Sunday, April 2, 2017

Your Mentoring Playlist

Music is an important part of our everyday lives.  It can evoke strong emotions, motivate, and help set the mood of the environment.  Many students have playlists for different activities; to study, exercise, or to pump up for an athletic event.  I present you with my mentoring playlist; a list of song titles that can help direct how you interact with your mentor!

Million Reasons, Lady Gaga; Stronger - Kelly Clarkson
Mentoring has loads of benefits; for example, it can help you learn more about your desired career area while providing you with practical information you can use to build related experience.  In addition, the connections you make with your mentor may lead to contacts which may generate your first internship or job. Identifying and communicating with a mentor can help you sharpen your communication skills, your employment materials, and overall make you better equipped to pursue opportunities as the strongest candidate.

Hello, Adele; Call on Me, Starley
Make regular contact with your mentor.  Many students are great at the initial introduction with others, but fail at maintaining the relationship.  Your mentor needs to know how you are doing!  Did you take their advice?  How did it go?  Are you looking for work now?  What has been your progress?  Regular communication keeps you fresh in the mind of your mentor and allows them to help you in meeting your personal and professional goals. Mentoring is about establishing personal relationships.  Get to know your mentor and let them get to know you.

I Got You, Bebe Rexha; Stand by You, Rachel Platten
Asking for help is part of the mentoring process and in many cases, your mentor WANTS to help you! However, you have to be specific in how your mentor can support you; mentors are not mind readers.  It also helps to ensure you are asking for appropriate requests based upon your relationship. It’s not necessarily appropriate to ask a mentor you just met for access to their professional contacts.  Instead of asking directly about jobs, perhaps ask where you should be looking, what sites would be recommended, or ask your mentor if they would be willing to review your employment materials and provide a critique.

Treat you Better, Shawn Mendes; In Case You Didn’t Know, Brett Young
Mentoring is a two-way street, as well as a mutually beneficial relationship.  You might wonder how you could help someone in a professional position as a college student, but you have to think outside the box.  Providing information on your generation can be helpful to your mentor, whether they market products or supervise other employees.  If your mentor has a family with children or grandchildren, do you have connections that could be useful to them (ie; tutoring, babysitting, athletic lessons, etc.)  Send your mentor an article about their industry, tag them in a post on LinkedIn, and let them know that you are thinking about them too.  The more you can add value to the mentoring relationship, the more valuable you become to your mentor.

Can’t Stop the Feeling, Justin Timberlake

Who can listen to this song without feeling great??  And after you have landed a great career opportunity, you will feel like singing and dancing!

Written by:  Stacie Hays, Morningside College
Career Counselor, Career Services 

Edited by:  Bobbi Sullivan, Simpson College 
Director, Career Development and Civic Engagement

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Finding Meaning in Your Future Career

As a Career Services professional, I often hear students say to me, “I don’t know what I want to do, but I want to make a difference, and have a sense of purpose in whatever it is.” Students seem to know not what position or title they seek, but rather what emotional response they want to receive from that position. As an employee of a university whose mission incorporates fulfilling and discerning one’s vocation and life call, I’m supportive of students’ desire to do something significant after college. The difficult part lies in how to go about finding a meaningful career. Consider engaging in the following:

1.  Take some serious time to reflect on your values and strengths. If you haven’t spent significant amount of time truly thinking about what your strengths are, and what they value in life, finding meaning in a career will be difficult. If you don’t know where to start, try taking a values, interest, or strengths assessment, ask someone who knows you best, or look around you to see what causes or issues awaken your passion. Some of the assessments our campus uses for this purpose include StrengthsFinder by Tom Rath or the tool, which assesses your interests and suggests potential career matches for you. If you can articulate what you value and what your strengths and talents are, you can have a better idea of how you might maximize those to make a difference in any industry or field.

