Tag Archives: College

3 areas of your career when effective communications is essential

communicationOne story I tell in my workshops is about how a former customer of mine improved communications between two warring departments. He told me that these groups were literally at war with each other and just couldn’t play well together.

He further explained that he would call members of the groups together and make them “talk” to each other. “I also made note of their body language and facial expressions. If I noticed hostility, I’d mention it and tell them I could see their hostility. Did I make them kiss and make up? No. But it almost got to that point.

If you haven’t given thought to your communications, you should. You should think about how it affects the aspects of your education, job search, and job. You should also think about the ways you communicate.

In College

Networking2College is the beginning of the rest of your life, as the cliché goes. Therefore, it’s important that you strengthen your verbal and written communication skills. And you don’t have to major in Communications in order to strengthen your communications skills.

Your verbal communications. Take advantage of any opportunities you have to present in front of a group. As scary as it may seem, you will be better prepared for the workforce. Try to ignore your fear and think that this is part of your education.

You’re not only communicating with your mouth; you’re also communicating with your body language, facial expressions, and voice intonation. The more animated you are (within reason) the better your message will come across. Some believe that effective verbal communications is 80% presentation.

Your written communications. When you write expository papers for your classes, put your best effort forth. Be concise, yet informative. The working world prefers ideas presented in writing that are as short as possible.

This includes emails, proposals, marketing literature, whitepapers, etc. I remember a marketing manager saying to me, “Brevity is the key to success.” She was right.

You’ll learn that when you leave college and enter your job search that your success will depend on your marketing campaign. This will include your written and verbal communications. Don’t focus on only one form of communications, though.

In your job search

Commission having a Job interview.Networking will be a valuable activity in your job search and require excellent communication skills. It’s by networking that you will penetrate the Hidden Job Market, which is a topic in itself. Your goal is to be known by people who matter.

Important forms of communications include your ability to articulate your talents and goals. It’s also important to listen to the people with whom you’re networking. Listening is a key component of communications. I’ve been to networking events where I felt like a sounding board. Don’t do that to others.

Once your networking has led you to the decision makers of organizations, it’s time to put your written communication skills to use. Write resumes (plural) that speak to the needs of employers. Create a strong online presence with your LinkedIn profile.

The interview will arrive after you’ve put your efforts into networking and writing strong marketing documents. It’s at the interview that you’ll have to shine with answers to the tough questions. Where you’ll have to come across as confident and affable. Where ultimately you’ll have to demonstrate your communication skills.

At work

BrainstormingFortuneLiveMediaCongratulations, you landed a job. Now is the time when your communication skills will help you in performing well and progress among the ranks. Your colleagues and supervisors will expect you to be articulate and clear when presenting ideas.

Company meetings are a great example of how important it is to present clear ideas. Let’s say you have to report on the social marketing campaign you’re working on. The group of twenty people, including the director of the organization, want to know the specifics of the project.

To your credit you’ve come prepared. You walk to the center of the room (don’t sit) to deliver your PowerPoint presentation. You flick through each slide, talking about how you’ll employ Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to promote the organization.

Your body language demonstrates confidence, the tone of your voice is upbeat, you smile and communicate effectively with your hands. You notice that the director is smiling and nodding while you’re talking.

Bringing it together

Communications constantly ranks high on employers’ lists of essential skills. There’s no secret why. How you’re graded in school relies on how well you present your projects, how well you write your papers.

How you’re perceived during your job search has a great deal to do with your ability to express your value. And don’t forget the importance of listening. You must employ written communication skills to land the interview. And finally, it will be your ability to verbalize your value to employers that will land the job.

But it doesn’t end at the interview. You will demonstrate your communication skills at work in a variety of ways. Throughout your professional life communication skills will play a role in your success.

Dear College Students, please read the following 10 LinkedIn tips

Increasingly more college students are joining LinkedIn, and that’s a good thing. I only ask that they keep these ten tips in mind. 

happy african american college student leaning against campus wa

Dear College Students,

If I could offer you some advice, it would be this: take a serious look at an application called LinkedIn. I suggest this because your demographic is still unrepresented on this platform. Facebook? You are well represented on this social medium. Twitter seems to be on the rise with you, as well as with younger folks. Heck, even my teenage kids are on Twitter.

