32 Quick & Dirty Career Facts & Tips

Sometimes lengthy articles are a pain in the butt to get through when all you want is some quick advice. There?s a lot that goes into finding a job and ultimately creating a successful career: writing your resume and cover letter, finding opportunities, applying, interviewing and landing the job. So, we?ve decided to compile a list of 32 quick and dirty career facts and tips to help you find your way using three sentences or less:

RESUME & COVER LETTER

  1. Memorize your resume. Your interviewers will have it on-hand and will reference it. P.S., you should also have a copy with you.
  2. Customize your resume to the job you are applying for using keywords from the job-description where applicable.
  3. Less is more; don?t push the margin and text size limits. Be selective in what you choose to include and how you phrase it.
  4. Don?t include your hobbies, because they are just that: hobbies. Only share career- and experience-specific information that will show you are qualified for the job.
  5. Don?t point out how you may be underqualified for the job as you will only be helping them decide not to hire you.
  6. If you are lacking in the work experience department, include extra-curricular activities such as community service, clubs and sports that you have participated in.
  7. Don?t restate your resume line items in your cover letter, thus rendering it pointless. Explain how you are qualified and why you are interested in the position.
  8. The more jobs you hold, the more you can remove irrelevant jobs (like waitress and paper boy) from your resume.

FINDING A JOB

  1. Use your network to inquire about job opportunities. This includes your family members and their peers, friends, professors, career counselors and anyone you have worked with or for in the past.
  2. Big job search boards aren?t as useful as they used to be. Use your contacts, LinkedIn and career counselor.
  3. Don?t bank on just one application. Apply to multiple jobs, even if you are convinced you?ve got one in the bag. There are hundreds of other competing for the same positions.
  4. Take every interview you are offered, even if you don?t want the job that badly. All interviewing experience is good experience, and will help you down the line.
  5. Don?t neglect to apply for a job just because there are a few ?requirements? that you don?t qualify for, or you?ll never get a job that challenges you to learn more.
  6. Understand and accept the fact that you will likely not hear back from at least half of the companies you apply to.

INTERVIEWING

  1. First impression means everything; unfortunately, hiring managers will judge a book by its cover. Present your best self.
  2. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Wear a professional outfit ? even if the company is notoriously casual. They?ll tell you if it?s OK to dress down.
  3. Being likable is a surefire way to get brownie points. Companies want to hire people that they can envision themselves working alongside, not people that are rude, disrespectful, less than personable, or simply dull.
  4. Take notes; it looks good and it will help you keep track of important talking points and company objectives.
  5. Ask questions to demonstrate your interest and research in the company and the position. It helps make it more of a conversation than an interview, and thus, less scary.
  6. Make eye contact to reinforce your desire for the job and your respect for the person interviewing you. Avoiding eye contact may get you rejected.
  7. Ask your interviewee about themselves and how they got to where they are within the company. People like to talk about themselves, plain and simple. It makes a nice impression.

AT WORK

  1. Keep the bubbler gossip to a minimum. You will make friends, but word travels fast and you don?t want to be the subject or source of rumors.
  2. Network like you?ve never networked before. You never know who will be the person that helps you land your next big opportunity.
  3. You need both the hard and soft skills to succeed in any industry. Learn to communicate and be personable, whether or not you work on a team.
  4. Don?t keep your social media profiles open in another tab. Save personal stuff for your lunch break or, even better, for when you get home.
  5. Stick up for yourself If you feel that your tasks have fallen outside the scope of your position. Your boss may be your superior but you are allowed to raise questions.
  6. If you have a lot on your plate, consider going to work earlier or staying later. Not only will it ease the burden but it will prove that you are dedicated to your work and not stuck on the ?9 to 5? mindset.
  7. Always ask how you can help, if you have the time. Managers often forget that they can pass off work during a learnership, and will appreciate if you can take a load off their shoulders.
  8. Do what you can to make your boss look good. It won?t go unappreciated when it?s time to talk about more money or a promotion.
  9. If you are confused, don?t shy away from asking for clarification. Your superiors would rather explain something to you again than get poor (or wrong) work.
  10. Stay close to those working in administrative roles (receptionists, assistants, interns, etc.), because they often have insight that no one else does! They also may be amazing contacts in the future.
  11. Think outside of the box, rather than playing it safe all the time. You will move ahead in your career if you can take a step away from your job description and offer new, exciting and effective ideas.

6 Social Media Mistakes That Could Hurt Your Career

Social media is becoming increasingly prevalent in the average individual?s life. Think about how often you check your phone throughout the day. It?s become mechanical, in a way. We check so much that we don?t even realize just how much time we spend with our mobile device in hand and our thumbs scrolling lazily through our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. If you actually tracked just how much time you are on these platforms, I think you?d be surprised with your total time spent each day.

Because we are so attached to our social media accounts, and because we have become so overly transparent by sharing so many aspects of our lives, hiring manager now look to these accounts to get insight into the people they are interviewing. It?s part of a screening process these days, even though it may not feel very fair, and it will continue to be used so long as we continue to use these platforms.

