Viewing entries in
Skill Development

How to Set Meaningful Career Goals

This guest post is from one of my favorite workplace advice authors, Alexandra Levit. Here she provides tips on how to develop goals for your career--and how to set yourself up to ace the performance review.

Types of career goals vary, depending on the specific job and company, but every new college grad should aim to build a wide range of transferable skills(such as public speaking, client relations, project management, and budgeting) that are useful in many different types of careers and are not likely to become obsolete.

You can develop goals that focus on these skills and also pertain to your current position through a collaborative process with your supervisor.

Start by drafting your ideas for career goals and noting the obstacles you’re likely toencounter, knowledge you may need to acquire, and people who can support you.
Next, sit down with your supervisor and ask for feedback. In this meeting, you should make sure that your career goals are aligned with your supervisor’s goals for you and that the expectations set are reasonable and practical. For instance, if you’re in sales, your supervisor may or may not agree that you will be ready to make cold calls on your own by the end of your first year of employment. Before you leave, work with your supervisor to prioritize two or three career goals so you aren’t spreading yourself too thin, and create an immediate to-do list so that important goals don’t fall off your radar in the daily work/life grind.
If you arrange to meet with your supervisor every other month or so to revisit your career goals, you will be in great shape when it’s time for your performance review.

A few weeks before the review is slated to occur, gather facts to support how you’ve progressed on each goal. Identify concrete examples that illustrate outstanding performance and contribution, and practice communicating them so they’re on the tip of your tongue.

Your primary goal in the performance review process should be to demonstrate how you have made measurable contributions to the organization. If you are able to succinctly answer the question, "Why is the organization better off because you work there?," you will be well positioned for a productive discussion about your career potential as well as rewards and recognition. 

There's more where this came from.  Are you a student or young professional who wants to learn how to be successful TODAY?

Check out JobSTART 101 (, a free online course Alexandra developed!

The Six Reasons You'll Get the Job (Learn 'Em in NYC 10/14)

My friend and former colleague Elisabeth Harney Sanders-Park has just co-written her second book, the 6 Reasons Why You'll Get the Job (Penguin). I am pleased to announce that the NYC Job Seekers 6 ReasonsGroup, the grassroots job search group that I host in Manhattan, will be offering a special four hour workshop with Elisabeth and her co-author, Debra Angel MacDougall, the morning of October 14, 2010.

There is no cost to sign up. For additional details--including hours and location of the event--please sign up for the MeetUp group and RSVP.

Hope to see you there!

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,


The Year in Review (or Lawn Mower Lessons Part II)

I've lived in Manhattan for almost three years now, but I'm still in a long-term relationship with a lawn mower in New Hampshire. We have known each other for seven years now--and for the past three years I've gained a gradually greater appreciation for this--my personal Yoda. WLawnmowerho knew that a red Craftsman push mower that sometimes starts with a sputter and who smells like gasoline could share life lessons? And even more oddly, would reveal these life lessons over time--when I was ready to learn them.

Seven years ago, in the infancy of our relationship, I was a first-time homeowner. I did what many people do these days in a new courtship--I read a how-to-manual before our first date. I wrote down the operating instructions and followed them to the letter. I remember filling up my plastic gas jug at the Citgo station. The customer behind me in line tapped his foot, and said "Are you finished?" I remember driving home with the window open, and the smell of gas on my hands. It took me at least two and a half hours to mow the yard that summer. I did it two or three times, and then my neighbor, Mike, offered to cut the grass on his riding mower. "It is easy for me to do," he explained. "Especially since your yard runs into my mother's and I cut her grass anyway." I put the lawnmower in the basement.

Several summers went by and Mike's mother got sick. I took a new job as a recruiter for a start-up that was in rapid expansion mode. I had never worked in HR before, and the mower hadn't started the last time I tried. "Put your work first," I told myself. My then-boyfriend suggested that I borrow his push mower. I looked at my three-quarter acre yard, and hired a landscaping company. I traveled frequently for my job. The mower stayed in the basement, behind my tires.

A too-good to be true work opportunity presented itself in New York--a job working with students and international travel. I rented my house out to a female engineer. "You can use the lawn mower if you want. It didn't start the last time I used it, but maybe it will work for you."

