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December 2012

Career Tools

Five Career Resolutions Everyone Should Make

With 2013 just a few hours away, now is the perfect time to ensure your professional goals are in order…

5 Career Resolutions

 When you’re not happy at work, making a New Year’s career resolution is easy: Get a new job. (Or, get a raise, snag that promotion, make it through a work week without using profanity—plenty to choose from.)

But when things are going well, you should still be setting work-related goals for yourself. And what better time to do it than the new year?

If you need some inspiration, we’ve compiled five career resolutions that everyone should make. Choose a couple or resolve to do them all—we guarantee you’ll set yourself up for success in 2012.

1. Have an Annual Career Check-Up

You probably think about your job every day, but when was the last time you really thoughtabout it? Kick off 2012 by taking yourself out to lunch or coffee, and writing down how you’re feeling about your career. What makes you happy, and what would you like to change? Is your current job really what you want to be doing? Or, at the least, is it helping you reach your goals? Also do some salary research—is your income in line with your field and position?

Consider this process an annual check-up for your career health. If you feel good about everything—great! But if there are things that could be improved, think about how you can fix them this year, whether that’s taking on new responsibilities, working towards a promotion, or keeping your eye out for that next position.

2. Update Your Resume (and Everything Else)

Keeping your resume up-to-date is important for several reasons. For one, if a recruiter or a friend-of-a-friend calls out of the blue with a great job opportunity, you’re going to want to have it ready to go. Plus, it’s a lot easier to update your accomplishments periodically, when they’re fresh in your mind, rather than trying to add in a couple of years of experience all at once.

And while you’re getting your resume in shape, go through the rest of your documents too—refresh your portfolio, edit your LinkedIn bio, and update (or create) a personal list of accomplishments (a running tally that you don’t hand out, but that’s helpful for talking points for cover letters and interviews). Also shoot your references a note to say hello—but really to make sure you have their updated contact information.

3. Add a Bullet to Your “Skills” Section

Even if you’re not adding a new job to your resume this year, you can still add to the other sections! Make it your goal in 2012 to add at least one new bullet to “Skills” or “Education.” Are there technical skills that would make you more competitive in your field? Tools that could make your job (or your boss’ job) easier? A management class that would better position you for a promotion?

For inspiration, check the LinkedIn profiles of your colleagues a step or two higher than you current position, and think about how you can add their areas of expertise to your own skill set.

4. Expand Your Network

Contrary to popular belief, the best time to network isn’t when you’re looking for a job—it’s long before then. Why? Having a broad, diverse network already in place will make the job search that much easier—and besides, people tend to be happier to meet you when you don’t have that desperate “please help me get a job now” tone in your voice.

And before you say “I hate networking” and move on to the next resolution, remember that there are plenty of ways to make new connections outside of hitting the industry luncheon circuit. You could ask your boss to pay for a conference that looks interesting, ask a former co-worker and her new co-workers out to a happy hour, or, at the very least, join some LinkedIn groups.

At minimum, try to meet one new person every month (you’ll have a dozen new contacts by this time next year!). If you’re feeling really ambitions, try Classy Career Girl’s 4×4 Networking Challenge to meet four new people and strengthen four existing relationships—every month!

5. Be More Productive

There are plenty of techniques out there to help people be more productive—check out the Pomodoro Techniquetime blocking, and anything on WorkAwesome. Different approaches work for everyone, but I guarantee there’s some method or trick out that will work for you, and help you save time, streamline a process, or just generally get stuff done a better way. So, make it goal to try at least four new ones this year, and see what works for you. (For bonus points: organize your inbox so you’re not spending an hour each day deleting Groupons and sale announcements.)

Career advancement is a year-round process, but why not let the momentum of January help kick-start your success? Here’s to a great year!

What career resolutions will you be making this year?

Adrian Granzella Larssen is the Managing Editor for The Daily Muse and covers topics in career, entrepreneurship, health, and fashion. Follow Adrian on Twitter @adriangranzella.

Career Tools

How to Stand Out in a Phone Interview

More employers are using phone interviews as screening mechanisms to narrow down their applicant pool. These calls can range from short and perfunctory to long and in-depth, but either way, it’s crucial to be prepared for them.

[See our list of the 50 Best Careers.]

Here are 10 tips to help you become a phone interview ninja:

1. Ask ahead of time how much time to allot for the call.This can tell you what type of interview to expect. If you’re told it’ll take 10 to 15 minutes, it’s just going to be a simple screening to check your basic match-up with the job. But if you’re told to set aside 45 minutes or an hour, expect a much more thorough call where you might be asked about past accomplishments and where you might face behavioral interview questions.

2. Make sure you have somewhere quiet to talk where you won’t be interrupted. This sounds obvious, but some candidates on phone interviews get interrupted by kids, barking dogs, coworkers at their current jobs, or other calls coming in. Not only does this come across as unprofessional and as if you’re not taking the opportunity seriously, but it also will harm your ability to focus.

