April 19, 2017

Transitions - All About Careers

7 Ways to Make the Most of Internships

Getting a job after college has its hurdles; one of the biggest is your lack of experience. If you worked while you were a student, you’ve got a head start. If not, you should consider an internship to fill in the hole. “An internship can benefit your career in a multitude of ways,” says Gabrielle Risi (Theta Phi-CNU), a recruiter with Treliant Risk Advisors. “It can provide you with experiential equity that will equip you with insight and hands-on experience within an industry or career of interest.”

1. Some students are deterred by internships because they often pay little or nothing. You can look into a part-time job to pay the bills, and consider the internship your sweat equity that will pay off in career muscle later. Internships generally last a year or less, so remember, it’s a short-term commitment for long-term gains.

2. An internship helps you learn about a particular field and may either confirm that you are headed down the right career path, or it may warn you that this isn’t what you expected. Either way, make the most of your internship by soaking up the experience and its many lessons. It might simply be the advantage of trying something new or living in a new city—or even a new country. Another great bonus to being an intern is that employers don’t expect you to know much, which means they’re prepared and expecting to teach you.

3. Stand out from the crowd by doing more than what’s expected. Go that extra mile. Be willing to jump in on projects that weren’t in your internship description.

4. Watch what people on the job do, how they behave, even what they wear.

5. Take notes when someone is training you, whether you think you’ll remember everything or not (you probably won’t). Then, if you make a mistake, it won’t be because you weren’t paying attention. It’s how you deal with that mistake that matters; rather than mope, blame someone else or get angry, reflect on it as a learning experience and take note for the future.

6. Take advantage of the wisdom around you. Talk to people at the company. Ask questions that extend your knowledge or help you gain further insight into the profession—its pros and cons, opportunities and challenges. You’re not only building your resume, your building connections. If business cards are made for you, take some with you whenever you go out. You have clout now and can talk about what you do with others outside of work, thus further expanding your network.

7. In the case of some internships, you may even be eyed for a job within that same company. If there’s an open position, it makes sense for human resources to look at the intern who not only has experience in the field, but experience within that organization specifically. You aren’t obligated to say yes if offered, but at least say no with grace and gratitude.

8. Your internship will now be an important part of your resume. When the internship ends, don’t be shy to ask one of your superiors for a letter of recommendation to keep with your file.

Transitions - All About Careers

5 Ways to Translate Your Greek Experience into Job Skills 

Sure, you’re low on real-world job experience and, with some negative stereotypes perpetuating about sororities, you may even fear your Greek connection is a drawback. But being an Alpha Phi gives you amazingly marketable skills you may not have even considered.

First of all, remember, there’s also a positive connotation about Greek life that precedes you. “I’ve found that many managers for entry level roles love people who were…involved in the Greek system, because they’re usually outgoing.” says Laura Keidel (Beta Iota-West Virginia), a senior corporate recruiter at Movement Mortgage. On top of that, says Molly Ahadpour (Gamma Kappa-CSU Long Beach), director of recruiting for customer service and sales at Wayfair, “If you participated, shared ideas, helped on a committee, gathered donations or helped in recruitment, these are skills that companies claw for.” If you held any office position, that interview boost gets even bigger. “Running a chapter is equal to running a small business,” Molly says.

Break down your Alpha Phi experience into job-relatable concepts.

1. Time Management. You may fondly remember all the required Alpha Phi events as being a ton of fun, but you combined those with keeping your GPA up, participating in extracurricular activities and maybe even working. Translate that to a job interview and you might say, “Required attendance at Greek functions and maintaining minimum GPA improved my time-management skills.” Showing up on time, getting your work done on deadline and knowing when to take breaks are all crucial elements of any work situation.

2. Teamwork. Being a member of Alpha Phi means that you often worked with your sisters to plan events, volunteer, even keep your house clean and generally keep the chapter running smoothly. The ability to function well with a group of people and achieve your goals together has huge implications for your career.

3. Commitment. When you were initiated as an Alpha Phi, you made commitments to follow policies and procedures. Maybe it wasn’t always easy, but you did it. You followed through, which is a valuable quality to an employer.

