Career Lab Virtual Campus Forté Foundation

The Language You Use May Be Holding You Back

October 30, 2014

by Imani Nichols

Some of the growing pains I anticipated as I transitioned into college included balancing employment with schoolwork and learning how to develop better study strategies. Once college began, I met a problem that I had overlooked.

There were literally hundreds of opportunities for me to explore my interests, discover new ones, and start creating the resume I’ve desired since high school. I obviously and unfortunately couldn’t do it all and I found myself telling others that, “I wish that I could do XYZ,” or “I can’t do that,” or “I’ll never even try XYZ.”

Being my own roadblock

And what happened? I ended up not even going to an info session for XYZ because I kept saying that I couldn’t do it before even trying. I didn’t venture past the XYZ website because I had already determined that I wouldn’t try it. By wishing that I could do XYZ, I put XYZ into this inaccessible category and implied that I wasn’t even good enough to even give XYZ a shot. With this logic, I missed out on some good opportunities as a freshman.

Determined to make my sophomore year of college better than my freshman year, I started asking myself what I did wrong. I realized that I didn’t perform well because I wasn’t operating with purpose or assuredness. 

Being my own solution

An immediate solution was to create my goal wall—which allowed me to see what goals I had so that I can constantly remind myself of what I am working towards. A long-term solution was to change the language I used when I thought of myself and when I spoke about myself to others.

The most effective change I’ve made so far has been eliminating the word dreams from my personal and professional vocabulary and replacing it with goals. Since implementing this solution, I feel a confidence that was unfamiliar to me last year. I sound like I know what I want, I know what I want, and when I speak to others they can hear and feel this too.

For me, dreams and wishes summon imagery of fairytales with fairy godmothers. Goals summon imagery of me taking action steps—applying, interviewing, practicing, drafting—to make something happen.

If XYZ is something that I want to do and I identify it as a goal, it is possible. As I get older, I am becoming decreasingly afraid of having goals as opposed to dreams. Because I made it a priority, I know that I can do it, I think that I can do it, I will make time do it, and I will do it.

What words are you using that are holding you back? Are you never sure or do you say “I’m sorry” when you’ve done nothing wrong? Become more cognizant of the language that you use when you speak of yourself because you just may be the reason why you haven’t reached your full potential yet.


Imani Nichols is a student at University of Virginia graduating in 2017. She is considering Media Studies or American Studies as her major. After college, Imani plans to consult for a management consulting firm in Chicago and earn an MBA. She enjoys Forté webinars and working out.

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Your Mentor is Also Your BFF

October 29, 2014

by Alina Tang

If I have learned anything from college so far, it’s the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people—people who can teach you, help you, guide you, motivate you, and most of all, listen to you.

Automatically, most of us will place our close friends in this role because they are the ones we spend the most time with. But in addition to our peers, I am also talking about mentors.

According to Amy Adams, the director of the Seaver College Career Center at Pepperdine University, finding a mentor “is absolutely important and probably one of the most critical things a college student can do to pave the way for their professional success.”

From personal experience, I can attest that seeking guidance from someone older, wiser, and more knowledgeable is totally different from asking for advice from your roommate or your pledge sister.  When you have someone who happens to work in your field of interest and WANTS to invest in your professional future, it can make a tremendous difference, especially when it comes to landing internships and jobs.

At USC, there are a variety of ways to get connected with a mentor, from student organizations to mentorship programs. Currently, I am in the Marshall Career Advantage Program which pairs business students with USC alumni who assist them in developing the professional, interpersonal, and networking skills critical to their career success.

This year, I completely lucked out by being matched with Yasmin Moaven, an ambitious and strong career woman who is everything I want to be and more.

Since I am interested in pursuing marketing, Yasmin is an ideal mentor for me because she is currently the strategic alliances manager for the LA Tourism and Convention Board, and has also worked as a marketing manager for Surface Magazine, GEN Art, and SBE Entertainment.

However, what really sets her apart as a mentor is her genuine interest in my personal goals as well as her eagerness to share her relevant experience and knowledge.

