Your Best Professional Self

Recently I’ve noticed that more students are creating LinkedIn accounts. This is good! LinkedIn is a wonderful way to present your best professional self to the world. It works, and actually provides the reader with a more complete picture of you than does your resume.

LinkedIn is a great tool if used effectively, therefore we want to use the LinkedIn functions fully so we can more thoughtfully present who we are to others. Here is some very basic advice to new users that will help you successfully use this wonderful professional networking tool.

Professional / Graduate /Designer

Personalize Your Messages: I receive several requests each week from people asking me to join their network. It seems to me that 99% of those who contact me use one of the standard messages from LinkedIn, such as “I’d like to add you to my professional network”, or the slightly more familiar “Since you are a person I trust, I wanted to invite you to join my network on LinkedIn”. Seriously, you trust me? We just met. I must really come across as a trustworthy individual. When someone personalizes their message, it really stands out, and makes me want to accept that connection immediately. Personalizing your message is a great way to begin the relationship, and it helps you be unique in my mind.

Make Your Profile 100% Complete: Upload your resume; Use a professional profile picture; Complete the skills section, etc. Be honest, be thoughtful and intentional, because this is about how you show up as your best professional self.

Join LinkedIn Groups: Groups are a great way to connect on LinkedIn, and are a way to connect with professionals presently working in your desired field. Some groups have fairly vibrant conversations that can provide you with a perspective about that particular field, the work, or an employer. Groups can also help you identify others to whom you may reach out to in the future, thereby building a solid professional network as you begin your career.

Lastly, Learn About LinkedIn: UW-Whitewater alumnus Wayne Breitbarth wrote a very helpful book titled “The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success.” This book is a must-read in my mind, and can help you learn about the various features that LinkedIn offers, which are extensive. Talk with people who have great profiles, check out others profiles and constantly work to improve and enhance yours. Stay active and keep moving forward with how you use LinkedIn. You’ll reach a critical mass that will begin to pay dividends in the near future.

Photo by thinkpublic.

Last Minute Prep for the Career Fair

With the Hawk Career Fair upon us, what last minute preparations do you need to do to ensure you have a successful experience? Well, you’re 95% ready if your resume in tip-top shape, you’ve researched the employers attending and the jobs they seek to fill, and you’re business attire is ready to wear.

Career Fair Collage

Here’s a little advice for you to complete your preparation:

Practice your introduction and handshake. This may sound a bit silly, but you don’t want to appear clumsy or unsure of yourself because the opportunity to create a positive first impression only comes along once. Practice, practice, and practice some more on what you plan to say when you introduce yourself. Practice alone, with friends, ask your teachers to listen to you, your adviser, anyone! You want to feel totally comfortable with what you’re going to say to recruiters so you can move effortlessly into the main reason for the conversation, to learn about employment opportunities. Practice helps.

Check the weather. The forecast for tomorrow is sunny with a high of 70 degrees. Perfect. However, weather changes, so be aware of the forecast and know that it’ll probably be warmer than 70 degrees in Gym 1 during the fair. Give yourself some time so you’re not rushing and overly warm when you enter the fair. If you feel over-heated, take a moment to cool down so you feel at your best.

Bring breath mints. One of the biggest complaints recruiters working career fairs have is close contact with people whose breath doesn’t smell the best. Since you’ll probably attend the fair between classes and other commitments on your busy schedule, make sure to have some breath mints with you to use before and during the fair. You don’t want to be remembered as “that” person after the fair.

Now you’re 100% ready to have a great fair experience. Make a great impression and enjoy the moment!

Photos by UWW Career.

Evaluating Company Hiring Practices

Occasionally students ask us whether or not we think a specific company offers a legitimate employment opportunity. Most often this occurs after a student has been interviewed, and something about the experience just doesn’t sit right with the student. During these type of conversations I think that the career advisors at UW-Whitewater, such as myself, can assist you best by asking many questions to help you think through the type of employment situation that best fits your professional goals and interests.

For example, some people aren’t bothered by and even excel in employment where all or most of your pay is based upon commission, whereas others will avoid this arrangement at all cost. A reasonable goal, therefore, is to select an employment situation that best meets your expectations for reasonable pay and your personal willingness to take risks.

Dave: Interviewed

With this in mind, here are a few of the issues and questions to remember as you talk with employers:

Is the company representative being forthright with the information they provide regarding your pay as well as other aspects of employment? It’s perfectly fine for a company to base their pay to you on how well you perform. Generally this occurs in sales positions, where sales reps earn a percentage of the sales they make, and we all understand that there is both an inherent risk and reward involved with this sort of arrangement. The important thing is that the information the company hiring representative provides you is clear. There may be a few companies who will want you to make an up-front financial investment to pay for your training or equipment, and if this is the case, this should be transparent as well so you can make an informed decision.

