Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Networking Tips: LinkedIn

We hear almost constantly these days about the power of networking in the process of job search. Online social networking is one excellent way to begin building a professional network.

See ten tips to make LinkedIn work for you: http://newgradlife.blogspot.com/2009/12/use-linkedin-to-get-job.html.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Networking Tips

Networks — Building One that Counts
By Emily Schneider, Senior in Agricultural Communications and Journalism
Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
From www.AgCareers.com newsletter

We’ve all heard that old adage, it’s not what you know — it’s who you know. Never has that line held more truth than it does in today’s fast-paced, competitive world. The world we live in is a spidery web filled with strands that connect us to each other in one complicated way or another.
The lady who sat next to you at that banquet last year could end up being the HR lady who interviews you for your first job. (Too bad you kept chewing with your mouth open and texting all the way through dinner.)

That guy who worked next to you on the line at Pizza Hut during college could be the founder of the grain merchandising company where, fifteen years after the mozzarella and pepperoni, you are desperately trying to get in the door. (Aren’t you glad you picked up that extra shift for him that night when he had a date with Suzie Smith from across town?)

How about Joe Brown, from that committee you worked on for your college council? He could end up being the next Secretary of Agriculture. (Wait, didn’t you tell him to shut up during a meeting once? Oops.)

When it comes to networking, that’s just it. You never know what connection is going to be your ticket to your professional goals. The links and contacts made on a day to day basis make up a network that could unlock the future for you, or get the door slammed in your face.

It’s your job to build a network that is strong, diverse and productive. This doesn’t happen overnight, and you can’t just hope that you will randomly meet the right people. Most networks are built brick by brick, handshake by handshake. It sounds intimidating, but when you go about it strategically, with an end goal in mind, you are already on your way to building a foundation of personal and professional relationships that will link you to future opportunities.

How do you do it? The following are a few tips on how to construct and maintain a well-built network.

Put Your Best Foot ForwardAlways. No matter where you go, no matter what you are doing, there is always someone watching. Not in a creepy, horror movie kind of way; but they are watching how you act, listening to what you say, and subconsciously filing away the information for a later date. Whether you are volunteering at a county fair, working that minimum wage job at the local feed store, or sitting in the board room of the largest coop in America, you need to act in a respectful, dignified way that you wouldn’t mind your future employer (or your mother) observing. Always treat others how you would like to be treated and you will automatically make a good impression.

Get “Organized.” You should never let a chance to network pass you by. Where you work, where you study, where you play, where you eat: look for opportunities to build relationships everywhere. Join a new club or organization; not only will you meet new people, but you will have the opportunity to work with them and show them just how great you are to have around. Monthly meetings, conferences, community service projects and social events provide excellent opportunities to build contacts that last. Organizations such as Agriculture Future of America (AFA) even have specific events to help you network with peers and industry professionals.
AFA is a nationally recognized organization for its excellence in leader training and career development for college men and women and young professionals in the agriculture and food industry. Each November, AFA hosts a leaders conference that provides personal and professional development opportunities. It is a great way to network with 500 students and more than 175 industry professionals who share a passion for agriculture and offer a unique perspective into the industry. For more information about AFA opportunities, visit www.agfuture.org.

Do Your Homework. After you have identified a few networking events that you would like to attend, do some research to find out who is going to be in attendance at each event. Perhaps you can find that information on the company’s Web site, or by inquiring with the people who are putting on the event. Researching the guest list will give you a better idea of who you want to talk to and what you would like to ask them. This is a great way to avoid awkward conversations about the weather and the food.

Get Carded. It’s extremely common to exchange business cards at networking events, so always have some on hand. If you don’t currently have a job, design a creative business card that has just your name, cell number, and an email address that you know you will have for life. (Use an email like firstname.lastname@username.com, not an email like rebel4life@username.com or littlefluffykittens@web.com.)

Keep It Short and Sweet. When you’re attending an event where networking is possible, keep the conversation brief or people will lose interest. Have a sixty second nutshell description of yourself and your goals ready to go. (Make it short enough to deliver during an elevator ride!) Your “elevator speech” should tell people everything they need to know about you and open the door for further questions. Keep them intrigued and wanting more without giving them time to get bored or distracted. There is a fine line between not enough and too much so practice, practice, practice!

Did You Hear What I Said? Listen! Keep in mind that your goal, when trying to build a network, is to gain and exchange information. Give others the chance to speak and even boast about themselves. You can solicit the information you want by talking and directing the conversation, but then take the time and effort to truly listen so you remember when it really counts.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice…There is no need to express every last thought in your head. Stay away from badmouthing anyone when in a networking situation. It really is a small world, and you never know how the person you are talking might be connected.

