When Does the Interview Actually ‘Begin?’ Part 2

The "interview" is every interaction you have!

The “interview” is every interaction you have!

Last week I asked the question ‘when does the interview actually begin‘ and now here’s another example of when interviewing, as part of your job search, it’s best to be on your game – all the time!

When I was the Director of Recruiting & Employer Relations for Mount Holyoke College’s Career Development Center, we had what was, at the time, a very good and disproportionately large amount of activity in our career center both on the student and employer front.

Annually, in the fall, ‘banking season’ hit like clockwork as all the heavy-hitters from Wall Street and beyond came up to the (Pioneer) Valley to recruit for internships and full-time employment, each trying to get a jump on their competitors in the process.  What helped was that we shared recruiting opportunities with other institutions in the area so this was added benefit to the employers coming to the area; they got access to 5 colleges for the price of one in only one or two days of their staff time!

New and aspiring analysts and interns were needed and the likes of JPMorganChase, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, UBS, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Barclays (sadly, some of these are now casualties to the 2008 financial hiccup) and many others, would arrive on campus for their catered information sessions so that the team could present the value of their respective organization over a nice meal and some mingling and networking time.  This would typically happen the evening before their a day-long roster of pre-selected analyst want-to-be’s interviewing skills being put to the test.

One of my favorites was a woman who came up each year to host the festivities.  She was an alumna of Mount Holyoke so there was a bit of an allegiance on her part but she also wanted to make sure that the process was done and done well, meeting the candidates herself. Not that she had any distrust in her team or was a micro-manager.  She didn’t and she wasn’t.  But she DID view her visit as a way to tell the prospects “this is important and I’m making the trip to say so.” As she was up in the ranks too, as a Managing Director on Wall Street, she was a player for real and the students knew this and were thankful she was to make the trip.

The day-long interviews would take place and at the end of such, the team would gather and chat about who they think should get the ‘Holy Grail’ of an invitation for a second round back at the corporate headquarters in Manhattan.  For those that got this invitation, they were on their way! Large attrition happened in the first round but of the few selected for the second, they had a good chance of receiving an offer.

The day of the second round interviews in NYC was where you’d meet a good cross-pollination of members of the organization and get a better picture of what each of them did.  This Managing Director was interested in watching how the candidates would navigate the day in the city and their introductions around the office.  In particular, though, and unbeknownst to the candidates, one of the most important interactions and moments of their day was navigating through reception.

She never told them this or qualified it in any way, but for her it was one of, if not the, most important part of the day’s screening.  She’d watch each and every candidate and their interactions with the person or people at reception and carefully register how the candidates treated those individuals behind the desk.  If there was any sense of less than stellar treatment that potential candidate, their potential just went away in the moment. they’d still go through the machinations of the day’s plans, but an offer would never then come.

Any sign of dissent, disrespect or condescension to the reception staff was a death knell for a candidate and she would wield this without any elasticity no matter how well the candidate ‘nailed’ their second round day!  To her it was an interpolated measurement of how that candidate, if hired, might be in interactions with clients, customers or staff alike, and for this Managing Director, if one treated anyone with any sort of that demeanor, home they went.

Her reasoning was that everyone is on their “best behavior” when meeting with the people they think are important in the moment.  She wanted to see, in sort of an organic way, that there was no variation in their treatment of individuals they were to come in contact with, no matter how low or high in the pecking order, real or perceived.  This was her baseline measurement; no matter how good the rest of the day to be, this was the foundation in her measuring the emotional IQ, social graces and moral fiber of each and every candidate and while it was never the final decision to hire a candidate, it was ALWAYS evidence for the decision not to….

Optimism in the Job Search – A Short (True) Story

A new take on keeping positive!

A new take on staying positive!

The job search is a funny thing and in these recent economic times it has been made all the more difficult even for the most seasoned. There is no question that in conducting an effective and comprehensive job search, it is of the up-most importance to keep oneself in good spirits and of a good frame of mind as this has a ripple effect through every interaction during one’s search.  

Probably one of the most ‘extreme’ examples of this, and I put extreme in quotes because in this case it is, but in a good way, as you’ll see by the end of this writing.  I was having lunch with a friend the other day and to give a little background, he’s spent his working life in customer service/relations on the corporate side of the fence.  He first spent many years in banking, starting as a teller and working his way into customer relations and eventually into client account management.  After a series of mergers and acquisitions hostile take-overs, his bank folded and many of the staff were let go, re-positioned or re-located.

