During my last year in college, I accepted an opportunity to work in web production at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) in New York City. I couldn't decide what was more exciting: living and working in the Big Apple or meeting Ms. Stewart!
The Martha experience
After I was hired for the summer, at least fifty of us interns got the chance to have a meet and greet with our designated departments, learn the history of MSLO, and meet Martha. I felt nervous because I wanted to make a good impression and do my best in my assignments (who wouldn't)? Everyone got a chance to see what a down-to-earth person she was. During one company meeting, she even had beverages made for us from fruits and veggies grown from her own garden. I still remember sipping that refreshing tropical cooler toward the end of the day. That was just one of the highlights of my time with the company.
Majoring in journalism, I was unsure of what skills I could bring to the product development and production department. However, the web producers I worked with were amazing and made me feel like I was part of the team. I learned new skills and software and took part in multiple projects, including participating in a marketing presentation.
As with any position, there were challenges. I had difficulty completing some tasks. At times, this resulted in feelings of inadequacy. After some words of encouragement and a handful of M&M's, my coworker reminded me I had seven other people I could reach out to by my desk. Constant communication with the staff helped me to progress.
Seize the opportunity
Here are some tips I learned to make any internship valuable:
- Take notes on every new task and skill you learn. Later on in your career, you may be assigned a task from your interning days. Your notes could be your refresher.
- Utilize every resource extended to you. Whether you are watching intently, asking for help from a colleague, or Googling, there are many resources at your disposal. It doesn't hurt to ask who, what, when, where, why, or how.
- Document accomplishments and other happy times. Not only would you be able to sauce up your resume, you can see how you have progressed on your journey to being the awesome intern that you are.
- Take it for what it is. The overall goal of the internship is to gain experience in your desired field, learn new skills, and make connections. The value isn't whether you make money or not (although earning a little cash is a nice bonus)! The value is in the knowledge and progress you make as you prepare for the workforce.
Although it was an unpaid internship, I received a stipend for food and travel as payment. Sure it was a small amount, but I made it work. The work experience itself gave me a chance to learn another facet in digital media, such as HTML encoding, and I also received resources to help me practice my learned skills. For information about landing your own internship, check out internships.com.
Before you can land that dream job, you have to impress the hiring manager. And before you ever get to meet that person, you have to impress the computerized Applicant Tracking System and the human being who decides if your cover letter and resume merit more than a six-second review.
You've probably heard plenty of tips regarding what should be included in your cover letter, but you also need to know the four cover letter killers that can stop you from getting that dream job--or any job.
The one size fits all cover letter
I know. I know. You send out dozens--if not hundreds--of resumes. Who has the time to personalize each one? You do, if you want to get the job. According to Marina Khidekel, a deputy editor for Cosmopolitan magazine who has combed through hundreds of cover letters from would-be editors and interns, an impersonal, formal, letter that sounds as if it could be sent to anyone is a sure sign of a form letter. "Form letters go in the trash," Khidekel wrote.
The best way to personalize your cover letter is to make sure that it addresses key information in the job posting. For example, if you're applying for an accounting job, take your cue from the job description. Mention your ability to prepare recurring and nonrecurring journal entries, explain your experience in accurately reviewing data from other departments for completeness and accuracy, and describe how your education has prepared you to evaluate accounting systems and suggest ways to improve output and efficiency.
The I, Me, and My cover letter
Reality check: companies hire people to meet the organization's needs, not to meet the applicant's needs. However, talking about how a company can help you instead of how you can help a company is a common cover letter mistake, according to a 2012 CareerBuilder survey of 2,298 hiring managers. According to the survey, one candidate called himself a genius and invited the hiring manager to interview him at his apartment. In another survey by CareerBuilder, a hiring manager reported that one candidate asked, "Would you pass up an opportunity to hire someone like this? I think not." And another candidate insisted that the company pay him to interview because his time was valuable. However, this space on the cover letter would be better used by explaining how your skills and talents can help the company. For example, "When I worked at XYZ Company, I increased sales by 20%, and I am eager to discuss ways to help increase your company's sales as well."