Professionals are now refining their profiles to hide content that they wouldn?t want a hiring manager to see. Some are even changing their profile name to display just first and middle, rather than first and last names, in a last-ditch effort to make it difficult for anyone to locate their profile. However, it?s not that simple, given that all social media accounts are connected to email addresses. With that, we thought we would compile a list of social media mistakes that could hurt your career:

1. Complaining about your boss or co-workers, current or former

What hiring manager would want to recruit someone that bad mouths the people that they work for? If you have the audacity to make a complaint about someone you work for or with now, who?s to stay you wouldn?t do it again in the future? Talking about your boss or peers online is a surefire way to NOT get hired. It?s totally unprofessional, and totally not going to land you a job. It could even be grounds for termination. No job is perfect; everyone has something not-so-wonderful to say about their superiors. You just have to learn to deal with it. It?s part of life ? a part that should not be shared with your social following!

2. Posting inappropriate photos or content

This is inclusive of photos that have already been uploaded to your social accounts. Hiring managers view your photos to get an idea of the type of person you are. A picture speaks a thousand words! While you would prefer to not be judged by a photo, it happens. So, all those selfies from university of you taking shots, dancing on top of bars in a super mini skirt, and possibly engaging in other incriminating activities? Those gotta go.

You also should steer clear of sharing other people?s inappropriate or extreme content. These days, the internet is loaded with all sort of tasteless, rude and gross videos and stories. It?s one thing to watch and read this content, but it?s an entirely different thing to hit that share button.

3. Posting on the job

Many think that the most important thing to avoid is the type of content that they share on their social accounts, and don?t think about when they are posting. If you are posting at 10AM on a Tuesday when you are supposed to be getting a report completed by noon, that?s a really bad look. Posting anything while you are on work hours should be off limits, but if you are going to be so bold, only do it on your lunch break. Both current and future employers will take notice of your timestamps.

4. Letting friends post inappropriate photos or comments on your timeline

?Hey Tina, remember that time you got so wasted from the Beer Olympics that you went streaking through the campus and woke up in your own vomit at that creepy Frat house? Those days were nuts! I miss good ole ?Twisted Tina?!? Do you really think comments like that are going to be received well by any professional person, let alone a potential employer? We don?t want to cast judgment on what crowd you choose to run in, but there is such a thing as having good, aware friends, and not-so-good, oblivious friends. You know who we are talking about: the friend that just loves to post old throwback photos of your crazy university days, or reminisce about all the stuff you got into when you first turned 21 that you probably wouldn?t dare doing now.

Be mindful of your sharing settings; you may decide that post-university is the time to block others from posting anything on your timeline. You don?t want to give others the opportunity to make you look bad. It isn?t just about filtering yourself!

5. Complaining about the people you serve

This falls in the same realm as complaining about your boss or a co-worker. When you work for a company, you are the company, and it?s your responsibility to help it maintain a positive face. Your behaviors will reflect on who you work for. So, don?t criticize your customers online, even if they mistreat you. You won?t get anything out of it and the repercussions will not be worth it! If you must talk about it, call up your friend and share your story to get it off your chest.

6. Using poor spelling or grammar

Despite the fact that social media is more casual than professional, you should always present your best self. This may seem like a small no-no, but it?s really important. Using excessive slang, having a bunch of typos, and misusing the language in general can come off wrong. It may raise questions about your qualifications and of how meticulous and caring you may be about your work. You?re educated ? take some time to edit your posts for errors before you hit share.

Now go clean up those profiles! This is relevant to anyone searching for work, whether it be a learnership or a full-time job.

8 Reasons Why You Should Work A Learnership Abroad

So, you know you need to work at least one learnership before diving into the deep end post-graduation, but have you ever thought about fulfilling one abroad? Many university students struggle to find a proper learnership, given how competitive it can be to get hired. They often get discouraged when they don?t get called in for a second interview, or even an invite for a first go-around. With options being limited, and with hundreds of peers vying for the same opportunities, you should broaden your search to learnerships overseas.

Completing a learnership can help set you up for a successful future. They are resume boosters, they can teach you far more than you can learn in a classroom, and they can often be the reason you get your first job out of university (sometimes at the same place!). There are so many benefits. So, imagine how much more impressive it would be to take your experience abroad! Here are 8 reasons why you should be buying a plane ticket:

