Like many college students, I have attended several career/internship fairs with the hopes of impressing the heck out of an employer and landing a great position. I recently had the opportunity to experience the other side of a career fair, from a recruiter’s perspective.  Thanks to this experience, I will never again approach a career fair feeling stressed out or anxious—and you shouldn’t either. The next time you prepare to make a case for yourself to a potential employer at a career fair, keep these five things in mind.

5 New insights from an employer’s perspective:

1. Your pitch to an employer is about yourself, and what in the world do you know better than YOU? Talking to a recruiter about the one thing you are truly the expert on should be a piece of cake! In comparison, a recruiter doesn’t know nearly as much about their own organization as you do about yourself, and can sometimes stumble over questions that they had not anticipated or do not know the answer to. Be prepared. Make sure you know what you want to say about you, and relate it to how you can add value to the recruiter’s organization.

2. While you (the prospective employee) get to walk around and learn about all of the employers there, a recruiter has to relay the same information again, again, and again. Answer the same questions over, and over, and over. While it is interesting and rewarding to meet new people and learn about their background, the repetitive nature of recruiting can get old fairly quickly. Bring some courtesy and a smile with you to each stop. Show your appreciation, and you’ll stand out from the crowd. 

3. Talking constantly for a few hours straight is no easy task. As a student or prospective employee you have the option to take a few minutes between each meeting to compose yourself, get a drink of water, and catch your breath. In contrast, there may be very little time for a company’s representative to do any of those things. This is especially true if that company presents a great opportunity for those attending the fair. Be aware of the recruiter’s ‘signals.’ Treat him or her like person; not like a microphone.

4. The specific things you are looking for in an internship or job are often more specific than the criteria an employer is looking for in you. While I had always approached career fairs with the mindset that it is my responsibility to present myself to a company, having the opportunity to view the situation from the other side proves that it is really a two-way street. Recruiters have to make a pitch to you in the same way that you do to them; they want you to apply for a position, otherwise they wouldn’t be there! Remember that you and the recruiter are on equal footing, and you will have more comfortable interactions. Have a real conversation. It just might make the connection that your competition missed!

5. Most career fairs provide a handout or booklet with information about the companies for attendees to look over beforehand. You have the advantage of knowing about them, which puts you in a great position to prepare for the meeting. On the other hand, a recruiter knows virtually nothing about you. Imagine trying to learn as much as you can about someone, while also trying to relay as much information about your company as you can, as well as answer any questions that may arise, all in a matter of minutes. Then, picture doing that constantly for a few hours. Ahh! Overload! Everybody will have a resume. Improve your chances by adding a cover page with just 4 or 5 of your best value points.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This question has been around forever, and has haunted all of us since early childhood. While we were still trying to figure out how to tie our shoes and color inside the lines, grownups were already asking us pointed questions about our lifelong ambitions and goals!

Getting older didn’t make the answer any easier—not while we were dealing with the drama in choosing majors, internships, externships, and co-ops – all opportunities designed to get us closer to our careers. Of course by then, lots of us had made our choices, but a lot more still felt unsure (while being careful not to show it.)

But what if you didn’t (or don’t) have an answer to the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and you have NO idea how to get started.  It may be easier than you think.

First Step: Stop freaking out. Yes, we’re in college or getting ready to graduate and we have to decide what we want to do with our lives RIGHT NOW, but we still have time. You have your whole life ahead of you to find what you really want to do. Believe it or not, even after you are sure, you will probably change your mind! Most professionals you meet will tell you that they didn’t choose a major until their junior year, or their post-graduate studies. For many, their occupation now is not even related to what they majored in.  When in doubt, always remember you can change your mind.

Second Step: Think about what really, really interests you. If you start your career selection process off by thinking about what will make you the next Bill Gates, then you’ve got the wrong idea. If you aren’t truly interested in your studies, then you won’t work hard on them. You also won’t perform as well as you think you will. Think back to elementary school. You always did best in your favorite subject, right? That’s still true. So discover what you really like and go from there.

Third Step: Narrow it down. Think of choosing a major, graduate program, or job opportunities as a funnel. You dump a lot of stuff in the top and you get a little stuff out. After you have figured out what you are genuinely interested in and good at, create your own image instead of trying to fit yourself into one that may seem ideal, but just isn’t for you.

Yes, all of this is ‘easier said than done,’ but it can be done . . .it just takes time and some focused attention. With the job market in its current state and a cost of education that keeps on climbing, it is hard to be optimistic about your future career.

The best way to conquer that frustration is to take advantage of opportunities that come to you. It may not be what you have always dreamed of, or what you envisioned yourself doing, but you never know what an unlikely opportunity might turn into! It could be your long lost dream job, or just a step in a new direction. You won’t know if you don’t try.

Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. WordPress. Foursquare.  These are all great social networking sites that many of us use on a daily basis. We use them to stay connected with our friends through posting pictures, status changes, and links. As college students, we have all been lectured constantly about the harm that the sites can do to our future. Certain posts and pictures could possibly harm your chances of getting a job or an interview. Over and over again we have been told to make sure our privacy settings are secure, be sure to have appropriate profile pictures, and to even “Google ourselves” and see what the results are. All this advice from professors and professionals warn about the disadvantages of social networking, but what about the advantages?

And then we have some, somewhat less familiar, sites: LinkedIn. Biznik. Ziggs. Upspring. Ryze. These social networking sites are for professional use. Essentially, they provide a way to socialize professionally. Now, let’s not assume that ‘professional’ means boring. These sites are anything but boring. They are all user-friendly and customizable like any other social networking site that you may be using. Their purpose, however, is where the real difference arises.

Professional networking sites allow the user to make connections that can influence their career or their business, or both. You can connect with people that you may have met at a meeting, you can look for job opportunities, raise interest in your product, or just search around to find people who are interested in your same type of business. Such sites come in handy especially for college juniors and seniors who are looking for employment and internships. Creating a profile on one or more of these sites allows employers to find you, but let’s not confuse them with job search sites. Finding opportunities is certainly a potential benefit, but there are many other sites that will serve you better as job search engines.

The purpose of professional social networking sites is to NETWORK – making and maintaining connections with other people. The possibilities are endless. These sites allow you to connect with friends, professors, and past employers; to establish bonds based on common experiences and interests. You can use these networking sites very effectively to build your professional image.

You may be thinking “I’m still in school. I don’t have any experience! I don’t have a professional image!” But wait, you may have more experience than you think. Professional networking sites are there, in part, to HELP you promote yourself and your skills. Think about the things you are good at and focus on those. Think about awards and honors you have achieved in your academic career and post those. You should also post past work experience, even if it is not directly related to your target career, because it will show that you have some initiative, some experience and perhaps even some unique skills.

At first glance, these business-oriented sites may seem a little intimidating, and you probably will think that you have no use for them just yet. But the truth is they are just as easy to use as any other social networking tool, but the benefits of using them can have a much bigger impact on your future!

If college graduation is looming on the horizon for you, you may be wondering what to do next. Should you continue your education and enroll in a Master’s program? Or should you start looking for a full time job and get to work? With the job market in the poor condition it is, many people are thinking about continuing their education. This choice has been on my mind lately because graduation is fast approaching for me. With graduation commencement in February, I’ve been doing my research about the pros and cons of enrolling in a Master’s program.

There are some obvious “pros” to receiving a Master’s degree, beginning with advanced knowledge in a specific field of study. If you love to learn and have the funds to do so, go for it! If you have grants, scholarships, hit the lottery, or just have the money to be able to continue your education right after an undergraduate degree then you should. However, based on my own conversations with professors and employers, I recommend that you get as much on-the-job training in your chosen field as you can while still in school. If you emerge from a Master’s program with no real work experience it may be more difficult for you to find a job than if you had begun working right after receiving your undergraduate degree.

It won’t surprise you to know that finding work requires work, but it can also be very interesting. Join professional organizations, become an intern or a volunteer in your field. You should also go on informational interviews to network, meet people in your field, and see where the hiring trends are leading. By meeting people and getting hands-on experience while still in school, you will have people who remember you and will be more likely to help you find a position or even hire you after graduation.

For certain career fields it is necessary to receive a Master’s degree to be able to work in that specific field. Some examples include social work and college professors. There are also other fields where a Masters degree is not necessary but will definitely improve your pay rate and opportunities for advancement such as nursing, psychology and engineering.

If you find you do not fall into a category that requires a Master’s degree, you have some serious thinking and researching to do before making a choice about post-graduate education. Many professionals suggest finding a job and working for a while before deciding to go back to school. And here is a key point:- according to MSN’s personal finance columnist Liz Pulliam Weston, unless you’re becoming a lawyer or a doctor, the payoff from a Master’s degree in fields like liberal arts will only increase overall pay per month by $5. At that rate, the time and cost of the degree is not worth the payoff. 

According to Weston, of the Return on Investment of an Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and professional degrees are as follows:

–                           Associate’s degrees are a slam-dunk. These two-year degrees seem to result in a massive payback compared to their relatively low cost, for a high school graduate.

–                           Ditto, usually, a Bachelor’s degree. Any Bachelor’s degree you get at a public university is likely to pay off handsomely, as well. If you’re attending a private college, though, you might want to steer clear of education degrees.