The sloppy cover letter
Just one spelling error can cast doubt on your competence and attention to detail. And depending on the error, you'll be remembered for all of the wrong reasons. For example, CareerBuilder reports that one candidate who applied for a position in accounting stated he was "deetail-oriened." And if that wasn't enough, he also misspelled the company's name. Another applicant said he would be a "good asset to the company" but failed to include the "et" in the word "asset."
The kitchen sink cover letter
Don't include every detail of your life or everything you've ever done in your cover letter. According to CareerBuilder, one candidate said she survived being bitten by a deadly aquatic animal--probably not relevant to an office job. And another candidate actually talked about her family being in the mob (was that a threat?). In addition, you should keep the length of your cover letter to one page. If it takes more than a page for you to convince a company to contact you for an interview, you're trying to include way to much information.
Crafting a great cover letter is a delicate balancing act. It shouldn't sound like a form letter, but it shouldn't sound like your biography, either. Make sure your letter is free from mistakes and errors, and remember that although you're trying to stand out among hordes of other applicants, you can make the best impression by being concise about how you can help the company reach its goals.
Choosing the right career is a delicate balancing act. Since you'll want to have a long, successful career, you'll want to choose a profession that lines up with your skills, abilities, and interests. Also, unless you're a trust fund baby, you'll have bills to pay--along with desires you want filled--so you need to earn a decent salary.
However, many students and college graduates fail to consider another important factor: You need to choose a career that is in demand; it doesn't matter how much you love your job or how much money it pays if no one is hiring for that position. How can you know if your career choice is in demand or not?
Fortunately, there are several resources that can help you determine the projected growth rates for most occupations.
The National Association of College of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducts Salary Survey reports to see how much employers are paying recent graduates. However, these reports also reveal which industries hire the most new graduates each year. For example, NACE reports that graduates who have a bachelor's degree in business, engineering, computer and information sciences, and math and science are in highest demand among its employer members. By individual majors, the most sought-after degrees are finance, accounting, and computer science.
The best source for job outlook information, however, is the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects job growth for a 10-year period, and it also updates the information every few years.
The BLS publishes lists of the fastest-growing occupations and also the most new jobs. While those two may sound like the same classification, they are very different categories. The fastest-growing occupations are measured by growth rates. For example, the demand for industrial-organizational psychologists is at 53%, which is the highest growth rate in the country. As a point of comparison, the BLS predicts that demand for the average job will grow by 10.8%. There's a big difference between 10.8% and 53%.
However, industrial-organizational psychologists don't have the most new jobs because it is a small profession. According to 2012 employment statistics, there are currently 1,600 industrial-organizational psychologists, and the BLS projects that 900 new jobs will be added to the market by 2022. So even though the job is in high demand, there won't be a whole lot of new jobs added to the market.
The occupation with the most new jobs is personal care aides. There are currently 1,190,600 personal care aides, and by the year 2022, the BLS projects that there will be an additional 580,800 jobs added to the market.
How can you determine if your job is in demand or not? The BLS has an "occupation finder" that lists information for 580 different jobs. This handy page will tell you a lot of pertinent information about a particular job, such as the amount of education required, how many new jobs are projected, the projected growth rate, and the median annual salary. Also, when you click on a particular occupation, the link will take you to a page that provides in-depth information about that profession.
So, if you click on "Accountants and Auditors," which is the first profession listed alphabetically, a new page opens that includes tabs that will provide a range of information, such as a list of the job duties for this profession, a description of the work environment, and a detailed job outlook page. If you click on this Job Outlook tab, there is an explanation of the growth rate for accountants and auditors.
For instance, the BLS states that this profession is projected to grow because of stricter laws and regulations as a result of corporate scandals, financial crises, tighter lender standards, and globalization. In addition, applicants who are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and those who have a master's degree in accounting or an MBA with an accounting specialization may have an advantage.
Also, if you click on the Work Environment tab, the BLS provides information about the industries that hire the most accountants and auditors.
Armed with this type of data, students choosing a career, and graduates who want to know how to gain a competitive advantage in their chosen profession can make informed decisions.
