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Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Tips for Students

Three Ways to Influence Others

Today’s guest post comes from Ben Magee, the Wake Forest Fellow who has worked with the Office of Personal and Career Development this past year.  I asked him to share things he has learned in his first year after college for the benefit of our current graduating seniors and their parents.

Many recent graduates will go to work in jobs that require them to work on teams. What I have learned this year through being a member of a team is that working together with others is more than providing your technical skills or defined expertise to complete assigned tasks. Teamwork also involves influence and getting others to rally behind your ideas and recommendations; which is more challenging that you may think. Listed below are three ways that I’ve found helpful when attempting to influence those around me this year.

1.    Listen

Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of High Effective People, recommends that we seek first to understand others and be understood second. The times I have truly listened to my coworkers before diving into what I think is the solution to a problem has proven to be the most fruitful in terms of my influence. I was eager to get things done when I first started. I mistakenly thought that if others would listen to me first, we could get our problems solved quickly. I have now come to understand that when I listen well, my co-workers may have already come with a solution, and even if my original view has not changed (I am not sure what this means or if it’s necessary here), my coworkers are much more willing to collaborate with me to accomplish the task at hand.

2.    Use relevant language

People want to help you once they understand how the work or idea you have relates to their work and goals. I am the type of person who did a lot of math in my head as a kid, so I rarely wrote down my methodology to get the right answer. At work, I notice the more I can share the logic behind my ideas, the more I am able to help others understand my approach and garner their support. Using relevant language to demonstrate how an idea is connected to the office’s mission and goals or my colleagues goals or challenges is imperative to influence others.

3.    Be flexible

I have learned that I use my preferences as a default for interacting with others. At times, this has inhibited my influence as my coworkers did not receive and think about the information the same way I did. A good skill to learn is how to adapt to the style of others. If someone always responds to emails within 24 hours, is 10 minutes early to every meeting, and is very formal in their interactions, I realized that they would appreciate my doing the same when I interacted with them. I also learned to find out how someone wants information reported. Do they care about the numbers? Do they like charts and tables or bullet point statements or is a lengthy written paragraph more appropriate? It is OK to ask about your coworkers style and you can learn much through observation too. The key is to know your own style and be willing to adapt to others.

Dealing with Failure

Today’s guest post comes from Ben Magee, the Wake Forest Fellow who has worked with the Office of Personal and Career Development this past year.  I asked him to share things he has learned in his first year after college for the benefit of our current graduating seniors and their parents.

Social commentators often talk about how this generation of students has grown up receiving gold stars and trophies for everything – even when their little league teams had losing seasons.  The truth is that many of them may have never encountered “real” failure until after college. Personally speaking, I hate failure. Most people do. I’ve come to realize; however, that dealing with failure is an invaluable skill and important for achieving success.

While in high school, I learned a great deal when competing in front of crowds of over 3,000 people.  However, the failures I experienced still felt avoidable. This philosophy transferred to all areas of my life and my goal was to learn in order to avoid mistakes. I focused my energy on reading “self-help” books and sought the advice of folks who were older and wiser. I thought I could learn from their failures and avoid having to experience it on my own. I see now that much of my drive for personal development through reading books and asking questions (while it still has many benefits) was a cop-out to avoid taking risks and making mistakes. What is clear now is that the office I work in does not teach personal and career development so students can avoid mistakes, but rather it teaches how students to expand their horizons and experiences, to take risks, and learn from those experiences to continue to dare greatly in our endeavors.

What I have learned this year as a Fellow in the OPCD is how valuable failure is for growth and success. For instance, under a tight deadline, I was asked to put together a budget proposal for a potential academic minor. I was distressed because I didn’t have a clue how to create a budget or all the pricing schemes and departmental rules. I didn’t know how to create the correct model in Excel. I reached out to get clarity and help on it, but not early enough to get full instructions. In the end, I delivered something that was not useful.

As much as I hated turning in a useless budget, I did learn a great deal about the topic in a short amount of time. I received specific feedback on how to improve. Further, I learned that sometimes there aren’t clear “right ways” for completing a task. I realized that others expected me to look beyond my inexperience and reach out to co-workers for guidance. Asking questions and turning in an early draft to receive feedback was a very important lesson.