The lawnmower worked for my tenant; the job didn't work for me. I decided to start my own new ventureI stayed in Manhattan. There was no need for a lawn mowers and well kept parks within a seven minute walk. The house in New Hampshire was three miles from the "Little Store" which closed after dark. In New York I was block away from a 24-hour-diner, a drugstore, a bodega, and a hardware store.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to house sit in my own house for a month. I was trying to write and couldn't find the right words, and I took out the lawnmower for a spin. It started up immediately, and didn't stop. I decided that the lawn mower was trying to teach me a lesson in time management: If I stopped--even for a minute, it choked, and wouldn't start again. The lesson, I deduced was this one: I needed to keep going. If I started to write, I couldn't stop until I was finished. That was the lawn mower lesson for the summer of 2009.

I went back to New York. I was presented with a wonderful opportunity to co-author a book on Twitter with colleagues. We finished it in less than four months, it came out in March. I slept very little.

My tenant moved out in June, enabling me to spend a significant amount of time at the house this summer. I canceled the lawn service. The first time I mowed the grass, the lawn mower stopped after ten minutes. I pumped the primer three times. I held the handle down, pulled back the throttle and heard no sign of a motor. The lawn mower was broken. I went inside, got a glass of water, and asked myself, "why? Why can't I hear a motor?" My mind did a flashback to seventh grade science class, and I formed a hypothesis, "this must be stuck on something."

I turned the motor over on its side. There were big clumps of wet grass and dirt under the rotating blades of the mower, one of them was preventing the blade from turning. I used my hands to clear the grass from the underbelly of the motor. The lawnmower started again. I went inside, my shoes were green, my hands were green, my thumbs were green. I was covered in grass clippings and required a shower and a post-scrub to rid myself of all the grass. Then I had to clean the shower drain, the floor and the sink. There was grass everywhere. I returned to New York with fingers that were still stained green, but there were fewer circles under my eyes. I was afraid to go for a manicure, but I had learned that I could sleep in the midst of writing.

When I came back later in the summer, my mower and I met again--and again. I explored new strategies for staying "unstuck." I lifted a side door and propped it open with a stick, sending the clippings everywhere and resulting in more Cat-in-the-Hat like cleanings inside the house, but resulting in an interruption-free mow. I mowed the yard more frequently, and discovered the mower was less likely to stall.

Today, I unpropped my stick and mowed the yard, gently lifting the mower up so it could disperse clippings on the grass without sending them all over me. It worked.

When I finished, I cleaned the underbelly of the mower. I wiped down the top with a fresh cloth. And I stored the mower in the front side of the basement.

The next one to use the lawn mower will be a new tenant. This will be her first experience. I look forward to hearing her lawn mower lessons...and what--if anything--they teach her about life.

Did you miss these other lawn mower installments?


On "Useless" B.A. Degrees & "Incompetent" Career Centers

This is my first response to Penelope Trunk’s commentary on “How to Manage an Education.”  I’m going to write several pieces about Ms. Trunk’s opinions because I think she ignites a very important debate here—and one that is worth examining in the sunlight with the opinions of many others. Question

If you haven’t heard of Penelope Trunk before, you should get to know her as she's an active voice. She heads up the Brazen Careerist, a social network and community of bloggers designed for millennials, and has a blog which generates traffic that most bloggers—including me--envy. She has a wealth of life experience—she has worked for and founded start-ups, declared bankruptcy, worked as a professional player and has been a columnist on career issues for the Boston Globe. She is raising two children, has written a book and talks frankly about working and living with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Penelope Trunk is also fearless in talking about taboo topics—from the status personal relationships to health. In the fall of 2009, she created a frenzy of a debate when she tweeted that she was in a Board meeting while having a miscarriage—and her feelings of relief that she was having a miscarriage because Wisconsin’s abortion laws were restrictive. She went on CNN and used the controversy as a moment of public education: In her opinion, you can't  manage your work life if you can't talk about it. She talked about how people think miscarriages happen on a specific day, but how in reality it’s less of a moment and more of a process that takes time. She talked about how employees should be able to be transparent about the things that are affecting them at their work, because she feels you can work more productively when you can have frank discussions about what’s affecting you. 

In short, Penelope Trunk provides thought-provoking material, and her post “How to Manage an Education” is no exception. She begins by saying “the idea of paying for a liberal arts education is over. It is elitist and a rip off and the Internet has democratized access to information and communication skills to the point where paying $30K a year to get them is insane.” She then goes on to say that college “career centers are useless because most colleges presume you still need college to teach you to think critically. So they can get away with incompetent career centers.”  In her opinion, here are three reasons why career centers are “terrible”:

1. Career centers cater to companies not candidates. (One of her top criticisms: most schools endorse and teach students to write resumes using a standard format. In her opinion, this format doesn’t help students whose experience doesn’t line up with a traditional resume.)