In the past, I have had plenty of role models who give great advice. But Yasmin is the first mentor to give great advice after taking the time to get to know me. For instance, prior to going over my resume and cover letter, she asked me to grab coffee and share “my story”—basically what personal brand I wanted to exude, not only to recruiters and employers, but everyone I meet in life.

From there, she provided feedback on both documents and urged me to immediately revamp them while I still remembered what we discussed. Thanks to her tips, I created multiple versions of my resume and cover letter so that they could cater to a range of different job descriptions while still representing my overall personal brand.

Yasmin’s reciprocal and proactive approach to career coaching is precisely what I am looking for in a mentor. I’ve always believed that a mentor should be just as much a best friend as a role model, and I can already tell that from where Yasmin and I have started, we will get along great. The fact that we got to know each other first before diving into all serious and professional conversation definitely helped establish common ground and mutual trust.

As a 20-year-old halfway through college, having a mentor like Yasmin can be incredibly encouraging and uplifting during this stressful time of internship and job recruitment.  With her faith in my ideas and capability to be successful, I am confident that I will be able to make the most out of my last two years at USC and launch a happy, successful career.

Alina Tang will graduate from USC in 2016. She is majoring in business administration and plans to work in the Management Development Program at Mondelez International and gain more experience in global marketing.

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Getting Started With SEO to Promote Your Blog

October 23, 2014

by Kaitlyn Lannan

If you have a blog or are interested in starting one, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should be one of the first things you consider if you are hoping to get a lot of views and interaction on your posts.

However, it can be hard for someone without a background in online marketing to know how to best optimize your posts for increasing your viewership. Follow these tips to get started!

1. Start with a program like Google Keyword Planner. Using this tool, you can create a keyword or phrase that sums up a main idea from your article and see how it performs when you search for it.

This will help you to target your post to your intended audience so it comes up when they search and to see what the most-searched-for words are in the area that you are writing about.

2. Choose a keyword, or several, and integrate it into your title. For example, if your keyword is “getting into business school,” try a catchy title like “A Trick I Used to Get into Business School.” Some may argue that these articles are just pure click-bait (using an attention-grabbing title just to get views), but if you back it up with quality, descriptive content, they can help you increase your viewership.

3. Use your keyword 5-6 times throughout your article. Also, make sure to use it in your description of your article and in the URL of your post.

Try to find a keyword or phrase with a low level of competition but a high search volume to make sure that your blog post won’t be crowded out by too many other similar blog posts.

A high search volume means that lots of people search for your keyword, and a low level of competition means that not that many results turn up when searched for.

4. Search for tools to help you. It is impossible to predict how your blog post will fare online, and tools like Google Keyword Planner or other programs will help you to best optimize your posts.

SEO is essential if you are hoping to have a high number of viewers and commenters on your blog post. It is worth taking some time to learn how to optimize your blog posts to increase your online presence, and it is also a valuable skill to be able to add to your resume!

Kaitlyn Lannan is a junior at Northwestern University. She is majoring in economics and communication studies and plans on attending business school in the future. Her dream job is becoming the Chief Marketing Officer at a Fortune 500 company. You can find Kaitlyn on Twitter at @KaitlynLannan.

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Juggling School, Clubs, Work, and—Oh Yeah, Fun—in College

October 22, 2014

by Valeria Tirado

During my first year at Rutgers, I didn’t really get involved in much because I wanted to put all my effort into school. Here I am, two years later, and I think it was quite foolish of me to think I could make it through 4 years of college without getting involved in anything besides my schoolwork!

College is a time to experience new things but it can also be a time where you’re stressed out way more often than not. Some of this stress can come from having a lot on your plate, and while it can be hard to manage, it is definitely doable.

Make a Schedule

For the past couple of years, I have been using a schedule to keep track of pretty much everything. I start by putting in my classes and exams, then I make time for homework, and everything else comes after in the time slots I have available.

Time seems so limited when you’re a college student and I can’t stress how useful it is having a schedule that has all the things you need to do and the ideal times to do them.