  1. The challenge. There is truly something to be said for being placed outside of your comfort zone. The purpose of a learnership is to do just that ? LEARN ? but it should also be a life-altering experience. Not every experience is created equal, and you can be certain that a learnership completed at home will hardly compare to what you can get out of global work. You?d be living (temporarily) in a foreign country and you?d be getting exposure to a different culture while gaining the necessary experience in the workplace. Being able to engage with people that you wouldn?t have otherwise met and being forced to immerse yourself in an unfamiliar environment will humble you, and will open your eyes to unique opportunities in the future.
  2. The travel. Chances are you won?t be working nights and weekends, so you?ll be able to explore! On weekdays, check out the local hot spots. Ask your co-workers and neighbors the best places to get a coffee or see a concert; truly live like a local! On the weekends? you?ve come this far, why not find out what else there is to see? The beauty of doing a learnership abroad is that it will bring you closer to even more locations of interest. Working in Spain? Why not hop on a train and see a bordering town in France for two nights? Seeing new places will be easier and frankly, much cheaper.
  3. The language. If you choose to learn in a country that speaks a language that is foreign to you, you will boost your language proficiency ? whether you have studied it or it is completely new! Just like studying abroad, working in a foreign country forces you to pick up common words and phrases so that you can live. You may have to learn certain vocabulary to communicate with co-workers or customers, or there may be technical words related to the industry that you need to understand. Any amount of exposure will enable you to learn. If your peers also speak your language, encourage them to speak their own so that you can practice!
  4. The intercultural communication. Many major companies coalesce with businesses overseas, and many even have branches globally. Being exposed to a different culture will force you to adapt in many ways that you?ll end up learning so much about yourself personally and how to communicate professionally. Having experience in a multicultural environment is extremely attractive to employers because you?ve been exposed to global business, which could be very beneficial for any growing company.
  5. The academic credit. Some universities require that you learn abroad, and will allow you to apply the job as academic credit. An amazing experience that doubles as fulfilling graduation requirements? Why not!?
  6. The independence. Sure, you got a whiff of independence when you left for university, but you may have played it safe by staying close to home or bunking with an old friend from high school. There is a stark difference between leaving for schooling, and spending a summer in a foreign country to gain work experience. In school, you have roommates, you have access to mentors and counselors when you need help adapting, you have dining commons for all your meals, and you have various clubs and activities. This is not to say that you won?t have access to anything while working abroad, but you will have to create something on your own, rather than having it all handed to you like you do in school. THAT is independence.
  7. The global network. You know how we feel about networking! With any type of learnership, you should network so that you have contacts to reach out to when you need a favor, a referral or advice. Imagine having an international network, that reaches far beyond that of the people applying to the same jobs as you! You may one day say to yourself, ?I loved my learnership in London enough to move there. Who do I know that can put out some feelers to see what types of job opportunities are available?? Your international network, that?s who.
  8. The major resume boost. Outside of what learning abroad can do for you personally, there are obvious professional benefits. It will set you apart from the rest in a huge way. Unfortunately, not many students take the big leap ? whether out of fear, money or purely not realizing what it could do for them. Because of that, a hiring manager will definitely take notice of your resume if they see that you were serious enough about your education and career that you took a job outside of your country. It shows initiative, and they will surely be curious to know what you got out of the experience that was different from, perhaps, the learnership you completed at home.

When you are ready to start looking for learnership opportunities, think bigger than home!

10 Things Every Grad Should Know About Post-University Work

So, you just graduated from university ? or graduation is right around the corner ? and you are preparing yourself for your grand entrance into professional life. You?ve done your due diligence by working learnerships, involving yourself in extracurriculars, and getting good grades over the course of your undergraduate career, and you?ve either got a job lined up or are still on the hunt.

Entering the workforce is not as easy as many think. You may be under the impression that it?ll be as simple as starting a new job, just like you did when you landed your first gig at the ice cream shop, or when you secured a learnership during that summer between your sophomore and junior years. However, there is a whole lot more to post-university work than everything that came before it. This is where all impressions matter, where your work ethic will be learned and communicated to future employers, and where your professional life truly begins.

Here are 10 things every college grad should know before entering the workforce:

1. Not everyone will have your best interest at heart

While you will encounter people who truly want to teach you and see you grow within the company, not all your coworkers will be ?givers.? There will be people who don?t ever seem to give you the time of day, who misuse your time because you?re ?the new one,? who are unwilling to take you under their wing, and who look at you as their competition. This is especially so at larger companies where multiple people seek the same growth track. Don?t take it to heart? run with it.

2. But those who do will want to help. Take it

?Those who are ?givers? do truly want to help. You will encounter many mentors in your life, and as you excel and grow in your industry, you will reflect back on who helped you get to where you are. Don?t mistake suggestions and constructive criticism as rude, ?I know better than you? comments. If people try to help you, take it and appreciate it. At this phase in your career, you?ve got a lot to learn.

3. Age doesn?t matter ? learn from all your peers

?Your 23-year-old co-worker wouldn?t be in her position if the CEO and company hiring manager didn?t think she was qualified for the job. Forget about age and learn from every member of your team, not just the ones that are much older and presumably ?better? at their jobs. Listen, observe, and figure out what each person brings to the table and how you can learn from them and work together to get the job done.

4. Your friends? salaries don?t matter

?Comparing yourself to others is a quick and surefire way to lose focus and fall behind. Entry-level salaries can fluctuate in a major way across industries and there is no changing that. You may be making half of what your former roomies are making, but that?s because you took different paths. You?re working this job because it?s the field that you studied to be in. Worry about your bank account, and your bank account only.

5. Empathy goes a long way

?We are all human. We all are confronted with personal issues from time to time, and when you work 9 to 5, five days a week, you?re bound to find yourself dealing with said issues while on the job. It can be difficult to separate work from personal sometimes. Knowing that, give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt and a bit of empathy when they?re seeming ?off.?