2. Career centers don’t understand social media. (She says that career centers want to have credit for what students do. So she says they want everything students do–from blogs to domain names to be tied to the career center. And that this is limiting in the social media world.)

3. Career center staff is self-selecting for underperformance. (Her perspective: “Colleges, especially, the really expensive ones, think of vocational schools as pedestrian”…so career centers are not “exactly the hot button in budget meetings” nor the “landing ground for visionaries” because “what visionary wants to go to a part of an institution that no one cares about?)

There’s a lot to talk about here, and I’m looking forward to addressing each of these three points in posts here in the future. But first, I’m going to ask for comments from my friends in University Career Centers, because their perspectives are equally important.

I must admit I have a biased opinion about career center staff:  I am a veteran. Before starting my private practice, I worked in college career centers for ten years—eight of which were spent at Ivies. My work has brought me in contact with many visionaries in the area of career services—and very few “underperforming staff.”  I’ve worked with my peers to develop, analyze, and publish the results of salary surveys for graduates. I’ve partnered with colleagues to teach students how to customize their resumes and strategies for leveraging social media in the job search. (Yesterday, I finished a workshop series on social media at Dartmouth College.) And I’ve helped students set up web pages and blogs using outside hosts. I don’t think I’m unique.

I do agree that universities frequently undervalue the importance of career education from a funding perspective, but I don’t think that many career services visionaries let that stop them from finding innovative ways to assist students or create programming that has a lasting impact. Want a broader perspective? Follow Lindsey Pollak’s list of University Career Centers on Twitter. Many career offices are tweeting and developing LinkedIn groups for students and alums.

Over the years, I’ve worked with thousands of students and observed my own peer network. And the ones who frequently landed the most interesting jobs were the ones who worked closely with the college career center staff.  I’ve watched students score internships and jobs with employers that don’t participate in on-campus recruiting by creating innovative websites, blogs, and portfolios of their work. On CNN, I watch one of my fellow classmates from American University’s Washington Semester Program cover politics.  I remember the day our internship advisor introduced him to the syndicated columnist who set him on his course.

And don’t even get me started on the power and impact that university alumni can have in helping students launch their careers.  Alumni can be invaluable—from serving on panels and posting jobs to mentoring students and recent grads. I’ve met very few people who don’t want to help grads of their own school—even if they have their own quibbles with university administration. Yes, it’s true that the “wider world” of social networking can help students expand their range of opportunities—but starting within your own community is a more comfortable launch pad for many.  Who hosts these networks? More often than not—it’s the career center in conjunction with a school’s office of alumni relations.

I like Penelope Trunk because she sparks debate, and she makes me think.  Many of her posts are invaluable such as her advice on how to talk to a friend who has been laid off. But we have different perspectives on professionalism: In many work environments, I think “less is more” is an appropriate strategy when it comes to sharing personal information with your boss and colleagues about your life outside of work. As more than one-third of recruiters report that they have discounted candidates based on what they’ve found online, it is as important to know what to say as it is to know what not to say. See my post on Kodak’s Social Media Policies and call me the “Frugal Careerist.”

As I see it, social networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and The Brazen Careerist can play an invaluable role in your career. These networks have the user demographics and the community buy-in to be game changers in terms of how job seekers connect with new opportunities. They provide an environment to share personal and career interests, exchange information, and to expand your connections. These sites—as well as new job search platforms--are changing the rules: In the course of doing research for our upcoming book, The Twitter Job Search Guide, my co-authors and I feature the stories of over a dozen job seekers who have found jobs through Twitter alone.

As powerful as social networks can be, they can also be overwhelming to learn how to use. Active participants on LinkedIn and bloggers forget how intimidating the technology can feel to the uninitiated. You need a guide and a filter to get started. 

For many people—from students to alumni who graduated 40 years ago—your college career office can be a great place to start. Many career center staff have been formally trained in how to use these sites (LinkedIn did an extensive training program several months ago) and have developed resources and guidelines on how to get started with social networking. (Here’s a piece I developed with my former colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania to do just that.)

Last time I checked, U.S. college graduates could expect to earn an average of a million dollars more over the course of their career than people who didn’t go to college or complete their studies. That’s a lot of money. Tuition may be expensive, but spending $120K over four years to make over a million dollars—still seems to me like a decent return.

What do you think?