You’re Not Here For The Party. Always remember why you came to the event in the first place: to network. The purpose of a networking event is to help you advance professionally. Yes, it is a social event, but a professional one. You want to be remembered as capable, competent and polished, not as the girl or guy who was passed out on the table in the back or the idiot who was rocking it on the dance floor with only half their clothes on. Be responsible, and above all, never have too much to drink.

Quality, not Quantity--- It doesn’t matter if you talk to every single person in the room. If you don’t have a meaningful, memorable conversation with anyone: you have failed. Not only that, but if you are rushing around the room trying to meet as many people as possible, chances are good you will seem rude as your eyes dart from side to side while scanning the room, identifying the next person to pounce upon. It is important to maintain eye contact with the person you are speaking with, and stay focused on what they are saying. A strong network is based on relationships, not acquaintances.

Take A Note. Once the event is over, you should take all those business cards that you skillfully extracted and write a few notes on the back of each one. Jot down who the person was, what they do, what you talked about and even how they might be able to help you in the future. Once you get home, file them away in a box or folder where you can find them when you need them.
Work on Your Follow Through. If you exchange information with someone, at a networking event or anywhere else, and you have the intention of getting together at a later date, be sure to follow up with them. While the conversation and meeting is still fresh in your mind, send a note asking when a good time to get together would be. Try to do this within one week of the event; they are much more likely to remember you that way.

Be a Friend. As you meet new people, or come into contact with clients and associates, ask them how they are doing; take a genuine and sincere interest in their lives. You are more likely to have a lasting relationship with someone if you get past the surface stuff and know them as a friend. At the same time, you should always be yourself; never “pretend” to be their friend. If a friendship is not developing naturally, don’t force it.

Stay In Touch. A large part of networking is maintaining the contacts you already have. In the hustle and bustle to get new contacts, don’t forget about keeping the contacts you already have up to date with your life. Holiday cards, personal newsletters and social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are all excellent ways to keep in touch with friends from long ago.
These are just a few tips to help make your construction of a great network easier. There are hundreds of ways to do it, and even more ways to maintain it; but at the end of the day, networking is still relationship building, and building good relationships takes time. Be patient, put your best foot forward, nurture your network, and eventually, you will “know” one of those people who will help your dreams come true.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Job Outlook: What Do Employers Look for in Candidates?

Spotlight Online for Career Services Professionals, January 6, 2010

With the state of the job market leading employers to have higher expectations for the candidates they hire, there is increased emphasis on grade point average (GPA). More employers are screening candidates for GPA than at any other time over the past five years. Currently, nearly three out of four say they screen for GPA, according to responses to the Job Outlook 2010 survey.

Approximately 95 percent of those who use GPA reported their cutoff; 63 percent of respondents cited 3.0, the same cutoff point since 2003 when NACE first collected the information.

However, a high GPA is just one component employers consider in their candidates. And if two candidates are equally qualified, what helps employers choose between them? Based on attributes provided in the survey, a student’s leadership experience has a slight edge over other factors. The top factors are as follows:

  • Has held leadership position

  • Major

  • High GPA (3.0 or above)

  • Has been involved in extracurricular activities

  • School attended

  • Has done volunteer work

Responding employers were able to add to the list of attributes likely to influence them to hire one candi­date over another, and more than one-quarter did so. In examining the other write-in attributes, it is evident that employers see a tremendous value in the experience that a candidate possesses. For example, a total of 25 respondents indicated that a candidate’s previous internship experience would influence their hiring decision.

Not only do employ­ers prefer candidates with experience, but they also prefer can­didates with relevant work experience. When asked about the preferred source of that experience, more than half cited internships and co-ops.

An Unconsidered Job: Civilian positions with the US Military

An Unconsidered Job Area That’s Taking Flight

When it comes to college students seeking “hidden job opportunities,” the United States military is a good place to look, according to Pat Stokes, marketing specialist with the U.S. Air Force. Still, it remains largely unconsidered as a landing place for college graduates. Why?

“Most people are under the impression that to work for the Air Force you have to join the Air Force,” Stokes says. “As a civilian employee, you can serve your country without committing to military service.”

Stokes explains that the Air Force is one of the nation’s largest employers, with more than 143,000 civil service positions. And, at a time when many employers have frozen or cut their hiring, the Air Force is growing.

“In contrast to most employers, the [economy’s] impact on the Air Force has been minimal,” Stokes points out. “In fact, over the next five years, the Air Force plans to hire an additional 24,000 civilians into its work force.”

