Go Getter Girls vs. Get Along Girls: Which One Are You?

Go Getter Girl's Guide (St. Martin's Press, 2009)

Go Getters Girl's Guide

Debra Shigley is the author of a new book, The Go Getter Girl’s Guide,  that is gathering a big following. She’s been a recent guest on several tv news and talk shows, including The View and CNN. Her book is the result of  hundreds of interviews with successful, stylish young women, including Soledad O’Brien, Spanx founder Sara Blakely, and designer Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Debra, and she offered a lot of great advice for young women just starting out in their careers.

Something she talks about in the book is the difference between being a Go-Getter Girl and a Get Along Girl. I asked her about this concept in the interview and here’s how she explained it.

“I think it’s the difference between sitting around and waiting for life and opportunity to happen to you (Get Along Girl), and taking charge of and responsibility for your career path (Go-Getter Girl!).  Especially in the current economy, the people that get ahead are the ones that have a ‘can-do’ spirit and demonstrate initiative.”

To read the entire interview with Debra click here. To take the quiz and find out if you’re a Go Getter Girl or a Get Along Girl click here.


Best Cover Letter Samples and Tips Online

You should always include a cover letter when sending, faxing (does anyone do this anymore?!), or emailing your resume to a potential employer. If a networking contact (who may not be aware of all your skills and accomplishments) requests a copy of your resume, you should include a cover letter. The cover letter enables you to focus the reader’s attention to specific skills or achievements that are particularly relevant to the company you want to work for, or the job you are seeking. It is every bit as important as your resume and has the same exact purpose – to get you an interview!

1. Quint Careers
QuintCareers.com has over 40 easy-to-open cover letter samples ready-to-view right on their web site or in PDF format. They include cover letter samples for internships, recent college graduates, cold calls, email, military, and samples of cover letters in response to salary requirement requests.
View Cover Letter Samples

2. Virginia Tech Career Resources Center
Here you’ll find helpful cover letter samples and tips such as: how to address your cover letter if you don’t know exactly who you’re sending it to, how to write cover letters for informational interviews, how cover letters send via snail mail differ from cover letters sent by email and more. The page format is sort of messed up. It looks like the page wasn’t updated for new browsers or something. But the information is good so the effort is well worth it.
View Cover Letter Samples

3. Monster
Monster’s career resources section has a wonderful cover letter samples section complete with user reviews. Definitely check out this cover letter resource.
http://career-advice.monster.com/resumes-cover-letters/cover-letter-samples/jobs.aspx

4. Florida State University Career Center
FSU has a terrific white paper about how to develop a system to keep your communications with employers (including cover letters) organized during your job search. This paper also includes sample cover letters, ways to identify the different types of letters that you may need to write during your job search, tips for knowing what to do and what not to do when writing cover letters, and access to additional sources of help.
http://www.career.fsu.edu/employment/letter-guide.html

5. The Department of Employment and Economic Development for Minnesota
Complete with cover letter samples, this site has some of the most original advice on the web for crafting cover letters that help you win the interview. The Minnesota DEED has a great example of how to write a cover letter using bullet points that highlight your skills that relate directly to the needs of the employer. I highly recommend visiting this web page. It’s a quick read and you’ll learn a lot.
http://www.deed.state.mn.us/cjs/cjsbook/resume7.htm

And here’s another quick way to view several of their cover letter samples.

6. Resumagic.com
If you dig around this site there is some good information. I liked their take on networking cover letters and recommend reading not only their section on cover letters, but on networking for novices also.
http://www.resumagic.com/cover_letters4.html

7. Job-Employment-Guide.com
Here is a link to a cover letter sample that can be used to blast your resume out to friends and family to jump start your networking efforts. If done well, this could be a useful way for busy college students and recent graduates to let people close to them know that they’re starting their job search.
http://www.job-employment-guide.com/free-cover-letter-samples.html

8. Vanderbilt Career Center
If you’re looking to find some industry related jargon to include in your cover letter, Vanderbilt has a pretty good selection of industry based cover letter samples that aren’t just filled with fluff.

9. DePaul University Career Center
Download this free cover letter sample packet. Lots of good information. They also have a free resume sample packet that’s worth checking out too.

10. Online Writing Lab at Purdue (The OWL at Purdue)
One of the best writing web sites in existence. Worth checking out for more than just cover letters too. But they do have a great page with quick tips for writing cover letters.


5 Career Planning Myths for College Students and Recent Grads

Myth #1: There are a few “safe” careers that make parents proud, have prestige, and mean you’ll be happy and make money for the rest of your life. Truth: No career is truly safe. Different professions come in and out of vogue. Authenticity never goes out of style. Follow your heart and your interests, not what someone else thinks you should do.