A Must Read for Using Social Media (In Your Job, At the Office)

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you've likely noticed that I've written only sporadically for the past few months. I've spent most of my time off-line, talking to people, swapping ideas, and writing, writing, writing while collaborating vigorously with two great colleagues, Deb Dib (@ceocoach) and Susan Britton Whitcomb (@susanwhitcomb) and heaps of other collaborators and co-conspirators. You'll learn exactly what we've been up to in March when JIST Publications publishes theTwitter Job Search Guide, but I'll also be sharing some information about what I learned along the way in the interim. And to that end, here is one of my biggest take-aways from attending Jeff Pulver's Los Angeles 140 conference on Twitter's impact and potential.

Kodak is doing amazing things with social media. You may think that traditional film has gone the way of the typewriter, but Kodak is showing no signs of obsolescence that I can see. (I won a Kodak Z18 video camera at the 140 conference which I love.) they are paving the way for innovations in communications--and while they are at it, they are sharing their own best practices.

For a great overall summary of social media platforms and trends, check out Kodak's free Social Media Tips Guide.


In addition to providing a broad overview of social media platforms, user demographics, and tips for getting started, Kodak shares their own employee-developed social media policies. These policies are a great go-to guide for both employers and employees--and a list of best practices that you can use if you haven't been given any guidelines for social media etiquette.

My co-authors and I liked them so much that we asked for--and received permission to--republish them in our upcoming book. But you can look at them here!

Kudos and Thank You, Kodak!

How to Get A Billionaire's Education

Forbes just published a report on "where the billionnaires studied," and it's somewhat similar to PayScale's recent report on which schools produce the highest earners in mid-careers: there's no shortage of Ivy League and highly selective school names on the short list of either list.Dartmouth

While Dartmouth College tops the list of mid-career salaries for the working public, Harvard, Penn, and Columbia, and Yale all occupy Top 5 spots on the Forbes' billionnaire's list.

I am not an Ivy League graduate myself, but I have worked in career offices at Penn, Dartmouth, and Columbia...My experience in what is frequently labeled as the "Ivory Tower" provided me with a first-hand glimpse of the wealth of connections, resources, and experiences that an "Ivy" education can provide.

It was a great experience to work in the Ivy League. I learned a tremendous amount and met many wonderful people. The commonly held assertion that an "Ivy League school opens doors" is true, but other schools and places do, too.

I remain firmly convinced that you don't have to go the short list of top ranked schools to get a top rate education or to make a great salary mid-career or to become a millionnaire. In fact, some of the smartest, most successful people I have encountered started their education at community colleges. Others, are "walking sponges"--furthering their education with all they see, read, and encounter along the way.

You can provide yourself with many of the same resources that would be available to you at an Ivy League school with minimal elbow grease. Here are three tips on how to get started:

1. Connect with others in your area of interest. From professional associations to groups and alumni clubs for your alma mater, there are countless opportunities to make friends and widen your circle.

Not sure how to start? Read Keith Ferrazzi's books, "Who Knows You Back?" and "Never Eat Alone." 

2. Take advantage of public access to career advice and resources. My colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania Career Services provide best-in-class resources on their website--and they invite the public to browse the site--for free! The site includes lists of recommended career resources and program summaries from industry specific panels. While in-person services and employer programs are restricted to students and alumni, you can receive a wealth of information simply by visiting the Penn Career Services website--and others like it.

3. Learn from others. You can't audit or attend lectures at MIT, but did you know that they share course syllabi and resource lists through their Open Courseware project? Don't have time for a course? Hop on over to TED and watch a few ground-breaking videos. You can also read transcripts of speeches and watch videos of lectures from college and universities websites and search for them on YouTube.

It's not what you have, it's what you make of it...You can open doors from anywhere.

To your success,

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?

Are You Ready to Tell Your Story?

Tell me about yourself.

If you've ever attended an interviewing workshop, or found yourself head-to-head with this request in an actual interview--you may be well acquainted with the sweaty palms and heart palpitations that often accompany these four little words.

The natural inclination is to respond with the basics, "My name is ______________. I am interested in ___________. I majored in ___________." The same kind of information that you can find at the top of your resume; the same facts and "vital statistics" that your interviewer may have already received before you sat down for the interview.

But (and you likely know this already), you don't want to tell someone exactly what they already know. Instead, you need to engage your audience.

Answering this question well is a perpetual challenge: You need to engage the interest of your audience without going "off topic" (what brought you to the interview in the first place) or repeating the "known knowns."