3. Keep notes in front of you. A major benefit of phone interviews is that you can have all the notes in front of you that you want. Take advantage of this, and prepare notes about the points you want to make. Obviously, you don’t want to sound like you’re reading a script, but you can use your notes to prompt you to remember pieces of information that you want to cover, or to use language for answering difficult questions.

[See 5 Questions to Ask on Your Next Interview.]

4. Be prepared. Before the interview, go to the employer’s website and read enough to get a good feel for their work and their general approach. Don’t leave the site until you can answer these questions: What does this organization do? What is it all about? What makes the organization different from its competition?

5. Know the job description. There’s nothing worse than a phone interview where the candidate doesn’t seem to grasp what the job is all about and why they’d make a good fit. So before the call, go through the job description and think about how your experience and skills fit with each line. Don’t be alarmed if you’re not a perfect fit; people get hired all the time without being a line-for-line match. The idea is simply to have thought through how you are a match, so that those thoughts are easily retrievable and can be turned into answers in the phone screen.

6. Think about the questions that you’re likely to be asked, and write out your answers to each of them. At a minimum, cover these basics: Why are you thinking about leaving your current job? What interests you about this opening? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What experience do you have doing the major responsibilities of the job? You especially want to prepare for questions that you find tricky, like, for instance, talking about a firing or talking about weaknesses. Write out your answers to these questions not because you’ll read them word-for-word, but because doing so will help prep you for the call.

[See How to Answer an Awkward Interview Question.]

7. Be ready to talk salary. You can try to avoid talking about salary at this stage, but a lot of interviewers are going to insist on it. In fact, part of the point of the phone interview may be to make sure that you’re in the same ballpark, salary-wise.

8. Come up with questions of your own to ask. Good questions at this stage are clarifying questions about the role itself and open-ended inquiries about the office culture. Don’t ask about things like benefits, hours, or job security. These are important elements but there will be plenty of time to talk about them if you move forward; the phone screen is about establishing whether you’re a good match.

9. Pay attention to your tone of voice. On a phone interview, the interviewer can’t see your body language or gestures, so your tone of voice matters more than ever. Make sure to sound upbeat, interested, and engaged; not sluggish or distracted. And let your personality come through; after all, a major reason for the phone interview is to get a sense of what you’re all about.

10. At the end of the call, always ask about next steps and the employer’s time line for getting back to you. That way, you’ll know when you can expect to hear something (or if you can expect to hear something), and you won’t sit around anxious and wondering why you haven’t heard back yet.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She’s also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader’s Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.

Career Tools

INFOGRAPHIC: How Your Myers Briggs Type Determines Career Paths

While the majority of Graduate-level students have an idea of their career path, review the Myer Briggs infographic below to see how your personality matches.  For about 50 years, people have been using the Myers-Briggs Personality Test to help them figure out their career paths. The Myer Briggs psychological assessment involves a list of questions that help you determine your personality type.

Career Tools

The 12 Days of Christmas – Career Search

Did you know that it costs over $100,000 to buy all the items listed in the can’t-get-outta-your-head holiday tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”?  Most of us will never have the burning need to purchase 12 Lords a-leaping, but this infectious and carol can make even the most tedious of job efforts, a bit more festive and fun.  Here is our remix of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”Career Services style.

On the first day of Christmas, my job hunt starts with me:

Twelve jobseekers seeking,

Eleven days of waiting,

Ten thank you’s spinning,

Nine hands a-shaking,

Eight names on LinkedIn

Seven spots a-openin’

Six sites a-searchin’

Five golden Tweets!

Four calling cards,

Three Facebook posts,

Two interviews,

And an offer letter waiting for me. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Graduate Business Career Services Department, see you all in 2013!

Good luck and happy job hunting!


Career Tools

Five Most Effective Ways to Invest in Your Career

Written by Glen Llopis, Forbes contributor

You are accountable for your own success.   As such, it is your responsibility to discover your special gifts, attributes and capabilities that can give you a competitive edge and the greatest probability to have a flourishing career.   Career management requires quality networking, being in the right place at the right time, earning a voice at the table, knowing your unique value proposition and how to use it, managing your personal brand, being influential – to name a few essentials.  But in the end, all of these factors require one important thing:  a personal commitment to manage and invest in your career the right way.

On the surface, this sounds simple – but it is actually quite time consuming and requires strategic thought and planning.   Making an investment in your career requires you to know what you should invest your time, money and resources in.   Think of it like the stock market; most people rely on financial experts and / or online tools to help them manage their portfolios based on a multitude of factors that include:  the amount of money they are willing to invest, how much risk they are comfortable taking, what type of commitment they will make to manage their investment decisions and keep track of their desired outcomes – amongst many others.   Similarly, when you invest in your career and personal development, you must do it with the end game in mind.   For example, what performance improvements and career advancement outcomes do you expect, and when will you be able to see favorable financial results and lifestyle changes as a result of your investment?