I sincerely believe that LinkedIn will help you in the future. And if you think about it, there’s no time better than now to prepare yourself for the future. Isn’t that what you’re being taught in school, prepare for the future? If it were up to me, LinkedIn would be a required course. Maybe it will become part of the curriculum, but probably not for a while. Until then here are some strong suggestions:

  1. Get on LinkedIn immediately. Don’t think immediate gratification and forget about accumulating tons of “friends” and “followers.” It’s about making connections. LinkedIn ain’t sexy.
  2. Make an immediate impact with your branding title. “Seeking Employment” or “College Student at X college” is not going to do it. At least “Finance Major at X College | Aspiring CFO | Captain of Lacrosse Team | Dorm Advisor” would foreshadow greatness.
  3. Perception is half the battle, which means you will be judged on your photo. You’ll want a photo that will elicit confidence from potential networkers and employers; not one of you taken at Arizona State during a fraternity initiation with beer bong in plain sight.
  4. Some college-age profiles I’ve seen fail to tell a compelling story in the Summary section; rather they talk about enjoying their socialization process before going “Big Time,” not their aspirations of learning lean procedures or their philosophy of management.
  5. It’s hard to support a work history when students haven’t interned at Ernst and Young or Raytheon, but even working summers for the DPW demonstrates the hard work of toiling under the oppressive sun, removing roadkill from the road, and installing sewage pipes. Bottom line, show some type of work history in your Employment section.
  6. There’s no rule stating that you need to stick to the default setting of the profile sections. You might want to move the Education section to the top, below the Summary. There you can highlight Activities and Societies and Additional notes.
  7. This goes without saying; the world will be unforgiving of sloppiness. I recently saw a profile from a grad student who had approximately 10 spelling errors or typos in his Summary. I brought this to his attention and haven’t heard from him since. Oh well.
  8. Your LinkedIn profile now complete, it’s time to connect with quality people. Friends are nice, as are family members, but think future. Alumni, college professors (if they will), people who are currently working in your desired industry/ies, career professionals like me, etc. Check out the Find Alumni feature.
  9. Create a presence. I know many college students who are blogging on their topic of study and, hence, their future occupations. If you have great PowerPoint, Prezi, or YouTube presentations, post them on your Profile. Remember that it’s all about professionalism.
  10. This is my last bit of advice: be professional in everything you do with LinkedIn. No one on this application wants to know about your partying habits or fashion statements or see your photos of Spring Break. Sorry, it’s not about that.

My oldest daughter is off to college next year, so I hope she heeds my advice. Pinterest is fine, I tell her, communicating on Twitter is even better, but it’s LinkedIn that will help her network online. I haven’t seen LinkedIn offered as a core course at her school, but maybe I’ll make a strong suggestion.

Now read the follow-up to this article.

Photo: Flickr, Spanish Virtually

Beginners’ guide to using LinkedIn effectively

linkedinThis is a guest post from Rich Grant, a valued LinkedIn connection and college Career Advisor. He has a great way of explaining how to teach LinkedIn to beginners. 

When I meet with students – two to four each day – in my college’s career center I almost always ask, do you use LinkedIn? Most students say “yes’” but the real question we start exploring is, are you using LinkedIn effectively?

I’m pleased that almost every college junior or senior I meet with has a LinkedIn profile. Very few students, however, have taken full advantage of the networking power of LinkedIn. This is where I come in. I love showing students the nooks and crannies of LinkedIn.

I typically have about 10 – 15 minutes within a 30-minute appointment to provide students with an overview of LinkedIn. That’s just about enough time to cover the basics. So, here is my 10-minute tutorial on using LinkedIn to make connections and as a resource in a job or internship search.

Defining LinkedIn. For students who have not seen LinkedIn, I tell them about the similarities to Facebook (connecting with people, posting a status and / or links, joining groups, etc) and then quickly add, But it’s NOT Facebook! I also explain that social media networking (LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and others) does not replace traditional face-to-face networking, but it complements your overall networking efforts.

About the profile. I talk briefly about how to beef up your profile. Don’t set up a bare-bones profile and think you’re done. Change / expand your headline, create a summary, and describe each job with appropriate key words. Add skills and highlight projects. I talk with students about posting a professional profile photo and customizing their URL, both of which are easily found when you’re in “edit profile” mode.

Making connections. With whom should you connect? Initially, I tell new LinkedIn users to connect only with people they know and trust who also know them reasonably well. I explain the concept of 2nd degree and 3rd degree connections, that is, your connections’ connections and so on. If you connect with people who know you well, you will have better success in getting referred to your 2nd degree connections. I tell students to avoid the “LinkedIn Open Networkers” known by their acronym LION (a better description might be “Spread-thin LinkedIn Unselective Trolls”)

Participating in groups. Find your college’s alumni group and seek groups within your professional interests. Don’t just join groups, participate in them. Post discussion topics, comment on discussions. Engage with people within groups… you know, be “social” on “social media.”