2.  Keep your options open. The worst mistake a new graduate can make is to assume there is one perfect job for them in the world, and to only focus on that one option. Most professionals who we see as successful probably have the most twisted, curved career paths of them all, because they were willing to consider opportunities that perhaps weren’t exactly what they thought they wanted. They took chances, said “yes” to opportunities that presented themselves, and learned from them. Your first job out of college won’t be your last. Be willing to take an opportunity, to change plans, to try something new. If after some time the opportunity is no longer a good fit, reflect on what you’ve learned from it, and move forward.

3. Recognize (and believe) that all people, and jobs, are important. This advice comes from a book I’ve read several times, The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn. In it, postman Fred shares with readers four principles he uses to approach his career as a mail carrier.  One of his principles is that all people, and positions, are valuable. A quote spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. reiterates this point well: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” If you can take pride in what you do, and truly believe and see that you are impacting a person, an organization, or a mission in a positive way, you create meaning for yourself no matter the position or job title. 

4.  Find a mentor. Sometimes, it is the people we surround ourselves with that help us truly unleash our potential and innermost desires. If you don’t have a mentor right now, start thinking about who in your life (or who you might want to seek out) you look up to, potentially within your career field. Build a relationship with someone who can provide you advice, has a career background similar to the one you want for yourself, and really get to know what helped them find meaning and purpose in their own unique experience. Mentors can also help be an external motivator to be successful, set and reach new goals, or unlock potential career paths that we would never have considered on our own.

5.  Think about life outside your career. I personally believe that if anyone tells you they love their job 100% of the time, they aren’t being honest with you (or themselves!). No matter how great a career, there will be aspects that don’t feel fulfilling, that don’t feel important, that don’t feel purposeful at all times. Rather than focus on that small percentage of time and tasks, reflect on where else you find fulfillment and enjoyment. Yes, your career is a big part of the next 40+ years of your life, but there are other activities and opportunities outside your career that can perhaps bring you the joy and satisfaction that you are looking for. Find a cause to volunteer for; learn a new skill; set a goal and find a friend to accomplish it with you.

Satisfaction and meaning will come if you truly want it and seek it. You’ll find some within your career, you’ll find some in other aspects of your life. Reflection, an open mind, and relationships can help lead you down a path of a fulfilling and satisfying career.

Written by:  Anne Funke, University of Dubuque 
Assistant Director of Vocation & Civic Engagement  

Edited by:  Sarah Moss, Dordt College
Career Development Coordinator  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Adventure Awaits: Gap Year Opportunities

As seniors begin their final semester of college, reality strikes that life after college is fast
approaching.  While some will enter the workforce or continue to graduate school, others will seek time in between their undergraduate degree and their next professional step.  This time in between the two phases has come to be known as a gap year.

Students take a gap year for many reasons: to gain experience, to learn a new language, to explore career options, to serve, and more.  To read about the pro’s and con’s of a gap year, check out this article.

If you are a student seeking a gap year, you might consider the below options:

AmeriCorps Vista: AmeriCorps VISTA members are passionate and committed to their mission to bring individuals and communities out of poverty.  Members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency within the United States.

Camp Adventure Youth Services: Students and recent graduates participate in this service learning program that allows them to gain skills and experience related to youth services and program management.

Critical Language Scholarship Program: The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a fully-funded overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students

ISV: Impact Your World: ISV's mission is to support sustainable development initiatives around the world through life-changing student volunteer and responsible adventure travel programs designed to positively change our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

The JET Program: The JET Program is a competitive employment opportunity that allows young professionals to live and work in cities, towns, and villages throughout Japan.

Peace Corps: The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation.

Purdue University Military Extension Internship Program: With the help of the Department of Defense and USDA, the Military Extension Internship Program helps university students and recent graduates gain professional skills through unique internships that provide real-world work experience with military child and youth programs.

Teach for America: Teach for America’s mission is to enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation's most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.

For additional ideas, check out this link from Yale’s Office of Career Strategy.  Taking a gap year may help you clarify your career direction, broaden your network, expand your worldview, and build your resume. 

As always, as you consider your post-graduation options, be sure to consult the professionals in your institution’s career development office. 