–                           Some degrees are a step back. Thinking of a Master’s degree in liberal arts or social sciences? Lets hope you in it for the love of learning, because on average there doesn’t seem to be any financial payoff.

–                           Professional degrees rule. There’s a reason why people borrow tons of money to attend law and medical schools. The return for a professional degree if huge.

The rest of Weston’s informative article can be read at http://on-msn.com/4TxYB. The New York Times also had an interesting opinion piece about whether or not a Master’s degree is worth the cost. It posed the question to a Columbia University professor, a former university president, a personal finance columnist (Weston), and an economist from Ohio University. All of the panelists cautioned against jumping into a Master’s degree program without A.) serious thought and B.) the absolute need to spend the money for a specific degree. You can access this article at http://nyti.ms/13vbrM.

            I asked Dr. Janice Presser, CEO/founder of The Gabriel Institute, what she thought students should be researching when looking into programs. She provided these four simple questions to get you started, “What will I learn? Who will I learn it from? What will it cost me, and what will my ROI be?” Another important question to ask yourself: how do the initial earnings of a Master’s grad compare to the initial earnings of the departments BA grads that work in the field.

            There are many factors that go into making the decision to enroll in a post-graduate degree program. Whether or not it is appropriate for you will largely depend on your specific field of study, and your monetary situation. My advice is to do your research and fully understand what continued education will mean for you.

When making decisions about college, there can be a lot of pressure from family, friends and even from yourself about choosing a major and a career path. If you are unsure about what is right for you, I’m here to tell you not to worry.

It’s not unusual for a student to feel as if they are walking blindly into the college world if they do not have a set major. I understand the need to have a solid plan to cling to, but college is also about exploring and finding what is right for you. It is a time to open your eyes to the many possibilities and options regarding your career.

I remember being a junior in high school and feeling panicky because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. When teachers mentioned choosing a college and major, it just made me anxious and miserable. Eventually I had to slap some sense into myself. The more I thought about it, the more clearly I realized that long before students can even begin to take classes they’re really interested in, they have a year or more of prerequisite coursework. Every student will need basic English, math, humanities and science courses. You can use this ‘extra’ post-high-school time to think about your alternatives—long before you have to make the tough decisions.

Go to your college’s career center. Every university has one and they can be extremely helpful in guiding you toward your interests. Most of these centers have online career assessments. I took the one offered by Temple University, and was amazed by the variety of career options suggested to me. The experience opened my eyes to the fact that students are not really limited by their degree. No matter what you choose as your major, your college experience will also provide skills, and enable you to develop yourself, in ways that will help you in finding and succeeding in a job. So use your time at college to learn about what you like, and you will find that it can lead you to a job that makes use of your talents—and that you can also truly enjoy.

Upon hearing the term “group-work”, there is a certain feeling that almost all students get.” And it’s not a good one. Sighs are heard in the classroom. Stress begins to rise, and then, a mad dash begins – each person seeking to form or join a team with someone who’s a friend, or with whom they have already worked with in the past. The ultimate worst-case is when the professor declares that he or she will be choosing the teams, and who you will work with is out of your control.

As a senior Strategic Communications major at Temple University, I am very familiar with the dreaded group-work. Almost every class has at least one assignment per semester that must be done in a group, and some courses are constructed to be a single group assignment that takes up the entire semester. I am currently in a class like that. I had no control over who was chosen to be in my group. Right about now I am feeling apprehensive at best because I don’t know anything about the people in my group, or the kind of work they will produce. In the past I have always resigned myself to the fact that if I had a lazy group that didn’t care about the grade, then I would do the entire project alone.

I’ve just started my internship for The Gabriel Institute and am beginning to have a much better outlook about teaming.  Their TGI Teamability was actually created for the pupose of understanding and predicting how people will perform in teams. Now my mind has been broadened to realize that people have specialties. Not everyone is an organizer or a communicator. Not every person is good at doing research, or motivating the group to stay on track. Before, I always felt that because we were working for the same grade each person should contribute in the same way. But that’s not how it is, and that outlook can set you up for failure. The key to working together successfully is in finding out what each team member has a natural affinity for doing, and putting each person to the right task.

Unfortunately, Teamability, is new, so very few schools are using it to match people to teams and tasks. This is too bad, because it would make the life of a student so much easier. And let’s face it, students have enough to worry about without having to agonize over the possibility of a group failure. So I have devised a plan of action for every student who must join a team without the opportunity to choose (or even suggest) the other team members.