Are you being asked to make an unreasonably quick decision on accepting employment? If you interview and are offered the job on Monday, and they want you to let them know by the end of the day on Tuesday, then I suspect you may feel a bit rushed and uneasy about employment with this company. If you feel pressured to accept before the offer is recinded, then I’d be wary about employment with this company.

Things that make you go ‘hmmmm…’ While it may be acceptable practice in some industries to hold interviews in coffee shops or other public settings, generally speaking most recruiters will find a private, professional setting to conduct their interviews. Similarly, it may be alright to hold interviews at a hotel, but they should reserve a meeting room in which to conduct the interview, not invite you to their room for the interview. You want to use your intuition and ask yourself if the situation “feels right”. Often business is conducted outside of the traditional 9-5 workday, but the vast majority of hiring practices tend to occur within the work day and week.

If the hiring representative asks you questions that don’t feel right, or are illegal, then I’m not sure I’d want to work for that company. Trust your gut on this one, and be informed about the type of questions that you should never be asked during an interview.

Definitely seek out the advice of the staff of Career & Leadership Development whenever you have questions about finding the fit that’s best for you.

Photo by Dave Fayram.

Be Proud of Your Veteran Status

Guest post by Josh Combs, UW-W alumni and Military Liason for Aerotek.

As the overall unemployment rate for veterans hovers around 9.3%, a significant decrease from November 2011, it is still astonishing to look at the unemployment rates for the National Guard (Army and Air) and the Reserve components, reaching as high as a staggering 17%. Now I’m not naive to think that all 17% of these individuals are hard charging, readily employable people, but I would like to think at the very least half of them are.

Military Police Practice Medical Evacuations [Image 2 of 3]

As service members in the Guard and Reserve see these statistics they are rightfully woeful in looking at the job market. And what these trepidations have done for some is something that I am embarrassed about as an employer and enraged about as a veteran – individuals are excluding their military experience from their resumes and are not bringing it up during an interview. Guard and Reserve service members are worried that a potential activation or a deployment will deter companies from hiring them.

As an employer, let me clearly say that you should make your military experience a prominent part of your resume and speak about it during your interviews.

Leadership

Every member of the military, through their own free will or by situation necessity, has led at some point. If you are an NCO (a non-commissioned officer), one of the main responsibilities entrusted in you is to develop and mentor those you lead. As a Senior NCO it is your responsibility to ensure mission success at all cost. Even as a junior enlisted you must always be aware of what your fellow Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine is doing around you, as your life and your mission depends on it.

If you are among the commissioned ranks, you’ve had 5,000-5,500 people looking at you for leadership. This leadership is not only wanted in the civilian job market, it is absolutely needed. Be sure to explain your leadership roles in the military in your resume.

Performance Under Pressure

Every day, CONUS or OCONUS (Continential United States or Outside Continential United States) service members are under pressure to accomplish a mission or task. The pressure comes in a variety of ways, from pressure above you in the chain of command, to pressure from the enemy, as well as the pressure we put on ourselves to succeed. In the “real world” the pressure may be coming from your boss, your direct reports, or your clients. Employers want and need to know that the individuals they choose to lead their organization into the future can handle the day-to-day pressures of the job.

Critical Thinking and Decision Making

We have all been faced with decisions in the military that can have a major impact on our mission. The decisions that we make not only affect ourselves, but also those who look to us in a time of distress. Our training and our ethos allow us to make these decisions with pinpoint accuracy to ensure that we stay on task and on target. As a civilian employee, you will be forced to make business decisions every day that will impact the people in your organizations. Your employer will need to know that you can make these decisions while thinking not only of your own well-being, but that of your employees, company, and clients.

These three traits just scratch the surface of what has been developed in every veteran and each of these traits are directly transferable to the civilian job market. Do not hide these abilities; be prepared to speak about them in specific detail. Do not think of your experience as something that will hinder your job search, rather, think of your experience as enriching, and something that will lead you to a fulfilling career.

You are among a very exclusive group. You have answered the call to serve your country, and you have written a check to the people of this country payable up to and including the ultimate sacrifice. Highlight this when seeking the next challenge in your life. And if you find yourself in front of somebody questioning the values that you bring with you background, ask yourself “Is this the right place for me?” Be proud to be a veteran. You have earned the title.