Enter Narativ, a Manhattan-based company that focuses on the art of storytelling. Co-Founded by Academy Award nominated documentary filmmaker and cultural anthropologist, Murray Nossel and his childhood friend, Paul Browde, a psychiatrist and executive coach, Narativ offers a one day seminar designed to help you tell your story with ease.Narativ_logo

I recently participated in the one day workshop myself, and I don't know that I'll ever tell stories the same way again. It was--quite simply--a transformative experience, and I highly recommend their methodology if ever you've found yourself tongue-tied or wanting to improve your ability to connect with an audience.

While the workshop wasn't designed to help participants answer job interview questions, several of the strategies shared spoke directly to the job search process. Here are two tips you may find'll have to attend the workshop to learn more:

1. When you tell a story, be specific in the details. For example, if you want to do marketing and you need to speak about your long-term interests in the field, provide details.

"My first promotion was ___________. The challenge was ______________ for our client. I remember cutting and pasting physical mock-ups with an orange pair of scissors and a glue stick. The project involved over 20 drafts and revisions. The end result was ____________."

Concrete details will help engage your reader more than if you simply said, "I developed my first flyer for a program at school when I was 12."

2. It's okay to pause, and it can actually help engage your audience--provided you can "restart" without missing a beat.

Many candidates "derail" when faced with an interview question they did not expect. (One of my favorite questions, "What is your second biggest weakness?") If you find yourself with a stumper, take a deep breath--pause, and don't be afraid to clarify the question.

For example, if you were asked a question about managing a large project at work and you don't have any experience with that in your internship experience but do have student government experience, you might say, "I have not worked with large-scale projects in my formal work experience, but I have managed significant projects in student government." Which experience would you like me to discuss?

For more information about Narativ, see their website, consider signing up for a workshop, or get tickets to see Narativ's co-founders, Murray Nossel and Paul Browde in their Off-Broadway production, "Two Men Talking."

Making the Most of a Social Media Resume

Recently, a CBS piece on innovative job hunting strategies caught my eye. I asked one of the segment's featured participants, Robert "Bobby" Hoppey, to share tips with us. A native of Setauket, NY, Bobby is a recent graduate of Elon University  in North Carolina. He is seeking full-time work in New York (leads are welcome). Here is his story--and his suggestions for how you can create your own social Bobby_hoppey resume.

I am one of the country’s many job hunting 22-year-olds and my background to date lies largely in public relations and social media.  I am an open book when approaching career prospects, but I ultimately want to do work that is creative, relevant and (with any luck) located in my favorite city in the world--Manhattan.

It recently occurred to me that the concept of a resume is deceptively simple. Don’t get me wrong: It is an essential document to market oneself and will never go out of style.
However, when looking over bullet points summarizing some of the accomplishments I am most passionate about, I felt there was a certain spark missing. 

I wanted to provide prospective employers with a window into who I am, as well as capture the elusive “way to stand out” in today’s undeniably competitive market. Like most of my peers, I am well versed in Facebook. I also worked as a social media communications intern for General Motors. So, making greater use of social media seemed a logical next step for my job search. I chose to create a social media resume on

The Visual CV site serves as a colorful and interactive supplement to my traditional materials.  Created fairly recently, my page has already opened doors for informational interviews with established professionals and was featured on a national segment for CBS Evening News.  This summer, I am on a 4,000 mile cross country cycling trip to raise money and awareness to help individuals with disabilities. I'm keeping a blog to document my trip, and am maintaining networking leads through my use of social media in preparation for my full-time job search. 

If you are a social media resume rookie, and would like to supplement your own job search with a Visual CV or other resume, here is some advice:

  • Think buffet style. When crafting a social media, don’t hold back in terms of diverse content.  If you have created multimedia assets in your professional or educational endeavors, show them off!  My VisualCV page includes videos, a podcast, writing samples, screenshots, a PowerPoint presentation and web site links that are easily aggregated together.  If you don’t have similar resources under your belt, or would prefer a more simple approach, you might consider alternative ways to make things pop and encourage a viewer to learn more--graphs, photos, etc.    
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. This is not to suggest a radical breakaway from professionalism, but rather a chance to have some fun and provide a broader look at who you are.  On my page, I have included a comedic (yet tasteful) YouTube video I created for a presentation, as well as photos of me "cheesing it up" at some of the places I have traveled abroad.  By including possible items as simple as a filmed introduction to the page or photos of you engaging in your favorite hobbies, you are presenting a well-rounded depiction of yourself and can stick out in the applicant pool. (As I see it, it is easier for people to relate to you when you've shared information about yourself.)
  • Shout from the rooftops. Once you have created a page to be proud of, don’t allow it to linger in "cyber" obscurity!  While your competitive side might be hesitant to let your personal network in on the still-emerging social media resume trend, these people may ultimately be the best place to start.  I opted to announce the creation of my page (and request feedback) on both Facebook and Twitter, while also incorporating it into my email signature and “link” section of online spaces such as LinkedIn.  By choosing to throw myself out there, I was able to establish relationships with new job search advocates and even receive news coverage.  There is no telling where your page could lead!
  • Make it a committed relationship. Once you have made the rounds with your eclectic, exciting page, there is no reason to let it fall to the wayside.  Whenever you have a new accomplishment or professional undertaking that enhances your credibility, pass ‘Go’ and report directly to your social media resume.  By consistently keeping your page fresh, you are maintaining an accurate living document online and advancing your personal marketability at the same time.