6. Water bubbler gossip looks bad

Gossip of any kind isn?t a good look but gossip in the workplace is a major no-no. You will naturally want to talk about what is going on at work with those you get close to, especially when you are mutually unhappy about something or someone, but keep it to a filtered minimum. Word travels fast, so don?t assume that the person you are gossiping with isn?t going to go to the next person and talk about whatever it was you just told him or her. Just because others are doing it doesn?t mean you need to participate.

7. Networking will go a long way

For all you know, the person sitting three desks over from you could be the person that helps get you a job at your dream company in ten years. Make connections right away. Retain them. Keep in contact. Use them when you need to. Your network is your most valuable professional asset.

8. Failing isn?t the end of the world

If you aren?t failing then you probably aren?t being innovative. If you don?t fail, you don?t learn. Advancing your career involves a huge series of trial and error. It?s impossible to get everything done right the first time around. Trust me, you won?t be the only person in the office to do something incorrectly.

9. Entitlement won?t get you far

You went to an Ivy League school and graduated with honors. Your family spent a lot of money on your education. Congratulations. But acting like you are entitled to a certain salary, position or treatment will not go over well with your superiors and peers. Your growth starts on the day that you first sit at your new desk. You will earn what you deserve by putting in the time and work. You are not entitled to anything.

10. You don?t need to have it all figured out

Chances are your first job out of university will not be a long-lasting one. Young workers often take the first relevant job that they can out of fear that they will be unemployed post-graduation. You may not be 100% sure about what you want to do for work, or where you will be on your career-track in two years, let alone five, ten or twenty. This is OK. What matters is that you take what you do have by the reins, learn from it, get valuable experience and figure out whatever ?it? is as you go.

 

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Ace Your Phone Interview With These Tips & Tricks

Interviews are challenging. How do you convince someone to hire you for a job? That you?re the best candidate they?ve got? How do you maintain your composure while presenting your best self? Well, hate to break it to you but, phone interviews are an entirely different beast. How do you convince someone of these things when you?re not even meeting in person?

It is pretty common to have a phone interview before being invited to meet in person. It?s essentially a screening process that companies use to narrow down the pool before deciding who is worth meeting. When applying for learnerships or any professional job post-university, it is quite likely that you will experience several of these ?meetings.? So, how do you ace the phone interview to make it to the next step?

Set the scene

Don?t take the call on your couch. Create the right environment by setting up a ?workspace? at which you can sit and take notes. This space should be quiet and free of distractions, so if your kitchen table is the best you?ve got, ask your family members or roommates to kindly excuse themselves for the duration of the call. If this isn?t realistic, talk to a teacher, career counselor or librarian about snagging an empty classroom or meeting room. The last thing you want is to have inappropriate noises or conversations in the background.

Use a landline, not a cellphone

Don?t let a poor signal or a low battery ruin your call. There?s nothing worse than being in the middle of an important conversation and getting nothing but silence on the other end of the line because you didn?t realize the call dropped. There?s nothing more stressful than getting that ?low battery? beep and frantically searching for a charger before your phone dies. Why risk these things happening when you could be speaking with your future employer? Play it safe by finding a reliable landline.

Do your homework

This is a necessity for any type of interview, whether over the phone or in person. You may think you?re taking the easy route by having the conversation over the phone but that doesn?t mean you are safe from the, ?what do you know about our company?? question. Your interviewer will expect you to know a few things about the company?s objective and background, so read up! You can also use the points that you learn to frame questions that show you did your research and are genuinely interested.

Have your materials ready

This includes a copy of your cover letter, your resume, any notes you took during your research of the company, and a list of questions to ask the interviewer.

This should also include a basic guideline of answers to common interview questions, for ?just in case? purposes. You may hear questions like:

  1. Why did you apply to this job? What interests you?
  2. Would you relocate? (if applicable)
  3. Give me an example of a professional or academic challenge you have faced and how you overcame it.
  4. Are you willing to travel?
  5. What is the earliest you could begin, if hired?

Having an idea of what you would say if asked will make it easier if you get caught off-guard.

Dress for the job you want

The saying typically goes, ?dress for the job you want, not the job you have? in reference to how you should present yourself in a professional environment. Just because you won?t technically be IN a professional doesn?t mean you should don sweatpants and unwashed hair.

Why do I have to dress up? They?re not even going to see me?

Dressing professionally will make you act professionally. It will give you confidence, make you sit taller, and speak clearer. You?re going to have to dress this way when you land the job, so you might as well start getting used to it.

Speak clearly and eloquently

One of the biggest things you can do to hurt yourself in any interview, let alone a phone interview, is to swallow your words. Don?t talk too fast, don?t mumble, and don?t use slang. You may feel comfortable enough to joke around with your interviewer, which is fine to an extent, but don?t talk to them like they?re one of your buddies. They shouldn?t strain to hear you, they shouldn?t ask themselves, ?did he really just say that??, and they certainly shouldn?t get the vibe that you can?t hold a professional conversation. It?s OK to be a little nervous, but you should practice speaking slowly (you?ll feel like you?re talking slower than you actually are), and enunciating your words. This is even more important for a phone interview than it is for an in-person interview because you won?t have the face-to-face connection.

