I’ve had three job interviews in my life. The first was with Lillian Holden, Bookkeeper in the Framingham State Student Involvement and Leadership Development (SILD) office, for my position as a game room attendant. The second was with my first manager at the Solomon Pond Mall for my position as a guest services representative. The third was with Jake Livengood, Director of the Framingham State Career Services and Employer Relations office, for my position as an intern. And if memory serves, each one of them asked me the scariest question you can be asked in a job interview:
“Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?”
I never know how to respond to this question. If someone were to ask me right now, on the spot, I’m not sure I could come up with anything better than:
“My name is Zoe. I’m 22 years old. I spend way too much time on the internet and need to get out more. I go to college by day and blog about cats by night. My favorite color is purple. I don’t like it when people spell my name with a ‘y’. In an ideal world, I’d like to stay up until dawn and sleep until noon every day. Please hire me?”
Needless to say, potential employers don’t want to know how many hours I spend scrolling through my dashboard on Tumblr and reblogging pictures of cats. They don’t want to know that my favorite color is purple or my preference for a nocturnal lifestyle. They want to know about my educational experience, my work experience, and my career goals, which is why it’s important that I prepare a clear and concise “elevator pitch” before I find myself sitting in another job interview.
When a potential employer asks you to tell them about yourself, you should be able to answer in the same amount of time it would take to ride an elevator with them. I know the elevators at Framingham State run relatively slow (frontrunners being the elevator in May Hall and the elevator in the McCarthy Center), but in theory, your “elevator pitch” should be about 30 seconds long. That’s right: you have 30 seconds to sum up your educational experience, your work experience, and your short-term and long-term career goals. No pressure.
That being said, preparing your “elevator pitch” doesn’t have to be as stressful as it sounds. There’s no way you’ll be able to tell them everything in 30 seconds, but you can give them the bullet points. To give you a sense of what an effective “elevator pitch” might look like, here is an example that can be found in our Career Search Guide, which you can access online or pick up in the Career Services office:
“Hello, my name is Jonathan Student, and I am a senior at Framingham State University majoring in Criminology with a minor in Spanish. My ability to speak Spanish and my internship in the criminal justice system makes me a good candidate to work with a variety of populations. Recently, I interned at the Framingham Police Department where I observed criminal processes first hand. I am currently seeking a position in either the prison system or with an enforcement agency.”
Following this model, my “elevator pitch” might look something like this:
“Hello, my name is Zoe Moore. I am a senior at Framingham State University, majoring in English, with an anticipated graduation date of May 2014. My communication skills, especially through the written word, make me a good candidate to work independently or collaboratively in a work environment. Currently, I am the writing intern the Framingham State Career Services and Employer Relations office, where I write weekly blog posts that are shared with the student body through the Career Services website and corresponding social media. I am seeking a position that will allow me to put my skills to good use.”
See? It’s as easy as that. If I can do it, so can you — and if you have any questions, the Career Services office is, as always, here to help.
Want some additional ways to answer the “tell me about yourself” question? Check out this link.
For more Career Conference goodness, check out this video by our Videography intern, Jen Griswold!
I’ve given you a handful of “theoretical knowledge” posts in the past few weeks, and while I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them, I think it’s about time I filled you in on an upcoming opportunity for hands-on learning and networking. Two weeks from today, on March 7th, 2014, the Framingham State Career Services and Employer Relations office is holding its fourth annual Career Conference in the McCarthy Center from 1-5 PM — and all of you are invited!
For as long as I’ve been an intern in the office, everyone has been working diligently in preparation for the first of two “major” career events that will take place this semester (the second is our Career Fair, but we’ll get to that later). For those of you who don’t know, the Career Conference consists of numerous workshops designed to help students as they go through the job search process and ready themselves for post-graduate life. Following an introduction by Michael Herbert, keynote speaker and Assistant Town Manager/Finance Director for the town of Ashland, the conference is split into two breakout sessions and Career Advice Roundtables (CARS).
The first breakout session, which will take place from 2:00-2:50 PM, is made up of an interviewing workshop (with Sare’ Arnold, Talent Acquisition Manager at Enterprise Holdings), a LinkedIn workshop (with Deb Federico, one of our career counselors), and resume reviews. The second breakout session, which will take place between 3:00-3:50 PM, is made up of a career exploration workshop (with Ellen Price, one of our career counselors), a young alumni panel, and a making a good first impression workshop. After the breakout sessions, students will be able to participate in CARS, which will facilitate networking with employers and FSU Alumni.