Hats off to Bobby for sharing his advice! If you have any additional suggestions or leads, please share 'em!

On Careers in Comedy and a Secret Source of Career Info

Several months ago, I wrote about Alexandra Levit's, How'd You Score That Gig?, a book which includes a great personality quiz, the results of which correspond to cool careers by personality type. It's a great way to jump start your career search if you want to do something new but you aren't sure just where to look yet.741336_innocence_4

But what if you know what you want to do but don't know how to begin? A great way to start is to listen to other people's stories; you can learn a lot by learning how other people have prepared--and trained themselves.

Naturally, there are many books you can listen to, but if you want to shake things up, check out the "Sound of Young America,"  a radio show distributed by Public Radio International. It's one of my new favorite finds, especially because I love the background story and description of the show:

Produced in the Los Angeles living room of host Jesse Thorn, a 25-year-old unemployed receptionist, The Sound of Young America is an edgy, irreverent comedy and arts interview show that bills itself as the “anti-Prairie Home Companion.”

Today, I'm listening to an episode about the careers of comedians and comedy writers Dana Gould "The Simpsons" and John Mulaney "Saturday Night Live."  Check out the Sound of Young America and listen an episode or two.

Do you have any "under the radar" sources of career how-tos? If yes, please share!

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.)

Missing Tim Russert (& The Secret to a Great Presentation)

Tim_russert It's election night, and I join many in missing Tim Russert.

Over at Keppie Careers, my friend Miriam Salpeter has posted a lovely piece in appreciation of Mr. Russert's interpersonal and communication skills. I remember his smile and easy manner; I once spotted him enjoying a quiet beer and a few laughs at the Hawk and Dove near Capitol Hill.

But more than that, I remember his election night skills and his legacy--the white board. As technology and poll tracking improved dramatically in 2000 and 2004, Mr. Russert always referred to a simple whiteboard with a dry erase pen to explain the results to the American public. He showed us how his math worked as if he were our third grade math teacher--and made the complex simple. I'll never forget the election of 2000, when at least one network called Florida for "Gore" and then retracted. In the end, Mr. Russert's white board prediction that the election would hinge on "Florida, Florida, Florida" was correct--and it was four long weeks before we truly knew our next President.

As I write, the polls are closing. Many statistics buffs, analysts, pundits and journalists are scrambling to access what's happened, and I'm thinking about how Mr. Russert's  legacy extends beyond politics to strong relationships and presentations of elegant simplicity.

I can only imagine that he'd be an advocate of the 3 x 5 rule for making PowerPoint presentations: no more than three bullet points per slide and five words per line. Next time you have a chance to attend a conference, evaluate the effectiveness of the speakers presentation techniques: In your opinion, what's more effective--having extensive slides with all the notes included onscreen, or a sparse presentation high on substance and low on bells and whistles? What works for you, and do you have any presentation role models or tips you'd like to share?

Don't Know Required Software for a Job? (15 Minute Fix)

To apply or not to apply, that is the question...

If you meet a majority of requirements for a position, but aren't familiar with a software application or two-- don't let it stop you. Here's a quick remedy from a familiar source:


Aspiring comedians, actors, and singers all use YouTube as a medium to market their skills, and fortunately for you--so do technical trainers.

Simply do a search on the name of the application you need to learn and you'll likely find a menu of short training videos to choose from.

Watch the trainings, take notes and--when possible--practice using the real application.

If it all goes well and you feel confident that you'd be able to use your new skill in a work environment, write the name of the application on your resume and say "Familiar with ______________."

(Don't say that you are proficient in an application until you feel comfortable that you could pass a user's test on may be tested during the actual interview process and you don't want to misrepresent your skills.)