Listen

This may seem obvious, cause well? you?re on the phone. However, if you tend to be chatty you may find yourself dominating the conversation. Confusing, sure, because you?d think that an interviewer would want you to talk a lot, but there is a difference between leading the conversation and talking so much that you aren?t listening to what they have to say. Don?t forget that an interview goes two ways ? they?re deciding if they want to hire you and you?re seeing if the company would be a good fit for you. Ask follow-up questions to reestablish your interest in the company, pay close attention to their answers and take notes!

Show your gratitude

You were one of few people to make it this far, so be sure to thank your interviewer for their time at the end of the conversation. After 24-48 hours have passed, send a thank you note in the mail, even if they get in touch with you with a ?yay? or a ?nay? first.

It can be really easy to not take a phone interview seriously. Prepare yourself and get that second call!

Top Career & Job Search Mistakes To Avoid As A University Grad

Where should I apply? How do I find job openings? How do I make my resume stick out over the hundreds of others? What if I don?t get any offers? What if I don?t land the job of my dreams?

With so many hows and what ifs when it comes to applying for jobs after college, you?d think that we?d do everything within our power to set ourselves up for success. However, university students tend to make some big mistakes that make it pretty hard to kick off their careers.

There is no denying that job hunting is difficult. Steer clear of these mammoth career and job search mistakes and you?ll better your chances of getting hired after graduating:

  1. Not Networking

Many students don?t bother building their network until after they?ve graduated, not realizing what a valuable tool it could have been for the job hunt. They search frantically and apply for jobs willy-nilly when they could have reached out to their contacts for help from the start. The truth is that students with a network are more likely to get hired than students who are without. That?s why you should take every opportunity to meet people within your industry of interest and keep their contact information on-hand for when you are ready to seek employment. Many jobs go unadvertised, as companies first put feelers out within their own network for recommendations before opening the door to random applications. Don?t forget that your network is not limited to industry professionals, but open to family and friends as well. Your great aunt?s best friend?s son may know of an opening that is perfect for you, so don?t be shy!

  1. Not Using The University Career Center

Let me ask you something. If you are on the hunt for a post-graduation job, why WOULDN?T you use the resources available to you? The FREE resources, no less. The purpose of a university?s career center is quite literally to help students find and land jobs. Job searching can be really hard! Especially when you are trying to finish up your final semester at the same time. A career center can help you search for openings, teach you interview skills, mentor you, notify you of career fairs, revise your resume and cover letter and more. If you haven?t already, contact your school?s career center to see how they can help.

  1. Waiting For The Dream Job

Hate to break it to you, but your first job will not be your dream job. Chances are your second and third jobs won?t be either. Millennials sometimes live in a fantasy world, thinking that they are entitled to hefty salaries, luxurious offices, and managerial roles straight out of university. Unfortunately for most, this is not realistic. New grads spend too much time looking for the perfect job. Setting the bar high for yourself and having big goals is great, but don?t let those dreams keep you from accepting a job that will teach you skills that you can?t learn in a classroom, and give you experience that will look great on your resume. Your first job will function as a vehicle toward your perfect job, and will likely come along much sooner than you think. Just remember, we all have to start somewhere!

  1. Settling

While you shouldn?t wait around for your dream job, you also shouldn?t settle on a mediocre or bad job just because you?re anxious to be employed. We understand the need to make a living but you are allowed to be picky. Don?t take a job just for the paycheck, and don?t take a job that?s outside your field just because you?ve not received offers within? yet. The jobs you hold before you ?make it big? are the ones that are going to function as your stepping stones. You will do some dirty work, you will pick up new skills, and you will begin to understand the inner workings of your industry. Never settle. Hold out for the jobs that will get you where you want to be.

  1. Sending Generic Resumes and Cover Letters

You should always have an up-to-date resume and cover letter but you should never submit them without tailoring them to the job you are applying to. No job is created equal and your applications should reflect that. Show the hiring manager that you read and understood the job description by incorporating the keywords and skills that they are looking for. Remove any bullet points that are not relevant to the position (courses you took, part-time jobs you worked, and any space-filler proficiencies) and think about what you have to offer that would be useful to the company. You are essentially marketing yourself, so sell it!

  1. Not Following Up

Like we always say, you are one of many people looking for a job. Sending in your resume and cover letter is simply not enough. After submitting, FOLLOW UP. Don?t expect your application to magically land at the top of pile. Wait a respectable 72 hours and then call to confirm receipt and to re-express your interest in the job. You must also follow up after an interview, with a thank you note.

  1. Putting Off The Learnerships

Too many students think they can just wait another semester before working a learnership; that they have plenty of time and that if worse comes to worse, their grades will matter more. This is perhaps the biggest mistake of them all, because learnerships mean everything. Yes, your grades are important to a hiring manager, but your experience and skills truly mean more because that?s what will help you get the job done. There is no such thing as starting too early. We?d advise that you start looking into learnerships as early as high school, and if not, the summer after your freshman year.

Taking the time to work learnerships will make the job hunt easier, your network bigger, and your chances of getting hired greater!

How To Make The Best of a Bad Learnership

Not every learnership is created equal. Some students are fortunate enough to land a gig where they not only get to function as an active member of the team but walk away with a potential job opportunity. Others commit to a learnership that somehow ends up being a far cry from what they signed up for.