The National Center for Education Statistics predicts that more than 1.6 million students will graduate with bachelor's degrees this year, which means competition for entry-level interviews is fierce and candidates should welcome any advantage.
Enter your wardrobe. Brian Tracy, an internationally known leadership and training consultant, said, "Your clothes are responsible for 95% of your first impression." Get an edge on the competition by dressing the part of up and arriving professional, and you'll add to a favorable first impression with the interviewer (unlike our buddy here to the right).
Learn the dress code before the interview. Calm those butterflies in your stomach by doing your homework and preparing thoroughly for your interview. In addition to learning as much as you can about the company and position before meeting with the interviewer, call ahead and find out the company's dress code. Call the human resources department or to talk to a friend working at the company to learn what to wear to your interview.
Dress the part. "A first impression is formed within seven seconds--before you even present your resume or speak a word," said Colleen Hammond, founder of Total Image Institute and author of the internationally bestseller Dressing with Dignity. "Decision makers need to visualize you in the position they are trying to fill. So dress for the job you're applying for!"
For men, Hammond suggested:
- suit jacket and slacks in a dark, neutral color, such as black, navy or gray, with an Oxford-type shirt and tie ( "A blue and red striped tie exudes confidence and professionalism," Hammond said.)
Women have more choices:
- a pant suit with loose-fitting, pressed trousers, and black pumps
- matching skirt and jacket suit with colorful, complimentary blouse
- tailored, professional dress
What about piercings and tattoos? Most interviewers understand young people graduating from college are likely to have tattoos and piercings. That doesn't mean that you should flaunt your lip ring, however. A survey from TheVault.com states 60% of employers were less likely to hire a candidate with tattoos or piercings. While that may seem unfair, it's important to understand not everyone shares your love of ink. Before your interview and after you're employed, consider the following:
- Remove piercings from the lips, face, eyebrows, and tongue.
- Use clear retainer jewelry.
- Wear long sleeves to cover large arm tattoos.
Nail casual office attire. If you choose to go more casual, business casual doesn't mean anything goes. Familiarize yourself with what others in the office wear on casual Fridays or throughout the workweek. Err on the side of dressing more formally.
In general, casual work attire for men means khaki or navy-colored slacks, a collared shirt of some type, and casual loafers or other leather shoes with matching socks.
Women can choose to wear slacks or a casual skirt, such as a pencil skirt, although Hammond said to choose a pencil skirt that's neither too tightly fitting nor too short. Adding a colorful blouse, black flats or ballet shoes, and a pretty cardigan lends a professional appearance to a woman's casual work attire.
Dress for success. Even if your resume or internship experience is outstanding, wearing too casual clothing, scuffed shoes, or even too much cologne or perfume can be a turn-off at work. Dress to impress, and dress for success for your first job out of college and beyond.
Want to quit your job? Want to quit after only a day, a week, or a month?
Recently, I found myself in this situation. I was hired for a job that on paper seemed perfect for me, and I loved everything about it--my boss was amazing, my co-workers were friendly and helpful, the money was good, and I was using my degree.
However, there was a big problem. I hated the work itself. No matter how hard I tried to make the best of it, it just wasn't right for me. After the first week, I knew I had made a mistake in accepting the position. So, how did I quit a job I had only just started?
It was an awkward situation, but after a month, I managed to exit gracefully the job without burning any bridges. Take these step to evaluate the situation and take your exit.
Don't make any rash decisions. The first day, week or month of any new job is hard. You're going to feel overwhelmed, and you may decide you've made a mistake. However, don't give up too soon. Give yourself time to adjust and see how you feel after more time has passed. If you still want to leave, it may be best to move on.
Make sure you can afford to quit. Before making any final decisions, make sure you can afford to quit. This means both financially and professionally. Do you have enough money saved up to survive a few months of not working? How much will quitting affect your professional reputation? It may be best to stay until you've found a new position so you can make a seamless transition.
Tell your boss in person (no matter how scary that seems). It's much easier to send an email or write a memo telling your boss that you're done, but be respectful and tell them in person. Be honest about why you're leaving. They invested a lot of time and money into hiring and training you, and they chose you over others who also wanted the position. The least you can do is explain why you're leaving.