The only downside to the Career Conference is that, unless you have Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner, you won’t be able to attend all of the workshops. During the breakout sessions, you’ll have to pick and choose which workshops to attend based on your personal interests. Having said that, if you’re interested in being in two places at once, why not bring a group of friends and cover more ground? Attend different workshops, report back to each other, and share the wealth of information you’re sure to receive. You won’t be disappointed.
I haven’t decided which workshops I’ll be attending yet, but after reaching out to Michael Herbert, I’ve gained some exclusive insight as to what he’ll be discussing during his speech and some professional advice. Spoiler alert! If you want a sneak peek, read on!
Q: Jake [our Career Services Director] tells me that you have an inspiring story to share about your own experience with career exploration. Could you tell me about that?
A: From the time I was about 16 to 22, I was all about music and being a musician. That was my driving force. However I also had a number of personal issues that were occurring during that time period as well. Long story short is that career path was interrupted by a bout with homelessness and addiction. In the course of working through those issues I realized that I wanted to move towards public service. It took some time, but I finally found my passion working in local government and I’ve never looked back and have been on an accelerated career path in town management ever since.
Q: When you were in your late teens/early twenties, did you have any specific career goals? What did you want to be when you “grew up”?
A: Really during that period it was about music for me, but quite frankly I was focused less on career goals during that and more about just trying to find my way out of some of the messes I had gotten myself into.
Q: Do you have any résumé-building advice for students? Are there other ways to gain experience besides internships?
A: Find opportunities where you can realize some demonstrable accomplishments. If you are interested in a career in local government, there are probably a number of different volunteer committees and opportunities in your town that you can be a part of.
Q: In general, what are employers looking for in a potential employee? In other words, what are some ways that job-seeking students can “stand out” to employers?
A: [This is] what I look for in a resume/cover letter:
The ability to write. If you can write well, that tells me that for the most part you can think independently and communicate.
A focus on achievements and not just job responsibilities. I am not really going to care about how many people you supervised and the size of the budget you managed. What I want to know are the results you realized by developing those resources to benefit the company/organization you worked for.
[This is] what I look for during an interview:
The most important thing I look for in a potential employee is ambitiousness, and then see if that ambition has been translated into the demonstrated ability to take ownership of a project, run with it, and carry it through to completion. It doesn’t necessarily need to be in the exact field that the applicant is applying for.
It sounds cheesy, but I also look for people that are passionate about the work. In my experience, people who are passionate about their jobs are able to work through any obstacles.
Q: If you could offer any advice to graduates as they make the transition from school to work, what would it be?
A: You can’t wait for that perfect moment or that perfect time to do something good for yourself. You are going to be responsible for making your own opportunities and taking advantage of them.
Remember: the Career Conference kicks off on March 7th at 1 PM in the Forum. I’ll see you there!
Just like RamTrack isn’t like Google, LinkedIn isn’t like RamTrack — at least not when we get down to the nitty-gritty. If anything, LinkedIn is one of the most tangible connections college students can make to the “real world” before graduation, and for someone like me — someone who fears the great unknown so much that it keeps her awake at night — it can be scary.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have an irrational fear of LinkedIn, and as an act of offbeat self-preservation, I’ve been avoiding it for a while. I’ve heard about it in passing, and I told my mom I’d register for it a couple of years ago (I still haven’t made good on that promise), but until now, my fear has prevented me from ever seriously considering it as a means of networking. In other words, I’ve taken to writing off the “world’s largest professional network” as the world’s largest necessary evil — an evil that serves no greater purpose than to make graduation and my impending doom feel that much closer. “Professional”? How dare they call me a “professional”? I’m not ready!
That being said, as a senior with a full course load, a part-time job, an internship at Career Services, and a need for career options, I don’t have time to indulge my fear of LinkedIn, fear of “professional”-ism, fear of the future. I have to “fake it ‘til I make it” — and believe that, in time, I will “make it.” And you will, too.
