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.

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The choices you make in how you spend your time will shape how your college experience turns out. So join something! Whether it be a club, an organization, Greek Life, or a sports team, it will give you the opportunity to meet new people, make friends, and most importantly, have fun. I myself joined the Rugby football club at Clemson University, and it was the best decision I have made at school. I now have thirty guys to hang out with, something to do during the immense amount of down time I have, and the experience of something new is always exciting.

There is always something to do no matter what you like to do. There are countless activities for you to join or participate in, and most schools offer a way to find them. At Clemson, it looks like this:  http://stuaff.clemson.edu/organizations/listing.php.

The number of activities can be overwhelming, but don’t let that hold you back. You can always switch or drop something if you find that you do not like the activity, if it does not fit your schedule, or if it is simply not what you wanted. If you like multiple activities try a test run of them. The worst thing that can happen is it does not work out, and you move on.  If you are interested in something and there is no club for it, you can make up your own. That’s how the High-Five club at Clemson got started.

So make good use of groups as a source of fun, but keep in mind that your academics are just as, if not more, important. Keep in mind that there are certain things to beware of when joining a club:

  • You are at school to get a degree. It does not matter if you have the most fun you have ever had in your life if you cannot get through college. If you want to see your parents really yell at you, try wasting forty grand a year.
  • Do not spread yourself too thin when it comes to being in clubs or organizations. The more deeply involved you get, the better your experience can be.  But if you are too busy to give a hundred percent to what you are doing, then it can quickly become more work than fun.
  • Although one goal of joining a club or organization is to make friends, do not isolate yourself from everyone else. I had a roommate who became a complete jerk after he joined his frat.  “Have diversity of friends” may sound stupid, but it allows for more fun (options rule).

It is understandable that every person may, while having fun, take a few crazy pictures. However, what you need to keep in mind is that although that night was a lot of fun, the pictures may be less than appealing to people who weren’t there to enjoy it….such as people in the HR Department at the company where you hope to get hired. It’s a fact: businesses do not just look at your resume. Many of them dig deeper and do background checks, which can include your Facebook page and other social networking sites.

As you probably know, Facebook allows you to connect to friends, tag pictures, and set up wall posts. However, the pictures that you post and tag are left open to viewing and interpretation by others. A picture of you at a party with beer cans all around looks, to you, like a fun night with some friends. But to the HR person it may appear that you are a party animal, or worse, an alcoholic. Depending on the nature of the job and who is doing the research, even a single bottle or can in the picture could be devastating to your chances of being hired.

These days there are a lot more people looking for work than there are job openings to be filled. Some companies will receive hundreds if not thousands of resumes, and will cut the number down to just twenty-five before actually reading them. Even the smallest of reasons—a misspelled word, or an unattractive layout—can lead to rejection. If you make it past that point, the last thing you would want to do is give them some other obvious reason to rule you out…but it happens. In one instance, the President of an organization was waiting for a candidate to arrive for an interview, and decided to take a look at the person’s Facebook page. Thanks to some inappropriate photos, the candidate was history before he even started his interview.

If you think this is the exception, think again. According to an NBC Nightly News report from 2008, about 77% of employers were using search engines to evaluate candidates, and 35% had eliminated candidates based on the information they found. Two years later, you can bet that those percentages are even higher.

So your future is on the line. What do you do? For starters, imagine you are the HR interviewer. You have four candidates, and in preparation for the interview you go online and see that:

n  John posted a picture of himself playing beer pong

n  Lucy appears in a photo with two other girls, all dancing on a tabletop in a bar

n  Luke’s picture shows him slouched on a couch, watching tv with some other guys, and there are beer cans all over the place

n  A picture on Janet’s page shows her and a friend just laying out in a park

Who would you choose? John seems like a party boy who drinks all the time and possibly just plays with alcohol. Lucy seems to be out of control and possibly a party girl. Luke’s photo makes him look unappealing, and also a heavy drinker, while Janet’s picture shows nothing very impressive, but there is nothing suggestive of bad behavior, either. So if these were the only four to choose from, Janet would get the job.

Basically, if you are serious about life after school, monitor the pictures (and other stuff) you put up for the public—and the HR department—to find.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but whenever I’m in a non-major, core curriculum class, I tend to do what I need to in order to get an A, while completely discounting the content as unimportant to me.  When I was forced to take a class that taught students to interview well, for some reason I maintained this attitude, despite the obvious relevance.  The instructor (wisely) told us that we needed to be prepared to answer Behavioral Event Interview (BEI) questions and that we should come up with our answers now.  She said that if we were unable to answer, we essentially lost the job.  I decided I could just wing it.

Today I lost a job.  The interviewer didn’t tell me that and won’t even be making her decision until the middle of next week, but I’m 110% sure that I will not be in the second round of interviews.  I’ll give you one guess why…  That’s right, the interview was entirely BEI.  I fumbled around trying to think of answers, filling the interview with so much silence that the interviewer probably regretted neglecting to bring a magazine.  Learn from my painful-in-its-awkwardness mistake and prepare yourself thoroughly.  Tonight I will be dedicating myself to creating a document with potential questions and well-thought-out answers to be studied prior to interviews.  I suggest you do the same.

Potential questions include:

Describe a time when you…

…had to persuade someone to do something.  How did you do it?

…had a lot of tasks to juggle at once.  How did you handle it?