Offer to stay until they find someone new. This sacrifice can be hard because you want to be done. However, offering to stay until the organization finds a replacement will help them avoid stress from losing you and being short-handed. You could also consider offering to help train your replacement to help make the transition as smooth as possible and avoid hard feeling between you and the company.
Send a thank you note. Even though you only worked there a short time, take a minute to send your former employee a quick thank you for the opportunity. After all, they did give you a chance over other candidates. Let them know how much the opportunity meant to you, and, although it didn't work out, you valued the learning experience.
There's no easy way to quit a job, but by doing it the right way, you can minimize the damage to your professional reputation and avoid burning bridges.
You said you wouldn't do it, but it happened anyway: You overspent on party attire and social events. You went way overboard on gifts. You tossed your budget out the window in favor of good times and holiday cheer.
Don't beat yourself up. It happens. And you surely wouldn't be the first person to bemoan the toll the holidays took on your wallet. But now that they're over, it's time to get back on track. Here are a few easy ways to begin the process of recovering financially.
Review your gift collection. Just as you gave during the holidays, you also probably received. But before you stash your gifts in the back of your closet, take inventory and figure out which items you really do and don't want. Go through the "don't want" pile to see if there's anything you can sell or exchange for things you'd normally spend money on. For example, if your grandmother got you a sweater you can only describe as "hideous," try returning it for store credit so the next time you need to replace a staple item, you won't have to shell out the money. You can also unload unwanted gift cards for cash online. There are numerous sites that allow you to sell or trade gift cards, and while you may not get full value, better to have some money in hand rather than a useless piece of plastic that takes up space in your wallet.
Cut back on nights out. Nothing zaps your financial resources like nightlife and dining out, and while it's normal to want to socialize and indulge, you're probably ready for a break anyway now that it's January and a new year. So rather than make big plans with your partner or friends, consider exploring the less exciting--but just as enjoyable--world of movie nights and potluck dinners. You'll save money and give your body a chance to recuperate from all the holiday madness.
Reexamine your budget. Now that the holidays are over, it's time to reevaluate your budget--especially if you're still paying off December's credit card bills. With your holiday spending spree fresh in your mind, take the time to review your finances so that you can better prepare for next December. You may find that to avoid racking up debt, you'll need to set aside extra money each month for your holiday gift fund. The sooner you realize this and start taking steps to create that financial buffer, the better off you'll be. Plus, with that nagging credit card balance hanging over your head, you'll be more motivated to get creative in terms of cutting corners.
Remember, recovering financially from the holidays doesn't have to be painful. Just take the opportunity to make some smart short-term decisions, and before you know it, you'll be back on track and in a better position to go all out next December.
Though things seem to be picking up on the job front, plenty of people are still having difficulty getting hired. In fact, the average college graduate will spend anywhere from three to nine months looking for a job--which, for many, is far too long to go without work. As a result, many grads are turning to temporary jobs as a way to start working sooner and begin paying those mounting bills. In fact, temporary jobs have comprised 19% of all new jobs since the recession in 2009, according to U.S. News. While there are many benefits to temporary jobs, here are a few things you should know before taking a temp role:
Your company is not required to offer you benefits. Though some companies and temp agencies do provide certain benefits to temporary employees, they are not required by law to offer perks like paid time off, health insurance, or a 401k plan.
You won't be getting a break on taxes. Temps are subject to the same withholding rules that apply to permanent employees.
You still have rights. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, temporary employees are given the same rights as permanent ones with regard to factors such as minimum wage, discrimination, safety policies, and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
If you're paid hourly, you're eligible for overtime. Hourly, or non-salaried, employees must be paid a minimum of time-and-a-half for excess hours when working more than 40 hours in a given workweek. If your regular hourly rate is $20 and you work 45 hours over the course of the same week, your company must pay you at least $30 per hour for those last five hours.
