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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.

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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.

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.

My name is Kim.

I’m one of the interns working at The Gabriel Institute and this is my last summer before I have to “go big, or go home,” and the last thing I want to do is go home.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents are lovely, and there is something wonderfully comfortable about a place you grew up in for 20 years. However, I come from a small town in Upstate New York, with an even smaller economy. (Not to mention I am also 21 and no longer am amused by the “what time are you going to be home” question.)

From high school well into my college years, finding a summer job was never a problem. All the restaurants were seasonal, and loved if you were only looking to work May through August. But those are restaurant jobs, and I decided to go to school for Communications and Journalism, not restaurant management.

One of my good friends (who lives in Philadelphia) was listening to me whine one day about not wanting to work in a restaurant all summer: how it wouldn’t get me ahead for graduation next year; how my internship in Washington D.C. fell through; how there was no one hiring interns back home, and an entire list of other things I was dreading about the summer. His only response was “Come live with me in Philly.”

Within days I decided to do it; to turn into a grownup and move out. I packed my bags and drove five hours with nothing but determination to make it the most fun and productive summer ever. It was my time to “go big.”

When I moved down here two months ago I had nothing. I knew a handful of people. I was sharing a room with my friend, and barely had a dresser-sized space in the closet in which to put all of my belongings.

I was unhappy with my money situation, my professional inexperience, and my living quarters. So I did something about it.

My determination for a job or internship was first on my to-do list. I put a few applications in at some restaurants, figuring it would be a very good plan B. I then signed up with an internship search website (www.internships.com) and within days had an interview for The Gabriel Institute in center city.

Two of the restaurants called me back for interviews, one of which I accepted.

I took some down time from job searching (praying both interviews would follow through) to see an old friend from my freshman year of college. She mentioned that one of her roommates just moved out and they were looking for someone to fill the spot to keep rent down. Bingo! A week and a half in Philly and things were going my way.

So now, two months later, I live with three people, two of whom are strangers, and one who is a gross slob, but I have my own space for when I need it. I didn’t originally want to work in another restaurant, but I have made a ton of new friends that I hang out with on a regular basis, and it’s great money. My internship is unpaid, but I enjoy the work and it’s giving me something wonderful to put on my resume, and I like it.

So in hindsight I’d say I did pretty well.

The point is folks; there are always ups and downs. You can never have EVERYTHING that you want, and you can never be completely satisfied with everything in your life. The difference between people who succeed in this world and those who don’t can be as simple as reorganizing and changing your situation until the only “bad” things are the little things.

Make your “big picture” one that you can stand to look at every day.

Hi. I’m Josh Sinkow—a new intern working at The Gabriel Institute. At Clemson University I play club rugby in which we have a ‘top-down’ organization on our team–from our coach to a captain, president, vice-president, secretary, field manager, and social chair. As a team we all work towards winning every rugby game we can and, hopefully, going to the playoffs.

In a business team you also want to organize yourself with a series of ‘leaders’ like the CEO, president, managers, secretaries, and so on. Together the leaders of the team set the strategy and improve the team’s readiness, skill, and morale for success on and off the field. Each individual needs to be able to do their role and not interfere with each other’s jobs otherwise conflicts occur. The role each individual plays on the team is essential to the success of the whole unit.

In rugby the forward’s job is to hit, crash, and fight through while the backs’ job is to run and perform trick plays. If a back were to jump into the ruck with the forwards then the team is short a back, making it easy for the other team to get the ball, pass it off, and run around or through us. In business, if an assistant starts making decisions for the president, there will be conflicts, errors, and a possibility of “dropping the ball”. Every individual has a job to do and needs to fulfill the role otherwise the whole company suffers. Even the lowest level employees are needed otherwise the work just would not get done. Each individual member of a business team needs to know what their job is, be able to accomplish that job, and fulfill their responsibilities in the job that they are in so the team can reach its goal.

