Tag Archives: volunteering

5 services your alumni association offers, as well as best practices

career

As a volunteer for my alma mater’s alumni association, I have witnessed some savvy networking from students, recent, and not-so recent alumni. I’ve been impressed with the level of professionalism they’ve demonstrated and their focus on gaining employment.

At one event held in Boston, alumni and current students (as young as sophomores) showed up dressed to impress, took advantage of a free photo shoot, and lined up for the duration of the event for resume and LinkedIn profile critiques I was giving.

My alma mater’s alumni association has held other events in the past that were geared toward helping our alums in their job search. They were well coordinated and of great benefit to the attendees.

Not all alumni services are equal, but generally they offer the services explained below. To take advantage of there services, you must adhere to best practices which are also explained below.

Services

Career advice

Established alumni from your college can provide you with a plethora of career advice, most of which is valuable because your alums have been in their industry, in some cases, for many years. Some have read tons of resumes, cover letters, and interviewed candidates.

Call on alumni for practical advice. Look for people at your level or, better yet, managed employees who work in your occupation and industry. Ask them what they expect from resumes and job candidates in interviews. Pick their brains for this important information.

At my alma mater, there is a list of alumni who can help grads with their resumes, networking and interview techniques, LinkedIn profile, job-search etiquette, and other job-search topics. I have been contacted by recent and not-so-recent grads seeking my services.

A vast network

If you’re fortunate, you have access to vast database of people in the space you want to enter. This database provides you with email addresses, telephone numbers, and LinkedIn profile URLs. If you don’t have access to this information, use LinkedIn’s Find Alumni feature.

Your potent network can span the world, but you might want to focus on your local area. If I want to access my local network, I’ll contact the president of the alumni association. However, if I am interested in seeking employment in North Carolina, I’ll contact the president of that charter.

Once you have located alumni who can help you in your job search, you’ll approach them as you would any potential connection. You can call them, send email, or send Inmail through LinkedIn.

Informational interviews

One of the best ways to pick your alumni’s brains is asking for an informational interview, which I prefer to call a networking meeting, because that’s what you’re doing; you’re networking. But more to the point, you’re gathering important information and advice.

You’re the one who’s asking the questions, so they need to be intelligent ones. Little do you know, but there may be a position developing at your alum’s company. If you impress your alum with the dialog you generate, you may be referred to the hiring authority.

But that’s when the stars are aligned. Along with gaining valuable information, you need to leave the networking meeting with additional contacts with whom you can speak. You are building your network. You’re always building your network.

Alumni and other events

The event I mentioned above was organized to perfection. It was held in Boston at my alma mater’s club, a stunning building with a great view of the city. The event was designed to introduce people to those who could help them in their job search.

At the event, I critiqued resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Other pundits spoke about networking, job-search etiquette, and other job-search topics. And the students and recent grads came to soak up information.

Job fairs are also a great event that are held, for the most part, by career services. However, some alumni associations also conduct job fairs or smaller networking opportunities, such as sports gatherings, social events, etc.

If your alumni association puts on job fairs, check out the companies that are attending and go to the job fairs to make connections. Again, you’re in control of your destiny. Impress some of the reps, and you might create opportunities.

Mentor opportunities

Alumni associations encourage alumni to reach out to professionals in their industry who can mentor them in the job search. The mentors are not career counselors, but they can provide great insight into their industry.

Mentors give valuable time out of their day to gain an understanding of what you’re looking for in employment, how you should approach your search with the correct attitude, suggest people with whom you can speak, and give you the motivation you need.

Mentors will guide you from the start of your job search to the end. They are dedicated to the success of their mentees. They are a special group.

Best practices

To utilize the services explained above requires appropriate behavior, especially since the alumni volunteers are acting out of the goodness of their heart. Here are some best practices:

Be polite is rule number one. Do what you were taught as a child and carried throughout your life. The words, “please” and “thank you” go a long way. Represent your alma mater the proper way.

Be assertive but in a respectful way. Not all volunteers will follow through in a timely manner. Some may simply forget to return your calls. In this case, leave a polite message reminding them of your meeting.

Be accommodating to your alumni volunteer. One of my alumni clients said he’d feel more comfortable meeting face-to-face, but because we live 50 miles apart and I have a busy personal life, he agreed to communicate via phone. Alumni volunteers will also accommodate their alumni clients when possible.

Be knowledgeable when you attend a networking meeting. Don’t arrive without intelligent questions. Contribute to the conversation with appropriate comments. Show yourself as someone who could work at that company if a position exists.