So, what do you do when your learnership is not all that it?s cracked up to be? What happens when you aren?t taught what you were promised, or when you end up being the errand runner rather than your superior?s right hand?

Here are 5 ways to make the best out of a poor learnership experience:

1. Review your job description

It?s not uncommon for learnerships to veer off track as supervisors and employees get wrapped up in their own to-do lists. Things are looking good until suddenly, you are left with projects that don?t even last you until your lunch break, or worse? nothing at all. In order to avoid being the go-to coffee girl, be aware of what your job description entails and don?t be afraid to remind your manager(s) what you were offered when you accepted the learnership. Or, if you don?t seem to be picking up all the skills that you expected, compare your daily task list to the job description and figure out where you need to focus more or less of your time. Remember, this is YOUR experience and your future on the line? not theirs.

2. Speak up

It can feel a little bit funny to say what?s on your mind, especially to a supervisor that you want to impress, but it?s a must if you?re going to make the most of your time on the job. Learnerships are often only a couple of months long, so it?s vital that you set the stage for what is sure to be a whirlwind experience. If you are not learning what you need to learn, if you?re feeling mistreated or underutilized, or if you are being told to do grunt work that you did not sign up for? speak up! Your boss is not a mind reader and likely just needs to be told that things are not going well.

You may consider treating the situation as if it were a real job. If you were working for this company full-time and didn?t have any desire to look for another job, what would you do? Just deal with it? No! You?d do what you could to make it better. After all, you have to go in every day for the foreseeable future, so you might as well fix what?s broken. Request a meeting and lay it all out there, while remaining positive and explaining how you?d like to help the company succeed. Stick up for yourself; you are your own best advocate.

3. Explore other options

Perhaps your supervisor is too tied up to think about how you may help beyond filing away boxes of old paperwork. Or maybe, you?ve spent more time twiddling your thumbs than doing anything productive. The only way you can get out of a situation like this is to ask for more. Start with your supervisor. First, find out if he or she may need your hands, and if not, suggest exploring another department until they?re ready to use you.

?I am all caught up with Project X. Do you have any other tasks that I can take on??

?I know you?re swamped with the annual report. Can I help you organize any of the data? I am pretty good with Microsoft Excel.?

?I noticed that Manager X was working on Project Y. If you don?t have anything else for me to do today, do you mind offering my assistance??

The company you work for is supposed to teach you as best they can, but there will be times when you have to take the reins and steer yourself toward your desired end goal. You will likely find that your supervisor was simply too occupied in their work that they didn?t realize how much of a help you could have been

4. Take the bad and think about how to make it better

Some of the best experience you can get is bad experience, because it teaches you how to and more importantly, how NOT to handle certain situations. From how to treat your fellow employees to how to handle difficult customers? it all boils down to proper experience! Also, tasks that seem negative may help you come up with ways that they can be performed more efficiently. Often, a fresh perspective is all a company needs to transform a not-so-effective method into a well-oiled machine.

5. Look at the bigger picture

?Finally, think BIG. No one goes through life with the perfect professional life. If it was perfect, then you wouldn?t have many opportunities to learn, right? Sometimes you just have to do the dirty work with the knowledge that you will eventually be the one calling the shots. Trivial, repetitive, boring tasks make the more challenging projects more exciting, and they make you appreciate those who work beneath you that much more? because you?ve been there. At the end of the day, it?s all a learning experience.

Learnerships are meant to help students discover where they belong. A negative experience may compel you to research other areas to find your best fit, or it may ignite a fire that pushes you to find a company that will offer you the experience you deserve. No matter what, it will help shape you as a person and as a professional in the long run.

The Benefits of Job Shadowing

If you are in the exploratory phase of your professional life, job shadowing can be a great way of figuring out which path to take. The beautiful thing about it is that it doesn?t force one to commit to an entire semester or summer of work, when he or she may simply be trying to decide whether they?d be interested in pursuing a learnership in that field. It?s a brief educational experience that may reap a lot of benefits, if you do your best to maximize your time.

What is job shadowing?

There is something to be said for getting hands-on experience, and job shadowing is an incredible way for young students to dip their toes in a potential role. Job shadowing involves following a professional around throughout their daily tasks to get an idea of what his or her role entails. From sitting in on meetings to assisting with tasks, a shadow can get the ?day in the life? experience. This can take place over the course of one day, or more, depending on what the student is hoping to get out of the experience and what kind of time a professional is willing and able to provide.

To understand the position at its height, a shadow may inquire as to what time of year their professional of choice is the busiest, or when he or she may have an interesting event or meeting going on; something that allows them to really observe key tasks and actions.

What can you get out of it?