Josh Combs is a 2006 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Communication. He currently works as Military Liaison for Aerotek, the nation’s largest privately held staffing firm. His job is to help service members make the transition from the military to the civilian workforce successfully. Josh lives and works in the Chicago suburbs and travels across the country in this effort. He has served in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, 115th Fighter Wing since 1999. He has deployed multiple times in support of OIF and continues to serve to date.

MILITARY RELIEF EFFORTS IN HAITI

Photos by DVIDSHUB and expertinfantry.

Find a Workplace of Equity

A group of UW-Whitewater students and staff attended the 8th Annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Ally College Student Career Conference recently. The conference is sponsored by Out for Work and was hosted by the University of Illinois – Chicago.

Finding the ideal organizational fit is a goal of all job seekers, regardless of the job seekers gender identity or sexual orientation. For individuals who identify as LGBTQ, finding an employing organization that is LGBTQ inclusive may be a deal-maker or deal-breaker during the job search process.

We want to share with you some resources and strategies that may help you better identify organizations that best align with your employment goals.

Resources:

  • The Corporate Equality Index. The CEI rates companies on 40 specific policies and practices that relate to workplace inclusiveness.
  • Out for Work has very good information on their website, including the HOT SHOTS 2012 publication highlighting young LGBTQ professionals, and includes a listing of LGBTQ inclusive employers listed on their job board.
  • The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has resources helpful for any job seeker. The site includes a listing of “Founding Sponsors”, companies who support the mission of the NGLCC, and may therefore be organizations that warrant your attention in your job search.

Strategies:

  • When you research employing organizations, search their site for Employee Resource Groups for LGBTQ employees. If one or more exist, this may be an indicator of a level of inclusion.
  • Contact local LGBTQ or PRIDE organizations within the community where the employer is located. If events are sponsored, like an annual PRIDE Parade, who are the sponsors of the events/parade? The organizations that support these events through a donation of funds or product may an indicator of a level of LGBTQ support and inclusion.

Last but not least, Career & Leadership Development is certified by Out for Work, which means that the staff are capable to provide quality career development advice to students and alumni who identify as LGBTQ. Web-based resources are available to help students learn more about support for LGBTQ individuals. Individual appointments may be made with your career advisor/counselor by contacting (262) 472-1471.

Ron Buchholz and Kathy Craney

Electronic Portfolios

Know thyself. The accurate determination of what we like, what we value, and what we’re good at is one of the most important aspects of a successful career. An honest, straightforward self-assessment helps us know in which career field(s) we’ll be most happy and successful.

The process of self-assessment requires us to reflect upon our lives, our actions, achievements, and yes, our failures. Reflective thinking is a learned behavior that each of us cultivates over time, and in our daily focus on our to-do lists, it’s as important as ever to take time to reflect upon what we are learning and how we’re growing as human beings.

Electronic portfolios have been shown as an effective method to engage the learner in reflective learning. An electronic portfolio is a collection of items that provide evidence of your learning, skills, knowledge, and abilities. The process of identifying, gathering, and organizing artifacts that accurately represent you is what elicits the most learning.

Portfolio

It’s not necessarily the product, it’s about the process.

Students engaged in developing a portfolio have the opportunity to bring together evidence from various aspects of their experience – academics, co-curricular involvement, work or internships, athletics, and so forth. This opportunity to reflect on the interconnection of our lives helps significantly with our career development.

PDF Portfolio

UW-Whitewater students interested in developing their own electronic portfolio have access to various campus resources to assist them. Interested students should contact Ron Buchholz in Career & Leadership Development.

Photos by Hans Gerhard Meier and Hung Le.

Career Advice for Athletes from Athletes

On Sunday, March 18th, Career & Leadership Development, along with UW-Whitewater Intercollegiate Athletics and the Student Athlete Advisory Council, sponsored the first ever career panel for our student athletes. Seven panelists, all former college athletes who are established and successful in their career fields, provided sage advice for our current student athletes in attendance.

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The purpose of the panel was to provide career advice to students, specifically how the qualities and mindset gained as a college athlete helps with career success. Graduation years of the panelists ranged from 1985 to 2001. All are highly successful in their careers, and each provided our students with great career advice that will serve as a formula for career success.

Two main themes emerged during the panel. First, as college athletes, the panelists indicated that they developed attitudes, behaviors, and skills which have helped them tremendously in their careers. Because of their dedication of time, and the physical and psychological energy required of a college athlete, all panelists believe they learned a tremendous lesson that they’ve applied to help them succeed in their work and life in general. From their current perspective, they each looked back and realized they benefited from athletics in more ways than they realized while they were a student.