3. Communication Skills. During your time in college as an Alpha Phi, you have become an Alpha Phi brand ambassador, educating potential new members and then fulfilling traditions and lessons for new initiates. All of this has left you with the very useful skill of being able to convey a message in a clear and informative way.

4. Money Management. If you had anything to do with the chapter budget, planned an event or collected donations, you likely managed money. If not, you certainly learned to manage your finances, budgeting enough for essentials and Alpha Phi expenses—maybe you saved up to pay for your red dress or an Alpha Phi sweatshirt. This shows budgeting know-how.

5. Leadership. What role did you have at your chapter? Even if you weren’t an executive officer, what about being a Big—you were a mentor and leader of some sort, and it’s worth mentioning.

6. Community Involvement. Undoubtedly, you took part in some volunteer work. It shines the light on your philanthropy, as well as your ability to look outside of yourself and see the bigger picture. If you ran a charity event, talk about how much money you brought in, how many volunteers you recruited, the growth from previous years, etc.

A Few Don’ts:

1. Don’t use Greek, Alpha Phi or school jargon, unless you know your interviewer will understand the references.

2. Don’t use the terms sister or brother; stick with “member.” It’s more professional.

3. Don’t talk about all the fun parties you went to every night, unless you’re referring to the planning that went into them and how you were involved.

4. Don’t gush. Expressing your passion for Alpha Phi is OK, as long as you balance it with the specific aspects of your experience.

Transitions - All About Careers

Savvy Networking

You’re already starting with a network of Alpha Phi alumnae, so use it—your sisters want to help. But there’s more to do. Networking is about building a community, and people who don’t learn to network are less likely to succeed. You might resist the idea of networking because sometimes it gets a bad rap as “knowing the right people” or “kissing up to the powerful.” It’s time to learn to embrace the best of it. Networking cannot substitute for good work done, but good work cannot substitute for networking either. You’ll have an easier time getting a job—or recognition for your accomplishments—if you keep up-to-date with the people in your community. When you nurture professional relationships and involve yourself in professional communities, you not only learn a variety of interesting points of view, but you will also become more comfortable in your subject knowledge because you’re constantly engaged in conversation with people you know.

In turn, those people you know can be your advocates and supporters. After all, don’t we like to get recommendations for restaurants or products? It works the same way with jobs and career advancement.

Networking Basics:
• Know your goals. Networking is important no matter what stage of your career you’re in. Whether it’s finding a new job, getting a promotion, being invited to a conferences, developing leadership skills, or simply filling your life with intelligent conversation, having a goal for your networking ventures can help get you there. When you know what you care about, you’re more likely to make it happen.

• Identify relevant people. This would be more of a targeted networking tactic, and it may seem calculated—it kind of is—but it helps keep you on track. Think of people (maybe start with three or four) who can assist you to reach your professional goals. Now, how can you find these people? Most of the methods are quite basic: Ask people who have worked in your industry for a while, attend social and/or professional events, and mention them in conversation—maybe someone knows them or knows someone who does.

• Communicate your goals with the right people. The point here is to develop relationships with people, and relationships are founded on commonalities. These commonalities might include shared values, shared interests, shared goals or anything else of a professional nature that you might share with someone. Now, practice explaining your goals with these people, so you’re prepared when you come in contact with them.

• Get involved. As part of your professional development, you should already belong to at least one professional organization. But don’t just stop at paying your dues: Volunteer to serve on a committee. This is a great way to meet others in your field in a non-threatening and collaborative way. Through your service, you will meet people to add to your network and be able to interact with them in a positive and natural way.

• Talk and listen. Networking isn’t just about telling your story; it’s about learning about others. Have your “elevator speech” down, then have a few questions in your back pocket to pull out to get other people talking: “What do you enjoy about your job?” “What are the challenges you face today?” or specific queries you feel are relevant to your industry.