  1. You get to envision yourself in the role. As students, we dream of being doctors, veterinarians, artists, entrepreneurs, engineers? you name it. Many go through a rolodex of interests before they really find their calling, and job shadowing truly helps one figure out where they belong. To see someone you look up to literally do what you want to spend your professional life doing AND to be given the chance to contribute puts a shadow in a unique position that may really be the catalyst for their future. Or, observation may make one completely change their mind.
  2. You get to network. Like a learnership, being a shadow gets your foot in the door and gives you the opportunity to create relationships with future references. Having someone that can vouch for you is essential when you are applying for jobs, whether you are seeking a role at a different company or you are trying to get hired for a position at the company for which you shadowed. This is particularly true when you?ve made a good impression on the person you are paired with. Remember, there are hundreds of other people looking to land the same job as you, so references can go a long way.
  3. You?ll learn lessons. Many learn what?s right and wrong by observation and experiences; what to do and what not to do. Being in real life situations allows a shadow to see both the good and the bad of job, walking away with lessons learned. Whether they see mistakes in real-time or the team learns that certain practices are not as efficient as they could be? it?s all educational. The beauty? You?re just there to learn.
  4. You get to understand the way things work. There is so much more to a position, a team and a company than meets the eye. You may see yourself as a corporate lawyer but not realize how the tier system works within the law office walls. Who reports to whom? How are tasks prioritized? How frequently do team members attend meetings? Are their cliques? What are the office rules? Is there room for growth? While you may not end up working at the company where you shadow, observing general office dynamic will help you prepare for situations at other locations. Being aware of what to watch for and how to act will put you at a great advantage when something arises at a future job.
  5. You?ll learn what managers look for on resumes and applications. There?s nothing like being flat out told what someone wants or needs. Who wouldn?t want to know EXACTLY what a hiring manager is looking for as he or she sifts through hundreds of applications. You?ll learn the keywords that stick out, what skills are desired, what points are more important than others, and what makes one resume stick out more than another. In the end, you?ll be ready to write a resume and cover letter that sells!
  6. You can get your questions answered. What about the position are you curious about? What does it take to advance one?s career to this point? You?re there to determine whether it?s something you can see yourself doing, right? You?re there to learn. Ask questions. All of the questions. This is not the time to be shy. This is the time to learn as much as you possibly can! Not only will you get the answers you need to decide what to do next, but you will leave a great impression. They are taking the time to teach you and will appreciate your interest. Be sure to ask insightful questions that will aid your efforts in the future.

Some questions to consider:

  • What did you study in college? Are there any particular courses or training you would recommend?
  • What was the first position you held in this field?
  • How long did it take you to get to where you are now?
  • What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
  • What is the easiest part of your job?
  • Do you have goals in sight? What do you hope to accomplish within this role and is it in reach? If so, how do you plan to get there?
  • Do you know of any opportunities in this spectrum that I should explore?

The opportunities are endless! If you have the chance to shadow someone who is living your dream? do it!

Top 10 Things To Bring To An Learnership Interview

So you?ve landed a learnership interview at the company of your dreams and the date is fast approaching. Apart from what you are going to say to sell yourself, have you thought about what you need to bring, other than yourself?

Here are the top 10 things you should bring to your interview:

  1. Your Resume. Sure, your interviewer has already seen your resume (I mean, it?s why you landed the interview to begin with? right?), but you should still bring a hard copy on the big day. Bring enough copies for each person you will be meeting with, and an extra one for yourself to use as a point of reference if you need. Chances are you will be talking about your work experience for a large portion of the interview, so make a point to reference relevant line items and how they apply to the position you are trying to get. If you aren?t sure how many people you will meet, bring 3-5 copies? in color, if there is any.
  2. Directions. If you haven?t physically been to the location, bring directions so you don?t run into any confusion along the way. Also, be sure to note what floor and suite you should go to, if applicable. Not knowing where you are going is not worth risking a late arrival!
  3. A list of questions. As we?ve preached previously, it is incredibly important to ask questions during your interview. If you don?t have questions, you?ve not done enough research on your potential employer. Interviewers live for interviewees who have solid questions to ask. A proper interview isn?t just a drilldown of the candidate, but also a drilldown of the company! If the interview goes both ways, you will not only feel more comfortable, but you will also impress whomever has the pleasure of meeting with you. It shows interest, dedication and professionalism. Be sure to get specific and avoid only asking the basics such as ?When would the learnership start?? and ?Can I get university credit?? Have a diverse list of questions to show that you?ve done your research and know a thing or two about your future place of employment.
  4. A notebook and pen. It?s easy to forget small bits of information during an interview, so take notes as you go. Not only will you have something to reference, should the company decide to pursue you further, but you will also look good. Interviewers like to know that you are paying attention and that you care enough to jot down major talking points. It shows that you are serious about the job and not just half-listening to what they are saying.
  5. A list of references. Some companies don?t require that you provide a list of references, but it doesn?t hurt to have one on-hand in case they spring it on you at the end of the interview. This list should be comprised of 3-5 people that you?ve worked with in some professional capacity, who can speak for your work ethic and personality. This may be a former employer, a teacher, or someone senior to you that you have volunteered with. If you aren?t asked for a list of references, provide it anyway to show that you?ve come prepared.
  6. Your portfolio. If you are interviewing for a more creative position, it would behoove you to bring samples of your work. This will help your interviewer(s) visualize your creative abilities to see if they match with the company?s brand and goals. Artwork, graphic design, spreadsheets, models, clips that have been published, websites you?ve designed, etc.
  7. Notes. If you did your research on the company, you should have some notes on what you learned. Bring these with you so that you can study them while you are waiting to be seen (because you should be early enough that you have to wait to be called in!). It?s also OK to use these during your interview in conjunction with your list of questions. They don?t expect you to memorize the company objective but they do expect you to have an idea of what they are all about. Having your notes in front of you will only help make you look good ? and will keep you from stumbling over your words if you happen to forget what you were going to say!
  8. Identification. Depending on where your interview is, you may be required to provide security with an ID in order to get a guest pass. This is typical at companies that are in a more corporate environment.
  9. A briefcase or professional looking bag. You?re going to need to put all of these things somewhere, right? They might as well be kept in something business-like. This will make you look much more professional than you would if you simply carried all of your stuff in your arms. If you don?t have one, don?t hesitate to ask a close friend or family member to borrow one of theirs for your interview.
  10. A good attitude. This is by far the most important thing you can bring to an interview. You may have all the bells and whistles on paper, but your attitude can make or break your chances of getting that second interview. Part of the reason companies ask candidates to meet in person is because anyone can have a beefed up resume and anyone can sound good in a cover letter or email. An interview is often meant to see how you would fit in with the rest of the team. Are you positive? Easy to communicate with? Do you take verbal constructive criticism well? How do you manage yourself under pressure? If you go in with a negative attitude and no confidence, how can you expect to sell yourself on the position? You can?t. Be positive, show real interest in the company, and be 100% confident in yourself and your abilities.