Prioritize

When I make my schedule, I make sure to put in the activities that are top priority first and then I schedule the less important things around them. Always make a list of what’s most important to you and generally you should spend more time on what’s at the top then what’s at the bottom.

Also remember that as a college student, school should always come first!

Know Your Limits (and maybe go beyond them)

You may think you can handle doing ten things at once, but it’s okay to admit that you can’t. Taking on more than you can handle is never a good idea and will only result in more stress.

If you find it really hard to handle school, a job, and three clubs then maybe consider quitting a club or putting fewer hours in at work. On the other hand, if you are really motivated to commit to many things at once, then don’t give up without giving it a try first because you never know what you’re capable of.

Before college, I didn’t think I could handle going to school, having two jobs, and being on a sports team, but I pushed myself and I manage it all very well now without too much stress. Everyone handles different workloads so just find the one that’s right for you.

Remember: if you ever feel too stressed out, it’s okay to admit you can’t do it and maybe drop an activity.

Remember to Breathe

At the end of the day you always have to remember to just breathe. The one thing more important than your schoolwork is your health and you don’t want to make yourself sick just because you got too stressed out.

School is important but don’t let it control your life; make sure you have some fun too. If you feel like you’re taking on too much, just take some time off for yourself and figure out if all the activities you’re doing are really in your best interest.

Remember that school should be your first priority, but definitely not your only priority.

Valeria Tirado is a junior at Rutgers University – New Brunswick with a major in Environmental and Business Economics and an Anthropology minor. She plans to get a Master’s from Rutgers in Food and Business Economics and attend NYU Stern for Economics after graduation. Valeria is the captain of her intramural volleyball team and can be found on Twitter at @valeriat94.

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Preparing for a Career in Business (Without Undergrad Business School)

October 21, 2014

by Kaitlyn Lannan

Many universities, mine included, offer a world-renowned graduate school business education, but no undergraduate business major options. This can be challenging for students like myself who plan to go into business and eventually get an MBA, but there is plenty that you can do to prepare yourself for a business career.

Here are some tips to help you plan how to make your undergraduate experience fit your future!

1. Major in a field that you are passionate about, but try to combine it with courses that build your analytical skills. For a successful career in business, you will most likely have to have some aptitude at crunching numbers, so try to develop this skill while in school.

It’s easier for students who have programs tailored to the specific area of business that they plan to enter, but through careful planning of your courses, you can also enter your chosen field as prepared as they are.

2. Join business-related clubs and organizations. Joining a student organization can be a great way to gain practical skills that you can later use in the workplace, especially if you have a leadership position in the club.

3. Get a job at the business school. If you are receive work-study as a part of your financial aid package, it is likely that you could get a job working in some aspect of your school’s business school. Whether it’s conducting research with a professor or working in the administrative office of one of the departments, it is a great chance for networking and for learning about the inner workings of a business school.

For example, at my administrative job at the Kellogg School of Management, I get to interact with current students and hear about what they are learning while still getting the chance to hone my workplace skills.

4. Meet with career advisors. Schedule a visit to your university’s career center and discuss the path that previous students who currently work in business took during their undergraduate years. You can even ask to be put into contact with some of these alumni and ask them for advice yourself, particularly if they work in the field you want to enter.

It can be harder for students whose schools don’t have an undergraduate business school to figure out how they are going to pursue their future career, but keep in mind, many people who major in a specific area of business don’t even end up working in it.

Keep your options open, particularly early in your college career, follow these steps, and you will be well on your way to a successful career in business in no time.

Kaitlyn Lannan is a junior at Northwestern University. She is majoring in economics and communication studies and plans on attending business school in the future. Her dream job is becoming the Chief Marketing Officer at a Fortune 500 company. You can find Kaitlyn on Twitter at @KaitlynLannan.

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A College Student’s Bucket List

October 16, 2014

by Alina Tang

People always say that your college years are some of the best years of your life, so I decided to make a bucket list of all the things I wanted to do during my time at the University of Southern California. Here are 10 items I’ve accomplished so far, as well as 10 items I have still yet to complete. Enjoy!