Be focused on your job search. Nothing is more frustrating than talking with someone who is vague about their career goals. However, if you are unsure about what you want to do, you should be able to describe your transferable skills and experience required for a career change.

Be on LinkedIn is a no-brainer these days. Nothing impresses me more these days than a student or someone fresh out of school who has a strong profile and engages with their connections on a regular basis. You should be one of the 450 million LinkedIn users.

Following up is essential to your relationship with your alumni volunteer. After you’ve spoken with them or met them in person, send a thank you via email or card. Ping them every once in awhile so they know how your search is going. Stay top of mind.


It’s been a pleasure volunteering for my alma mater’s alumni association. I’ve had the opportunity to educate alumni of various ages on LinkedIn and resumes and the job search. Be assured that there are alumni volunteers who would like to help you.

If you appreciate your alumni association, I’d love to hear why.

Photo: UMass Alumni Association

 

 

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7 steps college students should take before the job search

college women

This post appeared on YouTern.com.

My daughter entered college three years ago. This was an exciting time. But with all the negative press about college grads accumulating more debt than people have on their credit cards, it makes parents like me think about the future of our kids. Namely, will they be living with my wife and me until they’re 30?

An article by NPR.com states that in this decade US students have accumulated $829 billion in debt, with many post-grads unable to find a job because they majored in subjects that make it hard to find well-paying jobs, such as Psychology, English, and Journalism.

The article states, “There’s a tendency for very few students to enroll in particular majors that lead to jobs with very high pay, such as pharmacology.”

To someone like my daughter who loves to read and write over math and science, there may be a problem further down the career road. Needless to say, the prospect of her finding a high-paying job upon graduating is a bit unsettling for me.

College students need to prepare for the job search, and they must do so early in their college years. There are five distinct actions they need to take to prepare for their search.

Research the labor market. What is the projected job growth for 2016 and beyond? Bloomberg Business Week gives a general prediction for job growth based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics that reads, in part like this:

Jobs In thousands

  • Registered nurses, 1,203
  • Postsecondary teachers, 892
  • Elementary and middle school teachers, 815
  • Top executives, 808
  • Engineers, 507
  • Secondary school teachers, 474
  • Computer software engineers, 448
  • Human resources managers and specialists, 323
  • Media and communication occupations, 253

So far it looks like the choices of high-paying jobs are ones that are contrary to my daughter’s inclination for the humanities, unless she wants to pursue teaching. This will not discourage us from creating a game plan, though. If she won’t see nursing or software engineering in her future, there are other ways to approach the career search. Teaching is a noble career, but not one that satisfy her passion for Sophora, Banana Republic, and other high-priced retail stores.

Decide one’s major by their sophomore year. If a college student decides by the end of his freshman year that he wants to major in English or Communications, that will not necessarily be a problem. Not as long as he chooses a minor, such as Marketing that includes elements of Social Media. English will prove at be excellent training for his written and verbal communication skills.

Make getting internships a priority. Lately my daughter as been wondering if she wants to work as a life guard or a camp counselor during her college summers. She’s told me that getting a tan is very important to her. I’ve got news for her. That’s right, she can kiss the Life Guard job goodbye. If she’s unhappy with skin the hue of a vampire (I’m exaggerating, of course), I’ll pay for a membership at a tanning salon.

College students should be applying for an internship at, say, a small software start-up that can benefit from their extensive Facebook experience, plus their propensity to learn any social media platform that the company can use in their marketing campaign. They could also court some non-profit organizations to see a different perspective of the labor force, the sector of which I’m a member.

Dump Facebook as a social activity. From the moment a college student unloads his belongings in his dorm room, settles in with his new roommate, and prepares for the following day of classes, he’ll start a “professional” Facebook account that contains no hint of a social life. He can keep his original account and all 500 of his friends, but the new account will be the one he reveals to recruiters and prospective employers.

Connect on LinkedIn. Colleges are pushing their students to join LinkedIn. But as the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water….” It is imperative that college students join LinkedIn and engage with their connections. Now is the time to get on the elevator on the bottom floor on its way up.

Their profile should represent them in a professional way, which doesn’t necessarily mean for their photo they have to wear a suit and tie or a silk blouse, jacket, and skirt. Nor are they going to have the experience to taut as if they’ve been working in the workforce for years. (This is where the internship comes in.)

Join the Society of Collegian Networkers. Whether a college student is an introvert or extravert, this shouldn’t keep them from beginning their personal networking activities. Most colleges have face-to-face networking lessons. If not, networking activities should be a mandatory course for the serious students striving to be gainfully employed by the time they graduate.

