Shine Bright: How to Stand Out at Job Fairs, Networking Events, and More

Lakeisha MathewsLakeisha M. Mathews, Director, Career and Professional Development Center, University of Baltimore
Twitter: @RightResumes_CC
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/lakeishamathews/

Pop singer Rihanna’s 2012 song titled “Diamonds” topped the charts in more than 20 countries and became her 12th number-one single going quadruple platinum and selling more than 7.5 million copies worldwide. The song is about a couple’s love that is so strong it shines bright as a diamond. The chorus is my favorite part, where the singer chants: “Shine bright like a diamond…You’re a shooting star I see…So shine bright…We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky.”

It’s not the song’s love story that strikes me the most, but the vivid imagery of two people being able to stand out amongst a crowd. To me, there is a correlation between standing out in a crowd and successful participation in networking events such as job fairs. Knowing how you stand out and shine in a crowd is relevant for students looking for work, launching careers, and seeking to build professional brands in today’s chaotic and competitive workplace. Professional brands are built on the ability to determine what separates you from another job seeker. Instead of teaching our students to look, act and sound like every other job seeker, we must teach them to shine and stand out from others.

We have all heard the 55/38/7 rule which asserts that success is based 55 percent on what you look like, 38  percent on what you sound like, and 7 percent on what you say. Oftentimes, students attend job fairs and networking events but leave without having established new connections or serious job prospects, not because they weren’t prepared, but because they didn’t stand out. When asked why they failed to broaden their network, students usually place the blame on the employer—saying the employer was not really looking to hire anyone. I turn the table, placing the responsibility with the student, because it’s no longer the early bird that gets the worm, but the bird that shows up and shines bright!

Building a professional brand that shines and stands out at networking events starts with developing a strong self-concept. That is, understanding your strengths, interests, skills, and talents, which all combine to shape your professional brand. This is a challenge for most young adults and even some career changers. To help students of all ages and backgrounds develop a strong awareness of their brand and identify their value factors—areas they shine in—I use the 55/38/7 rule:

What I Look Like (Physical – 55 percent):
– Wearing appropriate and professional attire
– Ensuring a stylish polished look
– Understanding your best features and how to enhance them

What I Sound Like (Verbal & Nonverbal – 38 percent):
– Strong public speaking skills – confidence, clarity, conviction
– Positive nonverbals – handshake, eye contact, good posture, and a smile

What I Say (Content – 7 percent):
– Captivating professional pitch
– Ability to articulate what you have to offer
– Thorough knowledge of the company and/or industry

It’s important to note that as career professionals, we probably spend more time working with a student on what they say and less on what they look like and how they speak, both of which carry weight in the employment process. Successful professionals and those who rise to the top of their company or industry are noticed first for how they look and sound before anyone cares to hear what they have to say. Challenging students to work on all three areas of their professional brand will help them develop an authentic professional brand that shines bright in the labor market.

Read more from Lakeisha Mathews.

Career Coaching Notes: 7 Powerful Questions

Rayna AndersonRayna A. Anderson, Career Advisor at Elon University
Twitter: @Rayna_Anderson
LinkedIn: www.LinkedIn.com/in/RaynaA
Blog: RaynaAnderson.wordpress.com

Considering that our job is not to give answers, but instead is to guide others toward self-discovery, powerful questioning can make all the difference in an advising session. The list below is a short compilation of questions I’ve collected over time, and concludes with my most recent favorite:

  1. What do you daydream about the most?
  2. What have been some of your proudest moments?
  3. If you wrote a book that could improve the world, what would it be about?
  4. If you had to go back to school tomorrow, what would you major in?
  5. What do you want to be known for after you retire?
  6. If you didn’t have to go to class/work tomorrow but still had to work, what type of work would you do?
  7. What excites you?

The last question was taken from The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. In the book, Ferriss states that, “Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all.” He argues that most people will never know what they want and that this question is a more precise alternative that reflects the actual objective. If you have any powerful questions that you often use with students or clients, comment and share below!  

Read more from Rayna Anderson.

The Assessment Diaries: Quick and Qualitative

Desalina Allen

Desalina Allen, Senior Assistant Director at NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development
Twitter: @DesalinaAllen
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/desalina

Some of the assessment activities I have shared take time to develop (like the Pre/Post Dining Etiquette Survey) and/or require staff buy-in, training and socialization (like the Resume Rubrics).  Just last week, I decided super last minute that I wanted to assess a networking presentation for international students…last minute, as in, 20 minutes before the event. This exercise is proof that assessment doesn’t have to take hours and hours of your time—sometimes a quick pre/post writing exercise can give you insight into what needs to be changed about a program.