• Remember the little guys. Don’t reserve your networking for bigwigs only. Everyone has a different network and probably different goals. You’ll probably meet people who are at the same career stage as you are, but they will continue to change and develop as well, and the bigger your network, the better.

• Follow up. Ask for business cards from people you talk to so you can contact them later to say thanks for chatting—and to make sure they know how to reach you too.

Transitions - All About Careers

Why Get a Mentor

Having a mentor can mean the difference between advancing in your career or remaining stagnant. Any upwardly mobile professional should actively seek out at least two mentors. The first should be someone influential in your current company, but not your boss or your boss’s boss. The second should be someone influential in your industry—a great place to start for that is your Alpha Phi alumnae chapter. See if anyone in the chapter could make a good mentor or knows somebody who could fulfill that purpose.

If you’re not sure who to choose, try on a few for size. Spark conversation with some possible mentors by asking their advice on a topic or situation. You can gauge by how they answer—the time they give you, the thoroughness of the response, the attitude (helpful? Condescending?), the general vibe you get—whether they’d make a good mentor or not. You can also ask the potential mentor’s subordinates what they think of him or her. Also, don’t rule out a peer mentor. Someone at your career level may not have all the experience of a mentor at a higher echelon, but a peer can provide many other aspects of mentorship. In general, you want to choose someone you feel will care about your success, because you’ll get more out of it if they are dedicated to the “cause,” so to speak.

A mentorship can be formal or less structured, but either way, the relationship should be considered a long-term commitment, not a one-off conversation. The key to having a mentor is being able to listen and having contact at least three times a year. Your mentors can then refer you to other influential individuals as well as organizations that will be valuable to your career.

Once you’ve narrowed down your potential mentors to your favorite, you can ask them directly whether they’d be willing to be your mentor. If they say yes, arrange a short meeting to set up expectations, topics of discussion and a meeting schedule. Be sure to express your gratitude throughout the mentorship.

What can a mentor do for you?
1. Share their knowledge. Sure, you can read all about your profession, but a mentor is there to tell you what it’s really like and how things are actually done.

2. Urge improvement. You’re not going to know everything at first, and you’re not expected to, but a mentor can point out your weaknesses with a different agenda than a boss. A mentor wants to see you succeed under their “wings,” so they’ll provide the constructive criticism for you to improve.

3. Encourage learning. Like a teaching hospital where doctors constantly test their interns and residents with questions, a mentor can do the same. Maybe he or she will help you set some goals or ask you open-ended questions to ponder and discuss later.

4. Serve as a cheerleader. No question, your Alpha Phi sisters will always have your back, but in your career, it’s beneficial to have someone close by who knows first-hand what you’re going through. Again, your mentor wants to see you do well and will keep cheering you on as you grow. If you’re having a bad day, your mentor can be the person you turn to for a pep talk, assistance muscling through a difficult situation and a boost of confidence to keep going.

5. Act as therapist of sorts. You should be able to tell your mentor anything, no judgments. And in turn, your mentor should be able to provide an unbiased opinion or suggestion.

6. Help you network. Here’s an older, wiser, more experienced person right at your disposal. Use them—they shouldn’t mind. They can share their networks and make introductions when the time is right.

Transitions - All About Careers

6 Interview Tips for a New Job Seeker

The job search process can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first job out of college. Now that you have your resume ready to email and post—and you’re prepared to tweak it when necessary—here are a few tips to help you prepare for your dream job interview.

1. Set-up practice interviews to help you become confident as an interviewee. Many universities offer career services to alumnae, so check out the resources available to you at school. You can also ask your big sister or someone that has been in the workforce for a few years to do a practice phone or in-person interview. Take the constructive feedback you receive and revise appropriately for a real interview.

2. Scout it out. Make sure you know how to get to the interview location and how long it will take you. There’s no excuse for being late. If you want to go the extra mile, pop into the office and see how people dress there, meet the receptionist, pick up any literature about the company that may be at the main desk, and ask how to pronounce your interviewer’s name. By the way, if you do run late due to unforeseen circumstances (the bus broke down, for instance), call as soon as you can, apologize and offer to reschedule.