So, when dealing with the great unknown — I think it helps, first, to orient oneself by thinking about it in comparison to what is familiar. For instance, if we were to compare LinkedIn to any other website, it would probably be Facebook; LinkedIn uses a similar interface — complete with personal profiles, a news feed, and status updates — that allows professionals to network with one another. According to Framingham State’s Career Services Director, Jake Livengood, LinkedIn is where human resources and recruiters “hang out” — but they’re not reading Buzzfeed articles or mixing combinations in Candy Crush Saga. They’re looking for potential employees. They’re looking for us! The only catch is that they can’t find us if we’re not there.
The registration process for LinkedIn is a bit more in-depth than the registration process for RamTrack, but I promise you, it’s just as quick. According to LinkedIn, it takes less than two minutes, but if you can afford to spend a few more minutes (five, maybe?) on it, I encourage you to do so. Begin by clicking here, where you’ll be prompted to enter your first name, last name, an e-mail address, and a password. I chose to use my student e-mail since I check it more often than my personal e-mail. When you click ‘join now,’ LinkedIn offers seven additional steps to help you find connections and build your profile.
1.) ‘See Who You Already Know’ is a feature that uses your e-mail address book to find people who are already registered on LinkedIn that you can ‘connect’ with. If you want to connect with people at Framingham State, I would suggest using your student e-mail. Be forewarned, the site does ask for the password to whichever e-mail account you choose to use, but if you’re worried about it being swallowed up by the “world’s largest professional network,” don’t be. I can attest to the fact that it’s safe.
2.) Next, you’ll be asked to start building your professional profile by providing some work experience — almost like you would if you were writing a résumé. You can add multiple jobs to your profile later, so just start with your current or most recent job/internship.
3.) The third step provides you with the results of the ‘See Who You Already Know’ search. Now, you can select people from your e-mail address book that you would like to have as LinkedIn connections. I ended up sending requests to 21 people, so it’s definitely a useful tool.
4.) Next, you’ll be asked to send invitations to people in your e-mail address book who haven’t registered for LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to do so — especially if you’ve been sending them game requests on Facebook already!
5.) ‘Do You Know These People?’ is a feature that uses the information you’ve provided — and information from people you’ve chosen to ‘connect’ with — to generate a list of people you might know who are on LinkedIn, but not necessarily in your e-mail address book. For example, I found my roommate from freshman year (hi, Rachel!) using this, so make sure to keep an eye out for your friends.
6.) The sixth step gives you the option of entering your cell phone number so that LinkedIn can send a download link for the app to your smart phone. If you have a smart phone with 39.2 MB of free space, I encourage you to download the app! That said, if you’re uncomfortable entering your cell phone number online, just search ‘LinkedIn’ wherever you purchase other apps and you should be able to find it. It’s free!
7.) Lastly, you’ll be asked to select your account type. I would recommend registering for a basic (free) account for now. You can upgrade at any time, and — like anything — you should take LinkedIn for a test drive before pouring money into it.
Once you’re registered, you can start exploring. While you wait for some of your connection requests to be returned, edit your profile, scroll through your news feed (even if you don’t have any connections just yet, there will be something to see), and make use of the search bar. Not only will you be fulfilling the promise you made to your mom a couple of years ago, but you’ll be taking a few more steps in the right direction as you continue the job search process. What better way is there to spend a long weekend?
RamTrack and I go way back — way back to before it was RamTrack! The last time I used it, Framingham State was still a part of the College Central Network, and I was an anxiety-ridden 18-year-old who thought if she didn’t apply for a work study job weeks before school started, she wouldn’t get one. Now, I’m an anxiety-ridden 22-year-old who knows if she doesn’t apply for — or at least seek out — a few “real world” jobs before school ends, she’ll be in even bigger trouble. It’s funny how things come full circle, sometimes — or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, back to RamTrack.
RamTrack is, by and large, a “search engine.” However, it’s unlike most search engines in that it won’t direct you to Justin Bieber’s mug shot or Kim Kardashian’s Twitter… but it will direct you to numerous CHOICE internship and full-time job opportunities, most of which are at companies in neighboring cities and towns. Using RamTrack, you can search for full-time or part-time positions based on your personal interests and skill set. When you find an internship or job you’re qualified for, you can upload your résumé and cover letter to your account and send them directly to potential employers. Before you ask — yes! That means you can apply for internships and jobs online, without having to leave the comfort of your dorm room! You can also use RamTrack to “keep track” as you go through the job search process (the calendar tool can be used to save the dates of appointments, career events, interviews, and personal/office events) and to learn more about upcoming career events, on-campus and off. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a lot cooler than Justin Bieber’s mug shot and Kim Kardashian’s Twitter.
