Tuesday, January 27, 2009

AlumnIdea at UC SanDiego

I recently received an email about a new social media site for alumni of UC San Diego:

"The University of California San Diego recognizes the importance of leveraging social networks and hearing each individual voice amongst UCSD alumni. Introducing AlumnIDea! This social media site encourages alumni to submit their event ideas which can be voted 'up' or 'down' by other alumni. The most popular ideas are aggregated into a top-10 section which are then selected for implementation by UCSD alumni officers.

Currently the site is beta so we'd appreciate thoughts and ideas from your readers. The site supports all browsers and is a way for both new and old UCSD graduates to participate in a fully interactive environment. Please visit http://ucsd.alumnidea.com to check it out! UCSD is the first university to use this kind of platform for an alumni association so we'd appreciate you helping us spread the word! The site is a great way for recent grads to suggest their own ideas for a stronger Alumni network. "

What do you think about AlumnIdea? What ideas would you suggest for your college's alumni association?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Five Must-Have Interpersonal Skills

No matter what your job, you will have to communicate and interact with others at some point. Good interpersonal skills can lead to a more positive work environment and can even increase productivity. Here are five interpersonal skills that will help you achieve career success:

1. Make Eye Contact

When someone is speaking to you, make eye contact. It shows respect for the speaker and indicates that you are paying attention.

2. Listen
Don't just listen passively, but offer verbal cues or nod your head to show that you are still engaged. After the speaker is finished, ask questions or give some reply that shows you listened fully.

3. Eliminate filler words and slang
Filler words (like, um) indicate a lack of confidence and knowledge. Slang should be avoided in professional settings because it may offend your listener(s) or seem disrespectful, particularly if you are talking to someone with more seniority.

4. Say thank you
Even if someone is just doing their job, you should acknowledge when you are helped in any way. Also, say it with a tone that shows you really are grateful. People will be more likely to help you in the future if they know you appreciate their efforts.

5. Be tactful
Getting your point across and voicing your opinion with tact is a skill that will allow you to manage and work with others effectively. Always try to preface a criticism with a complement. For example, "Your ideas about (something you liked, even if it's small) were great, but I would like more information about (something that needs improvement)" gets the message across while offering specific information about what needs to be improved.

Some people will naturally be better at interacting with others while some will need to work harder and monitor their actions more carefully. However, good communication and interpersonal skills are possible for anyone to learn.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Do I Really Want to Work Here?

When interviewing for jobs, it's easy to feel so desperate that you are blind to any red flags. A recent post at Water Cooler Wisdom outlines some aspects of a company you should look at when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer. You should be researching the financial health of the company, the employee turnover, and credibility of the company. The article cautions against working for a new business because less than half of new businesses survive the first two years. Finally, it suggests that you follow your intuition, which I agree with completely because my own intuition has saved me on several occasions.

There are also some ways to get a feel for the company when you go on an interview. A few red flags to look for when interviewing with a company:

1. Illegal or Personal Questions
Interviewers can be sneaky about getting personal information from you. Some ask questions that are outright illegal. Keep the conversation focused on career-related matters. No matter how friendly the interviewer seems, don't let your guard down. Any questions that could reveal marital status, age, or medical issues are illegal. If an interviewer continues to dig for personal information, consider if this is really a place you want to work.

2. Rude or Unhappy Employees
When interviewing, you should be introduced to employees and may be given a tour of the company/department where you would be working. As you tour the company and meet employees, look at their faces and pay attention to body language. Do they seem miserable or content? Are they friendly or rude? If you aren't allowed to see other employees or given a tour, that could be a bad sign.

3. Disorganization
Is the company organized in its recruitment process? I've gone on a couple of interviews where I had to go back and forth several times between buildings before they found out where I should be interviewing . If your interviewers don't have your information, or if they seem confused about what you should be doing or where you should be going, this could indicate they are just as disorganized in other areas.

4. Desperation
First you should look for obvious signs of desperation, such as ads plastered all over job boards and in newspapers for long periods of time. You should also pick up on more subtle signs during an interview and office tour. One company I interviewed for seemed eager to hire a clerk to come in and implement new software. I felt like it would be a great opportunity for experience, but for some reason I felt uncomfortable about the situation. I called the recruiter and said I was no longer interested. A few days later, when talking to a friend in class who had worked there before, I found out that they always hired a young worker to come in and do the work while the older workers sat around and chatted all day. Not surprisingly, they had problems keeping new hires.

5. Lack of diversity
If upper management looks the same, this could indicate something about the company's hiring and promotion practices. Of course, it could just be the way things turned out, but you should definitely take a close look at the company culture and inquire about how promotions are made.


Remember that you are interviewing and assessing your potential employers just as they are scrutinizing you. Don't feel so desperate that you agree to work for an unhealthy company.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Warning Against Online Resume Critiques

I recently received a free resume critique from Jobfox.com. I got what I paid for with this particular service, because the "specialist" assigned to my resume obviously did not read it thoroughly. I caution college students, career changers and recent graduates from seeking online critiques (free or paid) because the reviewers may not read it with your special circumstances in mind.

You should seek out someone in your area to read your resume so that you can explain your circumstances and career goals. I love the internet as much as anyone, but some things require that you get advised in person. A college career center is the ideal location for you to have a resume critique(even if you have already graduated) because you aren't expected to have relevant experience. If you want ideas about what you should include in your resume, see my post about resumes for recent graduates.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Jobs for Introverts and Extroverts in Each Field

I've focused on introverts in a past article because I know that we are more limited in terms of what careers we can pursue. Since I don't want to leave extroverts out, I'll suggest some good jobs for introverts and extroverts within each field.