3. Have a clean resume and most importantly know your resume well. Even though you’ve emailed your resume, and the interviewer will likely have printed it out, you should always bring a few printed copies of your resume with you to the interview, especially if you have made changes since you submitted it with your application. Some interviewers may refer solely to what you have listed, while others may not reference it at all. If an interviewer does ask questions based on your resume, respond with more than the bullet points on paper. Rehearse some extended answers that are relevant to the job in question.

4. Study the job description for which you are applying, and research the company. As you read the job description and learn more about the company, you will develop talking points for your interview, especially concerning how you can be an asset to the organization. Through this process you should also formulate meaningful questions to ask during your interview. Interviewers always ask if you have any questions—and you need to have at least two that aren’t about the salary or time off. Those are not things you’d discuss in a first interview.

5. Dress appropriately. Many hiring managers agree that the biggest interview faux pas for recent graduates these days is their attire. Always present yourself professionally and be sure to plan your outfit ahead of time. If ever in doubt, it’s better to be overdressed! There are a lot of blogs, Pinterest boards and articles on professional women’s fashion, so before you go shopping be sure to have a clear idea of the items you will need to create your perfect interview look. You don’t want to be rushing out the night before.

6. Ask for your interviewer’s business card. This will help you remember the interviewer’s name and gain their contact information. Getting contact information is important, because you should always follow up with an email thanking them for their time and affirming your interest in the position within one day of the interview. Do this for both phone and in-person interviews.

7. Lastly, before leaving the interview, ask about the next steps in the interview process. This shows your interest in the job and will give you an idea of the timeframe for hiring. You want to start working asap, but the interviewer may explain that the process will take several weeks. This should put your mind at ease as you wait to hear back about your dream job.

Special thanks to Megan Vallone (Beta Pi-USC) for this article.

Transitions - All About Careers

Choosing the Right Job

You may want to take any job that’s offered, or whatever job offers the most money. But, keeping in mind that you might need a few steps up the ladder to land your dream job, it pays to take a breath and ask yourself, “Is this really the right job for me?” Trust your instincts and consider these other practical matters:

1. The office culture. Even with all the right checkmarks for a job, you might not enjoy being at this particular office. Take note of the environment when you go in for an interview. You can also ask the interviewer about the office culture or ask for introductions to your potential coworkers. If it seems fast-paced and high-stressed and that’s what you thrive on, that’s great; but maybe you’d be more comfortable in a low-key space. Or is it noisy and chaotic, and you prefer quiet and organized? Maybe it’s staffed mostly by young people, and you’d like to be part of a more diverse work force. If any of these is a deal-killer for you, that’s OK. You don’t want to get overly dramatic about it, but you want to set yourself up for success.

2. The benefits package. Having employer-provided healthcare is only going to get more important, so even if you’re still on your parents’ plan, find out how much you’ll pay for health coverage and what it covers. Also find out about 401K plans, vacation time, telecommuting opportunities and other perks.

3. Commute time. Is it going to take you two hours to get to your job and two hours home? That’s a lot of time spent commuting. It could also be a lot of money; add up the commuting cost—gas money, public transportation, tolls, parking—to see how much of a chunk that takes from your salary. Is it worth it? If it’s not, then you have your answer.

4. Room to grow. A fair question to ask an interviewer is, “What are the opportunities for career growth here?” In your beginning stages in the working world, you don’t want to be immediately stuck in a rut. Ask about the steps, milestones and success markers for advancement or whether there are training programs, post-graduate school reimbursement or other educational benefits.

5. Community involvement. As an Alpha Phi, you likely took part in many charitable activities, and you might want to keep that momentum going. While you could volunteer outside of the office, you might find that you respect and feel a closer affinity toward a company that supports or encourages volunteering as a team.

6. The next job. You should think next steps when you’re taking that first one, because each one leads to another. In other words, this job may have the cool self-serve latte machine, but does it get you where you want to be down the road? If the job responsibilities aren’t in line with where you see yourself in the future, then put the brakes on now, because it’s easier to start on the right path then try to get to it later.