As helpful as books and trainings are, they can’t replace experience.  The valuable knowledge gained from class or books cannot be fully understood without the practical real-life application. There are many successful people who never read any “self-help” books. They just lived their life and actively sought to improve each day – with an attitude of humility and a willingness to learn. That said, I encourage us all to take risks and not fear failure. It’s OK to make mistakes and learn from them quickly. I firmly believe we’re better people because of them.

New Types of Feedback

Today’s post is written by Ben Magee, the Presidential Fellow in the Office of Personal and Career Development. He shares some insights gained in his first job after graduating from college. 

As a Wake Forest Presidential Fellow, I’ve learned many lessons in my first year working as a full time administrator for the university. One of the starkest changes coming from undergrad is the loss of immediate feedback. I didn’t realize that the immediate feedback of grades on tests and papers was something that I actually desired – or maybe I just got used to it. Some of my co-workers say that my generation generally wants to know that we are succeeding, and we want to know right now. However, the world of work is much more nuanced and while I have received feedback, it is must less frequent and comes in various shades of grey when compared to test grades and my academic GPA.

At a recent luncheon, a senior administrator explained to me that most of the recent graduates she interacts with make a similar incorrect assumption. They assume that the professional world will be strictly competency or merit-based – meaning our ability to perform our job function will determine how our coworkers evaluate us. However in many professional domains, it is only half the picture. You may be hired for your competency, but you keep that job and move up the corporate ladder based on both your competency and your chemistry. In other words, your ability to work well with and be liked by others can also dictate much of your success. This line of thinking follows “the plane test”. The premise of the plane test is, “If your co-worker and you were on business travel but were delayed at the airport for the day, would you enjoy each other’s company?”

If you want the answer to be yes, then learning how to make working alongside your coworkers enjoyable is a process of continual feedback- but in a different way. It is not grades, but rather observing and gathering informal feedback about the work habits and styles that your co-workers most appreciate. During exams, you’re not supposed to ask for the answers from the teacher. In the workplace, asking your coworkers for feedback after a meeting or project makes them feel honored that you value their input. My experience is that co-workers don’t expect perfection, but they value people who are competent and who seek personal improvement and progress. The real key in obtaining feedback is to display a sincere and authentic attitude in seeking improvement and then rapidly implementing the feedback.  After all, who doesn’t like that kind of person?

Top 10 Interview Tips for New College Graduates

One of the most critical stages of the job search process is the interview. While resumes, cover letters and networking might get you into the room, the job offer often comes down to the interview. After all, employers are hiring a person, not a piece of paper. Therefore, it is critical that students and recent graduates be prepared so they can thrive in interviews.

Recently, I was asked for the unique things that today’s college students must know and do to succeed in interviews. What I realized is that because students have almost no job interview experience, students don’t know what they don’t know. With help from our career counselors, I developed a list of Top 10 interview tips for college students:

1. Do your homework on the job, the organization, the competition and the industry. Reading the website is the minimum. Tap your college and/or high school alumni network and your parents’ network to get the inside scoop. Most students don’t read business magazines, newspapers or trade journals, so when you do, you’ll stand out from the crowd. Doing this homework will prevent you from asking really obvious — and naïve — questions.

2. Anticipate and prepare for the typical questions with strong personal answers.“Tell me about yourself.” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” “Tell me about your greatest accomplishments.” “Share a time you failed and how you responded to the situation.” “Why do you want this job?” “Why this organization?” Have your answers and examples so well rehearsed that it’s natural.

3. Develop 5-7 adaptable stories from your resume related to the job you’re seeking. Start with the situation by describing the context and problem. Then explain what you did to improve the situation and describe the results in quantifiable terms. This demonstrates that you understand the importance and the impact of your personal contributions. With these stories prepared in advance, you can adapt them to various questions.

4. Frame your answers to show how you will add value to the organization. Many students too often focus on why they want the job, what they will get out of it, and why it will be good for them. Turn the tables and explain how and why you can and will benefit the organization. Find ways to tactfully mention what they’d gain if they hired you (or how much they’d miss out on if they didn’t).

5. Use the right vocabulary. Surprise an employer by actually being able to translate how your academic or extracurricular experiences have helped to prepare you for the role you’re interviewing for — using words in the job description. Very few students can do this. For example, if you’re a theatre major, describe how you managed and promoted a play or musical production using your project management, creativity and sales skills.