I have visions of my daughter being the vice president of her networking organization. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility for any college student. All they need to do is volunteer and put in tons of work to run the organization efficiently.

Volunteer. If the college student doesn’t have a job by the time she graduates, she’ll volunteer at the companies where she interned. This will put her a step ahead of her schoolmates in terms of skill development and networking.

My daughter’s a smart girl, so I don’t anticipate her being unemployed for very long.

I figure this career path outline will be enough for her to stomach for one discussion. I won’t be deterred from keeping her on track, because there is one motivating force behind my diligence…ensuring that she isn’t spending the next 18 years with my wife and me. I figure this will be not only a great goal to achieve, it will also prepare me for my two other children.

6 tips for getting out of the house during your job search

Silly as it sounds, I can’t think of a better piece of advice than this one. It’s so simple, yet it can be a game changer….

Walking

One bit of advice I give my career center orientation attendees is to get out of the house every day. I know that some of them are sitting behind their computers until their eyes ache and the computer is humming at them. I also know it’s not healthy to be alone with one’s despondency. Been there.

When I tell them, “Get out of the house,” some laugh and nod with approval, others look at me with interest, and others with amusement. This advice, I give them, is perhaps the most important message they’ll leave with.

Having been out of work for 10 months more than 14 years ago, I understand how it is important to leave the house to escape the computer, the kids, the television, the cleaning. All of it. You know the saying, “If I knew then what I know now…” So let me offer you some suggestions for getting out of the house.

1. Go where people are. If this means going to your local career center, a library, Panera Bread, Starbucks, a park; then do it. Being around people has a therapeutic effect. Hearing the voice of others provides you with the distractions you need in order to avoid the deep well of despondency. It can reduce the loneliness you may feel from being cooped up at home.

Talk to people, even if you don’t know them. But understand if they’re not amenable to a discussion. Keep it short if you sense they’re busy or focused on something else. When they keep their eyes on the computer screen, this is a hint that they’re not open to a dialog.

2. Go to the gym or take long walks. How you prefer to exercise and let off steam is up to you. I find walking to be a great way to clear my mind, as well as strategize about what I need to do. While I was out of work, I increased my walking regiment from 45 minutes a day to 90 minutes. I walked and walked and walked. Bonus: it’s free.

Keep your routine. You’re no longer waking to go to your former place of employment, but you will continue to rise at the same time to exercise. I always suggest to my career center customers that they increase their exercise or start exercising if they’re not already doing it. Develop a plan that is doable for you, whether it’s everyday, or every other day.

3. Coordinate a small networking meeting, better known as a meetup. This might include gathering with other professionals, such as project managers who have an interest or knowledge in Lean Six Sigma. Although the meetup is for educational purposes, it’s a great place to connect and share employment possibilities. Here is the link for Meet Up.com.

An alternative to a professional meetup could be gathering for various interests. Perhaps one of your interests is reading, and a group of locals meet to pontificate on science fiction or nonfiction. Use this opportunity to unwind and put the job search behind you for those two hours. You need a break from your search.

4. Attend networking events. For some people networking is a bit intimidating because they feel forced to talk to people they don’t know. Attend a few networking events to get the hang of it. If you need to stay back and listen at first, that’s fine. However, eventually you’ll get the hang of it and feel more comfortable.

Determine some goals before you go to the networking groups. You may decide you only want to talk with a few people at each event. Perhaps you plan to meet someone you know or, better yet, you travel together to an event. Some groups specialize in particular industries, such as IT, medical, finance, legal, etc., so you may want to focus on one where you’ll be with people of the same interests.

5. Volunteer at an organization that needs your talents. You’ve probably heard a great deal about how volunteering is great for your job search. And you probably think, why should I offer my services for free? I get your concern. Who wants to work without getting paid?

Think about it logically. By volunteering you’ll enhance the skills you possess, as well as possibly learning new skills. You’ll not only increase your skill set; you’ll also put yourself in a place to gather labor market information and network. Keep in mind that some say by 27% by volunteering.

6. Ask for networking meetings. I don’t call these informational interviews for a reason. When you ask someone for an informational interview, their reaction won’t be as positive as if you were to ask her for some advice. Tell her you’re interested in gathering some information about a new career or one in her type of company, not her company.

You’re the one asking the questions, so make them intelligent questions. The goal is to impress the person with whom you’re speaking so if there’s a position developing at the company, she might suggest your name to the hiring manager. At the very least, try to leave with other people with whom you can speak.


As simple as it sounds, getting out of your house can greatly help your job search. It helps your fragile state of mind to get away from your computer or, worse yet, the television; and increases your networking opportunities. My strong suggestion is to dress business casual when you’re out and about, as well as present a positive attitude. You never know when you’ll meet a potential employer.