Best of luck!

Create Your Own Learnership And Be The ‘Only’ Candidate

Finding learnership opportunities can be challenging, especially when you may seek to complete more than one before you graduate from university. It can also be difficult if you are pursuing a very specific area of study, leaving limited options. But, the fact of the matter is that getting a learnership or two under your belt is a must if you want to be competitive in the job sphere.

These days, there is no such thing as an easy in. It?s true when they say that you need experience to get experience, which seems convoluted but that?s just the way it is. Thousands of people submit applications for the same positions, forcing you to call, email and wait for a response that may never come. Why chase an application when you can create your own learnership and be the ONLY candidate for the job?!

Yes, it is possible to create your own job. You just have to be creative and outgoing enough to make it happen.

Where would I even start?

Well, what are your goals?

First you need to have the idea. What are you studying? Where do you see yourself working in 10 years? What hands-on work would you like to get involved in? What do you need to learn to get to where you want to be? Who are you inspired by? These are all questions you need to ask yourself because they will help you shape your learnership, where it should be and what responsibilities you would have.

After establishing the ideal learnership in your mind, frame it. Determine how much time you are able to commit per week, when you would need it to take place, the top three things you want to learn, what kind of impact you want to make and in what realm. You may have the ultimate goal of working for a company like Nike. If that?s the case, then you know that you should look for opportunities at other sports and apparel-related companies in order to work your way up and network. If you are more focused on attaining certain skills, then your opportunities will change a bit.

Who would I ask?

Perhaps there is a company or group that you?ve always wanted to work for, or maybe a family member or friend knows someone who could use the exact kind of help you are able to offer. You may also ask a professor or career counselor to help you search out the hidden gems. The best places to look are small companies that may not think they have the resources to take on a learner. For example, if you are interested in performing arts but have a marketing concentration, you may reach out to a community theater to see if their marketing and promotions department could use some help. Here, you would have more opportunities to grow within the company and take on bigger responsibilities, since staffing for local businesses and non-profits tend to be small.

You may also think about the people you are inspired by and how they got to where they are. Many of the most successful people come from humble beginnings, having worked their way up the totem pole with lots of effort and determination. Where did they start? What types of jobs did they have and at what point in their career did their true professional self really start to take shape? You?ll often find that they found their calling while working a learnership. Take notes!

How do I prepare and how do I approach them?

Once you have determined where you want to work and what your goals are for the experience, it?s time to make phone calls and submit ?applications?! You must, of course, update your CV/resume before reaching out to make your pitch. Remember, you are seeking them? not the other way around. A learnership is not on their radar so you have to sell yourself to them! Tailor your CV to the work you are looking for and the companies you are applying to.

You should also prepare a cover letter, as you would for any application, but this one is a little different in that you are presenting them with an opportunity. Rather than explaining why you are the best candidate for the role they are offering, you?re explaining why you are contacting them, how you could benefit their company and what you hope to learn from them. You may also insert a little bit of praise.

In this case, it?s OK to go a little bit over one page (which is usually frowned upon in the CV world) because you may need more space to explain why you are reaching out to them. Don?t forget to request a meeting/informal interview to discuss the potential!

It may feel a little weird to go to a company that doesn?t have any evident learnership listings and say, ?Hey, I want to do a learnership with you and this is what I propose?? but it?s actually quite impressive. While they may be caught off guard, they aren?t going to look at you and say, ?um, sorry but we don?t have any openings.? Otherwise they wouldn?t have given you the time of day. If anything, they may say they have to think about how it COULD work and get back to you, because it?s essentially free help. Who would turn that down? Employers are impressed by students who are proactive and know what they want. You aren?t the first person looking to secure a learnership (they?ve been there!), so in all likelihood? they?ll accept!

It?s time to get creative!