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TripleWhammy

New Grads: Is This Triple Whammy Keeping You from Being Hired? Here’s How to Mitigate It

By LiveCareer / December 29, 2014

About six months ago, we reported on a disturbing study from Black Book that cited a large percentage of employers that screen out new-grad candidates based on some unexpected risk factors:  
Ninety-four percent of hiring companies identify one of their highest risks for making a “bad hire” offer (new employees that leave their jobs within six months of hire) to US companies are new grads (1) with more than $80K in student debt (2) who went to a liberal-arts college with fewer than 5,000 students, and (3) received a degree that lacked competitive business, engineering, health care and/or technology courses.
  Any one of these risk factors might be enough to keep a new graduate from being hired, but what if you fall into all three categories: You have high student debt, graduated from a small liberal-arts school, and chose an undesirable major or inadequate coursework?   We asked experts what students who find themselves in this predicament can do to increase their chances of being hired. Here's what they advised:  
  • Seek out smaller companies. “Those that don't have extensive HR
departments are unlikely to have heard of these criteria for a ‘bad hire'
offer,” notes Brian Carter, co-author of bestselling career-advice book, The Cowbell Principle. Rasheen Carbin, co-founder and CMO
of @nsphire, agrees: “Smaller firms are often more willing to hire new grads and give them greater responsibility as they can't afford to be as discriminating in their hiring practices.”
 
  • Turn to your network and seek referrals. Citing an article in the New York Times, career consultant Melissa Cooley notes that “job-seekers who are referred to a
 position and are called for an interview are 40 percent more likely to get the job.
The reason why is clear – the candidate is a known quantity. Someone who is 
either internal to the company or is a trusted connection is vouching for
 the person's skills and ability to fit in with the culture.”
 
  • Exploit the positives of your liberal-arts education. “If you are graduating school with a 
strong liberal-arts background but lack business or technical courses,
highlight the broad liberal-arts background,” advises Frank Grossman of Resumes That Shine. “Employers value writing and
 reasoning skills, not just technical skills that can be taught on the job,” Grossman points out. Indeed, liberal-arts majors are known for their superior writing skills. “Try to demonstrate impeccable writing skills,” advises Dr. Luz Claudio, “by publishing articles, blogs or opinion pieces in diverse topics, including in areas related to the industry that you want to break into.” See also our article, Ten Ways to Market Your Liberal Arts Degree.
 
  • Check out temp-to-permanent positions. “Temp-to-perm work opportunities give you a chance to demonstrate competence and cultural fit without the company having to make a large financial commitment,” Carbin observes.
 
  • Confront the loan issue – if you sense concern. Employers that are likely to write you off for carrying a large debt burden probably won't even interview you, but when you do get interviews, consider addressing the loan issue. Tread carefully here, though; you don't want to put a concern into the interviewer's head that wasn't there in the first place. Thus, bring up the loan situation only if you get the sense that it's an issue for the employer. Talk about a strategy for managing debt. “Make it clear if parents are helping 
with the student debt, or if you've found another way to offset it,” Carter advises.
 
  • Amp up your experience. “Get more
 business experience while looking for a job,” Carter suggests, “by doing an unpaid internship
 or by doing virtual-assistant work via services like odesk or elance."
 
  • Stockpile excellent and relevant recommendations. “Seek recommendations from people other than professors in your college,” Claudio advises. “If you had a successful summer internship outside of school, make an effort to stay in touch with your mentors from those internships. Showing that you have expanded your horizons beyond your small liberal-arts college will give you a way to show how well you would work in a larger corporation.”
 
  • Show how your experience and education are relevant and applicable. Ideally, you will have participated in internships and gained other experience while in school. “Applicants can prove they are not a bad hire by showing 
the experience they've received outside of their degree,” says Michelle Burke, marketing supervisor, for WyckWyre Food Industry HR Systems. “For example, show 
how how you've applied your ethics courses to your industry in projects and 
internships.”
 
On your resume, Moran Barnea of Resume Boost suggests, “add information relevant to the position you are applying to; for example, extracurricular activities or volunteer activities.” Barnea notes that adding sections to your resume for unpaid work “may show your future employer various skills that may have been overlooked.” Such skills or traits might include leadership, commitment, and giving back to your community, which, Barnea notes, can supersede concerns about your particular school or degree. Commitment, in fact, is especially bound to impress employers, Cooley suggests. “A job you've held for four years while going to college or a 
volunteer gig that was started in high school both indicate an ability to
 stick with something over the long term,” she says. “Regardless of whether it is in work 
history or community involvement, a job-seeker should be sure to show that
 longevity on his or her resume.”
 