  • Get to know your team! Before jumping into a project with strangers you need to know more about them. Ask them questions about what they enjoy doing in school. If they have ever had an amazing teaming experience in the past, have them describe why it was so great.
  • Figure out what the end result of the project should be, and create a plan to make it happen. For example if you need research, writing and then a final presentation, ask the group which part they would feel most comfortable doing.
  • Make sure no one person feels overwhelmed. When an individual is overworked, they can feel bitter towards the rest of the team, which could jeopardize the final project and grade.  So encourage the group to agree on an atmosphere of honesty: if anyone feels they have too much on their plate, they promise to let the team know.
  • Finally, stay in communication. At least one team member should take the responsibility to send out a weekly email detailing what has been accomplished and what needs to be done. This will keep everyone on track and focused on the assignment.

Without the comprehensive TGI Teamability to tell you which team members are the best match for the team’s mission, your group experience in class may not always be ideal. These few steps I suggest are not perfect, but they will help. Most importantly, though, try to maintain a positive outlook. When a team truly acts as a cohesive unit the experience can be enjoyable and extremely rewarding.

Have you ever been having a good day (or at least an okay day) and someone decides to complain to you about all their problems? They tell you about the horrible morning they are having, how their relationship is falling apart, or why they are too tired to be at work, and suddenly your day isn’t so great anymore.

That’s because negativity is contagious. When working in a team you have to be extremely careful to stay focused on the team’s needs and objectives. Bringing in unrelated information, gossip, or emotional baggage can be detrimental to the productivity of a group.

The point? If you can avoid negativity in your life and refrain from passing it on to others, you will enjoy a much more productive way of life with those around you.

So the big question is, how can you avoid negativity in your life? It is not entirely plausible that you could eliminate every bad thing in your life, but here are some scenarios and solutions that can help you deal with everyday sorts of problems.

1. As a college student I often find myself in dire need of sleep. When you are overtired, everything in front of you can seem daunting if not downright horrible. Consistent lack of sleep leads to downtrodden attitudes and lack of energy, not to mention (according to recent research) increased susceptibility to weight gain.

My solution: RELAX! Skip a night of going out. If all your friends are dying to go to a movie or go drinking on a Saturday night, skip it. Watch a movie by yourself in bed and go right to sleep. Allow yourself an extra hour to sleep in the next morning (this is best done on weekends). The relaxing before bed and the extra hour in the morning should help catch up on some of your much needed rest.  Starting the week refreshed makes the entire workweek more bearable.

2. Often-times negative attitudes arise from feelings of being unproductive.

Now here’s a vicious cycle—because negative attitudes also reduce the drive to produce! The solution to this one is simple: lists and goals.  Make sure you write them down so you can cross them off as you go. Crossing things off gives you a visual—and physical—reward for what you have actually accomplished. Once you start running errands and mailing the Christmas cards, your stress level can decrease and you can enjoy more time out of your week to relax and refresh. (Note that this can automatically reduce fatigue.)

3. Another cause of negativity is the dreaded realm of ‘body issues’ (…and yes,  you men can have them too).  People who are constantly working or are on the go often regret their choice of unhealthy food, or have some other “problem area” (whatever it may be) leaves them wishing they had time to tone up. Many people are convinced that they don’t have time to exercise.

If you look online for gyms in your area, you might notice that many of them are open till 10 or 11 at night. This is for YOUR convenience. The world knows that you work 9-5 and then need to get home to your family. But once dinner has been cleaned up and you’ve had some time to digest, go to the gym. I recently joined one and even though I’m always tired, and I get bored exercising, I go anyway.  I’ve come to realize that even though I HATE going, I LOVE how I feel when leaving. The endorphins kick in right away and give me an energy boost for the rest of the evening. (It also makes me feel less guilty about the two deserts I usually eat on a daily basis).

If you honestly don’t have time to go to a gym, do something simpler. Wear ankle weights when walking around the house, or cleaning, or going to the store. Instead of watching a half hour of TV, put on some music and have a private dance party for 20 minutes. When you lay down in bed, do ten crunches before letting your head hit the pillow. Little changes can eventually lead to big payoffs.

As for the unhealthy food choices while on the go, take a look at the menus you are ordering from. Even McDonalds’ has healthier choices these days. Again little changes, such as getting apple slices instead of french fries, can do you a lot of good.

(At the beginning of this summer I got off the metro and got a croissant at Au Bon Pain every morning, I was hungry an hour later. Then I switched to buying their little packets of cheese crackers and grapes. Same price, much healthier. I no longer get hungry before lunch, and it helps me stay focused and energized instead of hungry and grumpy. )

I am not naïve enough to say there will never be things in life that can bring you down. However, for the things you cannot control, decide if they are truly worth your time and thought. If they aren’t, let them go. This is much simpler than people make it seem.  The more you maintain your focus on positive things, the happier and more productive you, and those around you, will be.