Career opportunities include positions in auditing, civil engineering, communications, contracting, education/training, financial management, intelligence, international affairs, history, logistics, medical, personnel/manpower, program management, public affairs, scientists/engineers, security, social services, and more.

Each career has its own unique requirements. To best determine what each career requires, career services practitioners should direct students to www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/afcivilianjobs and have them click on their desired career fields for specific qualifications, frequently asked questions, and directions on how to request more information. There are also instructions on how to apply for civil service jobs; information about career fields, benefits, and job searches; and other resources.

The web site includes a tab for entry-level opportunities for college graduates. Under this tab, Stokes points out, there are two Air Force internship programs for college graduates: the Palace Acquire Intern Program, for a variety of career fields, and the COPPER CAP Program, for contracting specialists only.

“These intern programs provide civilian employment opportunities for personal and professional growth in more than 20 different career fields,” Stokes says. “The intern programs offer full-time employment with a structured two- to three-year training program, putting employees on the fast track with performance-based promotions. Benefits include eligibility for $20,000 in student loan reimbursements and some locations include recruitment bonuses.”

Those students who are not interested in an intern program or who do not meet the eligibilities can click on “Search Student Jobs” to discover other educational employment opportunities, including the Student Educational Employment Program, Student Career Experience Program, apprenticeships, felowships, grants, and scholarships.

“These opportunities are available to eligible students from high school through the doctorate level,” Stokes says.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

5 Insider Tips for Job-Seeking College Grads

U.S. News & World Report's advice on job search in this market is on target: http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/2009/12/30/5-insider-tips-for-job-seeking-college-grads.html.

Here in CAFNR Career Services, we maintain a database of alumni and employer contacts who are willing to help students begin making the type of connections mentioned in the article. Please let us know if we can help you get started! And, check out OUR online tips for making networking work: http://cafnr.missouri.edu/career-services/interviews/networking.php.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quizzical Questions

Quizzical Questions
Insight from Employers on Those Tough Interview Questions!
from http://www.agcareers.com/ newsletter 12/17/09

If you’ve done much interviewing or are preparing to start, you’ve probably run across questions that get asked in most every interview. Of course it is great to practice what you might respond with, but what is it that employers are really looking for when asking that particular question? Well, we’ve found out! We’ve asked several industry experts to provide us with points on what they are looking for in a response when asking some of the more difficult interview questions.

Tell me a little about yourself.

Wrong: My name is Pat Smith and I like long walks on the beach and Monopoly. I want to work for your organization because I think you could use some help with your advertising campaigns and I’m much more creative than the team you currently have.

Correct: Mary Birley, Talent Recruiting Consultant at Cargill offered the following insight on the best way to respond to “Tell me about yourself.”

“The purpose of this question is to make you (the candidate) comfortable and start off the interview by getting to talk about yourself without having to answer a tough question right away.” She says to touch on what you’re doing in school, some past jobs you’ve had, some extracurricular activities, and your career goals. She also mentions that it is good to explain how the position you are applying for fits into your career goals.

This question is a hard one for some people because you don’t really have an idea how long they’d like you to speak. Take the advice above for your content and try to keep your response between one to two minutes. To wrap up the conversation and turn it back over to the interviewer, share what you feel you can bring to the organization and/or why you are excited about the position.

Are you willing to relocate?

Wrong: It depends on where the location is and if you are willing to pay to help me relocate.Right: From Human Resources Generalist at Becker Underwood, Kathry Lenz, when responding to this question she is looking for an enthusiastic, but sincere “yes.”

“There is nothing more frustrating than to go through the whole process and make an offer, only to have the candidate decide they don’t want to move after all,” says Lenz.

She says that it is also good to hear if the candidate is familiar with the town where the position is or that the candidate has at least researched the area and like what they’ve found. Lenz says that tells her that the candidate is serious about the job. Also, she says it is nice to hear questions about the town or area, such as what are the schools like, cost of living, etc. Again, another way to confirm the candidate is serious.

If you are really not willing to relocate, don’t apply for the position or if you find out that relocation may be necessary during the interview process, be honest and upfront about the fact that you are unwilling to relocate. It will save both parties time.

What is your expected salary range?

Wrong: I’d like to come into the organization at a managerial level, so therefore I think I should be between $80,000 and $90,000.Correct: “This is a very tough question for most people to answer—not just new graduates,” shares Shannon Blacker, Human Resources Manager with Syngenta Canada. “The main thing is to come into the interview prepared. Do some market research. What are other companies within the industry offering for this type of role? What would similar positions in a different industry pay?”

Blacker advises that most university and colleges have information on typical starting salaries for graduates from each program so use those resources that are available to you.