I have seen too many people waste time and money on making career investments that don’t align with their passionate pursuits and ultimate career ambitions. They can’t see the opportunities around them that they can effectively seize for their own advancement and personal satisfaction.  For example, I have seen many invest in learning about the real estate market because their friends made a lot of money in it.  However, after spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours, nothing tangible resulted from their investment.   This is a common occurrence with people who are so influenced by what others believe they should do in their careers that they become disconnected  from themselves.

This is what initially happened to me when I started my career.  My older brother (a successful executive in his own right) wanted to direct and guide my career.  He wanted me to be like him.   What he failed to realize was that we were different people, with different skills and completely different personalities and character traits.   This is an example of why many people get career anxiety.   They begin to hate their jobs and / or become dissatisfied with the succession track they are on – because they are now regretting the career choices they made based on how they were influenced by others along the way.    In my case, I soon realized that my brother’s well intentioned attempts didn’t make sense for me as I began to lose touch with my goals and aspirations.

To invest properly in your career, you must know yourself extremely well.   Knowing yourself requires you to understand the factors that positively inspire you to achieve something substantive and relevant – with passion – every day.  For some people this takes a long time to discover.  For others, they know themselves well enough to make good career investment decisions.    What do you believe are the most important areas for your career investment? What areas have you already invested in and what were the outcomes?  What areas are you currently focusing on now?

Many people don’t have career investment plans because they rely on the organization they serve to provide them.   A select few recognize that the investments your employer makes in your career are no longer enough – and most of the time these investments align with the company’s goals, not your specific performance improvement needs for skills and experience that must be transferable across all industries and organizations that you may choose to engage with in the future. In today’s global market, you can no longer afford to wait for your employers to invest in your professional growth and development.   You must know yourself and your career ambitions well enough to recognize the necessary career investments you must make and determine your wisest career investment path.

For those ready to give it serious consideration, here are the five most effective ways to invest in your career: 

1.      Invest in Your Strengths: Use Them More Frequently

Become increasingly aware of your natural strengths that allow your skill sets and capabilities to thrive and make the commitment to invest in them.  For example, if you are a good negotiator, never assume that your technique doesn’t require fine tuning.   Take a negotiations class, enhance your abilities and then put them to work more frequently.

To get your mindset in the right place, try this:   the next time you are in a meeting, carefully observe your colleagues.    Notice the dynamics in the room – and begin to ask yourself: what are other people doing to invest in the betterment of their careers?

The ultimate prize is to find happiness in your career and in your work by fueling your strengths and passion.

2.      Invest in Intelligence and Know-How: Apply it More Actively

Never stop learning.   This begins by investing your time to acquire the right intelligence and know-how that will accelerate your career advancement. For example, most people want to build their personal brand – yet don’t invest in the process of developing one and thus miss opportunities along the way.

Never assume that you don’t need to get smarter, wiser and more strategic about how to better manage your career.   Be proactive.  Get to know the goals the industry you are serving desires to achieve and how you can contribute.  Build relationships with key thought leaders.   Identify the best executive search firms that can support the career path you seek – and get to know what your direct competitors are doing to secure the position(s) you may be targeting.

3.      Invest in the Right Relationships: Give Them Time and Attention

Build a personal advisory board who can properly guide your career goals.   Identify your circle of influence.    Who are they today?   Are they guiding you rightly?  Are you truly investing in these relationships in ways that are continually helping you move your career in the direction you want it to go?

Invest in how to network the right way. Your networking should be viewed as a professional development boot camp (read about this here).     Learn to value your time and how to connect with the right people.  Nurture the relationships that matter most.  Give them proper time and attention and keep the most meaningful relationships active at all times.

4.      Invest in a Career Coach:  Sustain Your Momentum

Staying focused can be difficult with so many different responsibilities to manage.   This is why most people lose momentum when attempting to advance their careers.   Most people start and stop the career management process – finding it difficult to manage their time.

Make career management a new best practice; a process that becomes an embedded part of your daily activities, goals and objectives.  If possible, invest in a career coach to increase your commitment levels and hold yourself accountable.   Today’s competitive landscape requires you to stay on track by investing in someone that can provide you with the tools and perspective to keep you focused.

5.      Invest in Your Family and Personal Life: Create Balance and Strengthen Your Career

Balance is the key to success – in both business and in life.   Contribute to the success of your career by investing in work/life balance  and dedicating more time and attention to your personal and family life.

My family and personal friends are an essential component to my career success.   They help clear my mind and enrich my points of view.   Engaging in activities separate from your career allows you to broaden your observations through a different lens and appreciate new types of ideas and ideals that can help shape your thinking  and contribute to your professional  growth.

Invest the right way and more effectively manage your career.   Think of your investment as a personal enrichment process:  an investment that is always working for you because it focuses on making you a better person both in and outside of the workplace.