6. Prepare two or three ‘go-to’ questions that demonstrate you prepared in advance and your strategic thinking. There’s a difference between “Tell me about the culture” and “Tell me about how major decisions are made here and provide an example of a recent decision and the process used.” Or, “I read that the organization is changing its strategic direction. How will that affect this business unit?” Avoid questions where answers are on the website.

7. Practice interviewing out loud with mentors, adult fans or even in the mirror. Most students have not done many (if any) job interviews – and definitely not when under pressure. It’s important to hear the words you intend to speak, including the tone, emphasis, inflections and facial impressions, so that you don’t blow it when it really counts. It’s rare to get a second chance.

8. Demeanor, humble self-confidence, personality and enthusiasm really matter.Smile! Allow your voice tone, words and body language to communicate your genuine excitement about the opportunity. It will be a significant decision factor for your interviewer. If you don’t, your interviewer will question if you really want the job or if you’re going to be committed to the organization. This is one of the top reasons why people do not get job offers.

9. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Many students have difficulty getting excited about entry-level jobs because they feel overqualified or discouraged that the work will not be fulfilling. In each interview, your primary objective is to get invited back for another interview and to eventually secure an offer. As you progress through the process, many find that the job and organization are much more interesting than they originally thought.

10. Finish strong and follow up. Always close with a final statement that makes it crystal clear that you are genuinely excited and interested in the opportunity, including why you’d be a great hire and fit for the job and organization. Clarify next steps and the timeline. Email a thank you note less than 24 hours after the interview while it is still fresh on your mind. Articulate your fit and why they should hire you specific to the interview conversations. Every interviewer expects a thank you note from each candidate, so no note is a sign of no interest and no professionalism. To really stand out, also send a neatly hand-written thank you note soon after the interview.

 

Andy Chan’s Top 10 Interview Tips for New College Graduates first appeared on The Huffington Post College Blog on June 14, 2013. 

Leveraging LinkedIn

At Wake Forest, we are fortunate to have a very strong, supportive and connected alumni network. While the OPCD staff sometimes provides direct connections to alumni, we always teach our students how to make these connections on their own. With every student, we strive to fulfill the proverb, “If you feed a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”

I asked one of our career counselors, Patrick Sullivan, to share his tips on how to tap into the Wake Forest network using LinkedIn, the network we have cultivated to include over 2,000 current Wake Forest students and over 18,000 alumni.

Clarify and broaden the “target contact” market.  When a recent graduate asked how to contact Wake Forest “alumni with architecture degrees”, Patrick asked the following questions to better understand what she was looking for and to broaden the potential market of target contacts who could be helpful to her.

  • Would she speak to Wake Forest alumni who are working architects (with or without a degree)?

  • Would she speak to Wake Forest alumni who are employed in architectural firms, regardless of role?

  • Who else might be helpful in providing her with useful information or connections to others in the architecture field?

As you can see, identifying contacts requires one to think like a detective. Work with your student to clarify the information she is seeking and brainstorm the largest possible ‘target contact’ market to pursue. This will play an important role in the way she searches for contacts and result in many more potential, and valuable, connections.

Create a great LinkedIn profile. We have found LinkedIn to be the most useful way to connect with, and ask questions of, Wake Forest alumni – there are over 4,000 in the Wake Forest Career Connectors group – a group we created specifically to provide guidance and connections for current students. If your student does not already have a LinkedIn profile, direct them to the OPCD website for specific suggestions on how to create a positive, professional LinkedIn profile.

Use LinkedIn Advanced Search. Here are three key tips to find Wake Forest alumni.  We’ll continue using the search for Architecture contacts in this example, but your student can apply the same approach to their area of interest.  Each of the searches will require your student to use Advanced Search mechanism at the top of the LinkedIn home page.

  • Tip #1 – Search using the School and Industry fields.
    Put “Wake Forest” in the School field and select “Architecture & Planning” from the Industries field.   This search returned more than 80 alumni working in the Architecture and Planning industry.

  • Tip #2 – Search using School and Title fields.
    Put “Wake Forest” in the School field and search for the term “Architect” in the Title field.  This search brought back a large number of results, including architects, but is made even more effective by adding the suggestions in Tactic #3.