You can't be a temp forever. By law, a company can only retain you as a temporary employee for a certain amount of time. Actual limits vary by state, but the punchline is that your company can't allow you to temp indefinitely in the same role, nor can it easily get away with creating new but similar roles for the purpose of extending your temporary status. This law is actually designed to benefit you as an employee, as it prevents a company from taking advantage by repeatedly renewing your temporary contract instead of hiring you full-time and deeming you eligible for the benefits that come with permanent employment. But it also means you shouldn't get too settled in a temp role because your company may have no choice but to let you go if there's a freeze on permanent hiring when your contract expires.
You may make less money if you're hired through a temp agency. Most agencies typically charge clients 15 to 30% more than the amount their temps get paid. While a temp agency will advocate on your behalf and help you find employment, you may be better off financially if you manage to secure a temp job on your own. Some companies advertise temp positions directly, so it pays to look around.
You may or may not get hired permanently. According to 2014 staffing agency statistics, 35% of temps were offered permanent jobs by their employers.
A temporary job can relieve out of work graduates, but be smart, research the company and your rights, and use it to launch your career, not to get stuck.
Most college students know that they need to get good grades to succeed in school and beyond. But what might be more important--especially in securing a job after college--is how they succeed outside of the classroom.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2015 survey found that employers rank involvement in extracurricular activities is as important as students' grades when looking at potential hires. Likewise, holding a leadership position related to their field is as important as what major they choose. In other words, a degree doesn't guarantee a job, and students who want to be competitive in the workforce need to think beyond their classes.
Students just starting out in their college career should consider joining a student organization or networking group related to their field of study. This provides a chance to learn about their field and get some initial experience that can prepare them for the next step: an internship.
The idea of working at an internship makes students groan--I'm taking classes, working a part-time job, racking up debt, and you want me to work for free? But the benefit--like real-world experience, contacts in the industry, and a leg up on other candidates when a job opens up--can be enormous. And what's more: Working in your field during college doesn't necessarily mean working for free.
The NACE's 2014 Internship and Co-Op Survey shows that employers made full-time offers to 64.8% of their interns, which includes both unpaid and paid positions--the latter of which can net students an average hourly wage of around $15-$18.
It's worth students' time to try for a paid position. While unpaid internships can provide valuable experience, paid internships, co-ops, and freelance work command more consideration from potential employers.
The NACE 2014 Student Survey shows that less than half of all college internships are unpaid, and 42% of students surveyed who held a paid internship during college received a full-time job offer. And, more importantly, those job offers tended to come with a higher starting salary than students with job offers resulting from unpaid positions.
Students should check with their school's internship or co-op office to see what positions they might be aware of. They can also search online to find opportunities in their area and around the world at Internships.com, which has an Internship Predictor Tool to help guide students' internship choices.
But traditional routes like internships and co-ops aren't the only options.
Professors may just be seen as teachers, but many do work outside of the classroom. Beyond getting good grades, students should take time to develop good relationships with their professors, who will keep their best students in mind for help with research projects or freelance work.
In any case with gaining job experience, students should remember that landing a job isn't the only goal.
Colleen Sabitano, an Intern Coach through Internships.com, says that students should realize employers "are trying to make their dollars go farther and their people produce more."
Students should think about what they can offer an employer, rather than what the employer can give them. And when they make themselves valuable, the jobs will come.
If you've just landed an internship or started a new career, chances are you may just be the youngest person in your office, and sometimes by a lot. This may mean that the chances of making similar-aged office friends and finding someone to join you at an après-work happy hour are unfortunately slim to none. However, being the youngest in your office actually provides you with a host of benefits and lots of learning opportunities. If you haven't quite found the silver lining yet, read on to discover the advantages of being the youngest person in the office.
You will learn how to act like a professional
As a young professional, the learning curve is steep. Embrace it. Part of that includes honing a professional approach. More often than not to prove your worthiness for a raise or promotion, you need to be constantly professional. While this undoubtedly means acting way more mature than you actually are and suppressing your Netflix-loving, Snapchatting and Chipotle-bingeing twenty-something urges, you're in the best environment to help you do just that. By observing and emulating your older co-worker's work habits, attire and overall maturity, you will learn to become a more professional employee.