  1. Find my niche in at least one student organization.
    My sophomore year, I joined Alpha Phi Omega, which is both USC and the nation’s largest co-educational service fraternity. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in college because I was able to not only make a real difference in the community, but also share my passion for service with people I otherwise never would have met (many of my fraternity “brothers” are actually my closest friends today!).
  2. Pick up a minor or another major.
    I recently decided to pursue Global Communications as an interdisciplinary minor because it joins two fields that I’m equally interested in and that are both related to my business major. Essentially, I get to take IR classes in the Dornsife School and learn about anything from global challenges to transnational diplomacy, but at the same time, I can also study communication technology and censorship in Communication classes from the Annenberg School. Definitely the best of both worlds!
  3. Participate in a campus tradition.
    One of the coolest USC traditions is Conquest, our Fall concert that usually features a famous musical artist, a Ferris wheel, fireworks, food trucks, and of course, the burning of the Bruin bear in anticipation for our rivalry game against UCLA. I’ll never forget how giddy and excited I felt at my freshman year Conquest because it was the first time I experienced USC’s overwhelming school spirit in full effect.
  4. Try out for a dance club.
    I have been dancing since I was a little girl, so it was no question that I would be continuing dance in college. Last semester, I tried out for USC’s Traditional Chinese Dance Club and ended up performing in their annual spring show! It was my first time performing in front of any kind of audience at USC, and I loved every second of it.
  5. Learn how to cook.
    This is still a work-in-progress, but I am now able to whip up a few dishes in the kitchen all by myself! Some of my “specialties” include fried rice, baked salmon, and pasta salad.
  6. Volunteer off campus with a cause I’m passionate about.
    Thanks to Alpha Phi Omega, I’ve been able to volunteer in a variety of service organizations and outreach events. My favorite org by far is Kicks for Kids, which is dedicated to promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for children with special needs in the greater Los Angeles area. Every weekend, I play soccer games with these kids, yet I feel like they are the ones helping me because their smiles and energy are so contagious.
  7. Go to office hours early in the semester and get to know a professor.
    Now that I’m a junior, I’ve definitely realized the importance of making strong connections with professors. One of my biggest goals this semester is to go to every single professor’s office hours before the first midterm. Currently, I have already become very close with my IR professor because she is so warm and welcoming, and I’m looking to cultivate the same kind of relationship with my other professors!
  8. Take advantage of the free campus gym membership and sign up for a fitness class.
    I actually have no excuse to skip the gym because I literally live 2 minutes away from USC’s Lyon Center. But so far I’m doing really well this semester—I exercise at the gym about 4-5 times a week, and I’ve taken both yoga and aerobics classes there. At some point, I also plan on trying out Zumba!
  9. Attend a football game (and storm the field if I’m lucky).
    Last fall, I went to the most exciting college football game ever. We were playing against Stanford University, and at the time, Stanford had beaten us for the past 4 years in a row. If they won again, they would make history with five straight victories in our 88-game series dating back to 1922. Nevertheless, Trojan spirit never falters, so when our kicker scored a 47-yard field goal with only 19 seconds left, we all started sprinting down the stands and pouring onto the field. By the time I had finally gotten on the field, I was getting pushed from every direction. But just being around my fellow Trojans, screaming, laughing, shaking, and hugging each other was the most amazing feeling ever. I’ll never forget it.
  10. Reach out and offer advice to an incoming freshman or nervous underclassman.
    Now that I’ve been at USC for two years, I think I’ve had my fair share of funny stories, embarrassing moments, terrible regrets, and fond memories. I I feel incredibly lucky to attend a college I’ve come to love, so now I want to pay it forward. My position as a USC Marshall Student Ambassador allows me to do just that—not only do I get to talk to prospective high school students and current freshmen about my college experience, but I also get to speak on panels, give tours, and write blogs like this one! 