  • Tactic #3 – Search using School and Keyword fields.
    Put “Wake Forest” in the School field and use the Keyword field to search for terms that are unique to that industry or profession.  In the case of Architecture, using the terms LEED or AIA would bring back relevant results.

Ask for advice, feedback, and suggestions.  Once your student has identified alumni of interest, encourage them to connect via LinkedIn, with the goal of conducting an “informational interview.”  Why should your student start by asking for an informational interview rather than for a job or internship?  Our experience indicates that alumni are often happy to provide information about their field, so taking the informational interview approach is likely to “open the door”.  Asking for a job or internship runs the risk of having the door close as the alumnus your student is targeting may not be in a position to hire, and the may reply with a simple “Sorry I can’t help you” or give no answer at all. Remind your student to highlight the Wake Forest affiliation and make it clear to the contact that their goal is to gather information and ask questions. Here are more specific suggestions on how to best approach and conduct informational interviews.

Plug into multiple networks.  Finally, while we strongly encourage our students to utilize the Wake Forest alumni network, it’s important to recognize that most students have access to other networks – friends and family, high school classmates and teachers, athletic teams and coaches, and many other affinity groups. Brainstorm with your student to think about all of the networks they could plug into (including your own) and help them identify specific targets to connect with.

Whether your student is conducting informational interviews, seeking contacts in a specific organization, or wanting to learn about career paths that may be of interest to them, encourage your student to think broadly and to fully leverage LinkedIn.

 

No Internship? Tips to Make the Most of Your Summer

Most students eagerly anticipate the summertime – warm, sunny days, relaxing by the pool or beach, and catching up with friends from home. But summer is a critical time for learning about the world of work, exploring possible career fields and building marketable professional skills. Some students will accomplish these things through internships, but there are many ways your student can do the same even if s/he has other plans this summer. Share these tips with your student so that s/he can make the most of the summer – and begin building the foundation for future college-to-career success.

  1. Volunteer. Identify organizations (for profit or non-profit) that you find of interest and inquire if they could use any help this summer. Suggest projects that you’d like to work on and can help you develop knowledge and skills in areas that interest you. Your initial good work could lead to additional projects, helpful connections and possibly even a small bonus at the end of the summer.
  2. Take on extra responsibilities. You may see your summer job as just a way to make a few bucks or possibly something that you have little interest of doing in the future. Explore the possibility of doing more than what you are hired to do. For example, if you are a waiter, lifeguard, or camp counselor, ask if you can help with the social media account or office operations or managing and training others. If the organization does not have social media presence, volunteer to create and run the account in addition to your other responsibilities.
  3. Take free classes. With a little digging, you can find free classes – either online or in your community – in which you can learn marketable skills or knowledge that will help you be more competitive in your future internship or job searches. Learning Excel, Powerpoint, Presi, Access, basic finance and budgeting or how to sell, market or negotiate will set you apart from others and increase your capabilities and self-confidence.
  4. Conduct informational interviews. Dedicate time this to learning about interesting jobs and careers and building your professional network. Beginning with your “Adult Fans” of family and friends, conduct informational interviews to receive insights, feedback and advice on careers and jobs that interest you. See the OPCD Informational Interviewing page for a list of good questions, an elevator speech worksheet, and a networking tracking tool, as well as what you must know before you enter each conversation.
  5. Job Shadow. Learn more about a particular organization, job or career field, by ‘job shadowing’. It’s a very easy and helpful way to understand what it’s really like and to get answers that are otherwise somewhat difficult to obtain. Ask a family member or family friend for an introduction to one of their friends who works in your area of interest and then ask to spend a half day or day shadowing her. Ask if she could arrange for you to talk with a few colleagues while you are there so you can learn as much as possible.

Tips to Rock that Summer Internship

Internships play a critical role in today’s career development process. They serve several key functions that increase a student’s clarity about their fit in the world of work as well as making a student a more competitive applicant for full-time positions. Additionally, if an intern performs well, a full-time job offer may be extended at the end of summer. Even if an internship does not result in an offer, an intern’s co-workers and manager will be some of a student’s most important references when applying for other opportunities. For these reasons, performing well in an internship has never been more important. To help your child make the most of this opportunity, share with him this list of tips developed by Patrick Sullivan, our Associate Director for Career Education & Counseling.