Claudio offers more resume advice: “Having original published works listed as part of your resume will be a great asset you can add even after graduation. If you wrote a dissertation or thesis as part of your school requirements, consider publishing that work in a peer-reviewed journal.”
  Final Thoughts Today's new grads can't rewrite their histories, but the triple-whammy dilemma should provide food for thought for those now in college. Look for alternatives to racking up huge student debt. If you are set on a small liberal-arts college, start planning early your strategy for marketing your degree upon graduation (see our article Ten Ways to Market Your Liberal Arts Degree), and plan to take some business, engineering, health-care and/or technology courses. It's especially important to take in-demand courses if you are passionate about choosing a relatively unmarketable major.  
Authored by Dr. Katharine Hansen
     
African American man working on a laptop computer.

How to Write an Excellent Project Manager Resume

By Giana / December 19, 2016

You need a project manager resume that sets you apart from the crowd. Here are a few tips that can help you land the job you’re looking for. As a project manager in search of a full-time or contract based job, you’ll need a resume that sells your skills, education, and experience, just like an applicant for almost any profession or industry. But your resume will also need some details that are specific to your project-management goals. For example, you’ll have to demonstrate your ability to clarify and rein in a sprawling mission, a.k.a. “project-creep”. You’ll need to showcase your leadership skills, even at the entry level. And you’ll need to explain how your specific skill sets can support your employer’s specific enterprise. Here are a few moves that can help you accomplish these goals.

First, focus on your summary.

You may be searching for work in a wide range of fields that require expert project managers. So in the summary section of your resume, clarify exactly how your experience lines up with the needs of your target audience. To assess those needs, do some research or make your best guess based on the information available to you. By the time they’ve read your summary, your reviewers should know-- for sure—that this open position falls into your area of interest and expertise.

Move experience above education.

Your education section will be very important, but for most project management positions, reviewers like to assess your experience first. Again, they want to know that the projects you’ve worked on in the past reflect similar challenges to the ones you’ll face on this job. Focus on the client problems you’ve solved, the budgeting restraints you’ve dealt with, and the ways in which you—and your past projects—have exceeded expectations. After briefly listing and describing your past positions and your proudest home runs, you can share your education, training, and certifications.

Highlight skills that grab attention.

After your education and experience sections, you’ll create a resume subheading focused on your special skills. Keep in mind that a long list of marginal and forgettable skills (like proficiency with the Microsoft office suite) will easily slip out of your reader’s memory after they close your file. But a shorter list of rare, highly valuable, and very specific skills will stay at the forefront of your reader’s thoughts. Cull and curate your “skills” list carefully. Don’t include every single one of your software skills—only the most relevant. And don’t list bland, broad categories like “communication” and “leadership”. Instead, be specific. Cross out “communication” and replace it with “public speaking”, “grant writing”, or “PR management”.

Show results.

Your experience section will highlight what you’ve done. Your education section will highlight what you’ve learned and what you know. Your skills section will demonstrate what you can do. But for all three sections, emphasize the end results. Did you earn cum laude status? Did you successfully advance your employer’s interests by expanding market share or raising revenue? Describe the specific problems you’ve solved, honors you’ve earned, or changes that have come about due to your own personal actions. Use numbers to make your point. For more on how to tighten each essential section of your project management resume, turn to the resume creation tools available on LiveCareer.
Business people working together in office

Communication Counts: 83% of Recruiters Consider it Key to Sizing Up Cultural Fit

By Giana / December 14, 2016

To impress your interviewer and land your dream job, you’ll need to communicate clearly and well…but what exactly does this mean? It’s no surprise that most employers and hiring managers cite “good communication skills” as a positive trait when evaluating candidates for open positions. But “good” or “strong” communication can mean different things to different people. In fact, a recent Jobvite survey that polled 1600 recruiters and HR professionals found that 83% consider communication style the most important element when evaluating candidates for cultural fit. This means that if your method of speech and message-shaping matches that of your employer, you’re in. If not, you’re more likely to slip through the cracks. So as you search for work, make sure that you’re communicating well, in the universal sense. While you’re at it, make an effort to understand the unique culture and style of your interviewer and your target employer. Here are a few moves that can help.

Be clear.

Clarity means delivering your message using impeccable grammar, proper spelling, complete sentences, and a logical link between each written or spoken thought and the next. This may sound like a no brainer, but far too many candidates assume that text speak, abbreviations, and broken phrases are acceptable when speaking to a recruiter by text, email, or voicemail. They aren’t. Edit your messages, even the simplest and shortest.