Written by:  Bobbi Sullivan, Simpson College Director, Career Development and Civic Engagement

Edited by:  Anne Funke, University of DubuqueAssistant Director of Vocation & Civic Engagement  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Millennials: How to Leverage Your Negative (and Positive) Stereotypes in the Workplace

We keep hearing again and again how this current generation of young adults, or Millennials (born roughly between 1980-2000), are not prepared for the workplace. They’re lazy. They’re addicted to technology. They want praise for everything. They can’t communicate face to face. The list goes on and on about the negative stereotypes this generation has coined. 

What we often overlook are the increasing amount of articles and polls published about the positive qualities about this generation as well. For you Millennials reading this article, take our advice as to how to let your positive qualities shine, and perhaps even how to offer a new perspective to those who see you in a negative light.

Stereotype #1: Millennials, you are addicted to technology.
We’ve all seen you on your phones and devices in class, walking to the library, and everywhere in between. While this habit might be irritating when faculty are trying to teach, your ability to learn and adapt to new technology is truly impeccable. Your generation has grown up with information at its fingertips, and while we might assume you’re always playing Pok√©mon Go or making fish faces on Snapchat, many of you are reading the news, looking up new information for class, or communicating with family and friends far away. In a job interview, make it clear to your employer that you are a quick learner, have used many forms of technology, and can collect information rapidly and efficiently. On the job, make sure to leave the personal messaging and web surfing for after hours. As tempting as it might be to check your phone or peek at Facebook, don’t give your employer a reason to think you’re using technology for the wrong reasons.

Stereotype #2: Millennials, you need praise for every little thing you do!
You may or may not have heard that your generation is also referred to as the “Trophy Generation,” where participation medals and ribbons were given to all children, not just the winners. While the intentions behind this gesture may have been good, it’s led some to believe that people your age feel they deserve to win everything, or at minimum be told they’ve done a good job in everything they attempt. For an employer from previous generations (Generation X or Baby Boomers), this might be frustrating for them to understand. So, how can this become a positive? Perhaps you need to make a shift in mindset to realize that outward positive reinforcement doesn’t need to be a constant in order to do well and stay motivated. A clear line of communication between you and your employer can also be helpful. Make it clear to them what your preferred communication style is, and that you’d like to know when things are going well and when there are concerns. This might clue the employer in that you’d like more direct, intentional feedback. Finding some intrinsic motivation can also be healthy: perform well simply because it makes you feel good, and not just when someone else is watching!

Stereotype #3: Millennials, you are lazy.
This can be frustrating or even hurtful to hear. You’ve gone to college, put in the time and effort, and have a degree to show for it – how could that make you lazy?! Well, sometimes it’s more about your attitude as to how you go about tasks and expectations, not just the fact that you may have completed them. We all had to do things we didn’t enjoy in college, whether it was a group project or 30 page research papers or simply tough classes. That will continue after college, no matter how much you love your job. Chances are, most of you aren’t lazy; you might just be a big disengaged, or tired, or distracted, which happens to all of us. You have to make sure that your first impressions are showing the opposite: be eager for new tasks, ask questions, show up early, volunteer for committees or staff events. Engaging with your career and colleagues will make not only your attitude and demeanor more positive, but you’ll take more away from the experience as well.

Bottom Line:
There are several articles with more research and facts and interesting perspectives about this generation and their entrance into the workforce, and I’ve included just a few (formal and informal) ones below. If you are a Millennial, or employ Millennials, I encourage you to continue researching the qualities and habits of these young adults and learn how to maximize their potential, because after all, they have a lot to offer.

Abbot, L. (2013) 8 Millennials’ Traits You Should Know About Before You Hire Them. Retrieved from

Alsop, R. (2008). The Trophy Kids Grow Up: how the millennial generation is shaking up the workplace. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass,

Stein, J., Sanburn, J. (2013). The New Greatest Generation: why millennials will save us all. Time Magazine. Retrieved from

Written by:  Anne Funke, University of Dubuque
Assistant Director of Vocation & Civic Engagement  

Edited by:  Sarah Moss, Dordt College
Career Development Coordinator

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

5 Factors to Make Student Internship Experiences Most Successful!

By now most college students have heard employers (73% according to NACE-National Association of Colleges & Employers), are looking to hire students with an internship or other related experience on their resume. We also know that employers are interested in soft skills, emotional intelligence, communication abilities, problem-solving/analytical skills, leadership and the ability to work in teams. While that is great for the employer, what should students look for in a quality internship experience?