Also keep in mind that your job search is important and that others’ needs will have to take a backseat to your activities. In other words, be selfish. You can’t watch the kids or grandchildren when you have a workshop or networking event to attend. You have to meet with a networking colleague for coffee, no questions asked. In other words, BE SELFISH.

Photo: Flickr, David

States with the most volunteers have the lowest unemployment rates…5 reasons to volunteer

A recent report by the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) claims that volunteering can contribute to reducing unemployment rates. This study points to volunteering in the community and for nonprofit organizations and says this about volunteering:

“Participation in civil society can develop skills, confidence, and habits that make individuals employable and strengthen the networks that help them find jobs. 59% of volunteers in national service programs believe their volunteer service will improve their chance of finding jobs, perhaps because it helps them learn marketable skills or because it broadens their professional contact networks, or both.”

Let’s revisit why volunteering is beneficial to your job search success.

1. Volunteering is a great way to do a positive thing. You may consider choosing an organization where your efforts are meaningful in a big way. The Salvation Army comes to mind. Every year around Christmas holiday thousands of volunteers ring the bells in front of businesses. All for the sake of helping the less fortunate get by during the holidays. A customer of mine said she volunteers at a soup kitchen. While she’s an accountant, she has a soft spot in her heart for the less fortunate. This appeals to employers.

2. Volunteer to network for your next job. Choose an organization that’s in the industry in which you’d like to work. If marketing is your forté, approach a company that needs a graphic artist or publicist to design some art for their website or write a press release or two. This organization in which you’ve managed to get your foot in the door can help you with leads at other organizations, especially if you do a smashing job. The director will want to help you because you’ve come across as competent and likeable. Who knows, you could possibly join the company if a position opens up…or is created.

3. Develop or enhance some skills that will make you more marketable. You’ve had it in your head to start blogging but haven’t had the time to dedicate to it. The organization that took you on as a volunteer in their marketing department not only can help you network; it can assist you in enhancing your diverse writing skills. Your approach might be to offer starting a blog for them, as the rest of the marketing department is up to their elbows in alligators. They gain a talented writer to write entries, and you learn the fine art of blogging. “Tie the skills needed to do the volunteer position back to the skills needed to support or enhance your profession,” says Dawn Bugni, owner of The Write Solution. “This keeps your skills sharp. You might learn something new….”

4. Feel useful. Yes, instead of sitting at home and watching The View, you can get back into work mode. Do you remember work mode? It begins with getting up at 6:00am, doing some exercise, leaving for some job from 8:00am to 5:00pm, all the while having that feeling of productivity. When you get home from volunteering, you can watch those episodes of The View on DVR.

5. Volunteering will pad your résumé. Yes, employers look at gaps in your work history. Instead of having to explain (or worse yet, not having the chance) why you’ve been out of work for three months, you can proudly say that you’ve been volunteering at Organization A in their marketing division where you authored press releases, created their newest website designs, and started them on your way to a new blogging campaign. Of course you’ll indicate on your résumé, in parenthesis, that this experience was (Volunteer) work. Nonetheless, it was work.

Any time you feel ripped off for working without pay, remember why you’re doing it; to do something positive, to network, to develop or enhance new skills, to feel useful, and to pad your résumé. If these five reasons aren’t enough, then by all means stay home and watch The View.

One more argument for volunteering your way to a job

Before you say, “I’m tired of hearing about volunteering,” take time to read what I have to say. I’ve ignored newspaper articles on what’s happening in the labor market because, quite honestly, they depress me.

But this morning I was drawn to an article that offered no groundbreaking great news; in fact it was dismal. But through the fog of negative reporting, there was one bit of good advice.

The article of which I speak appeared in the Boston Globe (Sunday, 9/18/2011). It pointed out the difficulties veteran workers in the IT sector are having getting jobs due to lack of experience. One example given was a software engineer proficient in C++ but lacking Java.

In certain positions, like software engineering, the disparity in technica skills is hard to overlook. But there is hope, as long as you’re willing to invest the time to overcome a deficiency you have in your skills.

I wrote an article on the importance of volunteering while conducting your job search, and I stressed volunteering at a company for which you’d consider working. There are two major reasons for this. First, you can network more efficiently while you’re back in the industry among professionals who are privy to possibilities, and who would like to help you.