  1. Work hard – Do whatever is needed and do not assume that your education equips you with so much knowledge that executing low-level projects is beneath you. Don’t be the intern that turns their nose up at the “little” jobs.
  2. Seek extra work – Show your willingness to go above and beyond the job description. Be proactive in asking for more projects and responsibilities. Look for opportunities to assist co-workers and volunteer for assignments that interest you.
  3. Develop your skills – Challenge yourself by helping out with projects requiring you to develop skills that you don’t use very often. Observe the skills used by people in the kinds of positions in which you envision yourself working, and polish those skills.
  4. Be a team player – In today’s workplace, more and more work is project-oriented, which means you will be working on teams. If you are a strong team player, you will be a strong intern.
  5. Seek feedback – Get a sense for what you do well and what you need to improve.  Ask for specific suggestions on how you can get better and make it a point to do so.
  6. Network with co-workers – Everyone you meet is a potential member of your network. The more people who know you and your work, the more support you will have when it comes to turning your internship into a full-time job. Some of these co-workers will act as workplace references for you should you decide to conduct your job search in another career sector or company.
  7. Find a mentor – A mentor can make a big difference. If you have the opportunity, try to develop a relationship with someone who can guide and support you in your internship, your efforts to secure a full-time offer and beyond. Ask to take that person to coffee to learn about their experiences and career path.
  8. Establish yourself as a leader  Some corporations offer structured intern programs that involve social and professional development opportunities in addition to work assignments. Why not take the lead on a professional development program for interns if your organization doesn’t have one? Set up weekly brown bag lunches that feature relevant speakers or informational sessions. You’ll not only expand your (and your peers’) experiences, you’ll make an impression as a leader and a go-getter.
  9. Don’t get ahead of yourself  When you’re already known as the rock star intern, it’s easy to get complacent or even cocky. Remember that you are always interviewing for the next level. Landing an internship and completing it isn’t enough, in and of itself, to convert the experience into a job offer. How you end an internship is often the difference between one summer’s experience and long-term employment.
  10. Stay in touch – Leave on the best possible terms. Always thank your manager for the internship. Connect with colleagues on LinkedIn. And if you are interested in working at the organization full-time, by all means, ask about openings.

For more tips, encourage your student to follow our new Professional Confessional blog. This summer, experts from the OPCD, employers, and current student interns will be providing guidance and advice to help current student interns make the most of their experience.

Tips for Success in the Global Marketplace

When I speak about what is required for colleges to better prepare students for the world of work, one important component is for educators to spend time with employers. This allows faculty and staff to better understand what is expected of students in internships and full-time jobs. In doing so, educators can modify curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular experiences so that students learn and develop the competencies necessary to not only secure great jobs, but to be successful throughout their careers. In essence, I am promoting more ‘Employer-Education Partnerships’ to fully realize, and significantly elevate, the value of a college education.

With our strong employer relations team and their efforts, this type of partnership is occurring with greater frequency at Wake Forest. Last Tuesday, Wake Forest brought together higher education leaders from Wake Forest and other institutions, industry executives, and national experts to participate in the Diversity & Inclusion Symposium, commemorating Wake Forest’s 50th anniversary of racial integration. The symposium provided an opportunity for participants to share research, best practices, and ideas to prepare students to be effective employees in the 21st century diverse and global workforce.

At Wake Forest, we have begun to transform our own institutional culture by expanding our definition of diversity to include constituencies who have historically been underrepresented or underserved, but are now increasing in the nation and on our campus. While “diversity” used to be a code word for Black; today it also encompasses Latinos, Asians, American Indians, people of mixed racial heritage, women, women in STEM disciplines, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, multiple generations, first generation college students, religious pluralism, economically disadvantaged students, international students, recent immigrant groups, and other bounded social identity groups.

In an increasingly competitive and global economy, where talent is crucial to improving the bottom line, pooling from the largest and most diverse set of candidates is vitally important for organizations to succeed in our global marketplace. In addition, it’s crucial for organizations to create an inclusive environment and culture that cultivates diversity-inspired creativity and teamwork.

I had the opportunity to moderate a panel of employers on the topic, “Defining Core Cultural Competencies for Graduates Entering a Global Marketplace”.  The panel agreed on several key actions that students should take as they enter the workplace for internships, full-time jobs or graduate school.