“Our assumption is that most individuals have an ideal starting salary, valid reasoning behind it and willingness to discuss it,” says Blacker. “If you are the top candidate, most companies will want to make you a fair offer that you will be happy with.”

Blacker also says, regardless of the actual salary range you propose, it is always a good idea to reassure the hiring manager of the main reasons you have applied and let them know that salary is not your only motivator. Reiterate your interest in the position and the company, and let them know you are confident you could come to an agreement that is fair for both parties should the opportunity be presented to you.

What are your weaknesses?

Wrong: I’m not a morning person, which makes me late for work nearly every day. Also, I have a hard time working with people who don’t like my university sports team.Right: “For answers to this question, we always hear ‘I work too hard’, or ‘I’m a perfectionist’, and those are weaknesses that they are trying to make into strengths,” Birley says. “Everyone says them, and it is just annoying to hear.”

She suggests that it is best to be completely honest and think about the feedback from past employers or coworkers, or just something you know you have to work on.

“A great response to this question would be to show that you are self-aware in that you know your weaknesses, and then show what you’re doing to address them or improve upon them,” says Birley.

What will you offer our company?

Wrong: I’m simply the best candidate that you will find and confident in my abilities!Right: While being confident is important, Lenz suggests that being more specific and providing examples of related experiences or education that relate to the job description and job duties listed are a more valuable response to this question and will help set you apart.

“Tell me why you chose this career path and demonstrate why you have passion for this type of work or position,” says Lenz. “Reiterate how you have prepared yourself for this type of work through related education, internships, etc. And, if they don’t have the related background yet, I look for an answer that suggests they have carefully thought through this career path and that tells me why they are choosing it.”

Do you have any questions for me?

Wrong: No, I think you’ve answered them all!

Right: “It always amazes me when people do not take the opportunity during the interview to ask questions,” says Blacker. “We want to know that people are just as serious about their careers, as we are about finding the right team member for our organization so we would hope they DO have questions!”

“Similarly, it is a major disappointment for me when the first or only questions a candidate has are: What is the salary?; How much vacation would I get?; and Can you please describe your health benefits?,” says Blacker.

Blacker agrees that those are details that are certainly open for discussion and are great questions to ask at a later stage in the recruitment process if they are not addressed by the hiring manager. Some topics (like vacation and benefits) may even be best discussed during the offer stage.

“My advice is to ask intelligent questions about the role and the company that show you have done your research,” says Blacker. “One caveat: limit your questions to three to five for the initial interview as most hiring managers are on a schedule and you don’t want to ask too many during the first round. If it is a single interview recruitment process, ask away!”

While we know you would never respond as distinctly wrong as the “Wrong” answers posed within this article, we do hope that the feedback provided directly from the mouths of those who could be hiring you will help prepare you so you are sure to achieve a successful interview and adequately answer some of those quizzical questions!

IMPRESSIVE QUESTIONS TO ASK AN INTERVIEWER1. Can you describe a typical day in this type of role?2. How long have you been at the company and what makes you stay?3. How would you describe the work environment and corporate culture?4. What are some of the goals for the company in the short and longer term?5. How would my performance be measured?6. What types of career opportunities may open up down the road for a person starting out in this type of position, assuming they perform well?7. What are some of the company’s initiatives regarding learning and development?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Job Outlook for 2010 Grads...Stinks, but Wait...

There is good news for those pursuing careers in agriculture, food processing and environmental science: http://money.cnn.com/2009/11/17/news/economy/college_graduates_jobs/index.htm.

Please let us know if we can help you to organize and launch a job or internship search! As we work with employers, we know the CNN Money article is right: There are jobs out there. We're glad to help you find them!

Stephanie Chipman
MU CAFNR Career Services

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dickinson Scholars

Last year, as a sophomore CAFNR student, I was looking to get more involved within the College of Agriculture as well as add intern and leadership experience to my resume. I had heard about Dickinson Scholars through a presentation in my Ag Econ 2183 class and decided that it could be a good opportunity to get involved and get some of that experience I was looking for.

The program fulfilled my expectations and more. I went in not knowing what to expect and came out knowing more about professionalism in the workplace, what steps I need to take as a student to ensure a great job in the future, and I also made some fantastic contacts. The program allowed me to network with alumni and get their opinion on attending graduate school as well as different companies and jobs. It was also a great opportunity to grow as a person in ways such as proper business attire and where to put your fork and knife once you are done eating.

I encourage all students who are interesting in working in corporate agriculture to apply to John Brown or Dickinson Scholars. A week of your winter break is definitely worth the experience!

-Danielle Bellis
Junior, Agribusiness Management