  1. Explore all the libraries on campus (and find a favorite study spot!).
  2. Attend a concert. 
  3. Write for The Daily Trojan, USC’s campus newspaper.
  4. Re-learn the piano and/or cello.
  5. Attend a student-run musical event or theater production.
  6. Take a class in a totally unfamiliar subject.
  7. Run a 5K, 10K, half-marathon or marathon.
  8. Try all the restaurants and culinary options on campus.
  9. Apply to my dream internship.
  10. Study abroad.

Alina Tang will graduate from USC in 2016. She is majoring in business administration and plans to work in the Management Development Program at Mondelez International and gain more experience in global marketing.

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4 Steps To Acquire A Political Internship

October 15, 2014

by Nicole Chacin

Students from high school to college across the country seek the opportunity to intern for a Member of Congress. As a former intern for both the House of Representatives and the Senate, I have a personal understanding of the process to apply and the factors that make a candidate desirable. To prepare for the application process I have outlined four key steps to stand out amongst the applicant pool that can easily consist of hundreds of students for any one internship.

1) SPEAK TO AN ADVISOR
In high school and in college your advisor is of key importance. This individual will get to know you better as you arrange your school schedule with their assistance and will come to see how your interests translate into student activities and accomplishments.

Advisors are also able to recommend certain steps like getting involved in student government, which they know have proven to be valuable in gaining experience and maturity while standing out amongst other candidates also applying for a political internship. In addition, certain colleges allow for interns to receive college credit, so it’s good to check in with your advisor about that. Advisors certainly will also be able to work with you in making a plan to raise your GPA if this is something you need work on. Having a good academic record speaks volume about a candidate.

2) ASK FOR A REFERENCE
Knowing a professor, teacher, or professional who can contribute a good word about you is crucial. More than 50% of your application consists of your own testimony regarding your candidacy for a political office. While you may find that you are the best candidate for the position (and very well may be), the office wants to know you have the respect and trust of others who can attest to your good qualities as well.

The reference you obtain for your application is also important, because this individual could very well notice attributes about yourself that you did not notice or were too bashful to convey. The reference is really a necessary personal touch which summarizes the very best of you as a candidate in a sincere, relatable way for the reader of your application.

3) CONVEY INTEREST
Whether you are a high school or college student, you need to demonstrate in your application a serious interest in politics or the political process. Demonstrate knowledge about the member of Congress you wish to Intern for, namely their stance on issues and the work they began since taking office. Being able to discuss this individual’s achievements and efforts really makes a difference when trying to choose between candidates.

The first office I interned in gave a questionnaire with content that ranged from questions about the Majority and Minority Leaders to requirements for office and term limits.

Having taken political science courses and being an avid reader of American History, I was prepared and gave a good first impression to my colleagues and supervisor. Depending on the environment of the office whether it is a District or DC Office, the expectations might be higher of interns, so understand there might be some curveballs.

Also important when applying for these positions is to show your ambition and how such an internship can both advance your academic and professional goals as well as be of assistance to the Office providing the opportunity. In the same way that you as a candidate want to benefit from your time interning, so do the Staff of that political office want to know that your presence will be helpful and positive as they will be the ones to train and spend time guiding you throughout the internship.

4) PREPARE FOR THE INTERVIEW
Provided the chance to interview with that desired political office (a good sign), it is always good to review the application you submitted and run through key points beforehand. This strategy is a good re-fresher and ensures that in person, you are prepared for any questions and can easily expand upon something if asked.

On the day of the interview be sure to arrive on time and be dressed appropriately either in business casual or business formal, depending on what is more appropriate. In a political office, less is more - in other words, the key focus should not be your attire, hair, or makeup, but rather the qualities you bring and are willing to improve upon during the internship.

Overall, you want to leave your interviewer with the impression of your serious, genuine interest in that particular political office as well as your ability to contribute and willingness to learn.

Following such an interview, also be prepared if your interviewer asks if you have any questions. The worst thing is to say nothing, because it usually translates to lack of preparation or disinterest.