He was transferred to a branch bank in an urban area that he wasn’t particularly pleased about, but he still had a job.  For about two-weeks things went along as regular; customers coming and going, bank operations happening as normal, really the only differences being a new commute and the building was much smaller from what he was accustomed to having come from the main location.  

After about two-weeks of that regular, mundane sort of banking operations & existence, his career path was changed a bit when two men came in with masks, pistols and an agenda.  Everyone was ordered to the floor and, as expected in these sorts of situations, was ordered to stay quiet, money was then demanded and with that, the exchange could be done with, hopefully.

However, this case was a bit different once the money was handed over, which was given with no question as everyone’s safety is obviously paramount.  These guys decided, after they had secured their ‘withdrawal,’ one of them reaching over the teller counter, and like any good Chekhov story, ‘if there’s a gun involved it better go bang!’  So, without looking, he squeezed the trigger and fired a couple shots into the floor not realizing who and where people were positioned on the other side.

Luckily, after the guy ventilated the floor a bit, and having left, everyone, employees and customers alike having survived the melee relatively unscathed, got up, relieved as the alarms started going off.  Needless to say, and not realizing in it in the moment, my friend’s banking career ended as one of those random shots hit the floor no more than 6 inches from his side. Other than going to testify against the two men (they were caught a short time after the excitement) he never went back having decided that being shot at was really best being avoided in his future and FOR his future.  

Fast forward 19 years later, after having spent said time, again, in customer service/relations but this time in a much safer, hidden-from-the-public, cubicle environment of a major toy manufacturer, where he was recently laid off, among many others, after some restructuring of its corporate bottom line.  Back to our lunch where we were chatting about the times, the economy and kind of commiserating about such as it’s been about a year’s time now since he received his pink-slip, I asked him

“how’s your job search going?”  

“Miserable,” he said.  

I asked, “are you getting any call-backs or interviews so far…?”  

He said, “no, I’m lucky in that as other’s go through all the trouble of applying, getting interviews and then told ‘no,’ I simply get rejected right from the get-go!”  He then went on to say, “this gives me more time to do things I really enjoy instead of all that job-search rigmarole for nothing…”  

In saying this, we both broke out in laughter, reminding me of a time years ago when we were mountain biking and he let fly another great quip…  

As we were riding, looking back as I realized he had crashed.  I yelled, “are you ok?”

He said, “oh yeah, I’m fine.  Luckily the ground was there to stop my fall!”

He said both in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, and I realized this, but also at the same time, with a legitimate, real sense of keeping his chin up in the whole process and recognizing with his situation the cliche, ‘if you’re given lemons, make lemonade!’  I found this refreshing and with an optimism that, as an employer, who wouldn’t want it in their ranks?  

He’ll find that next venture, some-way, some-time, and when he does, they’ll be the luckier to have him!

When Does the Interview Actually ‘Begin?’ Part 1

Watch what & when you speak!

Watch what & when you speak!

As we approach nearer the end of the spring semester, graduation looms for the nation’s college seniors.  This leaves many new potential entrants of the job market starting to examine and prepare for this annual transition and individual rite of passage.

The impending interviews will be out there waiting for many that have started to plant some seeds in their job search.  With that, the talk about when and where the interview actually begins becomes a topic for many career professionals and pundits.  Many say it is when you arrive the obligatory 10 or 15 minutes early before your slated time-slot.  Some say it’s once the handshake has taken place and a welcome into the office has been given. Many theories and opinions are bandied about.

Frankly, while all can be ‘true’ for the interview proper; the actual sit-down, face-to-face with your interviewer, the ‘rules’ for such, can be a bit misleading.  Anything that transpires within the actual framework of the interview, no matter how good, can be undone in a heartbeat after such when the employer starts to put in a little time to research your candidacy, with intent or not, and what you need to understand is that as a new job seeker, and for the future, your interview definitely does not start when you show up for a meeting! What many people fail to realize is that interviews begin even before the moment of contact is made with an organization as evidenced by the anecdote to follow.