The second theme was the advice for career success they provided to our current student athletes. This advice is applicable to all students, but was grounded in the mindset the panelists learned as a result of their participation in college athletics. Here is a sampling of their career advice:

  • Participation in college athletics is hard work. So is a career. The work ethic you develop as an athlete should be applied to your career. Understand that your career requires you to fully dedicate yourself – it’s more than just a 40 hour a week job. If more time is needed, then work more time.
  • Athletes are all part of a team. They need to work effectively with their teammates, coaches, trainers, and everyone else who contributes to success. The same goes for your career. To be successful in your career, you need to be able to get along well with your co-workers, to work effectively as a member of a work unit, and to know when to lead and when to follow.
  • Athletes have a competitive drive. They like competition and don’t shy away from it. Many career fields, such as business, require a competitive drive. This same drive that has helped an athlete succeed should be applied to their career as well. Always strive to do better, to perform better tomorrow than you did today.
  • Self-discipline is required of athletes. Most recruiters I know refer to this as self-management. A bit different, but similar in many ways. Career professionals need to effectively manage their time, organize their work, maintain a healthy body and mind, deal effectively with stress, and accept and learn from failure. Sounds a lot like what athletes need to do to succeed.

Thanks to the following panelists for continuing to give their time and talent to UW-Whitewater:

Mike Grahl, 1998 UWW graduate – Baseball
Interactive Marketing Manager with the Milwaukee Bucks

Aaron Jagdfeld, 1993 UWW graduate – Track & Field
President & CEO of Generac Power Systems, Inc.

Cyndee Kelsey, 1988 UWW graduate – Softball
Client Relations Director for Great-West Retirement Services

Matt Krueger, 1995 MATC graduate – Basketball
Managing Director/Owner in the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network

Tim Patterson, 1995 UWW graduate – Football and Baseball
Owner/Partner of Ansay & Associates, LLC

Lisa Schaffer, 2001 UWW graduate – Gold
Professional IT Recruiter for TEK Systems

Jack West, 1997 UWW graduate – Wrestling
District Marketing Manager for Federated Insurance

Photo by Fabio Stefano Alla.

Unpacking Your Study Abroad Experience

Students who study abroad frequently describe their experience as life-changing. The opportunity to live in and learn from another culture, as well as see and experience another part of the world, provides the participant with a great reason to reflect upon their life, their culture, and their identity.

The experience demands an investment of physical and psychological energy which will test and enhance the participant’s communication skills, ability to solve problems, adapt to change and be flexible. And, not least of all, there’s a good deal of confidence to be gained by successfully negotiating the challenges inherent in living in another country.

Paris_10_2006_ 053

These mindsets and skills are highly transferable and will help students both obtain and succeed in their careers. What follows are a few tips that may help employers understand the value of your study abroad experience as you conduct your job search.

  • First, don’t assume that your interviewer understands the value of your study abroad experience. Chances are most recruiters and hiring managers haven’t studied abroad and may not fully understand the numerous, varied ways that the experience has contributed to your learning and career development. They may view the experience as interesting and fun, but miss the learning implications inherent in the experience. The student will need to “connect the dots” on their resume and in their interviews.
  • Second, many students who participate in study abroad present the experience on paper and in person as “academic tourism.” When asked about their experience during interviews, a common mistake is to talk about how much fun the experience was, or how incredible it was to experience Amsterdam or the Great Wall of China. While true, understand that the interviewer wants to know how your experiences have contributed to the development of skills and competencies they desire. Therefore, it’s better to talk about what you learned as a result of your experience and specifically align what you learned with the skills and competencies that the employer seeks in the ideal applicant for the position for which you’re interviewing. Basically, they want to know how your experience abroad will add value to their organization if you are hired.
  • Lastly, spend some time to reflect upon what it is that you’ve learned as a result of your study abroad experience. What did you learn about the culture of your host country? Did the experience expand your knowledge of your own identity and culture? What skills did you use to adjust and adapt to your host culture? Have your attitudes about your home culture and country changed as a result of the experience? These are just a few of the questions to ask yourself during and after your study abroad experience.

Photo by Ralf Schulze

Where Will Your Job Search Take You?

The staff of Career & Leadership Development helps UW-Whitewater students and alumni with all aspects of their job search, including talking about where a graduate wishes to live for their first destination after college. As a place to live, Wisconsin is the clear first choice for UW-Whitewater graduates (approximately 87%), and our graduates contribute significantly to our state economy and our communities. This isn’t surprising – Wisconsin is a wonderful place to live.

If you’ve spent your whole life living in one place, it may be scary to contemplate moving to another part of the state or country. Fear of the unknown may mean that some of us stay where we’re most comfortable, and limit our life choices as a result.