Accounting and Finance:

Extroverts are more likely to prefer management positions while introverts will prefer to stay behind the scenes doing research or financial analysis. Extroverts also make good entrepreneurs because they can make connections easily.
  • Introvert jobs: credit analyst, financial analyst, staff accountant
  • Extrovert jobs: personal financial adviser, financial manager, financial services sales agent
Marketing and Sales:
Jessica, in a comment to a previous post, mentioned that she loves the creativity used in marketing but she feels overwhelmed as an introvert. For creative introverts, marketing can be a good field if you choose a job that allows for some quiet time to concentrate.
  • Introvert job: market research analyst, web/internet marketing analyst, marketing copywriter
  • Extrovert job: advertising sales agent, public relations specialist, marketing manager*
*Marketing manager can be a great job for both introverts and extroverts, depending on the responsibilities of a particular position. Some marketing managers focus a large portion of their time on research and designing promotional material. Presentation and communication skills are essential for marketing management, but extroversion is not.

Information Technology:
You may think that only introverts would enjoy computer-related occupations, but extroverts can actually excel in jobs that require good marketing and public relations skills. Introverts will probably enjoy work within an organization where they can remain in the background working on projects without worrying too much about promoting their ideas or products.
  • Introvert Jobs: software engineer, computer systems analyst,
  • Extrovert Job: independent web developer/designer, professional tech blogger, entrepreneur
Education:
You might be surprised to learn that many teachers consider themselves introverts. Don't rule teaching out if you are introverted because many teaching jobs allow for down-time between classes. If you are interested in teaching a certain subject, don't let your personality stop you.
  • Introvert jobs: librarian, school psychologist, guidance counselor, college professor
  • Extrovert jobs: elementary school teacher, education administrator
Health care:
Empathy and patience are two important traits for health care workers to have. Introverts are often very sensitive and contemplative, making them excellent candidates for many jobs the health care field. Extroverts usually do well in jobs that require both good interpersonal skills and stamina.
  • Introvert jobs: pharmacist, anesthesiologist, family physician, nutritionist, home health nurse
  • Extrovert jobs: emergency medical technician, physical therapist, emergency room nurse

I want to note that many introvert career suggestions will suit extroverts and visa versa. This post is meant for those that fall at an extreme end of the introvert/extrovert spectrum and want a career that is most likely to suit this particular personality aspect.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Favorite Career Assessments

I've taken numerous career tests over the past few years. Career assessments can be expensive and some just weren't worth my money. I'll review a few of my favorite tests and explain what features I liked about each.

1. Project Career. In this assessment, you are given a list of individual activities. You must select whether you would like the activity, dislike it, or neither. This method allows for the incorporation of your interests, values, skills and personality into one test because the activities you prefer reflect all of these factors. I like that this test assesses your preference for each activity individually rather than making you choose one activity out of two or three. The results are reported by industry rather than listing individual jobs. A detailed description is provided for each of your top industries, including employment outlook and sample job titles. I found the results of this assessment to be the most accurate of all the assessments I've taken.

2. MyPlan.com offers four assessments (skills, interests, personality, values) and a composite score of all assessments you choose to take. The values assessment is free while the other three assessments are $7.97-$9.95 each. The complete package is $19.95. Once you purchase access to an assessment, you can take it over as many times as you wish. In my experience, the values assessment was most accurate while the skills test was least accurate (sometimes it's hard to make an accurate assessment of your own abilities).

3. LiveCareer With each question on this test, you are given a choice of three activities similar to those you would perform in different jobs. You must rate which activity you would like to do most and which you would like to do least. It's free to take the 100-question test and get a basic report, which shows your top and bottom interest areas. The premium report, which lists your top 20 job matches, costs $24.95. I found the interest areas and job categories to be more accurate than the actual job matches. The deluxe report (which I didn't purchase) will give your top 100 job matches, but I think you should simply consider all the careers from your top five categories as the report suggests.


In the results of the career tests I've taken, there have been recommended careers that I have absolutely no interest in at all. However, there were two or three careers that appeared in the results of almost every test I took. These are the areas that I focused on when deciding what I career wanted to pursue.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Signs of a Great Career Test

There are many online career assessments. Some tests can be very helpful when helping you decide on a career. Before you take a test or pay for a detailed report, you should look for signs that the test will be as accurate as possible. Here are some characteristics of a good career test:

1. It takes more than one factor into account.
A test that assesses several factors will probably be more accurate than a test that offers suggestions based on one factor alone. Several tests only use your personality type to determine your best careers. These tests don't account for interests, physical limitations, and other important factors.

2. It's written by a professional. You should be able to find out who developed the test, including his or her credentials. The test website should at least offer information about how the test was developed and if it is research-based.

3. It has 100 or more questions. On short tests, one answer can skew the results too much. Some really great tests are adaptive and will offer extra questions based on previous answers if it doesn't have enough information.

4. It gives you more than one result. A good career test will offer several careers that might be a right fit. Even the most accurate test can't know you well enough to recommend one career as your "best" career.

There are some interesting short and free career tests on the internet. These tests are not necessarily bad. They can be useful for giving you some ideas of careers to consider, but don't make decisions based on these tests alone.

My next post will list some of my favorite career assessments.