of organizational mission, goals, and style?
    5. How can you best manage uncertainty? If you find that the job you've been offered is not the right one for you long term, how will you proceed? What's your game plan for future success--how will you seek out an opportunity that does fit?

    Once you've got your "list," mull it over with trusted friends and advisers who know you well and can support you in following through on whatever decision you make.

    After you've weighed all your options, lean forward into the decision you've made. You should now have full confidence that you've put your best fit forward.

    Do you have any additional criteria you also recommend? If yes, please share!

    Onions, Hepburn, & Jr. High: Commencement Wisdom

    One of my favorite pastimes in May and June is to read commencement speeches, and scout for anecdotes. Put together a diverse audience of parents, grads, and visitors, combine it with the need to be concise, interesting, and not "too preachy"--and voila--a unique challenge for even the most seasoned of speakers. It's a unique challenge. (Here's some advice on how to do it well if you ever find yourself in this position.) 


    My favorite commencement speeches are ones that are short, funny, and provide concise "timeless" advice. Without further ado, here are three of my all-time favorite snippets of wit and wisdom.


    During her undergraduate years at Dartmouth, author Louise Erdich worked as a cook for a campus dining hall. Here's an excerpt from her commencement address at her alma mater in which she recounts peeling 60 pounds of onions before going to class--and what the experience taught her.

    My problemthat day was that I smelled like an onion.  You know how it is when you smell like an onion.  You can’t smell how badly you smell.  I walked into class and everybody moved away from me.  I was frozen with embarrassment.  Now, I was sure anyway, coming from North Dakota, that everyone was smarter than me.  And at the moment, not only were they smarter, but I was the only one who smelled like an onion.

    Lesson?  If you smell like an onion, hold your nose and take notes.  I passed the class, but did not become a philosophy major.  Instead, I became a writer.  Even if people were smarter, I had the advantage of knowing onions.  I had stories.  Most important of all, I had humiliation.  If there’s one this we all have in common, it is absurd humiliation, which can actually become the basis of wisdom.

    The experience caused me to invent The Law of the Onion.  It goes something like this:  you have to risk humiliation if you want to move forward.  But the Law of the Onion also states: don’t take things personally.  If other people’s opinions are not personal to you, good or bad, you have a kind of freedom to be who you are.  You have the freedom to do the work that is most meaningful to you.


    ABC News Correspondent Cynthia McFadden was the first in her family to go to college. Her father worked for a telephone company in Maine. When she graduated from Columbia Law School, her dad told her: " just remember one thing little girl, you've struggled real hard to get this degree…. Now it is up to you to find work that gives you joy. Anyone can have a job they don't like. " Her advice: Make sure you don't.

    In a 2008 Commencement address to Columbia Law School graduates, McFadden provides additional "life lessons" that may play out particularly well in a "down economy" (as many job offers today start out as contract or "temp to perm" assignments). This advice comes from a glamorous source--her friendship with Katherine Hepburn.

    I was offered a new job. My first as an on-air reporter.   I wanted it desperately but was afraid I would fail. I went to Kate's (Katherine Hudson) for dinner. --- I told her--- "the good thing is he's offering me a three-year contract--- so even if I stink I am still employed!"

    She looked at me with horror. "HEAVENS NO! You must sign for as short a time as you can. If you're good you want them to have to pay you a lot more money and if you're bad you want to be able to get the hell out. "

    'When you are young," she continued, " you must always bet on yourself.' I signed for one year. I was good. And he did pay.

    So ... Bet on yourself. Take a chance. I hate to quote a greeting card on an occasion as important as this one but here goes "what would you do if failure weren't an option." What indeed.


    I'm often surprised by how much "grown-up" life resembles childhood. I've had jobs where corporate e-mails sent by senior leaders ended up in the wrong in-box--and the result has felt like a "passed note" gone bad, and I've worked for companies which have changed bathroom policies based on poor "seat behavior." And, never mind the fun of occasional office politics...

    And with that, here's my all-time favorite piece of graduation advice, courtesy of Tom Brokaw's 2005 Commencement speech at Dartmouth College:

    ..You have been hearing all of your life about this moment - your first big step into what you have been called and told is the real world.  What, you may be asking yourself this morning, is this real life all about?  Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2005 at Dartmouth, it's not college - it's not high school.  Real life is junior high.