I find it fascinating to talk with our international students – all have taken a leap of faith to experience life in the United States and our campus community. I’m also intrigued by the stories our students share about their study abroad experiences. They are often life changing. Decisions about our career are ultimately decisions about our lives, and where we want or need to live is an important aspect of our development as professionals.

Move to NYC

I’d like to provide you with some things to consider while contemplating the location of your first job. I talked with one of my colleagues, Melissa Grosso, Leadership Advisor in Career & Leadership Development. Melissa has experienced several significant moves in her life, and I trust her opinion and advice on the matter of relocating. Here are Melissa’s top three tips for those of you thinking about making a move to an unfamiliar place after graduation:

  1. Some graduates follow the job to the place, others pick the place and then find a job. If you prefer the latter (picking the place first), then know what you want, and research the region and communities to see which best align with your needs. I’m not a big city person. I like visiting, I just don’t want to live there. Knowing this, I may not be happy moving to New York City. Population, region of the country, climate, and culture all may have an impact on your happiness. Make sure you know what you want.
  2. If possible, make a visit to check out the area. This allows you to gain a fairly good feel of the place – much like choosing a college. Most of us have experienced the move to college, and what we see on paper and what we feel when we’re on campus may vary.
  3. Don’t get stuck on the details. There are many things to consider when making a move, lots of logistical tasks to manage and sort through. It can seem overwhelming to focus on all of these details early in the process. Rather, focus on the big picture and let things fall into place as you progress through the move.

Make sure to visit with a staff member in Career & Leadership Development for all of your career needs. We have various tools to help you identify job openings in various locations, and are willing to listen and help you sort through your options.

Photo by Jennine Jacob.

Calming Your Nerves for Interview Success

The staff in Career & Leadership Development have the pleasure of working with a good number of students as they prepare for their employment interviews. For me, these conversations are my favorite, since there’s a lot to think about as we prepare for the interview – How do I research the employer and the job? What questions will I be asked? How do I handle it if I don’t know how to answer one of the questions? What questions should I ask? What’s the best way to handle the dreaded “weakness” question? What should I wear? And the list goes on, and on…

Personally, back in the day, my biggest fear was being too nervous to be able to appear confident and answer the questions completely. In fact, during my first interview I actually “wove” my fingers of my right hand around a pen – I was nervous and tense, so I had a death-grip on that Bic. No worries, my hands were under the table. But, when the interviewer stood up to shake my hand when our conversation ended, I couldn’t quickly get the pen out of my grip. So I shook my hand, hard, and the pen hit the interviewer in the head. At that moment I understood what my Mom meant when she said “You could poke somebody’s eye out with that thing.” As you can imagine, of all the worries I had prior to that interview, never once did I think about hitting the interviewer in the head with my pen. Check that one off the bucket list.


As it is helpful do, I reflected upon what I learned from the interview experience, and how I could do better during my next interview. As I jotted down my thoughts, the first on the list was “leave the pen alone.” After stating the obvious, I realized that the underlying issue was being able to better handle my nerves. I’d like to share with you how I was able to do this, with some practice, of course.

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. If you “wing” the interview, you should be nervous. You wouldn’t jump in the pool for the first time and expect to take first place in the 100 freestyle, would you? Probably the best thing I did to calm my nerves was to research the employer, the job, myself, and practice my answers, by myself and in front of others. Funny thing – I found out that the more I prepared the more comfortable I became.
  • Some of us are pretty hard on ourselves. We’re our own worst enemy, as the saying goes. This was, and is at times, the case for me. However, I realized that the interviewer simply wants to get to know me at a deeper level than they could learn from reading my resume. And who is the foremost expert in the world on me? Me. It’s not like I have to go in front of a panel of experts and talk about quantum physics, I just need to talk about me, and I know me better than anybody. Self-talk like this helped me learn to not worry so much.
  • There are healthy things to do to relax just prior the interview. Meditation and taking the time to take a few deep breaths before the interview are a couple of things I did. It’s good to arrive to the interview site 5-10 minutes early to have the time to chill for a bit. To relax.
  • Lastly, when feeling overly nervous at the start of an interview, I would admit to the interviewer that I felt nervous. Most recruiters are really nice people who are very understanding, and they received my pronouncement with empathy. A few didn’t, but it helped me anyway to say so.

These tactics helped me improve my interview skills, and I’d like to think they’ll help you too. Here’s wishing you well on all of your interviews. If you happen to come across an interviewer who wears safety goggles during the interview, that would be the person I hit in the head with my pen. He’d be in his mid-60’s.

Photo By: astabraksabah