Coaching/Mentoring – Having access to your supervisor is important, will they provide significant constructive feedback on a regular basis?  Can they coach you on the important elements of the business and give you a perspective on what working for the organization is like on a long term basis?

Do company research, talk to prior interns or other professionals at the organization to find out what their career experiences have been like, and ask questions to determine organizational culture and leaderships styles.  This is where strong social media networks like LinkedIn or sites like Glassdoor might be helpful.

High Impact Projects (related to your academic major are important) – Make sure that the type of work or projects planned for your internship are relevant to your academic major in order to provide  a quality resume building experience. It is crucial to walk away from your experience with 1-2 significant accomplishments for your resume and to be able to provide effective examples in interviews.

This is not to say you won’t also do repetitive basic tasks (almost all professional positions involve some level of basic tasks), but a good rule of thumb to go by is the  80/20 principle. 80% of your assignments should be career/academic related and the other 20% fall into the category of other duties as assigned, regardless do them all well and with enthusiasm. One significant way to find out is to ask! When you are asked if you have any questions at the end of an interview, ask “What significant projects or priorities do you have allocated for this position?”

Networking Exposure – What kind of exposure will you have to organizational leaders, department heads or other company stakeholders?

It pays to do good work and establish professional credibility.  Every internship does not turn into a job offer but the broader your exposure within the organization or to outside stakeholders, the greater the opportunity to expand your professional network. One of those contacts may turn into a future job prospect!

Training and Skill Development –Will you be offered specialized professional training in areas related to your major or profession of choice?  Make sure you will have ample opportunity to build concrete skills that you can advertise on your resume or talk about in the interview. Also take the opportunity to build some of the softer skills like leadership, teamwork, and communication.

Find out if interns are offered or have the opportunity to participate in team-building activities (during or outside of work hours), specialized public speaking and presentation training, or if opportunities to cross-train and job shadow in other functional areas exist.

Will the internship expose you to the work culture of an industry or specific company that you are interested in exploring?

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of an internship is to experience a career from within the organization. Learning about a profession from lectures, text books, and research can only tell you so much.  To find out if a career/organization is a good fit nothing beats firsthand knowledge. This is a perfect way to analyze if the opportunity is a good fit for you.

Internships provide valuable training and experience for students to explore careers, don’t short change yourself, do the research and ask informed questions before choosing the internship experience that provides the best opportunity for you!

Written by:  Angela Wolfe, St. Ambrose University
Assistant Director 

Blogger - Career Specialist - Leading Student/Employer Engagement

Edited by:  Stacy Hays, Morningside College
Career Counselor, Career Services

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Art of Conversation: How to Improve your Small Talk Skills

Small talk can be awkward. Whether you’re talking with a recruiter at a job fair or trying to work up the courage to introduce yourself to someone at a networking mixer, it can be tough to know what to say when you’re already feeling out of your element.

Here are some simple tips to help you make the most of the opportunities you have to engage in small talk:

Practice. If you know you’re going to an event where you’ll likely have to engage in small talk, take time to practice in advance.  Consider the scenario and what type of conversations you’ll have. For example, with a career fair, you’ll likely have to walk right up to a recruiter and introduce yourself. What will you say to her? How will you react?  You’ll likely want to research the organization ahead of time; instead of walking up to the recruiter and asking, “So, what do you do?” have a grasp of what the company does, what products they make, and what they stand for. This will help you to look more competent when you talk with a recruiter; she will be more likely to see you as someone the company would be interested in hiring. So, prior to the event, check the company’s website and consider what questions you might ask.

Have a mental list of topics you’re comfortable discussing. You obviously don’t need to bring a physical list with you, but it helps to have a few topic ideas in mind as you get ready to participate in a networking event. Get up to speed on current events, on new ideas or topics within your specific industry, or perhaps on the latest happenings within a particular organization. Knowing what you want to talk about in advance will keep you from having to scramble in the moment to think about topics of discussion.