When I was Director of Recruiting and Employer Relations for Mount Holyoke College’ Career Development Center there were many instances, but one in particular, when this really came to light.  We had a great recruiting program and many organizational and corporate ‘heavy-hitters.’ On this given day, one of the recruiters, who was from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, was up from NYC for a day of interviewing on-campus.  He had a full-day’s roster and was ready to vet some aspiring students.

In hearing he was to be on-campus for the day, his sister who was in the area and also happened to be an alumna of Mount Holyoke, had agreed to grab lunch together during his interviewing schedule break.  On a full-day 12 to 13 interviews could be conducted by a recruiter and our campus’ recruiting program was also open to other colleges in the area as we shared opportunities collaboratively.

On this day, like many other days, an aspiring senior from one of the neighboring institutions was on the interview roster and he just happened to be scheduled for the 11:30 slot just before the lunch break.  He did all the proper things for his interview. Was appropriately dressed, researched and well-prepared.  Was even about 20 minutes early before his interview and was planning to sit quietly and wind-down, which he did.

At 11:30, he met the interviewer, went in and ‘hit it out of the park!’  Great interview!  Great candidate!  Seemed really interested and knowledgeable and in addition, one who really wanted and was willing to learn.  Perfect, right?  The interview ends, he thanks his interviewer and off he goes as is practice.

In the interim, as the interview was being conducted, the PWC rep’s sister had also come a little early to meet her brother for lunch. While sitting there, she saw the candidate come out of the office and she hasked her brother, “did you just meet with him?”

He said, “yes, great, great candidate. Really nailed it.” “Why?”

Then she told him….

What no one realized at the time was that while he, the candidate, was walking across campus to get to the career center for his interview, on-time yet, he was chatting with his friend the whole way.  During this ‘chat,’ he had nothing good to say about this particular organization or the field in general and was just complaining the whole way about having to ‘work the machine.’
As she was scheduled to meet her brother for lunch and, also heading over early, she happened to be right behind this candidate AND his friend listening to the whole conversation along the way! She didn’t realize the context or the connection in the moment and he was unaware that forces in the world are indeed around him.

So, when she saw him come out of the interview, she connected the dots and put it all together; guess what she told said recruiter?  Yep, you guessed it!  She relayed all the negativity coming out of him that she heard on the way over to the interview.  Sadly, as great a candidate as he was, his chances of joining with that organization ended in that very moment!

Needless to say, he never did get that role or join PriceWaterhouseCoopers back then.  Sadly, also, was that he never knew the reason why an offer nor a continuation of consideration was not extended as many employers, even more so now, are reluctant to say anything in terms of feedback or criticism.

I thought this was a ‘teaching moment’ (I really dislike that term/buzz phrase) so I did later follow up with him to try to offer some clarity on the issue and the circumstances in particular which he was both oblivious to and very thankful for.  If nothing else, I am confident that he realized that the process can be much larger than it seems and the ‘six-degrees’ of separation are out there, watching you, working either with you or against you.  It’s up to you to decide how much help or hindrance they are to be though as every action, motion and on-line post is being watched and part of the over-all evaluation!

To all the aspiring new graduates, recent graduates and Millennials in general, keep the path traveled well-groomed and clean behind you as it will clear what’s in front of you too!


10 Traits of the Highly-Effective Job-Seeker for New Grads & Millennials

10 Traits of the Highly Effective Job Seekers!

10 Traits of the Highly Effective Job Seekers!

Highly effective job seekers have a ‘system’ that helps them move ahead in their quest in getting hired. Whether organic and unbeknownst to them or with a focused intent, the common traits are evident and telling. If you are wondering just how these people continue to be so effective, check out the tips below (in no particular order) on the habits of highly effective job seekers!

1) Staying future focused and taking stock – Keeping an eye on the future and focusing on small daily goals is a way to keep motivation high and in measurable steps. Highly effective job seekers have job search strategies that keep themselves focused and working small achievable steps. Also, before launching your personal PR and marketing campaign, think through what you’re selling and the audience to whom you’re selling; Do you know what you’re looking for and why? Can you list your main skills? Do you have evidence of achievements? Which employers appeal to you and why?

2) Stay on top of news and current events – Be aware of the latest headlines and business news in your community or the city/region where you want to work. Read local news and business journals to find out who’s on top in your industry. These resources will give you a sense of what’s going on in the area of interest and allow you to better engage in conversation with prospective employers.