  • Find a mentor. When 75% of executives link their career progress to mentoring, it’s apparent that mentors are especially important for students transitioning into their first full-time job or into a new organization. Many students find their new work environments very difficult to navigate because it is so different from the college campus environment, relationships and expectations. A mentor can provide perspective, advice, and information on how to navigate obstacles, understand the office culture, and how to take advantage of opportunities. For more information, read this article featuring advice from Dr. Allison McWilliams, the director of Wake Forest’s Mentoring Resource Center.
  • Understand and appreciate the organization’s culture. A memorable analogy was made by panelist Debra Langford comparing new hires joining an organization to players joining a team. As a member of the team, there is a uniform you must wear, a coach you must obey, and a set of team rules you must follow. Too often, students ignore culture in their job search and mistakenly think that they will have the same freedoms at work as they did in college. Students must seek out information about an organization’s culture to ensure they will be a good fit; and once on-the-job, they must fit in with the culture in order to earn the opportunity to gain more responsibilities.
  • Understand what differentiates employees (it’s not just knowledge). Over the last decade with the availability of information via the internet, employees can no longer define their value by just what they know. Increasingly, the most valuable employees are the ones who know what information is important (critical analysis and discernment), enlist the cooperation and support of others (interpersonal and relationship-building skills), present their arguments in persuasive ways (communication and influencing skills) and work in diverse teams and think with a global perspective (teamwork and cultural competence). Students who develop these competencies while in school and early in their careers will quickly find opportunities and be competitive for opportunities in the future.

Preparing for the Summer Internship

So your child has just landed his or her internship for the summer. Congratulations! A pat on the back or a celebratory dinner is certainly in order, but don’t let him or her make the mistake of believing that just getting the internship is enough.

College students have more reasons than ever to make the most of their summer internships. According to a recent report by Michigan State University and the Collegiate Employment Research Institute, the importance of internships has steadily increased over the last decade and they are now many organizations’ primary source of talent recruitment.

In an internship, performing well, developing transferable skills and fostering strong relationships are crucial. Even if a full-time job offer does not follow, managers of high-performing student interns often become the students’ biggest advocates in future job searches. With the transformed global knowledge-worker economy of the 21st Century, the stakes and the competition are higher than ever.

The first step towards a successful summer is preparation. In order to help students hit the ground running in their internships, here are some tips developed by Patrick Sullivan, our Associate Director of Career Education & Counseling and affectionately known in the OPCD as the “Intern King”:

  1. Know what to expect – Get as familiar as possible with the environment in which you will be working. If you haven’t already, download a Vault Career Guide from the OPCD site and review the information in the book to get more familiar with the industry and setting in which you will be working.
  2. Be prepared – If you have a working relationship with someone at the organization where you will be employed, contact them to ask about the kind of tasks you will be doing during the internship. If you recognize that you need to build up a particular set of knowledge or skills, find ways to build those competencies.
  3. Do your research – Begin to follow the news related to the organization and subject area on which you will be working. Seek out articles in newspapers and magazines. Set up a Google News Alert on the organization, your functional area, notable executives and any other topics your research indicates will be important during your employment. You can set these searches to deliver news on daily, weekly, or ongoing basis.
  4. Plan ahead
    • Find Housing: The OPCD has identified to numerous seasonal housing sites and resources organized by city. Click this link to find housing in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, NYC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Texas, and Washington, D.C and other locations.
    • Prepare a Budget: Utilize tools like CashCourse or Mint.com to set a budget and track your spending.
    • Learn about your city: Use local websites, newspapers, and contacts to learn about transportation, events, restaurants and other things to do in your neighborhood and city. Connect with alumni and classmates via the LinkedIn Wake Forest Career Connectors group to ask for help and advice in your new city.


Later this spring, we’ll ask Patrick for his top ten tips for a successful summer internship. Stay tuned!

Help Your Child Make the Most of the Spring Job & Internship Fair

Over 37 employers have already registered to come speak with Wake Forest students at the Spring Job & Internship Fair on January 23rd  regarding full-time positions and summer internships. This is a fantastic opportunity for your child to network with potential employers, learn about the world of work, and perhaps even find a full-time job or seasonal internship. Ensure your child makes the most of this great opportunity by conveying the following tips.