    The world you're about to enter is filled with adolescent pettiness, pubescent rivalries, the insecurities of 13-year-olds and the false bravado of 14-year-olds. Forty years from now, I guarantee it, you'll still be making silly mistakes, you'll have a temper tantrum, you'll have your feelings hurt for some trivial slight, you'll say something dumb and at least once a week you'll wonder, "Will I ever grow up?"

    You can change that.  In pursuit of passions, always be young.  In your relationship with others, always be a grown-up.  Set a standard and stay faithful to it.

    What are your favorites? Share...

    Five Must-Reads of 2008

    As we welcome 2009, here are five must-reads of 2008 that will help you stay ahead of the curve:Times_square

    1. It's tough to make a resolution that sticks if you're putting up with something that's always in the way. In I Hated My Lawnmower, author Jason Alba provides a lesson in the satisfaction that can come from fixing a simple but nagging problem.
    2. If you're not on LinkedIn yet, you should be. Statistics on successful job searches routinely show that at least 60% of job offers come from networking, and LinkedIn is the granddaddy of social networking apps (some call it "Facebook" for grown-ups). Here are tips on how to write your LinkedIn profile for your future from social media whiz Chris Brogan.
    3. If you're applying for a front office position--or seeking positions in a very competitive field-- you'll want to differentiate yourself. I recommend subscribing to Dan Schawbel's personal branding blog. (Note: If you decide your job search strategy should include starting a blog of your own, see his tips on how to do this.)
    4. Do They Care About Your Personal Brand? As important as it is to differentiate yourself and stand out amongst other candidates in the actual job search, employers search and hires based on their own needs. This piece by Louise Fletcher, founder of Career Hub and Owner of Blue Sky Resumes, is a great reminder of the need for balance between branding and positioning yourself to meet employer requirements and mission critical demands.
    5. 10 Ways You Stop Yourself from Getting the Right Job. In a tough economy, it's easy to shy away from the job market or feel overwhelmed. Don't. London-based Sital Ruparelia's tips will help you keep a stiff upper lip and keep your career moving forward!

    To Your Success,

    How to Generate Buzz with A Blog

    Several months ago, I called David Heiser a rock star. A current student at the College of Charleston, David is pursuing a public relations career in the hospitality with focus, gusto, and an impressive portfolio.David_heiser 

    I asked David to share strategies with us, here is the first installment of how David does it:

    As a senior scheduled to graduate this spring, I’ve felt the looming threat of life after graduation for quite a while. In an economic landscape like this, where even people with years of experience are getting laid off left and right, it’s a little frightening to be heading into the workforce with nothing but internships under your belt.

    For students pursuing a career in public relations, like myself, it is important to have some experience or skill that differentiates us from the hundreds of other individuals who are applying for the same positions.

    This past February, I began attempting to differentiate myself by creating and maintaining a blog. I knew a blog would help establish my personal brand and increase my visibility on the internet to potential employers.

    When it came time to choose a subject for my blog, I made my decision based on two criteria.

    1. I needed to pick a topic that I was passionate enough about to ensure that I wouldn’t get bored and stop writing in a few months. Too many blogs start out strong, only to fizzle when their author loses interest and stops posting.
    2. I also needed my topic to be related to an industry which I was interested in doing public relations for. This will help potential employers feel confident that I will be able to effectively communicate their client’s messages the media and other publics within the industry.

    I eventually settled on restaurant reviews (I also write movie reviews, but that is mainly to insure that I have a steady stream of content). I went in this direction because I’ve always been interested in food and the restaurant industry. I love going out to eat and I’m the one my friends turn to for restaurant recommendations. I’ve also worked in restaurants and for restaurants for years, so it seemed like a logical choice.

    In the nine-plus months that I’ve been writing for my blog, I’ve written 88 posts and slowly crept up the Google results for my name (I’m currently in fourth). I’ve had my reviews syndicated on two local news websites, which has helped to increase my site’s visibility. I’ve also made sure to keep a consistently updated resume, a variety of writing samples, and a current list of all of my social media profiles easily accessible for anyone (especially potential employers) who may be interested.

