Baby Steps – Up Your Quant Skills Locally

Is your child majoring in liberal arts or bench science in college? Are you that student? Make sure you consider accessing the business learning resources in your college town. Many towns have continuing education offerings, classes at the library, a senior center, a chamber of commerce, a downtown association, where they offer classes on basic business skills. Why start with that Accounting 101 class when you can take a 3-week intro to Quick Books to dip your toe in. Interested in a possible internship for a company that does investing? Someone is probably offering a short class on managing your portfolio or buying and selling real estate so that you can get familiar with the lingo before you start down the investment company interview path. Liberal arts majors are often intimidated by classes with a more quantitative bent, and therefore they avoid taking ANY classes in subjects like accounting that ultimately will be rather useful in almost any entry level job. Sure you could learn these things online, but maybe you’ve tried and you just don’t “get” it. Don’t give up. A patient continuing ed teacher will usually spend time and effort above and beyond the class to get you over your sticking points. Better yet, the others in the class may even want to hire you part time to help them once you have mastered the topic, or they may know someone who would like to give you an internship or a job shadow locally.

Starting your networking with sympathetic adult fellow students is a great way to get better at talking to adult employed people. These local contacts can ultimately be a great sounding block or make introductions for you. Let’s face it, networking in the town where your college is is often a very overlooked resource – that’s because aside from striking up a conversation at the post office or the local coffee shop, “town-gown’ relations aren’t usually set up to link students to locals. Making the effort through an organized event or class can help you learn, and introduce you to adults in the town who can be of significant and lasting help.

QUESTIONS TO ENGAGE YOUR KIDS

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Today we begin a new Series – The Great Questions Series – these posts will showcase questions you can use to get children talking and they will be encouraged to think in a positive way with an external focus. Answering great questions is a skill – and kids need practice.  Don’t grill kids with these — the questions are meant to be thrown into a conversation. Time moves on, and they will face applications, interviews, networking soon enough. Practice engaging them. The more a child can learn to hold forth on great questions, the more comfortable they will feel as they get to that stage in their lives.

QUESTION 1: WHAT DO YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THAT YOU COULD TEACH ME OR OTHER PEOPLE?

Simple Cover Letter Formula

Cover Letters should be short, meaningful and additive to your resume data, not duplicative.  Here is a quick formula so you don’t get stuck on creating cover letters:

  • copy the entire job description into a word document.
  • rank each bullet in their job description using a 1, 2, 3*
  • write a response to each bullet that is ranked with a 1 (and maybe the 2s as well if you don’t have many 1s.)
  • work from your resume so you don’t forget relevant experiences.
  • Start your cover letter with a strong statement about you and your strengths. Follow with a few key things you know and like about the job and or the company.
  • use your written responses as the second, and main, paragraph of your cover letter – you will likely need to edit them to make them into shorter phrases so your cover letter stays short and on point.
  • only edit the whole cover letter after you insert all the phrases.
  • word-smithing as you go takes a lot of time so edit the transition words and filler at the very end of your drafting process so you don’t bog down with the minutiae.
  • Finish with a good selling statement as to why you are great for this job and how you can hit the ground running.

*1=I definitely have done exactly that. 2=I have done something similar. 3=I haven’t but I could probably learn it.

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The Art of the Follow Up Question

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I can’t emphasize this enough.  When an interviewer asks you if you have questions, you need to have questions.  Once they have answered them, PLEASE delve further with a follow-up question.  Further inquiry shows you listened to what they said, processed it, and are genuinely interested to hear more.  Always engage with a follow-up question. This is where the meat of any conversation is, and it is how you build meaningful relationships.  Think of it like a tennis game with a good friend.  The rally is the best part of the game.  There is joy in the ball going back and forth. You don’t want to drop shot your friend and finish the point unnecessarily abruptly.  Use the follow up question – the who, what, when, where, why and how questions are easy to think up on the fly and interject – to perpetuate the dialogue and really get to know the person, the company and the job.

Use this technique in informational interviews as well. You should prepare 10-20 questions to ask, but you won’t have the rejoinder questions prepared.  Those will come from listening deeply to their answers and being genuinely interested to hear more.  And if you aren’t interested, be polite, fake it, and pay attention – this may not be the job or line of work for you if disinterest is your response as you talk to several people in a certain field.  Better to know this now than make a career choice based on an ideal you had about a certain career path. Listen to others, but know yourself.  Two big factors in career success for the long-term.

 

Great…the Enemy of Consistently Good…

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When parenting children and coaching new graduates in their jobs, I try to emphasize good as the goal – good as in good enough — as in your things are on time, reasonably clean, and your mind is clear and your conscience is unblemished. “Great” is like those Japanese salt/sesame/seaweed mixes – it’s a seasoning – you sprinkle it – you never let it overwhelm your commitment to good – you will work your whole life to get that balance.  Consistently good trumps sporadically great every time.

The Truth About How College Students View Career Advising…

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Here are the ugly facts:

  • 80 percent of students say that job prospects are a key reason why they choose to go to college/choose a particular college.
  • However, only 35 percent of students nearing graduation feel prepared for a career by senior year.
  • And, only 20% of students nationwide make use of their career services/advising office during their time at college.

This is according to a Gallup/Strada joint poll recently quoted in The Atlantic magazine.

Affluent students shared that they typically network with family and friends.  First generation students often lack these contacts and are left high and dry if they don’t access their college/university’s resources. On a bright note, 50 percent of all students network at some point with their professors, staff in their department, and/or fellow students. However, those staff, faculty and friends have no formal training for advising students. So, these students may gain insight or networking leads, but they are still lacking in the concrete training for basics like a strong resume and networking tools such as emails, phone and face-to-face meeting skills.

I often write about how where you go to college matters less than what you make of it.  Since many if not most families see a college education as THE gateway to a job/career, it does beg the question, shouldn’t your child have some kind of introduction to a career planning strategy before they matriculate and during the four years? Why pay for a college education if job access is a major component of what you seek and your child does not have the insight, motivation, or know-how to access career advice? How will they develop the plan that will allow them to attain the ultimate brass ring from their four years of hard work in a college or university setting? Much of my career consulting is based on giving students and their families a short, affordable tutorial on how to have a great time in college while pursuing the building blocks that will lead to a successful career plan as they reach graduation.  We start with baby steps and during the four years we can revist, augment and expand on the plan as the student’s maturity coalesces and their interests and talents become more fleshed out.

 

 

 

 

 

Take Someone To Coffee – Great Gift For A Young Adult

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Want to inspire a young adult in your life to get out there and try networking?  Write a short note to them about a networking success you’ve had in your life, enclose a gift card from a major chain like Peet’s or Starbucks or Panera, and encourage them to take someone to coffee! Every time I have done this my students have been encouraged by the story I’ve shared. Not only have they followed through by having a networking session of their own, but they have kept in touch to thank me and tell me about their networking adventure.  It’s a small gift that will inspire the next generation!