3) Not letting job status, or the lack thereof, define you – Just because you are unemployed in the moment, doesn’t mean you are anything less. Effective job seekers do not let their unemployment define them; they let it fuel their drive in their quest for that new role. Sounds trivial, but a positive attitude can really be a make-or-break part of your job search.

4) Prioritizing self-care – Job hunting is time-consuming and can be quite stressful. Active body, healthy mind as they say. Making time for self-care supports physical well-being, gets the Endorphin’s running and can really be the difference in your attitude and confidence. Keep hitting the gym, the bike and/or what other activities that keep you moving for your physical health.

5) Having Positive Influences – Momentum is key and energy is contagious. Being an effective job seeker includes having people that are positive influences in your life. Shift away from people whose energy is draining or negative and increase time with people who support you and this will, as a by-product, support your job search.

6) Networking – To be an effective job seeker, an established and growing network is becoming more and more important. Continue making connections to get your name out there with people and organizations you are truly interested in. Use a multi-channel approach as it is key to the job market today. Don’t assume that spending all day in front of a computer screen is the best use of your time; get out and in front of people! It maintains your confidence levels and ensures you’re to be remembered. Make direct approaches to organisations, build relationships and talk to people in interesting roles and sectors, and research! Then research some more!

7) Realize that finding a Job IS a full-time Job – Job seekers who are highly effective spend their time networking, updating documents, filling out applications, and handing out resumes at all moments of the day, all the while researching is filling their ‘spare’ time. It’s of no use trying to impress employers if you have very little sense of what will press their buttons or engage them in the moment. Do your homework thoroughly before making any kind of approach – try to speak to people who know what the organisation you’re interested in. Current employees, past employees, competitors even! Get some inside information.

8) Saying “thank you” and following up – With anyone you’ve met, talked with, perhaps had an informational or ‘real’ interview, thank them immediately. Email, phone call, text, sky writing if you need to, but something that acknowledges that their time was of value to you. Don’t ever be negligent to do so and then do not be afraid to follow-up later. It confirms your interest and, again, that the time was of value. This is networking 101; keeping people in your loop and in contact while showing professional courtesy along the way.

9) Being Kind – So simple, so easy to do and so often overlooked. Each and every person you interact with could potentially be a connection. Being kind, patient, persistent, and flexible – The job search is all about presenting in your best light, being patient for the right opportunity and persistent in the job search, all while being flexible and productive with your time.

10) Keeping track of all your movements, interactions and documents – Effective job seekers keep track of whom they’ve spoken with, meetings planned, research done and needing to do. Also, their documents are organized, updated, and personalized through the job hunting process. Keep Track of each step can be useful and sometimes as easy as a simple spreadsheet, like Excel. This will allow you to have a record of all contacts, communiques and be able to see your actions and progress. Might also be a good way to keep track of all passwords, etc, for job sites, listings and anything done on-line in your process.


Spring Break: Preparing for the Future!

Time to make some choices?

A week of fun, sun and/or maybe, future preparation?

Spring break for Seniors!  

For you soon-to-be college & university graduates, what are your spring break plans?  Some of you might be heading off for fun and sun, some R&R in Florida, Texas or another southern clime and I’ll admit: warmer temperatures and a break from the rigors of college can be huge for catching your breath! But spring break is also an excellent time to get a head start for what is waiting for you, certain to begin the day after you do the ‘diploma walk!’

For those willing to sacrifice some fun-in-the-sun, and get down to what’s ahead in the future, here are a few ideas to get things kick started for you!

Spend quality time building your LinkedIn profile

As a potential and essential job search and career tool, your LinkedIn profile virtually introduces you to the world. Spring break is a great time to go into this without distractions or competing elements for your time.  Sit down and really start to map out your full, on-line profile.  Remember that this really is ‘not for you,’ but for those to be viewing you!  Your goal is to create an honest, comprehensive profile of you, your history, your education, your work, community service, projects, interests, everything really that paints an on-line portrait of who you are professionally & personally.  Think of this as your ‘front page’ to self-marketing.  It is easy for people to look at your profile, and they will, so shape it in a way that is professional ‘you,’ personified!

