Top 10 Tools Grads Need to Get a Job

Dawn Papandrea | May 18, 2010

A recent National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) report found that 5.3 percent more new graduates will be hired this year than in 2009. But what NACE doesn’t mention is that new grads aren’t just competing with each other for work; they’re competing with record numbers of unemployed, experienced workers!

So how can you, the new college grad, land the job that everyone else wants? Career Coach Ford Myers, author of “Get the Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring” (John Wiley & Sons, 2009), lists the top 10 tools that all grads should have in their “Job Seekers’ Tool Kit.”

1. Accomplishment Stories
Myers recommends writing stories about five or six school- or work-related tasks of which you’re proud. It’s no secret that stories can be much more memorable and compelling than bullet points on a resume.

2. Positioning Statement
This has become known as the “15-second pitch” or “elevator speech,” listed by every career expert as a must-have job-search tool. Your “commercial” should highlight who you are, what you’ve done, and what you will do for an organization.

3. Professional Biography
Here’s your chance to get creative. Every detail of your bio must be true, but you have the opportunity to write the one-page career narrative in the third person. Don’t bother with false humility; sell yourself!

4. Target Company List
This is a two-part tool. First, brainstorm a wish list of adjectives to describe your ideal employer. Include such considerations as industry, location, size, culture, etc. Then do some research to find organizations that match your criteria, and create a list of 35 to 50 target companies.

5. Contact List
It’s time to hit up your Facebook friends and Twitter followers (are you following us, by the way?). According to Myers, about 80 percent of new career opportunities are secured through networking, so get ready to contact everyone you know – professionally and personally.

6. Professional/Academic References
Use your contact list to highlight professors or colleagues who would love to sing your praises, and ask for their approval to be listed as a job reference.

7. Letters of Recommendation
Now go even further to request recommendation letters from four or five colleagues or academic associates. Never underestimate the power of a personal letter from a career professional.

8. Networking Agenda
If you’ve ever planned your words before you got on the phone with a love interest, you’ll understand the value of creating a script for your networking discussions. Write out your statements and questions, and try to anticipate reactions in order to prepare appropriate responses.

9. Tracking System
Scribbling phone numbers on scraps of paper lends itself to disorganization and unproductivity in your job hunt. Keep a detailed record of all your job search activities (e.g., phone calls, e-mails, faxes, etc.) so you can regularly refer back to your notes and follow up with key contacts.

10. Resume
Of course, you still need to have a resume, and it needs to be amazing. Your one-to two-page synopsis should be well-written, carefully edited, and intuitively designed. All the other job-seeker tools won’t make up for the lack of this critical document.

Taking the time to gather these tools and utilize them effectively will demonstrate the dedication, professionalism, and creativity you need to get hired. Are you ready to beat the competition?

Comment up: What tools did you use to get your first job?

-Robyn Tellefsen

iPad Envy? A Tech Career Could Be Yours

Lori Johnston | April 14, 2010

If you can’t wait to get your hands on an iPad, have you thought about working in the tech world?

Maybe your goal  to work for Apple or get a job with a tech company in your town. Or maybe you desire to be promoted into a more exciting position with your current employer and help create an innovation that pushes the boundaries of everything we know about computers, cell phones, and technology.

Here are two Apple executives who are doing just that:

Jonathan Ive: Time magazine calls him the “style guru.” Ive, a London-born designer, leads Apple’s design team, so he’s part of the reason why the Apple products look so sleek and cool. His education was overseas, with a bachelor of arts and an honorary doctorate from Newcastle Polytechnic, an art school in Northeast England.

Phil Schiller: Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing helps generate the buzz for the iPad, iPad, iPhone, MacBook and other Apple products. So where did he go to school? Schiller graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology from Boston College, in 1982.

Apple and other technology companies also employ engineers, information technology professionals, software engineers, Web designers, project managers, graphic designers, attorneys and paralegals, human resources managers, database management professionals, and more.

If you desire to be part of the latest technological innovations, businesses of all sizes have their hands in the future of technology. And pursuing a degree from a technology school or one of these other fields could be just the start for you.

-Lori Johnston

Top Schools for Video Game Design

Lori Johnston | March 3, 2010

Maybe you dream of people camping out in front of Best Buy, Wal-Mart or other stories for the newest release of a video game you helped create.

Or maybe you spend so much time playing everything from Halo Wars to Mario Kart Wii to Resident Evil 5, just a few of last year’s best-selling games, that you think you’re an expert.

Here’s more evidence that being a video game designer could be a lucrative and growing career field for you: The Princeton Review and GamePro Media this week unveiled their first-ever list of top 50 undergraduate video game design programs in the U.S. and Canada.

More colleges and universities are paying attention to this profession, and it shows that they recognize education and training are essential to being a successful game designer, not just playing a game nonstop or beating friends and strangers online.

The schools recognized stood out for their curriculum, faculty credentials, graduates’ employment, facilities, career achievements, infrastructure, financial aid, and career opportunities.

So, if you imagine yourself having a hand in designing the latest games for the Wii, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, now is the time to look at schools that could train you to develop the newest Wii Fit, NCAA Basketball (think of March Madness fever), Call of Duty or Madden NFL games.

So who is No. 1? That’s the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. GamePro notes that the school’s Interactive Media Division has helped launched careers of graduates who are well known in the indie gaming arena.

Others rounding out the top 8 are on both coasts. They are: DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, Wash.), Drexel University (Philadelphia), Becker College (Worcester, Mass.), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.), The Art Institute of Vancouver (Vancouver, B.C.), Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, Mass.), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Mass).

Schools like Becker, which is 4th on the list, graduated their first class in the Game Design and Game Programming departments just last year, according to GamePro.

That shows that more schools are likely to be adding these programs, so it’s definitely worth asking if you’re interested in a school that doesn’t currently offer game design or other degrees.

Ready to play? Check out our info on salaries and job descriptions for game designers. That combined with the Princeton Review’s list of top programs could set you on the path to turning a pastime into an action-packed career.

-Lori Johnston

Technical Schools Welcoming More Students

Lori Johnston | November 3, 2009

Here’s some encouraging news out of my home state of Georgia: Record numbers of students are enrolling in technical colleges, inspired to try new career fields and seeking to quickly gain the knowledge needed to land those jobs.

Data from the Technical College System of Georgia shows a 24 percent increase in 2009 enrollment compared to 2008, with 110,254 students in the state’s 28 technical colleges. The previous record: 91,838 students, in 2003.

Officials say the enrollment increase is due to the downturn in the economy. The education provided by technical schools can provide marketable skills that open doors to jobs in high-demand fields such as healthcare, business and office technologies, and computer information systems.

You can gain that knowledge faster than at traditional four-year colleges and universities.  In Georgia, its 600 certificate, diploma, and degree programs can be completed in six months to two years, depending on the program. That’s much like other areas of the county, and the costs are low ($2,100 is the annual tuition and fee average in Georgia).

And the interesting thing is that technical colleges have a diversity of ages among the students enrolled. The schools in Georgia are seeing an increase in students under 21, with recent high school graduates joining experienced workers in the classrooms. Having that diversity of ages in programs is beneficial to everyone, preparing you for a multi-generational workplace.

You may be among those who have lost jobs or are just ready for a different career path, and technical colleges are an affordable route worth considering.

-Lori Johnston