College Students: Make the Most of Summer Break

Northeastern's Campus in the Summer

Northeastern’s Campus in the Summer

College students look forward to the summer break as an escape from the classroom and often as an opportunity to earn money.  To ensure their long term career success, every student should have a plan to maximize their summer break. Click below for plans relating too summer after your:

Freshman Year

Sophomore Year

Junior Year

Make the Most of Your Current Job

People often put more time and energy into landing the job than they do in remaining engaged, productive, satisfied and happy once they have the job.  With a bit of planning and focus, you can enrich the job you have by focusing on the positives.  To succeed in your current job and to position yourself for future opportunities you need to stay positive and focused, and make networking and learning part of your normal routine.  With a little practice and discipline it is entirely possible.

Stay Positive and Focused

Every job has peaks and valleys but if you only focus on the valleys, you miss all the peaks.

  • Avoid being sucked into the negative talk at the office.  Some people just have to have something to complain about and will always find a new grievance to air to anyone who will listen.  Don’t fuel their fire.  Don’t have more contact with them than absolutely necessary.
  • Focus on your goals.  What do you need to be successful in this position?  What do you need to do to advance?  Make sure you do something every day to help you move closer to your goals.
  • Do your job.  Deliver on-time accurate results.  Meet or exceed expectations.  Build a reputation as someone to turn to in a pinch.  Be willing to take on an extra project or assignment.  Demonstrate your ability as well as your “can do” attitude.  Maybe that extra assignment is a perfect trial for additional responsibilities.
  • Choose to be happy.  Stay positive and find the good in people and situations.  You spend too many hours at work to be miserable.
  • Do a monthly review of what you accomplished in the last month, what your plans are for the coming month and assess the progress you are making toward your longer-term goals.  Even just a few minutes of reflection each month can help keep you focused and moving in the right direction.  Don’t wait until a year has passed to realize you need some slight adjustments to the plan.

Networking

Even while you are successfully employed, networking it critical to your professional development and learning.  Maintain the network you have and continue to build your professional network.  Successful networking does not require large blocks of time, a few strategic minutes here and there makes a difference.

  • Network within the company – learn what other departments do and how that influences your work, learn what skills enable people to advance in their careers, be interested and interesting, meet someone for coffee or schedule a lunch.  Set goals to keep yourself focused on networking
  • Leverage Linked In – keep your profile up to date, seek recommendations, post updates, review your skills list, use Linked In to find former managers to stay in touch for future references, find former colleagues and reconnect, identify alumni connections in key companies of interest, keep expanding your network. Learn more about Targeted Networking through LinkedIn.
Image Courtesy of LinkedIn

Image Courtesy of LinkedIn

  • Networking beyond your current employer – participate in relevant professional association meetings and conferences, learn best practices from others, build your network in companies of interest, identify people you can learn from
  • Mentor – identify a professional mentor, gain insight from someone who will tell you the truth and help you learn and grow in your career.  Consider mentoring someone junior in your field.
  • Give Back – host informational interviews with people more junior in their careers who wish to learn from your experience, you may learn something too while you are helping them
  • Set goals and hold yourself accountable so networking doesn’t fall to the bottom of your growing to do list

Professional Development

You need to be continuously learning to grow professionally.  Be creative in identifying different ways to accomplish that.

  • Internal Training – identify relevant internal training sessions, build your technical skills, managerial skills, learn something new, work with your manager to identify relevant training and make it a priority
  • Professional Organizations – identify at least one relevant professional organization, attend meetings, meet other members, volunteer to work on a committee, get involved, your learn something from those you work with in these groups. Learn about using volunteer experience to enhance your resume.
  • Professional Conferences – if budget allows, take advantage of these opportunities, learn from the sessions but also from other attendees,  if budget doesn’t allow, review the presentations online after the conference, follow up with relevant presenters
  • Take on New Projects – volunteer to work on a project or with a team that forces you outside your comfort zone, force yourself to learn something new, let your manager know the type of skills you seek to hone and look to identify a project assignment which is relevant, consider a cross functional project to expose you to other parts of the organization
  • Read – stay current on relevant industry and business periodicals, read while waiting for meetings or while commuting if you take public transportation, always have something relevant to read in case you have unexpected downtown, make it a habit to review the key publications on a regular basis, be well-informed

Never Lie on Your Resume!

Never, ever lie on your resume or your official job application.  It can and will come back to haunt you and when it does it will likely cost you the job.

With background checks, employment and education verification and broad social networks, everything is verifiable these days and verification is a standard part of most hiring processes.  Your resume and job application should be “squeaky clean.”  When in doubt, be conservative and disclose anything that could possibly be perceived as an issue.  Integrity is a precious commodity and if you lose it with an employer by being less than forthright you can’t regain it.