    To help push my blog entries out to everyone in my network, I have used a variety of social media tools. First, I set up an RSS feed and an e-mail feed, so visitors would have multiple ways of subscribing to my site. I use TwitterFeed to send a tweet every time I make a new post. Facebook’s Blogcast application and MySpace’s RSS Reader share my entries with my friends on each site. Most people (even your close friends) won’t check your Web site every day, so it’s important to make it as easy as possible for them to know when you’ve produced new material.

    While a blog/Web site won’t get you a job by itself, it can certainly increase your chances. You will still need to have a well-crafted resume, network like there’s no tomorrow, and prepare for interviews like they are midterms if you want to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you. So, how is it working for me? Well, I don’t have any offers for after graduation yet, but I have managed to leverage my blog experience to help land three internships. From here, I just need to keep up the hard work and hope my effort pays off.

    Many thanks to David for sharing his expertise on blogs, and stay tuned for more information on how his job search progresses. I'm predicting big things.

    Send Part II: 3 Ways to Find Answers to Questions

    It has often been said that interviewing is like speed dating with the intention of an arrangedIS289-089marriage: employers and candidates meet and talk for a short pre-defined period before making a long-term decision. When the stakes are high, a good strategy for decision making is to identify what you need to know before the interview. And on the career front, there are always many options of information pre-interview that you can use to your advantage. Here are three strategies that you can use:

    1. Know what you need to ask. Conduct a pre-interview with an outside party.

    One of the quickest ways to break into a new field or land a new job quickly is to identify the best questions to ask during the interview. Nothing turns a potential employer off more quickly than having an interviewee with no questions (they'll either think you know everything, are disinterested, or not generally engaged.)

    A great way to explore opportunities and prepare for interviews is to ask people outside the organization who work in a similar capacity specific questions. Examples:

    • What is the biggest misunderstanding that candidates for this type of job have about the position?
    • What is your greatest need? Is this need unique to your organization or do others who work in similar areas often face this challenge?
    • What's the best way to research your field?

    2. Know how to ask

    It's easy to get lost in the e-mail queue. If you're asking a question via e-mail, make it easy to answer. Here are two great resources on how to make this happen:

    • Send

      Before you hit "send," you may want to check out this book which I reviewed last month. I've heard of more than one Manhattan firm at which this is REQUIRED reading.

    3. Know Who to Ask

    If you are interested in a specific opportunity, be very strategic about what you ask--even if you're asking friends who currently work in a similar capacity. Know the answers to your basic questions before you create a list of questions for decision makers.

    Here's is a real-world example of how one college student landed her dream internship with a boutique, big-name film production company:

    She rented every single movie the production company had made and spent a weekend taking notes. When she was asked to name her favorite scene in a movie and what she would change about it, she said, "Since I'm interviewing with you, I'm going to take a scene from one of your movies. I loved ___, and especially liked the camera angles on _____, but did you think about _____?"

    By the time she finished the question, she essentially had landed the interview: she had already demonstrated that she was ready.

    She told this story the next fall, while serving as a student panelist for a program  on "Careers in Entertainment." As she recounted her interview preparation, another student panelist had his mouth open. When it got to be his turn he said, "I just learned how I lost that internship."

    Trying to figure out what to ask? A great starting point is the Question and Answer section on LinkedIn. Through this feature of LinkedIn, community members both ask and answer questions. You can search previous answers and--if you don't find one that suits--ask your own (this may also result in additional leads for your search).

    I'd love to follow-up this post with one on "the best question I ever asked" and "how it helped." Send your success stories my way!

    Students: How to Get Ahead with "Ultimate Sale Item"

    If you are seeking an entry-level position, one of the best ways to get ahead is to have strong computer skills that you can offer employers--especially if you develop an advanced knowledge of widely used applications such as Microsoft Office 2007.

    Microsoft has announced a "The Ultimate Steal" for the "Ultimate Version" of their Office 2007 software; for a "limited time" the software can be downloaded for $59.95 from their website by current students of authorized educational institutions. I have no affiliation with Microsoft; I simply think this is a *very* good deal. (The Ultimate version includes Access, Publisher, and Accounting Express, retail value for the Home and Student version is $149 and doesn't have these applications. If you're not a current student, you can download a free trial version of MS office 2007 for 60 days from the Microsoft website.)

