A CARS Success Story

Written by Jesse Sannicandro

3d small people - session behind a round table

Framingham State University’s office of Career Services and Employer Relations (CSER) held a networking event on October 26 called Career Advice Roundtables (CARS).  This was an opportunity for students to gain valuable information from professionals and FSU alumni employed at local businesses.  The best possible outcome for attending a networking event like this is to ultimately land a job offer.

Mavis Wong, a graduate student getting her M.B.A. who works as the Marketing and Public Relations manager in the CSER office, attended the event and managed to accomplish the best possible outcome.  I recently sat down with Mavis to ask her a few questions about her experience with the CARS event.  I was able to take away a lot of information based on what she told me.

How has working at CSER helped you develop skills in finding a job?

“It’s taught me a lot about what hiring managers are looking for in cover letters and resumes, especially, and being able to tailor it in terms of who you are and what you’re bringing to the table. The CSER events bring new opportunities to network with hiring managers and have conversations with them about the culture of the company, such as what the specific position entails, and how you can help.”

A big thing is knowing what you have to offer a company, and refining how to pitch yourself.

What was your experience with the CARS event?

“It was interesting because I was working it at the time and there were companies I was interested in learning about. After my official duties were over, I got to sit down, speak with hiring managers, listen to their conversations with other students, take notes on what they were looking for, and whether or not I could fulfill those roles.”

Talking and listening to other people can help you figure out what skills companies value in a potential employee.

Did CSER help with networking skills?

“It helps that they hosted the event so I could have the opportunity to network. I’d seen some of the hiring managers at other events and I was already familiar with some of the companies.”

Taking advantage of any networking opportunity that presents itself is important to help you practice.

Do you think you would have gotten a job offer without this type of networking?

“I definitely wouldn’t have met the hiring manager without the CARS event. I was able to speak with him in depth about a lot of things—where the company is going, what it’s looking for.”

Meeting with people in positions of power allows them to put a face to a name.

Would you consider returning to participate in future CSER events as an alumna?

“I’d love to talk to people about my experience with CSER and all of its benefits.”

All Framingham State alumni are encouraged to return to help students in their job search.

Do you have any final nuggets of wisdom to offer?

“At the CARS event, I was able to talk to multiple managers and open up different doors and possibilities for my career. But something I noticed was that a lot of students were wondering what the company would offer them, which is not what it’s about. It should be more about what you can offer the company.  Students should do more research into companies before attending networking events like this.”

Networking events like CARS are opportunities to tell employers what you offer. How do you fit in? How can you solve their problems? How can you make them a profit? How can you help them? Ask not what your employer can do for you, ask what you can do for your employer.

Events like CARS can be extremely useful for students.  It’s important to take advantage of these opportunities while they are being offered.  Once you’re done with school, you’ll have to network in less structured environments.  Really, you can only learn so much from instruction: the best way to develop these skills is to go out and practice, practice, practice.  Soon enough, you can end up like Mavis; with a job offer under your belt and be the next success story.

Adventures in LinkedIn Part 2: How to Look Good

Written by Jesse Sannicandro

img_0061

LinkedIn can be a great way to promote yourself online. Recruiters can and will use LinkedIn to look for potential employees. To get discovered, you first have to make sure that you have a good profile page. Think of it as a detailed, easily accessible resume. Like a resume, you’ve got to be able to present your best, professional self. Looks aren’t everything, but they’re a start!

As I mentioned in my last post, I only recently started actively using LinkedIn, but I do have a couple of sections on my profile that are looking good.

Picture

The easiest and most basic piece that can make a profile look good is a professional picture, but many profiles don’t even have one. Whenever I see the gray, default avatar representing somebody, it looks boring to me. It gives me the impression that this person either has an unfinished profile, or, that they do not use, or care about, their account. Putting a face to a name is very important: without a picture, your profile can be easily overlooked. According to LinkedIn, “members with a photo get 11 times more profile views.”

I didn’t have a photo posted for a while because I couldn’t find one that made me look like the young professional I want to be. A good picture should focus on your face with nothing distracting in the background and you should be dressed appropriately for the job you want. In my photo I’m outside, smiling and wearing a dark shirt. If I do say so myself, my profile picture looks good.

img_0369

Summary

According to LinkedIn, a professional summary is “the #1 thing recruiters look at while viewing profiles,” so you have to make if effective. It should read like a virtual version of an elevator pitch; something that can be glanced at briefly to give a flavor of who you are and what you can offer in a professional environment, including your professional experience and goals.  It’s possible that a potential recruiter will only look at your summary. Even with some pretty good experience on your page, it could be overlooked if your summary does not easily draw people in.

I didn’t have a summary until I started writing this post. At the moment, it’s very basic, mentioning some brief experience. It’s still a work in progress and could be better, but it’s starting to look good.