Be mindful of nuance.

Grammar matters, and so does tone. There’s a difference between: “Thanks for your message! We’ll talk soon!” and: “Thank you for your message. We will talk on Monday.” Both are grammatically correct, but they convey a different voice and tone. Word choice and punctuation contribute to your conversation and help readers gain a complete picture of who you are as a person. Stay in control of that picture.

Listen first.

If you’d like to present yourself as an adaptable person with a flexible personality who can get along with almost everyone, that’s great. It’s an excellent way to open a dialogue with an unknown person or company. But once the dialogue is open, stay tuned in to the culture of the company and the personality of the person on the other end of the line. Don’t keep cracking jokes if your audience isn’t responsive to your sense of humor. And if your audience seems relaxed and forthcoming, smile and take it easy. Demonstrate your ability to receive social cues and respond appropriately.

Remember details.

Write down the details and facts your interviewer or recruiter shares with you. No matter what information comes your way, the more you retain, the better. Make note of names, numbers, the company’s history, the needs of the open position, and the details of your own background that you have and have not already shared.

Keep records.

As you search for work, you may create long email or text chains with various employers and contacts. Keep these records straight and accessible. They can and will come in handy as your conversation develops.

Learn to brag appropriately.

Almost every job search comes with a universal conundrum: The need to brag about your abilities and while being self-aware and socially well-adjusted. Finding balance between the two is an art. But you can pull off this tricky maneuver if you place yourself in your listener’s shoes and think carefully about your messages before you send them. It may also help to review some successful cover letters and/or watch videos of successful interviews (you can find both on LiveCareer!) For more information on how to ace your interviews and establish meaningful connections with recruiters and employers, explore LiveCareer’s job search and resume creation tools.
man with a beard looking over documents

How to Survive the Holidays as a Freelancer

By Giana / December 5, 2016

The holiday season and the end of the year can be a challenging chapter for freelancers and independent contractors. If you fall into this category, here are a few strategies that can help you survive.

The holidays can be a harrowing time for anyone. We’re all familiar with the social stresses, high- pressure event planning, lonely moments, and workplace drama (it’s review season after all), that accompany the last few months of the year. But freelancers are in a unique position, and as it happens, gig economy employees and independent contractors often find themselves in the crosshairs of all of these problems at the same time. Freelancers may need to miss social gatherings to attend to work during non-business hours, and are often trying to line up enough work—or any work—for the year ahead. While their clients leave for holiday vacations, freelancers rush to finish jobs on corresponding deadlines (without regard for their own vacation time). If you’re a proud representative of the gig economy, here are a few tips that can help you face the holidays without missing a beat.

Expect a slight slowdown.

Most freelancers who work for large companies as contractors and subcontractors can expect a work slowdown between December and February. Almost all projects that require freelance input (from design, to project management, to accounting) go through a lull as corporate clients and their own customers turn their attention away from work-related matters. When this slowdown happens, be ready. Have a financial plan in mind so you can spread out your yearly income to cover a few quiet months, and have an action plan in mind so you aren’t left spinning your wheels.

Keep your contacts close.

The holiday season offers plenty of opportunities to build and strengthen your network. While you’re searching for new jobs, stay in circulation socially. Attend events, reach out to old friends, and send friendly seasonal messages to current and former clients. Connect with old friends, meet new ones, and don’t hide at home in the glow of your screen.

Make changes to your business model.

If you intend to change your rates, change your methods, or adjust your business model (offering new services or phasing out old ones), take care of this now. Most of your clients will be working on budgets and needs assessments for the following year, so this may be a perfect time to draw their attention to changes that may affect them.

Manage your time wisely.

While the holidays can mean a slowdown for freelancers, they can also present the opposite: a rush of work with tight, holiday-related deadlines. These deadlines can be hard to meet while also navigating social obligations and holiday travel. Be ready to handle some tricky planning, and if it helps, let your clients know as much about your circumstances as you can. For example, tell them when you’ll be going out of town, even if you intend to take your work with you.

Maintain a regular routine.

Waking up and starting work early can be hard during the cold, dark winter months, and while steady office employees have alarm clocks and watchful bosses to keep them on track, freelancers need to handle their schedules on their own. Exercise your self-discipline… and get some exercise. Don’t slide into a state of hibernation like a bear. Stay busy, and you’ll thank yourself for your happy clients, strong relationships, healthy body, and full work schedule when spring rolls around. For more on how to stay focused and on track throughout the winter no matter what your work schedule looks like, explore the tools and resources on LiveCareer.