If you haven’t done so already, you can register for RamTrack wherever you have access to a WiFi connection. I encourage you to register in the office (McCarthy 412) if you can (if you have questions, our Operations Facilitator, Nikki Curley, will be right there to help you), but if you’d like to do it elsewhere, just click here. While not all of the information is required, I’d recommend that you fill in as much as possible; it could help you narrow down your search(es). When you’re finished, just click ‘register.’
Once you’re logged in, you can begin searching for internships and jobs using the ‘job search’ dropdown menu at the top of your home page. To customize your search, enter key words and select the type(s) of position(s) you are looking for. Personally, I’ll be using “writing” as a key word and selecting ‘full-time entry-level’ from the ‘position type’ dropdown menu. As of February 7th, 2014, this search yields 46 potential jobs, and while I know not all of them will be right for me, it’s encouraging to know how many employers need a writer on their staff. (Just so you know, a ‘full-time entry-level’ search provides 152 options and ‘internship and CHOICE internship’ provides 199 options).
After some exploring, I’ve discovered that most my 46 potential jobs are in some way related to technology (maybe I should’ve listened to my mom when she told me to take computer classes…) and there are several I’m not qualified for, but my search did yield four viable — albeit, given my personal interests, not entirely desirable — options: Sales Associate at The Bowdoin Group, Management Trainee at Research Rockstar LLC, Sales and Leasing Consultant at Bernardi Auto Group, and Optometric Office Front Desk Worker at Eye Care East. Who knew?
If, like mine, most of your initial search results aren’t a perfect fit, don’t be discouraged. It’s likely that entering different key words will give you different results, and the most important thing to remember about RamTrack is that it’s always changing. New internship and job listings are posted on a weekly basis and our Internship Coordinator, Dawn Ross, sends out an InternshipFlash every Friday with a reader-friendly summary of them; if you’re interested, make sure to let her know you want to be added to her e-mail list!
Now that I’ve reacquainted myself with Framingham State University’s job “search engine,” I’ll be checking back regularly to see what’s out there. If I’ve learned anything in my college career, it’s that diligence pays off, and with something like RamTrack at my fingertips — and yours — seeking out a few “real world” jobs is bound to be less intimidating than it would be otherwise.
WHERE WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO VISIT ON YOUR PLANET?
I would most like to visit Framingham State University’s Career Services and Employer Relations office!
If those of you reading this blog have any Career Services-related questions, just click ‘Ask Career Services’ in the navigation menu on the right.
A dear friend of mine once told me that Avenue Q’s “What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?” reminded her of me. I’m not a fan of musicals, so I’ve never seen Avenue Q as a whole, but her mentioning it to me — as well as the title of the musical number in question — peaked my interest enough for me to conduct a Google search. The song begins: “What do you do with a B.A. in English? What is my life going to be? Four years of college and plenty of knowledge have earned me this useless degree.” Oh.
This wasn’t the first instance in which my choice of major had been turned into a punch line — Avenue Q certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on English major jokes — but despite how funny those lyrics are and despite my often self-deprecating sense of humor, English major jokes have become more and more discouraging the closer I’ve come to being in the same position as Princeton, the character whose B.A. in English has afforded him little else apart from a series of seemingly unanswerable questions.
My name is Zoe Moore. I’m a second semester senior at Framingham State University who is, needless to say, majoring in English — and even with all the knowledge I’ve gained in three and a half years, I still don’t know what you do with a B.A. in English. I still don’t know what my life is going to be. And with graduation looming, a celebration that will inevitably culminate in a potentially harrowing welcome to “the real world,” I’ve never been more anxious. That being said, I’ve adopted a “better late than never” philosophy about job searching and résumé building, and I encourage those of you reading this blog to join me as I explore my options from the comfort of Framingham State’s Career Services and Employer Relations office, where I’m an intern this semester.