Schedule an informational interview

Informational interviews are huge in terms of information gathered and cost-benefit.  If you can have a sit-down with someone who’s doing something of interest to you, maybe over a cup of coffee or a lunch, you’re getting, free, inside information from someone who’s ‘been where you’re going!’  Commit to scheduling a meeting, maybe a few over break.  This will give you much to think about as you get closer to graduation and you’ve also planted some great networking seeds for down the line!  The plus to this is that people generally love to chat about themselves and what they do so if you approach someone, with a sincere interest and making it evident that you’re getting value out of their taking the time to meet with you, most people you approach, if they have time to do so, will agree to meet up.  Go into this with questions to ask, take notes and make sure you send a follow-up ‘thank you’ after the fact!

Start to plan your networking strategy

Once you’re on LinkedIn, start connecting with people and get your network starting to grow. Connect with everyone, and I mean everyone in your circle: neighbors, friends, students, faculty, family members, parents of friends, and friends of parents. Keep reaching for those concentric circles out and working the message that you’re to be graduating in a couple of months.  On LinkedIn, one of the great features is that you connect with alumni/ae no matter how distant a connection they are for you. Simple! In the top navigation bar, click “network,” then “find alumni.” When requesting a connect request, remember to always personalize such, or as I tend to do, on the back-end, once they’ve accepted, drop them a note that’s personal and thanking them for connecting up.

Job Shadowing

Spring break really isn’t enough time to complete an internship, not a formal one anyway but there is another alternative – job shadowing.  Shadowing someone for just a day or even the week will provide you with great insight into the everyday aspects of that role and even career.  Do some research on someone and/or an organization of interest and see if they’ll be willing to ‘have you around for a bit?’  Great way to see inside an organization and a career path and can tell you much.  It’s also great in that you’ve essentially gotten your foot in the door so as a networking endeavor, it adds to your circle. 

Get your resume ready, targeted and ‘perfect’

This is a good time to get your resume polished and make it ‘perfect.’  Make sure it is well written, detailed and accurate.  That all presented is proof-read and then proof-read again!  Think of your resume as a key and with that, it takes different versions for each lock; targeting your resume is critical and this may be a good time to think of the various versions you may need for different organizations and career paths.

Start thinking about those cover letters

Like the resume, a generic cover letter is almost certainly to be a kiss of death. Each organization needs to know that you’re writing to them with purpose and nuance.  Make sure your cover letter ‘speaks’ to them, individually & personally.  It should always state your intentions, how you identified their organization and why.  The letter should speak to your history and skills, your credentials, but also, and often forgotten, your ambitions and desires.  Your cover letter needs to look backwards, yes, but also ahead! Use your letter to entice and intrigue them and in a perfect world, your letter will allow you to address or solve a problem they didn’t even know they had! Think of how that might make you look as a candidate!?

Get in some ‘mock’ interviews

Practice, practice! Most career centers are still staffed during spring break and this can be a great time to get in and set up mock interviews.  Great practice and with each one your presentation will get better.  Make sure you tell the person who is to conduct your mock to ‘push’ you and really delve into your interest and perceived connection.  The fluff questions will always be there (“what type of animal would you be…?” and that sort of tripe) but get into the real difference makers in terms of questions; “Why you?”  “We have many good candidates… what makes you stand out?” “Tell me why you’re interested in this organization and career path?”  Interviews are more and more becoming ‘behavioral based,’ questions that put you in context, so make sure this is covered too.  Questions such as “In your last role if ‘blank’ happened, how would you handle it?”

Sanitize your on-line image

Sadly, this even needs to be said, but clean house and get everything you do, say, portray, present and post to a “Disney-fied” and professional level!  If you think potential employers will not be checking you out, you’re sadly mistaken and much of what they ‘need to know’ can be found in a matter of key strokes!  This can be the litmus, “you’re in or out” finding with what’s out there in regards to your on-line image.

Order your business cards

Although not a ‘necessity,’ this can be a fun and easy step.  Vistaprint and many others will start you off with several hundred for just a few bucks.  Cheap investment and could be the difference in leaving people with that nice reminder.  Make sure they include your name, phone, professional email (not partydude23@gmail.com type of email), LinkedIn address and blog url if you have one.

Hope this helps and whether you venture off to fun in the sun, stick around for your future career preparation, or something in-between, enjoy, be safe and keep moving forward! 


For New Graduates, Living on Your Own – Financial Basics: 101

Living On Your Own for the new Graduate

Living On Your Own for the new Graduate!