…found yourself truly challenged.  How did you overcome those obstacles?

…were forced to deal with an upset customer.  What did you do to fix the situation?

…set a difficult goal for yourself.  How did you go about reaching it?

For more info on BEI, there’s a good article here.

P.S.  I also failed at following my own advice, as I found it difficult to pick an eye – it’s not as easy as it sounds.

When dispensing interview advice, I forgot to mention the important step that comes before that, the job search.  While Teamability is a great tool to help you in the job market, it is unable to keep you safe from the sharks in the water.  Fortunately, it comes complete with this wonderful, complementary blog to help you along the way.

I’ve been running into a ridiculous amount of fishy jobs on the internet, and according to the San Francisco Chronicle, I’m not alone.  The article claims that online job scams are increasing in conjunction with the desperation of the job-seeking masses.  Here are three things I recommend to reduce your risk of being scammed:

  • Make sure you’ve applied for the job. While this might seem obvious, you may not think of it when someone calls/emails you to tell you that they received your resume and would love to interview you.  I recently signed up for a monster account but have yet to actually upload a resume.  Despite this, I have at least two “employers” a week emailing me to tell me how the experience on my resume makes me the perfect fit for their opening.
  • Perform a “Google Scam Test”. It’s always extremely disheartening when a job sounds like the perfect fit for you, so you begin to Google it for more info, and the first search suggestion that pops up is “[Company Name] Scam”.  The odds are that if this happens, it is indeed a scam.  Even if it’s not a suggestion, search it anyway.  You can never be too sure.
  • Beware the Six-Figure-Salesmen. Like you’ve heard a million times, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”  I constantly run into extremely vague job descriptions with few qualifications that claim you can “make six figures in no time!”  As you might expect, they never pass the Google Scam Test, and the common complaint is that these entry-level sales/marketing/etc jobs are really door-to-door or on-the-street sales jobs.  While its quite possible that someone at some point in time could potentially have made $100K annually selling knives door-to-door, it seems highly unlikely that you’ll be able to do so, no matter how talented you may be.

Once again, I’ll open up the floor for anyone else to offer advice.  Any takers?

While perusing the Internet in an attempt to learn more about social media marketing, I came across the craziest statement; apparently people don’t like it when a product blog is constantly used to push the product. Insane, right? But, just for kicks, I decided to try something different today. While Tools4Careers may be a great tool for careers, so is friendly advice. While I lack the experience to give advice in many facets of life, one thing I have done quite a bit is interview. Here are a few bits of advice that no one ever mentioned to me:

Spell Check isn’t smart enough to check all-caps.
Have you ever been on an interview where the interviewer pointed out a spelling error on your resume? I have! Lucky me! The format I chose for my resume uses all caps for the job title, which apparently spell check CN’T REED PROPRELY. Your best bet is to have someone else read through it first (if not several someone elses), paying close attention to all caps lines.

Too much of a good thing can be bad.
With a title like that, what I’m so obviously referring to couldn’t be any clearer: deodorant. If you’re anything like me, one of your biggest fears is being remembered as the interviewee who smelled. So again, if you’re like me, you apply deodorant at least 11 times before leaving for your interview. If so, stop; too much tends to make you sweat more, thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Pick an eye.
This may just apply to me, as I find that I can be rather odd at times, but just in case… Everyone is always going on about how good eye contact can make you look confident and poised and so on. What they don’t mention is that when there’s only a desk separating you and the other person it can be hard to focus on their eyes, emphasis on the plural. Often when I’m thinking about eye contact, I realize I’ve been staring at just one eye, so I switch to the other (you know, so it doesn’t feel left out), and then occasionally switch back. While I’ve never tested this hypothesis, I can only assume this makes me look fairly shifty. You’re better off just picking an eye and sticking with it.

Do you have any other unconventional pearls of wisdom that you wish someone had told you before going on an interview?

I better set a good example here.  I take no credit for the word ‘suckritocracy’ but seriously, doesn’t it describe at least one place you’ve worked?

I heard it attributed to Edith Waltz, a sociologist who morphed into an IT director for Fortune 500 companies.  In her experience those companies were not meritocracies, they were not even aristocracies, and they certainly weren’t democracies – they were, pure and simple, suckritocracies.  And, apparently, in her experience, few people cared.

Call me Pollyanna, but I really meant it when I wrote The Gabriel Institute’s vision line – Making the Workplace a Better Place to Work.

So in that spirit, I ask you to join me in a revolution to banish suckritocracy from the workplace.  Here are the three ‘rules of engagement’:

  • First, believe that you can end suckritocracy in your lifetime.  All you have to do is to stop contributing to it.  Don’t take credit for other people’s work and, if you can, share the credit other people give you – whether you think you deserve it or not.  Being known as a team player is worth more to your career than being known for being smart.
  • Second, figure out what you really like to do and try to work with other people who will do the parts you don’t like.  If you get yelled at for that, you are working in a suckritocracy that has hardened into something like the corporate equivalent of the Zombies from Outer Space.  It eats fear and it can only survive by creating that fear in its young.  All you can do is starve it.
  • Finally, rock your own world.  Find the rest of your team.  They are out there.  (This is something like finding true love.)  Respect them,  Trust them.  Build something together (think Bill Gates, Mary Kay Ash, Ben & Jerry) and just say no to suckritocacy.