Treat conversations like a game of catch. Try to balance a conversation between asking questions and also responding yourself. A good conversation is like a game of catch: Toss the conversation back and forth, with you spending some time speaking and the other individual also spending time speaking. A lopsided conversation isn’t very productive.  What questions you ask will depend on what type of networking event you’re attending. For example, if you’re participating in a networking mixer where you don’t know anyone, you might ask questions like, “What do you do? How long have you worked for your organization? What do you enjoy most about being part of these networking mixer events?” Be sure to keep in mind the needs of your audience when considering what types of questions to ask.

Ask questions and listen to the response. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of others while at networking events. However, when you ask a question, be sure to listen to the answer. There’s nothing more embarrassing than only halfway listening to a response and then saying something that seems completely off-topic to the person you’re speaking to. Focus on a response instead of trying to think of what you’ll say next.

Put your phone away. There’s nothing wrong with pulling your phone out. However, next time you have the urge to reach for your phone, stop and look around. Is there someone who you can talk to at the networking event or job fair instead? If you’re waiting in line at a job fair, consider that the recruiter who you’re waiting to talk to might notice what you’re doing and might see looking at your phone as unprofessional. Don’t close yourself off from opportunities to interact with others by focusing on your phone.

What are some other great small talk tips that you’ve heard?

Written by:  Sarah Moss, Dordt College
Career Development Coordinator

Edited by:  Bobbi Sullivan, Simpson College 
Director, Career Development and Civic Engagement

Monday, May 2, 2016

How to Make the Most of your Summer Break

You finally made it!  The academic year is over and it’s time for you to relax and recharge until the fall….right?  While it is important to come back to school in the fall rested and focused, I would challenge you to think about summer break in a bit of a different way.  Here are some things to think about in making the most of your summer break.

  • Consider taking courses – summer is a great time to take prerequisites to keep you on track for your graduation plan. You might also take a challenging course to which you’d like to devote all your attention.  By taking the course individually without other content to worry about, you may find you can focus all your energy to that course in a positive way.  If you are looking at graduate school, you could also take pre-requisite courses required by your program that are not required for your major.  In addition, taking a course (or two) over the summer may allow you to take less courses during the academic year, freeing you up for other activities or to provide more time for your other courses.

  • Carefully choose a summer job – many students decide to work in the summer to make as much money as they can for the next academic year.  This is a great plan but consider thinking about all your options.  Might there be summer jobs that would be related to your major or field of study?  What are those job options?  Would the pay be comparable to what you make now?  Some students are pleasantly surprised to find out they can make even more working a job that is related to their field of study, versus going back to their old summer job.  If you are exploring career options, taking a summer job in a field you may be interested in is a low risk way of testing out your interest.  Visit your Career Services office to get ideas of the kinds of jobs that you are qualified for that would be appropriate, or follow their job posting page or social media sites to keep updated on what is available.

  • Identify a goal – while summer is a time to relax and recharge, it is also a great time for you to spend time on things you don’t necessarily have time for during the academic year.  Identifying a goal can be as simple as reading a book you haven’t had time for, doing some job shadowing, or performing targeted volunteer experiences. These experiences can help boost your resume, but most importantly, they assist you in getting that great feeling you get from achieving a goal, and may just motivate you to do even more!

  • Think ahead – think about what is next for you.  College students should always be thinking about what is to come for the next semester or next year.  Are you considering an internship? A research project?  These things take time to come together and typically require about a semester of planning, so start thinking about your goals and aspirations and making plans to bring those to reality.

Summer is a great time for you to gain experience, explore careers or pursue additional education without taking time out of your busy schedule during the academic year.  By thinking strategically, you can really make an impact on your career development!  Have a great summer!

Written by:  Stacie Hays, Morningside College
Career Counselor, Career Services 

Edited by:  Bobbi Meyer, Simpson College
Director of Career Development & Civic Engagement