As we get nearer the end of the spring semester, the many colleges and universities of the nation will be setting free their graduating class. With that graduation and new-found freedom, comes responsibility! Part of that responsibility is your taking control of your personal finances and to do it early is one the most important things you can do to get you house in shape!

I’ve worked with many students in my own experiences that have forgone any want for financial acumen until it is too late. Although many, the two most common oversights I’ve been witness to are; 1) not realizing that your salary will have many deductions yet calculate living expenses on gross pay and, 2) not accounting or forgetting the fact that after the 6-month grace period of graduation, in November, student loans are suddenly showing up at the door asking to be paid!

Below are some steps and tips to consider that will help as you are charting out your new, post-graduate, personal and financial existence and get a leg up on living independently.


It is very important to become financially literate and the earlier the better! Mind you, this does not necessarily mean having to understand the complexities of Derivatives being manipulated on Wall Street work or the nuance about foreign exchanges. This DOES mean learning about how to manage your own situation and money and accounting for your living expenses in the foreseeable future.

The first step to living responsibly is to budget your money. Although many people have negative feelings towards budgeting, because they feel it is constrictive or controlling, you should realize that budgeting allows you more freedom through understanding. By choosing where you are going to spend your money before you spend it, you are taking control of your future.

To begin budgeting, first thing to do is identify all of your anticipated expenses. Add up your fixed essentials. Examples are your rent, utilities, phone, transportation, health insurance, student loans and a car loan, if there is one. Also consider your variable expenses like food and groceries, entertainment, clothing, etc.

Build a descriptive budget by tracking all of your expenditures for at least a month’s time. Track every dollar spent and record it in a small notebook or spreadsheet. Categorize the expenses into broad categories, such as food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medical care, student loans, insurance, taxes and entertainment. Also label expenses as to whether they are fixed costs (needs) or discretionary costs (wants). At the end of the month, compare your spending with your income and make adjustments from there. Just being aware of how much you are spending will help you exercise control.

Start to build an emergency or rainy day fund to cover unanticipated expenses. Typically this should be at least $500 to $1,000 and eventually 3-6 months’ salary in a bank account or other liquid investment. The goal is to save enough money to cover your expenses until you get a new job if you were to lose your job.

Managing Your Accounts

Managing your money from day to day is essential to finding financial freedom. Once you start working you have more flexibility with your money. You will have more money to spend, and more opportunities to borrow money. You should take these added opportunities seriously. If you have accumulated credit card debt while in college you should work on getting out of debt now. You should also learn how to manage the credit resources that you have available to you now.

Finding Your First Apartment

Once you have graduated and lucky enough to have found a job, you may then need to find housing. Unless you’re fortunate to be in a position to stay with family, you’ll need to secure your own place. One thing to understand about getting your first apartment is that it’s not just paying rent. To get into one, you may be looking at 1st month, last month and a security deposit also. Usually, the deposit is one month’s rent so feasible you’re looking at 3 month’s rent upfront just to walk in the door. Not uncommon today is needing referrals and/or going through a credit check to get a place of your own. Once in, you may find that additional costs are utilities (heat/gas/oil/electric), garbage, water and insurance (read below for renter’s insurance!)

Paying Student Loans

If you borrowed money to attend school, six months after graduation, in the November of your graduation year, those loan companies really prefer that you start making an effort to repaying so they come knocking at your door. If you’re carrying more than one, you may save money on your loans by consolidating them and locking in a lower interest rate. Additionally you may need to consider other payment options if your budget is tight.

First thing to do is get organized. After four years in college, most undergraduate students graduate with a handful of loans and graduate students may have even more on tap. Compile a list of all your loans, including the name, web address and contact information for the lender, the loan ID number, the current loan balance, the interest rate and the date the first payment is due which should be the November after graduation.

A recent Fidelity Investments study found that a stunning 70% of the class of 2013 graduated with an average debt of $35,200 and that 42% of Millennials polled say their debt is “overwhelming,” according to a new Wells Fargo Retirement report. Realizing, again, that these payments start in November of your graduation year so it is best to be prepared for such as student/federal loans, if any, are ones you do not want to default on.

Insuring Yourself

Medical: Now that you are truly out on your own, you are responsible for all of your expenses and emergency situations. You should make sure that you have health insurance as one really cannot afford to not have it. Even though young, sudden illnesses can strike and accidents do happen. Insurance will help you pay the medical bills.