Oftentimes, you will find that your interviewer will be the key person you go to throughout your internship, it is nice to show a respectful, but formal interest in that person’s role in the office. If you really have no questions to ask your interviewer about the internship or the office, you might convey a polite sense of gratitude for their consideration and express you are looking forward to hearing of their decision.

I wish you the utmost success in applying. As I am sure you will discover, if you take such an internship, it a sheer privilege and irreplaceable learning experience that a select percentage of the country have been able to take part in.

Nicole Chacin is a Chicago native and student at the George Washington University where she studies business administration. Nicole aims to obtain a dual masters degree in Law and Business Administration by 2017 and ultimately dreams of working in health policy and administration.  This is Nicole’s 2nd year writing for Forté as she had the opportunity to learn about the organization through the first Forté C2B Leadership Conference.

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5 Ways to Succeed at Your University Career Fair

October 13, 2014

by Stephanie Watkins

Career Fairs are in full swing at colleges across the country as companies begin their fall recruiting process. This can be both an exciting opportunity and a little bit overwhelming.  If you go in with the right know-how, you can come away with valuable information and new connections to use in your job and internship search.

1. HAVE A GAMEPLAN

Most schools will have a list of the companies attending the career fair available on their website. Take the time to go through and see which positions or companies you might be interested in beforehand. You can also check to see if the layout of the event is available, so you can strategize the order of booths you go to.

Knowing and prioritizing the companies and positions you are most interested in will make sure you allocate your time efficiently and have a goal in mind before going.

2. LOOK THE PART

We’ve all heard the phrase, “First impressions are everything!” At a career fair, this most certainly holds true. Employers expect a professional appearance and certain level of preparation from the people they meet. Women should take into consideration their outfit choice and make sure it is both professional and appropriate.

Acceptable attire can include either pants and a blouse with a suit jacket, or a knee length dress skirt and blouse. Don’t let your makeup or jewelry be distracting to employers; ensure it’s your personality and skills that make the impression!

3. COME PREPARED

It’s important to come prepared with several copies of your resume. The worst thing that could happen at a career fair is to make a connection with an employer and have no contact information to give them.

Additionally, coming prepared with some background information about the companies you are most interested will allow for more deep conversation and a lasting impression. Employers want to see that you are expressly interested in their company so coming prepared with a little bit of general knowledge about the company can go a long way.

4. BE ENGAGED

Demonstrating enthusiasm and communication skills are some of the most important aspects recruiters are looking for in an intern or new hire. With so much going on around you at the career fair, it can be easy to get distracted or disengaged.

Focus on the employer and what they are saying, and remain engaged in the conversation. Be prepared to ask some questions to show that you were listening and are genuinely interested in knowing more about the company and/or the position. Don’t forget that career fairs typically last several hours, meaning both you and the recruiters are bound to get tired. Be mindful of this so that you can keep your own energy levels up and hold the recruiter’s attention after a long day.

5. FOLLOW UP

Attending the career fair is only half of the journey — you must follow up with the contacts you met! Be cognizant of this when you’re speaking with various employers. As your conversation is finishing up, ask the recruiter for their business card or contact information. This ensures that you have their email or address for a follow up note after the career fair ends. It’s a good idea to jot down a few quick notes about the recruiter you met on the back of their card to help refresh your memory and give you some specific points to add in when writing thank you notes later on.

Follow up emails should try to go out within 24 hours of the career fair, and should serve as a means of reintroducing yourself, demonstrating your enthusiasm for the company, and thanking them for their time. While email is sufficient, handwritten thank you notes make a really impactful impression in this digital era. Whether by email or handwritten note, remember that following up with recruiters is a crucial part of the career fair process!

It’s okay to be nervous when at the career fair! But if you plan out a little beforehand, you will go in with more knowledge and confidence. This preparation and poise will shine through to the people you meet, and you will leave with a handful of great connections and opportunities that you can pursue in the future.

Stephanie Watkins is a senior at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduating in 2015. Her major is in Management and Society and her dream job is to be a marketing and social media consultant which allows her to travel all over the world. Stephanie’s spirit animal is Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec and you can find her on Twitter at @StephanieWatki5.

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