Myth #2: You must decide what you want to do for the rest of your life before you graduate, or very soon after. Truth: The only thing you will do consistently for the rest of your life is ask yourself what you want to do. You need to find jobs you enjoy and that allow you to gain new skills. Eventually you’ll realize you have been building a career all along.

Myth #3: In order to get your first job, you must have already had a job. Truth: You merely need to demonstrate that you possess an understanding of the job to be done and that you have the necessary skills. This is where resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills and networking are critical.

Myth #4: The Campus Career Center is a waste of time. Truth: Many CCC’s employ Ph.D’s in Counseling Psychology; people who are trained to assess your intrinsic aptitudes and attitudes. The staff is knowledgeable, cares, and wants to help you.

Myth #5: The Campus Career Center really rocks! They have all the answers. Truth: Some CCC’s don’t have properly trained staff, they don’t care (or, they’re understaffed and underpaid) and you won’t get the attention you need. Some companies actually avoid recruiting at college based because of staff.


10 Tips for Writing Resumes That Get You Noticed

As if you don’t have enough on your plate already, now it’s time to write a killer resume. Grab some coffee and have a seat. The task of writing a resume is daunting to almost everyone…even successful professionals who have been working for 30+ years. It’s feels overwhelming to know where to start, what to include and what to leave off. The following 10 tips will help you write a resume that will not only stand out, but is sure to get you noticed by hiring managers.

1. Throw out the objective statement.
Get rid of it. If the objective statement on your current resume says something like “Looking for entry-level job in Information Systems that will allow me to use my technical skills, organizational skills and people skills”, hit the delete button now. The hiring manager knows what your objective is the minute he or she receives your email with the subject line “Application for entry-level information systems position”.

2. Include LOTS of white space.
Human Resources staff review hundreds, sometimes thousands of resumes a day. They’re already cross-eyed by the time they get to your resume, so do them a favor and don’t litter your resume with extraneous words that take up lots of space but have no impact.

3. Bullet points are your friend.
Lengthy, rambling, important sounding paragraphs that mean nothing are out. Bullets are in. HR will be impressed if you explain your accomplishments concisely. They will contact you for an interview. You will be happy.

4. The purpose of a resume is to get an interview, not win a formatting contest.
The only purpose of your resume is to create enough interest in you to have an employer contact you for an interview. No one cares if you don’t have an objective statement. No one cares if you list your activities above your skills or vice versa. Make your resume interesting, not a clone of every resume template you’ve downloaded from the internet. (HINT: Most of those resume sites exist to make money from google ads and other revenue streams that depend on lots of pages of content.) Don’t be fooled into thinking your resume has to look like everyone else’s.

5. Keep your resume professional and mature.
Do not include activities you participated in while you were still in High School unless they are REALLY spectacular, or they are something you continued to be involved in all throughout college. For example, if you were a photographer for your high school yearbook, but now you can’t even operate a camera, leave it off your resume. Here are some more suggestions.

DO include:

-Winning a gold medal at the Olympics

-Organizing a blood drive for the Red Cross

-Fundraising for important causes and charities

DON’T include:

-Being voted best looking for your high school yearbook

-Organizing Senior Skip Day

-Belonging to the Seinfeld fan club

6. Use action words.
Action words take your resume from drab to dazzling. To add sizzle to your resume, use bullet points that begin with action words like achieved, created, presented and managed. In addition, make sure the grammar on your resume is consistent. For example if you’re using past tense, make sure you don’t switch to present tense for the next bullet point.

Example of what not to do:

  • Won the salesperson of the month award in April for closing 80% of all cold calls.
  • Write sales copy for web site. (should be “Wrote”)

7. Use numbers and dollar figures to make your resume stand out.
This reduces clutter from writing everything out, and makes you seem impressive.

  • Increased web traffic by 45% in less than 3 months.

8. Use keywords to avoid getting screened out by HR computer software.
Many HR departments utilize software programs that screen resumes for the significant keywords listed in the job description or posting. Read through the job description carefully and be sure to sprinkle the important keywords throughout your resume.

9. An entry-level resume should be 1 page only.
No, you should not have a 2 page resume at this point in your career. Yes, hiring managers will laugh at you and toss your resume in the wastebasket. Seriously, keep it to one page. It’s the only formatting rule you really have to follow.

10. Proofread your resume, and then have someone else review it.
You will miss a typo, or a repeated word word. It happens more often than you think think. Don’t get passed over for an interview because you couldn’t spare a few extra hours to perfect the document that is more important than your thesis. Have someone review it and give you their honest opinion. Try to get it reviewed by a career counselor or someone who has experience in the field you plan to pursue.