Under the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), you can be insured as a dependent on your parent’s health insurance plan if you’re under 26. The exception being If you can get health insurance through your own job.
If you can’t piggyback onto your parent’s plan and you don’t have a job with health insurance, starting this past January, if your employer doesn’t provide health insurance, you can now buy it through one of the new health insurance marketplaces.

Renter’s: Do not forget to get renter’s insurance. When you secure an apartment the building is insured against loss but nothing of your belongings or content are included. For this, you need to get a specific plan for renter’s. With this, and it’s cheap, you buy a certain dollar value of coverage, say $10,000, $20,000, whatever you feel the replacement value of your belongings are, and it’s important to insure at “replacement value” not the depreciated value on your policy. This will protect you against theft and fire in case something were to happen and will get your belongings back.

Understanding debt & credit

Not only is credit a good thing but in many cases it is a necessary thing! As stated earlier, many landlords and even employers are looking at credit reports for your application. Starting out it is important to establish a credit history. In ways, the only thing worse than a ‘bad’ credit history is NO credit history. You may want to start out by getting a secured credit card and use that for purchases instead of cash and pay the bills diligently to start to build a history. Another thing to do might be to start an account with Credit Karma. It is entirely free to sign up and use and it’s a great way of managing and monitoring your credit and credit score. If possible, use credit for all your purchases, but only doing so if you can pay the entire balance off at teh end of each statement period. This way, you’re building credit, staying current AND using other people’s monies for 30 days for free!

Understanding Your Benefits

Once you have your first real job, you may have all types of questions about your benefits and your salary. Benefits are an elastic thing as they vary from employer to employer. Some, the ‘benefit’ may simply be the salary you’re paid. On the other end, you may be looking at examples such as the already mentioned salary (grade or merit based), tax-deferred 401k/403b retirement option with an employer match, E.S.O.P. (employee stock ownership/option plan), pension (these are a dying entity though), annual C.O.L.A. (cost of living adjustments), medical insurance, dental, disability (short & long-term), holiday pay, vacation and personal days, travel, day care, health-club, dependent care, etc…. There are many different things that may be offered and it is important to understand what they are but also measure them in the personal importance and need when considering a particular position.

Investing for Your Future

One of the most important things you can do now is to make your money work for you. Once you’ve established a budget, any ‘extra’ monies should be started to work for you! Start investing as soon as you can and use the time you have ahead of you, and the incredible power of ‘compounding’ to make your money make money! Take advantage of your employer’s aforementioned 401(k)/403b or similar retirement plans. In 2013, workers under age 50 could contribute up to $17,500, tax-deferred, to these programs. Your contributions, deducted from your paycheck automatically, are tax-deductible and your money grows tax-deferred until you take it out later, ideally in retirement. If possible, invest enough to qualify for the full match (the amount your employer puts in as a result of how much you contribute) and watch it grow.

These are simply some basic categories to consider and hopefully it is helpful. We at Campus To Corporate, LLC are here to help as you navigate this life-changing transition from college student/graduate to employed, successful adults in society.
Best of luck!


Common Mistakes of the (First-Time) Job-Seeker

Common mistakes of the first-time job-seekers

Common mistakes of the first-time job-seekers

Spring Break is upon us! In two-weeks time, as the students of the nation’s colleges and universities are making their annual trek towards warmer climes for the sun-filled get-away, for seniors, graduation day and the looming job search are seemingly way off in the distance.  Not so fast though!  For a senior, this pilgrimage south is a real reminder that graduation is a matter of weeks away now and the inevitable, looming job search encapsulating every minute of thought throughout the day!

Let’s first say that while many of the soon-to-be-grads have begun a comprehensive job search, many also, still have not, and there’s no better reminder to do so than the act of receiving one’s diploma and then going back ‘home…’  Whether or not you have begun your search, and whether or not it’s been a fully exhaustive one or just scratching the surface, it’s now just becoming time to actually have to do it for real!