Perhaps most important in both sports and business: having a positive and constructive attitude when working with others is the secret to having a great team.  And that brings us back to The Gabriel Institute’s product, which is called TGI Role-Based Assessment. RBA was created specifically to identify and measure how people ‘team’ together. TGI’s research shows that each person has a different kind of drive, or personal ‘mission,’ to meet the needs of their team. This is called their ‘Role’ in RBA. And having positive orientation to working with other people to benefit the group is an RBA measurement called Coherence. Putting Role and Coherence together can tell you a lot about a person’s ‘Teaming Characteristics’, which can accurately identify the ‘best-fit’ for each person in a work environment.

I have a lot more to learn about Role-Based Assessment, but there’s one thing I’m sure of: there’s a new way to know how people will perform in teams, and that’s something really worth knowing!

“To the east side?” you ask.  No, through the corporate ranks.  The Gabriel Institute’s very own Paul Sevcik was recently asked to write about his transition from intern to Client Services Manager for the Eye of the Intern blog, and here’s what he had to say:

Making the move from intern to full-time employee

I was in the last semester of my MBA program and all indicators were bad.  The job market was down and paid positions were scarce as recently laid-off seasoned professionals joined the merry-go-round looking for work. At a networking event, I learned about an unadvertised internship at a company located in the same building where I took to my graduate courses. I chatted up the CEO of the company and was invited to apply for the internship.

This particular company had a unique way for potential interns to start the application process.  Submit a resume?  “No, thank you,” they said.  Call some references?  “Nope, we don’t do that,” they said, “just go to our website.”  Oh boy.  I had heard that story a thousand times!

Although skeptical, I went to their website and applied by taking their Role-Based Assessment, which actually turned out to be fun. When I clicked submit, I received the typical: “We’ll be in touch.”  I followed up by sending an email to the CEO of the company.  The next day, I received an invitation to interview with them.

The interview was like any other with typical questions about my skills and experience, but a new dimension was added when they actually gave me my assessment results. This was a surprise because I had received my results at an interview before. I read over the report and thought, “Wow, this company really gets me!  Before they even brought me in today, they knew how I could contribute to their team.  Wait a minute–they brought me in because they already know I will be a positive contributor to their company!”  The interview discussion was very productive and within a week, I was working at The Gabriel Institute doing work that I really enjoyed.

I worked at The Gabriel Institute for three months and sampled work in Sales, Human Resources, and Operations.  I had expressed interest in these areas during my interview and my supervisor made sure to balance the type of work I did. In the process, I worked with every person in the organization, which was a small startup company with a heavy entrepreneurial focus.

As my third month came to a close, I received and accepted an offer for full-time work at another company. The experience at the new company, however, was so negatively different from the supportive and productive environment at The Gabriel Institute that I terminated employment at the new company on my 90th day.

So there I was without a job or internship and no sign of the economy improving anytime soon.  What was I going to do?

I asked the CEO of The Gabriel Institute, the company where I had done my internship, out to breakfast and the next morning we sat down to talk about my future with the company. My internship was reignited with a bend toward temp-to-hire work. Three months later, I transitioned from a temp to a full-time employee and now, I’m the Client Services Manager.  Part of my job is to oversee the internship program. Today, the program is formalized and the positions are advertised at local universities, several online internship sites, and on the company’s website. The process for becoming an intern still starts at the website and we only bring in interns if we know their assessment results fit with our needs. The assessment works like a charm and I am proof it’s possible to go from intern to full-time employee at a small company that’s willing to take the risk during turbulent times.

The original blog posting can be found here.

In honor of Brian’s marriage to the lovely Stephanie, here are the five secrets of marital happiness.  If you’re reading this, you are probably more focused on career at this point in your life, but remember that balance is wonderful and you can learn a lot from being with a loving mate.

  1. Feel kindness toward each other and act on your feeling every day.
  2. Always think more highly of your partner than your partner does of him or herself.
  3. Keep a big store of the balms and bandages your partner prefers.
  4. When there are pebbles in your partner’s path, sweep them away quietly.
  5. Listen to the way your partner is talking, not just to the words.*

And, by the way, these could be useful for career relationships too.

*These originally appeared in Personal Excellence magazine in February of 2007.  If you want the rest of the article, leave a comment here!

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