Career Success Tip #2: Realize That No One Cares About Your Future As Much As You Do

Don’t assume that anyone in your office or workplace thinks about you, or your professional future, as much as you do. They don’t.

For example, several years ago I knew a young 20-something who was passed over for a promotion. He got all bent out of shape because the person who got the position wasn’t as qualified as he was. He assumed everyone in the company would jump to the conclusion that he was passed over for the promotion because his boss didn’t like him or because his boss had no confidence in his abilities. Basically, he believed his chance at upward mobility at this particular company was shot.

For weeks he internalized his anguish over the situation until one day, he could hold it in no longer. He walked into the office of a trusted colleague (who had been passed over for the same promotion) and blurted out his bitter frustrations. “What is everyone going to think about you and me when this uneducated, under qualified ninny shows up and we have to report to her? Everyone is going to think we must be even dumber than she is!”

To his surprise, his colleague was quite calm about the whole situation. She said, “no one is going to be worried about us at all. They’ll be too busy gossiping about how incompetent the big boss must be for hiring this disaster.”


Career Success Tip #1: Ask your managers for guidance, not approval

Avoid falling into the habit of asking your boss for approval when you should merely be seeking guidance. When you ask for approval, or permission, before accomplishing any task, it sends a message to your boss that you are unable to think for yourself. This is not the message you want to send if you aspire to advance your career.

If you want to prove that you are a leader you must demonstrate your leadership skills by making decisions and standing behind those choices. If you want to succeed you must not be afraid to put your butt on the line. Show courage, not cowardice.


Taylor Swift Would Receive Poor Performance Review

Kanye’s latest signature “protest” at the VMA’s against Taylor Swift’s win of Best Female Video Award was inappropriate. Without a doubt. But I find it even more interesting that no one is surprised by Ms. Swift’s reaction.

Ms. Swift, at the age of 19, has quite an accomplished career as a performer. She is paid quite well for singing, talking, and performing in front of large crowds. It’s her job. Yet, something unexpected happens during an on-air appearance, and she looked as though she had never been on a stage before.

Let’s admit it. Kanye’s “rant” was mild. He did not directly attack or insult her, he definitely disrespected her moment to shine, but it wasn’t exactly out of character for Kanye. Ms. Swift, on the other hand, was totally unable to recover. She just stood there with her mouth wide open as if she were going to faint.  And here’s the problem I have with that.

In a “real-life” non-celebrity situation, more is expected from our young professionals. If a young employee (giving a presentation) is unable to swiftly deal with unexpected rants by more established members of the the company, he or she will not get very far. A thick skin and the ability to respond to naysayers are prerequisites for success in the business world. And in the real world, you don’t have managers and PR people telling you what to say, do, wear, and how to act. You have to think for yourself and react quickly to situations that are always changing. For that reason, I am disappointed in Ms. Swift. I thought as a professional performer she would have been more poised. I think she blew what could have been an excellent opportunity,  to show her younger fans  – who are more likely to accept an office job than a Video Music Award – how to handle pressure on the job.


Round 2 Interviews: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Recently a good friend of mine started looking for a new job. She’s been through several rounds of interviews with several companies and has a lot of great opportunities coming her way. We’ve been discussing interviewing techniques a lot lately and that got me thinking…for college grads these days it’s tough enough to get a first interview. But what can you expect on the second interview? And how do you prepare for it?

Getting asked to a second interview should be a huge confidence booster. It’s a clear sign that a company is interested in you. Hiring managers only call back the candidates who they wish to learn more about. And therein lies the secret to acing the second interview – making sure the employer gets to know you and how you would add value to the company.

The structure of second interviews vary widely. During the second interview you may meet more members of the team, discuss salary ranges, and even take some sort of practical test. Or you may be simply called back to reassure HR staff that you are always punctual, have more than one appropriate work outfit, and are actually interested in the job. (Though this happens rarely in today’s era of multiple interview rounds before job offers are extended).

More commonly your interviewer will ask more probing interview questions in round two, and attempt to determine how you will fit in with the rest of the company. Instead of general questions about your strengths and weaknesses, HR managers may have written down notes from your first interview and ask you to expand on things you said then. in other words, are you telling a cohesive story or just answering questions without much thought as to how one question relates to another. You need to be consistent in your answers about why you applied to that company, what type of experience do you hope to gain there, how do you plan to continue to develop as a professional.

Ultimately, interviewers are not interested in perfect answers to their questions. They are far more interested in finding out if you are:

– Sincerely interested in working for their company?
– In possession of the skills required to do the job without too much hand-holding?
-Actually going to cause more problems than solutions because of an attitude problem?
-Going to be a pleasant person to have as a co-worker?

Here are some more tips for preparing for the interview.

1. Prepare for the interview by going over your resume and making sure you have a very cohesive story to share about your professional journey up until this point.