On a positive note, keep in mind that there are a lot inherent benefits that first-time job-seekers bring to the interviewing table; they tend to be eager and enthusiastic, supplanted with much technologically know-how and savvy, constantly up-to-date on the latest trends in their desired field and this makes for a potentially valuable addition to an organization.  Just need to ‘sell’ it!
Yet while having much to offer, there is still a lot that new job seekers have to learn when it comes to mastering the ‘art’ of the job search.  Below are a few mistakes that I have witnessed over the years many first-time job seekers make and how these errors can be avoided in your search:

Not having a positive on-line presence – Employers will be making a concerted effort in finding out ‘who you are?’  They will be looking through various forms of social media to see if what you’re presenting is true and consistent?  The will also be looking for anything that might be deemed a red-flag for your candidacy.  Make sure your social avenues of communication & presentation are ‘sanitized’ for the general public to be viewing.

Not being aware of your finances and credit history – Many employers today are conducting credit checks on potential candidates.  Assuming that a responsible user of credit and finance makes for a responsible candidate, this is almost to be expected in today’s job search.  Whether or not this is deemed fair, this is a new reality in the search process and one of the ways that an employer may be vetting your viability as an addition to their organization.  Credit Karma (I have no affiliation other than being a user of such) is a great resource that is free to use and a good way to check, monitor and keep tabs on all your credit usage and understand your score.

Putting too much weight on your GPA – This is a common mistake and something I’ve seen many students do in the past; believing that high academics is the only/most important factor in finding a job.  Employers are looking for people, and well-rounded at that.  New job-seekers need leadership qualities and the ability to articulate, communicate and convey information and integrate into a team.  Remember it is not always the highest draft pick that makes for the star player.

Not doing enough research – Many times, job seekers don’t realize the importance in conducting effective research.  Looking at an organization’s website is great, but assuming the next candidate did so AND spent some time networking and chatting with current and previous employees? Suppose they also spent much time researching competitors and clients.  How much of an advantage would this person then have?

Not staying up-to-date on industry trends – Graduates should do research not only on the organization to which they are applying, but about the field in general. Know the trends and movement within the industry.  Understand their clients and competitors.  Look at general trends in the marketplace not to mention any political trends or decisions that are coming that may affect this organization.

Focusing only on jobs related to their degree – new job seekers often think they can only work in a field directly related to their major and will then only apply to jobs in one specific industry.  To ‘define’ oneself by the parameters of their major is a very limiting way to go about your job search. Your major is what you are interested in learning more about, and it allows for much cross-pollination of skills and knowledge to look at many other types of career paths.

Forgetting who the interview is about – Job seekers who spend ‘face-time,’ and with that I mean your application materials and interview, talking about themselves, why they need a job, how much they want some organizational benefit, etc. instead of talking about how they will integrate, solve problems for the organization and bring added-value are ensuring they will not be asked back for further consideration.  The interview is about the employer first and how you fit into the picture that they perceive.  As a candidate, it is ‘your job’ to feed into what they are looking for and understanding what that is to mean.

Only considering full-time opportunities – Sometimes the way into an organization is though the side-door and this may not be in a full-time arrangement.  First-time job seekers tend to devalue the benefits of short term, part-time or internship opportunities, which if secured, can be of incredible value by giving that job seeker work experience in various tasks and a then proven, tangible track-record in the work force.

Dressing inappropriately – Often, first-time job seekers have not been exposed to work appropriate attire and what that can mean.  For this reason, make sure you are dressed ‘professionally’ when networking and interviewing. If you aren’t sure what is appropriate, do a little digging and some homework on such?  Figure out what the expectations are to be and dress, for the interview anyway, one notch above.  Worst case scenario, stand outside the organization and watch people come and go to get a sense of what’s appropriate.

Being unenthusiastic – Enthusiasm is critical to being considered for any position.  Show enthusiasm and knowledge about the position and organization, not only through your conversation, but through your questions about the organization and your interest in the position. Quality candidates ask ‘good’ questions!

Focusing too much on salary – New grads & young professionals often fail to look at the big picture when deciding whether or not to take a position and instead focus too much on the salary being offered.  Many times the benefits and/or perks can out be of much value when comparing jobs.  Flex-time, family time, tele-commuting, retirement options, salary matching, vacation, sick and personal time and many others – all benefits to be considered when measuring the overall package.

Knowingly taking the wrong job – Granted, times are indeed hard, and it’s not always wise or even plausible to hold out for the ‘perfect’ job.  However, walking into a position that is knowingly not a good match or if you get that sinking feeling, you may be wise to pass.  When in doubt, discuss with a mentor or someone you really trust before making these significant decisions.