We recently had an incident where the applicant had been convicted of a motor vehicle violation several years ago.  He had been lead to believe it would not appear on his record.  He received and verbally accepted a job offer at an outstanding company pending a background check.  He completed his application and indicated that he had never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.  Low and behold, the background check showed a conviction for a motor vehicle misdemeanor.  The offer was withdrawn.  The hiring managers assured me that had the applicant disclosed it on the application it would have been no big deal but because it was “concealed” it became an issue of integrity.  If there is any doubt about what might appear on your background check, pay the nominal fee to run a report for yourself so you can fully disclose any issues in advance.  When in doubt, disclose.  Be completely transparent through the job search process.  Of course, an applicant would not disclose this in the first conversation.  Wait until they want you for the job and then be completely upfront and honest.

There have been high profile cases in recent years where someone misrepresented their education or employment on the resume and when it came to light, the person was terminated.  It no longer mattered how well they were doing that job.  The fact that they lied to get it was grounds for termination.

Assume the every employer you are dealing with in the job search process will verify education and employment data, that they will conduct a background check and that they will use their own personal network to check in with people who may know you from previous employers.  Be honest throughout the process to achieve the best results.

Read more of Lynne’s thoughts in “11 Resume Myths Busted: Realities Busted“!

Advice for Recent College Graduates

Recent college grads think they are ready to take on corporate America and change the world but they really need to hone their interview skills first so they can land that important first job.  Here’s some advice for recent college grads interviewing for their first jobs.

Summer Networking

It’s Summertime – time for networking!

For many, summertime is a bit more casual and flexible at work and in their personal lives.  While the official hiring process tends to slow a bit to accommodate vacation schedules, summer time is the perfect time to step up your networking activities.  Ultimately networking is most likely going to lead you to your next job.

Burgers and More – next time you are invited to a cookout or other summer social activity, seek opportunities to build your network.  Ask people where they work and what they do.  Rather than dominate the cookout with work conversations, ask if it is ok to follow-up to schedule an informational interview.

Family Reunions – do you really know where aunts, uncles, cousins and more are working?  Use your family summer time events to reconnect.  Find out who is working at a company on your target list and make arrangements to follow-up for more in depth discussions.

Reach Out and Connect – this is a great time of year to reach out to former colleagues, alumni connections, etc. to build your connections at your target companies.  Reach out to schedule a meeting for coffee or lunch.

Professional Associations – Most professional associations continue to meet through the summer and many often have more social events in the summer.  Take the plunge and check out a group you have been considering.  Meet as many people as you can and identify people you want to follow up with for more conversation.

Be Prepared – Before your information interview sessions, do your research.  Learn about the company by reviewing their website and other business sites.  Have questions prepared.  Think about what you want to learn about the company and to gain perspective on what it is like to work there.

Say Thank You – Don’t take summer’s casual nature to the extreme.  It is still important to say thank you to those who share networking time with you.  A quick email is fine but it should always be followed with a handwritten thank you note.

Enjoy your summer of networking!

Terminating a Virtual Employee

Termination is never an easy process for the employee being terminated or for the manager doing the termination.  When possible, it should done face-to-face and many employers require an additional witness in the room with the manager and the employer.  With virtual works it is often not practical, feasible or cost-effective to bring someone to the office to terminate them.  What is a manager to do?

Firing a Virtual Employee

  • Schedule a telephone meeting to ensure that you both have time blocked on your schedules to have the conversation

terminating - schedule

  • State the facts, what is happening, when and what are your expectations.  State the official reasons.

  • Do not get emotional or personally involved.  Keep repeating the key messages.
  • Confirm that you will send a formal termination letter via email or FedEx.

  • Be very clear about next steps and expectations.
    • How will colleagues and clients be informed?
    • Is the individual done immediately or are they expected to work out a two week notice?
    • What should they do with projects in process, files, etc?
    • What is considered proprietary information and what are their legal obligations?
    • Do you require that they return office furniture, materials, etc.?
    • Do you need processes or projects documented before the person leaves?
    • Be sure to send the official termination letter
    • Stay in touch and ensure that things are wrapped up to your satisfaction

terminating - 4

I know of a virtual employee who was fired after many years at the company by a letter sent FedEx.  It was a very impersonal and highly insulting approach.

 

Hire a new employee more experienced than the Boss?

Sometimes things happen in the workplace that don’t appear to make sense.  When is an employee more experience than the boss?  What is an employee to do?

Read my advice on  how to navigate these sticky scenarios when a new employee is more experienced than the boss:

  1. The New Employee is More Experienced than the Boss
  2. The New Employee Believes he/she is more experienced that the boss
  3. The Employee feels they should have been given the bosses position instead of hiring a new boss