2. Know how to answer questions about salary expectations. (Hint: Always state a salary range, not a specific number)

3. Be pleasant to every member of the staff you meet. You may even be interviewed by someone who would be reporting to you if you were to get hired. Until you are hired, they have more say about your future at that company than you do. Be mindful of how you come across.

4. Practice bragging about yourself. Learn how to answer every interview question in a way that describes how you could add value to the company’s current situation.

5. Practice speaking with confidence and with a smile. No one wants to work with a super intense downer. (Even if you can write algorithms while doing handsprings over a bed of hot coals.)

6. Remember that you are learning about this company too. Write down some questions you have for the interviewer and bring those to the interview.

Ultimately, if you can show enthusiasm, competence, personality and confidence; you have a great shot at landing the job.


10 Thrifty Tips for Hip Grads

This article is dedicated to the hip+poor college graduates who are really struggling right now. Here are ten ways to save money while you search for your dream job in the worst economy in three decades.

1. Don’t sue your college for not securing a job for you less than an hour after you graduate.

Vintage-feel Chianti accent vase

Vintage-feel Chianti accent vase

2. Decorate your apartment with recyclables.
For example, buy a couple bottles of cheap chianti at your local discount liquor store and have a fun girls night in at your new apartment. Then use the bottles as accent vases or candle holders.

3. Visit your local library.
If you live in a big city like New York or Chicago, you can check out dvd’s, books, museum passes and more. Do you really know how much free stuff your local library has to offer? Right now is a really good time to find out.

4. Re-learn how to grocery shop.
Make a list of the things you buy on a regular basis. Next, find out how to get those things on sale from your grocery store. Most grocery stores have deals if you sign-up to be a member, or you can print coupons online, or pick up daily coupons at the customer service counter. Come up with a system so you don’t pay too much for groceries.

5. Negotiate your rent.
You might want to check out this firsthand account from a broke college grad about how he negotiated his rent successfully a few months back.

6. Party during happy hour.
Lots of local watering holes are having awesome deals on happy hours right now. Some even have “poor college grads” or recession themes and offer free food. Find out what deals are going on in your neighborhood.  Plan to go out with your friends during these happy hours, then  head home to watch a movie you checked out at the library. You’ll save loads on entertainment.

7. Carry coupons everywhere.
If you  get a handle on what types of products you purchase on a regular basis, you can be on the lookout for coupons and carry them with you at all times.

8. Ask for student discounts everywhere.
Not every place of business advertises that they offer discounts for students, so be sure to ask before you pay for anything. These discounts often apply to the recently graduated as well. Basically, if you have a student ID, you’ll probably qualify for the discount.

9. Use public transportation.
Instead of paying high gas prices, take the bus or subway. And forget about taking cabs anywhere. A short trip in a taxi costs more than a vacation home these days.

10. Shop at consignment and thrift stores.
Search online to learn which consignment shops in your area are getting the best buzz. This is a great way to stay fashionable without going broke.


Planning for Your Future or Merely Your Next Job?

Are you currently taking steps to plan for your future career? Odds are you aren’t. Most likely you are so worried about finding a job, any job, that you aren’t looking at the big picture. Instead, you are trying to stuff your resume with as many keywords from the job description a possible in order to bypass the filters on the HR scanning software. Basically, you’ve skipped step one of career planning, and dived head first into step four. Not a good strategy.

Graduating during a recession when jobs are scarce is no picnic. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on your “real career” until the market recovers because the job market may not turn around for another ten years.  If you pay attention to the news you’ve heard reports that the economic recovery in this country is likely to be a jobless recovery. That means that while the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) may go up, people will remain out of work. Companies will find ways to be more productive with less people. And, as the healthcare costs rise, business owners have less and less incentive to create more jobs.

So, where does all this leave you? The recent graduate who has brains, ambition, and plans for a successful career?

It leaves you with a decision. Are you going to simply continue to look through the wants ads and apply wily-nily to anything you see? Or, are you going to take a thoughtful approach, and consider what all of this means to your specific situation? Telecommuting to work and freelance/contract work is going to be more common in the next few years. People with skills that don’t necessarily thrive in an office environment are going to fare well in the upcoming years. In other words, you don’t want to rely on a company for your future career.

Do you have skills that could be turned into your own business? Are you a graphic designer, computer programmer, interior designer, chef, organizing expert, or writer? Could you be building up a portfolio of work to show potential clients? What steps are you currently taking to plan for your future career? Maybe now is the perfect time to look for a jobternship and gather the skills you’ll need to successfully run your own business some day.

Don’t wait for someone to tell you that you are a perfect fit for their company. That company may not exist tomorrow. Job security starts and ends with you. That is more true now than ever before.