I need to invoke my earlier reminder that I promised to be honest when sharing my experiences with assessment, and this post is no different.  I’d like to say I was happy with these results, when instead I was disappointed to find that I probably assessed the wrong learning goal. I started with the fact that I wanted students to gain a more nuanced understanding of networking. Here’s what I did:

Twenty minutes before the presentation I grabbed some colorful paper—yellow would be used for my pre-assessment and pink for the post assessment. This color choice was not at all based on any carefully planned and research-supported theory that bright paper makes people happy; in fact, I did it to make sure I could keep the two “surveys” separate.

At the beginning of the event, I asked the students to spend two minutes writing about networking. It could have been their definition of networking or just words that come to mind; grammar and complete sentences not necessary. I then did the same thing at the end of the event.

I could have just looked through and summarized key trends from each sample, but I decided to get fancy, transcribe the text, and enter it into Wordle, a tool that generates word clouds.

Here’s the Pre-Workshop Wordle

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 3.18.09 PM.png

And the Post:

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 3.20.44 PM.png

While the results show that I focused on the importance of relationships, I don’t think I can claim that students gained a more in-depth understanding of networking.  What I did learn is that it seems like students already had a handle on the definition of networking, so perhaps I needed to assess their comfort level actually knowing how to network!

While this wasn’t the most successful assessment attempt, I do think that it can be great when you are trying to compare students’ knowledge of more difficult to assess topics (think professionalism, diversity, self-awareness).

Would you try it?

Read more of Desalina Allen’s blogs on assessment!

The Devil Does Wear Prada

Lakeisha MathewsLakeisha M. Mathews, Director, Career and Professional Development Center, University of Baltimore
Twitter: @RightResumes_CC
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/lakeishamathews/

One of my favorite movies is the Devil Wears Prada, where Meryl Streep (one of my favorite actresses) plays the role of Miranda Priestly, the editor of a popular fashion magazine. Costarring with Meryl is Anne Hathaway as Andrea Sachs, a frumpy assistant who has no interest in fashion. I like the movie for many reasons, for instance, there is great fashion, a peek at Paris Fashion Week and cameos of fashions’ top designers. However, my love of the movie runs deeper with an appreciation of the career development themes that are evident in the professional image evolution of Anne Hathaway’s character throughout the film.

Initially, Anne Hathaway’s character was resistant to the style culture she found herself in, denying that anything was wrong with her frumpy image as long as she produced good work. However, once she allowed her image to be upgraded by a colleague she realized having a professional image is a part of putting your best foot forward and impacts how others view you in the workplace.

Many of our students are in a need of what I like to call The Devil Does Wear Prada talk. No, I am not implying that they need to purchase designer clothes and become obsessed with their wardrobe. But, I do encourage students to consider their professional image as a part of the career development process. This can be a sensitive issue to bring up with students, nevertheless, it is essential and sets them up for a competitive advantage in a tough labor market. In my career coaching experience with both traditional and non-traditional students, I have had many The Devil Does Wear Prada talks with students including discussions around how to style hair, skirt length, appropriate make-up, faith-based ornaments, tattoos, etc. Each discussion is different and every student must develop an authentic image that makes them feel self-assured and comfortable. Awareness is the first step and includes:

1. Investing in a professional wardrobe that is appropriate to your industry and company;
2. Developing an awareness of what looks good on you and makes you feel confident;
3. Paying attention to the little things: clean nails, shaven beards, polished shoes, etc;
4. Finding a go-to store for purchasing an affordable professional wardrobe whether it’s Target, Banana Republic, or Macys;
5. Wearing a hairstyle that brings out your facial features and frames your face in a complimentary manner.

Life Lessons From the Chicago Cubs

Chaim ShapiroChaim Shapiro
Website: http://chaimshapiro.com/
Twitter: @chaimshapiro
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/chaimshapiro

February 13, 2014 probably doesn’t mean much to most people, but to die-hard Chicago Cubs fans like me, it is one of the most important days of the year.  Pitchers and catchers report for their first day of Cubs spring training camp today.

“People often laugh at the hapless Cubs—not to mention their fans. The Cubs, often dubbed as the “lovable losers” have not won a World Series in 105 years—not since 1908 (as the joke goes in Chicago, any team can have a bad century).”