These are just the basics of what you should have on your LinkedIn profile. A picture can be a reason for somebody to click on your profile. Without one, you may be completely overlooked. A summary can be a way to reel someone in, letting them know what you have to offer. Without a summary, you may lose someone’s attention very quickly. After your page is set up, you can start using LinkedIn to its full potential.

img_0063

“Vault Into the Career of Your Dreams”

Written by Jesse Sannicandro

429743daffd2e82bc55fc4e0ccb64397

Career Services and Employer Relations is hosting a Career Conference called “Vault into the Career of Your Dreams,” on Wednesday, November 30 in the McCarthy Center Forum from 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM. There are three sessions in this conference and students are encouraged to attend all three parts, but can also attend only one or two.

13599790_1281738721851357_8450680854925805997_n

The first session will be “Unlock The Vault.” Vault is a web resource that students and alumni are able to use to help with job searching. This resource contains industry statistics, overviews and advice on how to enter an industry. There are also recommendations on what career path to pursue based on your major and personal interests. Additionally, there are guides that give advice on interviewing, networking, and resumes, among other things. At first glance, it can look difficult to navigate, so this information session teaches users how to best take advantage of it.

vaultlogo

The second session is called “Soft Skills Savvy.” Soft skills are transferable across careers and industries. They are abilities that all employers look for and include teamwork, interpersonal skills, and goal-orientation. They are not something that you learn in class and are often overlooked by students. There is a gap between what skills students think they have and what employers actually need, this is called the “soft skills gap.” Students think that they have all the skills they need, but there are often many that they are missing. This session will help attendees learn all about this and more.

http://www.connectionsacademy.com/blog/posts/2014-12-01/Why-Developing-Soft-Skills-during-High-School-Matters.aspx
via connectionsacademy.com

The last session will demonstrate a new library resource, Career Spots videos. Career Spots is a resource that is new to Framingham State University this semester. This valuable resource was made available thanks to a grant that the Whittemore Library received from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It includes many videos on everything career related. Using this resource can be a good alternative to reading information for those who learn better by watching videos. Included in the videos available on Career Spots is information about interviewing and resume writing.

imls_logo_2c

I have never been to a career conference and am excited about the opportunity to attend one. This program will be useful as a way to transition from life as a student to someone searching for gainful employment in a career. Whether you have your career path set or if you have no idea at all, we at Career Services encourage all students and alumni to attend.

Adventures in LinkedIn Part 1: Too Many Connections

Written by Jesse Sannicandroimg_0057

LinkedIn has quickly become my latest obsession. I created an account after Dawn Ross, Director of Career Services and Employer Relations, visited my professional writing class to give a presentation on resumes, cover letters, elevator pitches, and LinkedIn, but, it wasn’t until recently that I started becoming an active member.

On a lark, I asked a person who conducted a mock interview with me if I could add him on LinkedIn and he said, “Of course.” After I requested him as a connection, I realized that I only had seven others in my network; two of these were my parents and another was my sister. Not wanting to look like some kind of dweeb, I hurriedly started adding as many people as I could so I wouldn’t have fewer than ten connections.

This is when I started to become fascinated with the idea of LinkedIn. I started adding people willy-nilly. Many of these people were my peers and friends from school, while others were bosses of mine. Most shocking was when old girlfriends started being suggested as “people I may know.” And so, I started going deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole that is LinkedIn.

img_0058
Walt Disney Studios / via nerdist.com

I started thinking, LinkedIn is like Facebook, minus all the social drama. While I was excitedly relating my newfound experience with LinkedIn to someone more savvy in social media than I am, she told me that indiscriminately adding people was a major red flag. I was playing the popularity game, thinking that the more connections I had, the more professional and well-connected I would look. Ultimately, she said, this could end up hurting me. She advised that I should not have random connections unrelated to the field in which I am searching.

I’m still learning. But, after getting some pointers, there are certain major aspects that I plan to focus on, so I can best utilize this professional social networking platform.

Rock STAR Interviews

Written by Jesse Sannicandro

Job interviews aren’t always easy. They can be nerve-wracking and you may draw a blank when asked a simple question. But they don’t have to be difficult, you just have to be prepared.

job-interview-stock-photo
Hopefully, this isn’t you

I recently took part in a mock interview as part of the Suitable Solutions Professionalism Program. Though I made a good impression, I drew a blank when I was asked a certain question.

“Tell me about a mistake you’ve made.”

I went silent. I hadn’t prepared an answer to this question. I immediately could think of several mistakes, but none of these would be appropriate responses in an interview. I knew that a good reply would cover certain criteria. The interviewer only asked about a mistake I made, but of course, I would have to make a positive experience out of it. It would have to show that I understand when I’m facing a problem and am able to solve it. Not only this, but that I am able to learn from the mistake. The best way to do this is mention a specific anecdote with concrete evidence by using the STAR approach.

STAR is an easy to remember acronym with four basic steps: situation, what happened; task, what the goal was; action, what I did; and result, what happened after.

star
Hopefully, this is you

After several days of mulling this question over, I think I was able to come up with a good response.

Situation

“My first year at Framingham State, I was automatically dropped from Oceanography because there was an error with my account. By the time I got my PIN so I could register again, the class had filled up.”