Before the Fair

1.      Identify and research prospective employers.

Use this link to find a list of attending organization with attached hyperlinks to each company’s website. Distinguish 5-10 organizations you would like to speak with and research their organizational structure and breadth, key products and services, culture and values, and hiring practices. (Note: Do not be too selective as you may not know as much about a firm or career path as you might think.) The fair is a valuable learning and exploration opportunity.

2.      Prepare your resume.

Make sure your resume is in great shape. If unsure, get your resume checked out at our walk-in resume hours in the OPCD. If you have more than one career focus, you should have separate resumes tailored to each career field. Be sure to have a standard resume with you as well so that you are ready for any situation should it arise. Visit our website to find resume samples, advice, and hours for resume reviews.

3.      Practice typical interview question responses.

When conversing with employers, do not be surprised if they ask you about your goals, skills, or experience. Spend some time practicing your response to interview questions like the ones listed on our webpage. Additionally, prepare your elevator pitch to concisely communicate your background and interests to employers.

4.      Develop a list of questions to ask recruiters.

Thoughtful and intelligent questions demonstrate to recruiters that you have done your homework and are sincere in your interest in their organization. Find a list of questions on the informational interviewing page of the OPCD’s website. Refrain from asking “Can you help me get a job?” or for details about salary or the benefits package. Here is brief list of example questions:

  • What is a typical day for someone in this position?
  • Why did you choose this career?
  • Can you describe the company culture?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • What are the traits/ skills of people most successful in your organization?

5.      Map out a strategy.

Your strategy for the fair should begin with identifying the prospective employers that interest you most. Map your route of organizations you plan to visit, in priority order.

During the Fair

1.      Arrive early, get your bearings.

You want to talk to the recruiters while they are still fresh and eager to meet candidates. As the day wears on, the room will become more crowded, your conversations might be cut short, and everyone tends to tire. Arriving early also allows you to get your bearings before jumping into a conversation with an employer.

2.      Make a good first impression.

In job-hunting, first impressions are critical. Remember you are marketing a product – yourself – to a potential employer. The first thing an employer will see is your attire; we recommend a conservative suit (black, dark blue or charcoal). Click this link for more details. When meeting an employer, keep your introduction short and simple using a natural, but forceful, voice to be heard over the other conversation. Strong eye contact, a firm handshake, and gentle smile are also critical components to good first impression. Additionally, if there is a long line to meet the recruiter, remember to relax and be calm and patient.

3.      Minimize your “stuff.”

If you are coming from class or somewhere else on campus, make sure to leave your extra belongs with a friend or at the check-in area. You should only be wearing your professional attire and holding a portfolio with your resume and some notepaper. Do not bring backpacks, purses, or other bulky items as they will just get in the way.

4.      Ask for a business card.

One of the most important follow-up action items is contacting the representatives after the fair to thank them and continue the relationship. This will be much more difficult if you do not ask for a business card. If the recruiter does not have a card on them, ask for their contact information taking care to get the correct spelling of their title, name, email and phone number.

5.      Network. Network. Network.

While networking with the recruiters is your primary goal, do not forget to connect with other fair attendees. Your classmates and WFU faculty and staff may have gained information and resources that can be helpful to you.

After the Fair

1.      Send a thank you note.

Write thank you note’s to all the recruiters you met. If possible, hand written thank you notes always leave an impression (as long as your handwriting is legible!), but a well worded email is fine as well. Make sure to mention where you met the employer and comment on an aspect of your conversation with him or her. Also, declare your intention to progress to the next step of the process (whether that be applying for a position or conducting an informational interview with someone else in the organization). Visit our Employer Correspondence webpage to find a sample thank you letter.

2.      Organize all your contact information.

You should leave the fair with lots of new contact information. It is important you keep this information organized and readily accessible so you can continue your relationship with the company representatives. Use our Networking Tracking Tool to stay organized.

3.      Devise a follow up plan.

Formulate a plan to take the next steps with each organization. Whether you hope to apply for a specific position or just gather additional information, your plan will contain different action items. Determine what your goal is with a particular organization and then build a plan to help you get there with appropriate action steps and deadlines. Meet with one of our career counselors in the OPCD, Reynolda 230, for guidance in developing your Action Plan and to make sure you are on track.