No, they aren’t picked to be a contender, and I have been predicting a championship EVERY year for the last 37 years, but I am going to put my heart and soul into rooting for them once again (I am sorry, Dan Black, I have NO compassion for Yankees fans who are worried about not making the playoffs).

Disappointment is a fact of life to Cubs fans, and yet, every year, without fail, we bounce back (after short recriminations about Billy Goat curses and Steve Bartman), relishing the new opportunity of a fresh season.  We have been dealt crushing blows in 2003 and 1984 (and 1969 for those who are old enough to remember), yet we always bounce back the following year with the same level of optimism.

I would argue that there is an important life lesson to be learned from Cubs fans.  We have all been disappointed. We have all put in the time and effort only to see a project or an idea fail. The real question is what you do next? Do you give up or do you rededicate yourself to achieving your goal?  After you fail, do you put the same time, effort, and passion into your next attempt? If you don’t you have a LOT to learn from the “lovable losers” and their fans, because I guarantee  you after 105 years of team and 36 seasons of personal heartbreak and disappointment, without a doubt, 2014 is Anno Catuli, (Latin for Year of the Cub)!

The Assessment Diaries: The Mystery of the Resume Writing Assessment (Part 2)

Desalina Allen

Desalina Allen, Senior Assistant Director at NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development
Twitter: @DesalinaAllen
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/desalina

When we last left off, you were shocked at the fact that your post-resume writing seminar survey results could have been so misleading.  Students reported to have learned the basics of resume writing but, when you followed up with an in-person meeting with one of your attendees, it was obvious that the tips and guidelines you provided were not applied.

Have you ever created or taken a survey with a question or questions like the ones below?

This seminar improved my understanding of resume writing basics:
Strongly Disagree/Disagree/Neutral/Agree/Strongly Agree

I learned something from this seminar:
True/False

As a result of this seminar, I now understand what employers look for in a resume:
Strongly Disagree/Disagree/Neutral/Agree/Strongly Agree

What is the problem here?  Well, if you are simply looking for evidence that students believe they have learned something from your event there is no problem at all.  But, if you are trying to collect evidence that students actually learned something well then …..

Why? Because studies show* that students are not able to accurately measure their own growth or learning.  Not only do they incorrectly estimate growth, they tend to overestimate it.  It makes sense, right? If someone asks you after a presentation or a class if you learned something, how do you really know if you did?  

As a result of this, we cannot use students’ self-reported growth as evidence of growth.  Instead, we have to utilize other assessment methods to really prove they learned something.  How? By doing a pre- and post-assessment of student knowledge (like I did for our etiquette dinner) and comparing results, or coming up with a standardized way to evaluate resumes (via a rubric) and look at the change over time.

Last year, one of our learning goals was to ensure that students were learning career- related skills like resume writing.  We did away with our post seminar surveys and instead created resume rubrics to use with students.  I’ll be sharing that experience in my next few posts, along with helpful resources if your office is look to create your own resume rubrics!
*Thank you to Sonia DeLuca Fernandez, our Director of Research and Assessment for Student Affairs, for this article that can be found in Research and Practice in Assessment, Volume 8.

Why Not You?

sue-keever-wattsSue Keever Watts
Owner, The Keever Group
Blog: http://keevergroup.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/sue-keever-watts/0/aa/b60
Twitter: @SueKeever

It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Latino, Asian…it doesn’t matter if you’re 5’11”.  It’s the heart that you bring.”  Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks Quarterback

Russell Wilson, quarterback of the Super Bowl winning Seahawks has had his detractors.  squareThe 5’11’ QB was a third-round-draft-pick whose 2013 salary was less than what his Super Bowl opponent, Peyton Manning, makes per game.   He shouldn’t have won the Super Bowl.  In fact, he shouldn’t have even played in the Super Bowl.

When asked how he accomplished such a feat, Wilson said that when he was young, his father would tap him on the shoulder and say, “Russ, why not you?” Those four words became his mantra and his message to the Seahawks team.

We’ve all had set backs, we all have detractors, and we all have bouts of self-doubt. The winning combination is to be someone who’s confronted adversity and remained hopeful.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

In my experience as an executive coach, hope is one of the greatest indicators of personal success. Hope gives you the inspiration to move out of your comfort zone and aim for something better. Hope isn’t a rose-colored lens that projects limitless optimism. It’s a gut-felt confidence that no matter what happens, you have what it takes to pull through. It frees you to make difficult decisions and to aim for something far out of reach.

Russell Wilson is a great reminder that against overwhelming odds and an ocean of cynics, hope survives.

If he can do it, why can’t you?