You can see the future
Being surrounded by co-workers who are parents--and some who are even old enough to be your parents--can make you feel like a child. However, observing your older co-workers will actually give you a great perspective for your future. You'll gain insight into how employees in your company climb the corporate ladder and an estimate of how long it could take you to reach your goals. Getting to know your older, successful co-workers who had a similar college major or career goal can also help to provide insight into your potential career path. However, if you're noticing unhappiness and dissatisfaction among your older office-mates, it may be a sign for you to start sending out resumes.
You're not too old to move on
If you're the youngest employee in your office, chances are you're one of the youngest employees in the entire workforce. This means that if you don't like your current job or even your current career path, you have all the time in the world to change that, by switching jobs or even going back to school. Also, keep in mind that as a member of Gen Y it's perfectly normal to have several career changes--as almost everyone in this generation will have 15 to 20 jobs over the course of their career.
You're doing just fine
As the youngest employee in your office, feeling insecure is completely normal. You may feel as though your lack of experience and years as a professional can cause your superiors not to take you seriously. However, remember you were hired because of your impressive skills, talent, and personality, and even if it doesn't feel like it, you and your job are important. As a young professional already climbing the career ladder, it's safe to say you're doing just fine.
If your office is filled with co-workers much older than you, office-life may feel daunting. However, being the youngest means you have the most potential career growth ahead. It also gives you the opportunities to learn about professionalism and even your own career path from your co-workers. Turn your age into your biggest asset on the way to career success.
While the job market may be less bleak than it was several years ago, things are still far from easy for today's college grads, especially those falling into the often-dreaded "entry level" category. If you're at the point where you've pretty much given up on landing your dream job (or at least the entry level version of it), you may be considering a role as an administrative assistant, a position that's still fairly high in demand across a wide range of industries.
Of course, when you think about working as an admin assistant, it's hard not to imagine spending your days taking coffee orders, fetching lunch, and becoming a seemingly permanent fixture alongside the photocopy machine. And while it's true that some administrative assistant jobs consist mainly of what most college grads would consider menial tasks, in some industries, admin roles require a fair amount of intelligence and skill.
Real work, real opportunity
In the right environment, being an administrative assistant means gaining access to a host of opportunities. Think about it: As an administrative employee, you'll most likely be supporting at least one seasoned professional, and possibly more. This means that simply by showing up to work, you'll get to build relationships with people who may be able to help you advance your career—especially if you prove that you're dedicated, responsible, and good at what you do.
Plus, the work itself may end up being more challenging than you initially anticipated—and that's a good thing. Some admin assistants are responsible for making travel arrangements, planning meetings, and maintaining calendars for multiple executives. It may not be rocket science, but it's a far cry from spending hours alphabetizing the filing cabinet. And it's certainly not unheard of for skilled admin assistants to be tasked with creating reports, summarizing and analyzing data, or editing and proofreading presentations and memorandums. In fact, according to recent data, approximately 65% of job postings for administrative roles now include the requirement of having a bachelor's degree.
In other words, if you think being a college grad makes you automatically overqualified for an admin role, think again. According to Michelle Sarhis, an executive recruiter at Robert Walters, administrative roles are quite appealing to many job hunters and are no longer simply regarded as the fallback option for those who can't find better.
"Taking an admin assistant role early in one's career has become completely underrated," Sarhis said. "Administrative jobs not only lay the groundwork for skills such as organization, time management, and accountability--all of which are necessary for any job--but they can also provide exposure to a corporate environment with professionals who may even open future doors."
Here's another plus to consider: In some industries, admin assistants are actually paid quite generously. In 2012, admin assistants made $32,000 on average, but those in higher-paying markets made as much as $48,000. Meanwhile, executive assistants took home a median salary of about $47,000, while those in higher-paying markets made as much as $73,000. By comparison, event planners made an average of $46,000, while graphic designers made an average of $44,000. Furthermore, according to a recent survey of over 2,000 administrative professionals, 50% felt they were being paid what they deserved.
While it may not be your dream job, an administrative assistant role may not be such a bad option if you're in need of employment. And in the right industry, it could be just the position to kick start a rewarding and lucrative career.