Second, you can enhance your skills and learn new ones. The situation where the software engineer lacks Java experience is a perfect example. Taking courses will certainly give you some knowledge in the software required to land a job, but hands-on experience using the software is far more valuable. And sometimes required by recruiters, according to the article:

“The ability to learn new skills is rarely at the top of a recruiter’s job orders; many companies demand candidates with skills that perfectly match their requirements.”

I had a jobseeker who worked at Raytheon, where she was a productive engineer using C++. She never had training using Java, as it was not required for her position. As she combed the want ads, she discovered that the majority of jobs available were for Java developers. She was in a hole. But she wasn’t going to give up. I would see her reading texts books on Java scripting.

The solution, as stated above, is to gain hands-on experience in a skill that you’re lacking. Continue to self-educate yourself on the skills you notice are in demand, as my jobseeker did; but go one step further and approach companies in your industry that need engineers, marketers, sales people, nurses, accountants, etc., and volunteer your services—with an understanding that you’re not looking for a job at said companies.

This is precisely what the Boston Globe reported: “’If you want to be anywhere close to the cutting edge, you can’t expect that you’ll have a [paying] job when you start,’ said Stephen Flavin, dean of academic and corporate development at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. ‘If you really want to learn it you have to volunteer your time.’’’

I hope that if you’re in this situation, you won’t give up hope. Many of my jobseekers have landed jobs in their field by volunteering; some of them at the company for which they volunteered.

Pay it Forward are not just words. Two people put them into action

You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.   ~  John Wooden

The term “pay it forward” is unfathomable to some jobseekers. They way they see it is they’re the ones who are out of work and; therefore, they should be the ones receiving help, not others. This way of thinking is what holds them back from networking or reaching out to do a good deed, which in turn hurts their chances of finding a job.

The majority of jobseekers I run into understand the beauty of paying it forward. They embrace helping others, knowing that help will come their way. Whether it’s offering a free service, giving sound advice, providing a contact name, forwarding a résumé, or giving moral support; paying it forward is all good.

I bring this popular term up in a career networking workshop. To simplify the concept, I tell my attendees that the act of helping others creates good Karma. Further I tell them they should not expect the person you help to immediately repay the favor, because another person will step forward to help you. In fact, you may never receive reciprocation from the person you assisted.

A customer of mine named John Yurka demonstrated the pay it forward mentality in the truest sense; he took photos of five jobseekers for free. He met with them this past Tuesday in a park and spent a good part of his morning making sure the photos he took were to the recipients’ satisfaction.

The photos were astonishing, in my humble opinion. And the jobseekers must have felt the same way, because all of them uploaded their likenesses to LinkedIn. One of the people wrote to me with excitement, commending the work John had done. (An example of John’s work is on the left.)

Another champion of the unemployed, Ken Masson, has helped jobseekers in the past by founding a television show called The New England Job Show. This show comprises of volunteers who help jobseekers find work. Initially the purpose of the show was to film jobseekers’ personal commercials, but soon it branched out to interviewing job search experts, hosting a blog of job-search experts, offering training, and more.

Many of the volunteers from the show eventually find work after starting there, which means that replacements have to be found. When NEJS volunteers find work it’s always great news, but it causes a lot of work for Jackie Simmonds, the current COO of the show. Ken will be dedicating more of his time to the show, because this is what he does; he pays it forward.

There are no hard statistics on how successful paying it forward is. Smart jobseekers simply understand that it makes common sense. It makes common sense because as you’re helping someone, another person is in the process of helping you. I’m convinced that the jobseekers who believe in paying it forward will receive the help they need. How do I know? I just do.

It’s unanimous; volunteer

Recently I wrote an article on the virtues of volunteering. I know the thought is unsettling to some because they’d be working without pay and, erroneously thinking, it would take away from their job search, but the benefits of volunteering far outweigh the drawbacks, e.g. working without pay.

I read a recent article by James Alexander on CareerRocketeer.com that further enforces the power of volunteering. Titled How Volunteering Can Land You a Job, it elaborates on how you can effectively network, possibly move up in the organization, and land strong recommendations—something I hadn’t thought of.

Another proponent of volunteering is Dawn Bugni who wrote an article called Volunteer to Network. She is so pumped about volunteering that she’s written many articles on this subject. Dawn is a Master Resume Writer (MRW), Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and has been published in countless books.

When you decide to volunteer, be sure it’s the ideal situation, whether it’s at a non-profit organization or a for-profit business. Volunteering is particularly useful if you’re thinking about changing your career. This will give you the opportunity to 1) get into the industry and learn the skills necessary, and 2) determine if your career change is the right thing for you.

As one of my customers told me during a workshop, volunteering led her to her last job; and it was the best decision she made. I hope she repeats her latest success.