Career Services, located on the fourth floor of the McCarthy Center (it’s room 412, right next to The Gatepost), is somewhat of a hidden gem on campus — or at least it has been in my experience. It was mentioned in my Freshman Foundations seminar and in one of my writing classes, but until Dr. Desmond McCarthy recommended me for an internship in the office, it fell off my radar, and I wish that wasn’t the case. Career Services is an excellent resource for students, offering guidance and feedback about every step of the job search process, which even I know will make for a smoother transition from classroom to boardroom… so to speak. It’s also a good place to learn about internship opportunities, both on-campus and off, and is home to the CHOICE Internship Program. But because the importance of finding a job or an internship that is right for you cannot be overstated, most of the work falls on your shoulders, and that’s the way it should be. Having said that, the work itself shouldn’t be overwhelming or unmanageable, and that’s what Career Services is for: to provide students with a lifejacket as they tread the — at least, in my case — vastly unexplored waters of the job market. Of course, before we dive in, it helps to have some idea what we might want to do after our tassels have been turned and our diplomas have been received. So, we turn to career exploration.
myPlan.com is a website that offers licensed inventories intended to assess students’ individual skill sets, gauge their interests, and evaluate their personalities in a way that facilitates viable career suggestions. In other words, it’s a less wearisome and perhaps more accurate version of the career aptitude tests you might have taken in high school. My first experience with myPlan was in the abovementioned writing class last spring, but I decided to try my hand at the personality test, the interest inventory, and the skills profiler again last week just to see if there were any discrepancies.
For those of you who have never used myPlan, the first step is to visit the Framingham State Career Services website. In the navigation menu on the left, click ‘career exploration,’ then ‘career inventories.’ This will direct you to the webpage with the license number you will need to register on myPlan. Open myPlan in a new tab and click ‘create free account.’ Fill in the necessary information on the registration page. Click ‘continue’ and select the appropriate options from the dropdown menus. Enter the Framingham State license number. Click ‘submit registration’. That’s it! You’re in! The personality test, interest inventory, and skills profiler can be accessed using the ‘assessment’ tab at the top of the myPlan home page.
My results, for the most part, were not particularly surprising — and not just because I’d taken the tests once before. According to myPlan, I am an INFJ (introvert intuitive feeler judger) personality type, my interest areas are artistic and investigative, and my current skill set is best suited for a career in management. I’ve always been “right-brained,” so I’d say that these results must be at least somewhat accurate… but the most interesting part about myPlan, in my opinion, is a feature called CareerMatch, which can be accessed through the results page of any completed inventory.
CareerMatch uses your results from the personality test, the interest inventory, and the skills profiler in order to determine which careers might be right for you. Of course, these suggestions are exactly that — suggestions — but it helps to see what’s out there, and because some of the suggestions won’t be quite what you expect, it’s a fun tool to use. For example, if I were to consider a career based on my personality type, I might look into atmospheric or space science. And if I were to consider a career based on my skill set, I might look into computer and information systems management. Whaaat? Is that what you do with a B.A. in English?
Fortunately, my interest-based CareerMatch yielded more viable suggestions: technical writing, reporting, creative writing (I’ve always wanted to write a novel), interpreting, translating, editing, copy writing, proofreading… there are a lot of careers out there. In this preliminary stage, it’s just a matter of narrowing it down, and myPlan can help you do that; if you click on any of your CareerMatch suggestions, you’ll be directed to a page where you can learn more about what that career entails, what requirements it has, possible salaries, and employment rates.
I realize that this is a lot to take in — especially if you’re starting as late in the game as I am — but perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that I’m right there with you, and there are a lot of friendly faces in the Career Services office waiting to help you find your footing. Our career counselors recommend that you discuss your myPlan results with them, so if you decide to use it as a means of career exploration like I did, stop by and make an appointment! The office is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Alternatively, you can call us at 508-626-4625. Just don’t let fear of the future, fear of cold weather, or some unholy combination of both keep you from taking the first step. You’ll be glad you did.
As for me, I’ll be pondering my options and gazing lovingly at May Hall until next time. Despite all of the English major jokes and my unsteady sense of direction, I know my degree won’t be for naught. And regardless of what you’re majoring in, I promise you, neither will yours.