    Whether or not this is a good deal for you, here's another: YouTube hosts scores of free training videos which can help you sharpen your computer skills. Need to take a test on your computer skills or figure out quick tips for a particular task on the fly? Search for the video. Many corporations and aspiring and professional software trainers offer training clips...these can help you prepare for those interviews that include a bit of software proficiency testing. (Just search on what you need to know.)

    Where the Jobs Are, How to Stay Out of Your Own Way

    This fall has been fascinating, challenging, and occasionally exhausting. Living in New York, I've had a front row view of domino-effect of changes on Wall Street which has been supplemented through work with individual job seekers and a consulting gig at a university with a strong Boa_Constrictorcampus recruiting program.

    On occasion, I've been at a loss for words. Many of the "safe industries" that I have traditionally recommended to students and young professionals--healthcare, government, biomedical, IT--have also taken some very public hits. (When Dow Chemical announced major layoffs, it really made me nervous--especially since chemical engineers had the highest starting salary of any 2008 graduates due to the "need" for their skills.) 

    I've spent a lot of time talking to individual job seekers, and I've noticed a similar response to the economy, "I'm going to stop looking now, because I don't see how I can possibly find a job in this market." I've heard this response from current college students, young professionals, and the recently laid-off. I call this response, the "boa constrictor" because it reminds me of Shel Silverstein's poem about being swallowed by a giant snake:

    I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
    And I don't like it--one bit.
    Well, what do you know?
    It's nibblin' my toe.
    Oh, gee,
    It's up to my knee.
    Oh my,
    It's up to my thigh.
    Oh, fiddle,
    It's up to my middle.
    Oh, heck,
    It's up to my neck.
    Oh, dread,
    It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff . . .

    It's easy to personalize the economy: i.e. " layoffs and hiring freezes at <<insert company name>> mean I'll never land a new job. I'm going to get clobbered in this market. I have no chance."

    DON'T LET YOURSELF THINK LIKE THIS. It is the equivalent of letting yourself get swallowed by a boa constrictor.

    In reality, employers are still hiring. Perhaps not in the same volume or with the sexiest salaries ever--but there are still opportunities. And pursuing new opportunities is much better than staying home and putting yourself out of the game altogether.

    In that vein here are two great posts providing tips on "where the jobs are" :

    Reasons to Give Thanks: There is No Shortage of Jobs for Young People (Penelope Trunk)

    Bright Spots in the Bad Economy: Five Places to Look for Jobs Right Now (Lindsey Pollak)

    And one article on how not to stand in your own way.

    Ten Ways You Stop Yourself from Getting the Right Job (Sital Ruperalia on Career Hub)

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on what's working--and what hasn't worked.

    To Your Success,

    Predictions on Brand for 2009 (& How to Start Hooking Yourself Up)

    Over at the Personal Branding Blog, social media guru Dan Schawbel has posted his list of personal branding predictions for 2009. Dan specializes in personal brand management for Gen Y and has a book coming out early next year which I plan to review soon.

    Check out Dan's hot list of branding trends. Regardless of whether you believe that personal branding will be a "top of mind" catchphrase in 2009, I agree with Dan that managing your online presence is essential and his statement that,

    One of the biggest challenges with building a personal brand, in bits and bytes, is managing it over your lifetime"

    With that in mind, here are three very quick things you can do now--even if exams or holiday obligations are looming over your head--

    1. If you don't have one already, set up a LinkedIn profile. You may find this advice from Chris Brogan on how to write your profile for your future to be helpful

    You can mark it as private until you're ready to use it. In the interim, claim your public URL (i.e. address) through the "Edit Public Profile" settings.

    One reason why this really works: When you want to be known, you'll come up quicker in searches.

    2. Set up a Google News Alert on your name so that you can monitor information about yourself (this may or may not work with Facebook tagging of photos--but you should be monitoring these, anyway).

    3. Consider following Dan Schawbel's advice and buying your own domain name with your name--if it is still available. This way, no one else can snag it, and you'll have the space to place your own online portfolio if you decide that is something you want to do. ( is one place to do this, but there are multiple vendors for domain names on the web, just search "domain names.")

    In my opinion, branding alone won't get you hired--you need to be able to demonstrate your fit for a position and fit organizational needs--but it can speed up your search. And these three quick moves will help you lay a foundation for "being found" once you are ready to kick your search into high gear.

    To your success,