Task

“I hadn’t paid close enough attention to my bill, I thought that everything was taken care of, but things can always go wrong. The class was a requirement for me to graduate. I had to contact the professor to see if there was any way that I would still be able to get into the class.”

Action

“I emailed the professor for the class. He said he understood and could sympathize with my situation. He told me that he would sign an override form for me so I could take the class, even though it was at maximum enrollment.”

Result

“I got into the course after I submitted the override form to the registrar’s office. I completed the class and I was able to get the necessary credits. Though I was able to fix the problem with effective communication, it was something that could have been prevented. I should have paid more attention to my student account to make sure that everything was taken care of. From this experience, I learned that it always pays to pay attention.”

The STAR approach is useful for many interview questions. You can use it whenever a question asks for a specific situation. The best response will recall a difficult situation you had to deal with. I understand the STAR approach and was able to use it to answer several other questions.

I made a mistake once in a mock interview. I couldn’t give a good answer when I was asked something quite simple. I explained that I couldn’t think of anything to say so I told him as much. I realized that this is a question that potential employers may ask, and you’ve got to be able to think on the fly if you get a question that you’re not ready for.

It’s All About Who You Know

Written by Jesse Sannicandro

Networking is indisputably one of the most important skills to have when looking for a job.  I secured two jobs and an internship because of people I know. Your personal contacts can tell you about an available position, including jobs that may not be publicly advertised.  Not only that, but they can put in a good word so you can get your foot in the door.  Networking makes the job search that much easier.

Coworkers

I worked at JCPenney at the Natick Mall for about a year.  When that particular branch of the company closed, I was out of a job and had a moment of panic as to what to do next.  Luckily for me, a coworker of mine also happened to work at The North Face.  She mentioned in passing that they were hiring at her job, so I jumped at the opportunity and applied.  I was hired at The North Face because of who I knew at my work.

Family

My dad met the director of Framingham State University’s English Language Programs, Rebecca Hawk, while they were both getting a Master’s Degree in Public Administration at Harvard University.  He later performed the ceremony at Rebecca’s wedding.  My parents have been in contact with her since then.  My mom told about an opening for student workers in the English Language Programs office that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.  I found this job, and was hired, because of who I knew in my family.

Professors

I was looking for an internship to get under my belt before my graduation.  Initially, I had been looking at a grant writing internship, but it had been filled very quickly. I decided that it might not even be the best fit for me; I didn’t really know if I wanted to pursue grant writing as a career.  I just knew that it was related to my English major and I would be able to use my writing skills. Desmond McCarthy, an English professor of mine, suggested that since I don’t entirely know what career path I want to take, I could intern at Career Services and Employer Relations.  He had sent over several students in the past to work as professional writing interns.  I secured this internship because of who I knew at school.

Your Network

Your network can span several different spheres.  There are professional relationships, like your professors and coworkers, that make up a more traditional network.  There are other relationships that you may not think of as resources when looking for a job, like friends and family.  When you imagine networking, you may think of job fairs and professional events, but it’s not always a deliberate activity.  Quite often, you’re networking without realizing it.  You never really know who can find you a job, or when an opportunity will rear is lovely head.

Playing the Field

Written by Jesse Sannicandro

“Great moments are born from great opportunity, and that’s what you have here tonight, boys.”

-Herb Brooks, US Men’s Hockey Coach

Playing sports in your youth may have been inspired by dreams of grandeur. You probably had sports heroes that you looked up to and aspired to be. You may not have become the next Tom Brady, but being an athlete is a great opportunity to learn life skills and develop relationships that can last a lifetime.

img_0032
Tom Brady

The National Association of Colleges and Employers did a survey to find the top 20 desired soft skills that employers seek in an applicant’s resume. More than half of these attributes can be learned by being part of an athletic team.

img_0009
Attributes employers seek in a candidate’s resume

I recently spoke with Mark Flynn, co-creator and Chief Operating Officer of The Process, a company that was featured at CSER’s weekly Employer Showcase. The Framingham-based company helps high school athletes pursue higher education by placing them in college. Mark played football at Springfield College and works with, and employs student-athletes. This position gives him an excellent perspective on the positive qualities that student-athletes embody. I asked him what qualities make student-athletes good workers, and what advice he would give to those who are still in school.

img_0033
Mark Flynn

He explained that the qualities that make student-athletes good workers are their “competitive nature, work ethic, drive, and self-motivation.” To sum it up he said, “they understand what it takes to get it done.” As advice to athletes still completing their undergraduate studies, Mark said, “Keep your grades up, that’s number one” and “make sure you maintain relationships with alumni.”
For further reading material, you can look at the NCAA’s website. They have a page called After The Game that is dedicated to “helping [student-athletes] gain employment in their chosen profession at all stages of their professional career.” This is a great resource where you can post your resume and find employers who are specifically looking for student-athletes.

img_0034

Think of life as a student-athlete as the beginning of your professional life. You can parlay the skills and relationships that you build by playing sports into a fulfilling career.

“Don’t give up.  Don’t ever give up.”

-Jim Valvano, North Carolina State University Men’s Basketball Head Coach