Using “advanced” search. Click “advanced” to the right of the search bar. On the left side, you’ll see several fields. You can search on one variable or multiple variables. I usually show students how to search on keywords, company, college (filling in the name of our college), and zip code. You can also search by industry. I run through a couple of searches to show how easy it is to identify relevant 2nd degree connections.

Now what? Once you find a 2nd degree connection that you’d like to contact, you can see who your common connections are. You can get in touch with your connection or connections to facilitate getting through to the person you don’t know. In my job searches, I would typically contact my connections by phone or email. You can also message people on LinkedIn, or from the 2nd degree connection’s profile, click on the down arrow by the “In Mail” button and use the “get introduced” feature. It’s worth repeating a key point: connect only with people you know and who know you. If you identify a 2nd degree connection, it’s no use to you if your common connection is a LION in another country.

Basics of networking. I would be remiss if I just showed the technical aspects of LinkedIn, so I talk with students about proper networking etiquette. As you start reaching out to your 2nddegree connections, you need to follow the same guidelines / protocol as you would if you were meeting someone at a networking event… or meeting someone new on campus. You wouldn’t meet someone for the first time, and say, nice to meet you; let’s rent an apartment together. Don’t come on strong. Build a rapport before you ask for anything. Get to know people first, and don’t put them on the spot.

As you connect with new people on LinkedIn, it’s important to build your relationship with an information-seeking perspective rather than jumping in and asking about job openings. That’s a conversation killer. Most students I meet with truly can benefit from exploring career options by having conversations with people who work in those career fields (aka “informational interviewing”). Most professionals are willing to help college students who are looking into potential career fields. And by using LinkedIn properly and effectively, your connections most likely will be willing and able to help you get in touch with their connections, provided they are also connecting with people whom they know and trust.

This has been my quick tour of LinkedIn that I provide to new users of LinkedIn. I rarely talk about job postings on LinkedIn; to me, LinkedIn is about networking. I have started to show students “University Pages” found under the “Interests” pull-down menu (look for “Education”)

What do you show new LinkedIn users in your overview?

Rich Grant ● http://www.richcareer.net

Photo C. 2013 by Fred Fieldfredfield.comRich Grant has a background in business planning, freelance writing and higher education. Rich was recently the director of career services at a small four-year college in Maine and is currently filling an interim role as a career adviser and internship coordinator at a private college. He serves as the president of two professional associations. Find Rich on LinkedIn and Twitter, and become a regular visitor to his blog where he imparts his words of wisdom once or twice a week.

A letter to my daughter’s career advisors

college studentBelow is a letter sent from a concerned parent to a College Career Advisor as his daughter enters her freshman year of college.

Dear College Career Advisors,

I’m writing to you because my daughter has arrived at the University, and I’m hoping she’ll get some guidance from you. She and I agreed that she’d introduce herself to you after she’s settled in. Expect her to be a bit lost in the world of a major university.

As a Workshop Specialist at an urban Career Center, I occasionally see college grads in my workshops. Many of them didn’t take advantage of their college’s career centers and are hearing about the career search for the first time. I don’t want this to be the case with my girl, so I’m reaching out to you now.

My first request is that you impress upon my girl how crucial it is for her to develop her “soft skills.” In a survey by Glassdoor.com, employers feel skills such as, collaboration, verbal and written communications, and analytical thinking, are lacking in college grads.

She’ll need to learn how to write a great résumé of course. On her résumé she’ll need some real-life experience, namely internships. I’m seeing this lack of experience on some of the recent grads’ résumés I critique. If you would emphasize the importance of obtaining internships, it would be much appreciated.

Her interviewing skills will need some polish. I conduct mock interviews for my customers and I’ll tell you, they benefit from them greatly. Would you put her through a mock interview or two? Better yet, have her attend college career fairs and speak with some of the representatives there. There’s nothing like sitting in the hot seat.

Many of my customers balk at the idea of informational meetings, despite my impressing upon them the importance of gathering information; building their network; and, who knows, perhaps striking it lucky as the company is thinking of hiring. I want my daughter to go on as many informational meetings as possible.

She needs to learn about LinkedIn. Even though I teach LinkedIn, she’s never taken an interest in it. Why would I expect her to? Most high school students don’t even know about this platform; they’re wrapped up in Facebook and Twitter. Please emphasize the value of LinkedIn as an online networking application. Show her how she can reach out to the alums from the University.

One last thing and perhaps most important. Please suggest my daughter attend any networking events at the University and other venues. I think I read of a student networking group at the University that meets bi-monthly. This would be a great step in getting her to meet potential long-term contacts. Impress upon her that she should start developing her network before she needs it.

Thank you in advance for your consideration Your attention to my daughter’s success is greatly appreciated.


A Concerned Dad