Career Lab Virtual Campus Forté Foundation

Personal Branding on a Budget

January 22, 2015

by Stephanie Watkins

Personal branding can be an amazing tool to use when searching for a job or internship. It can help you stand out from the crowd, demonstrate your skills, and get across what really makes you unique.

Fortunately, social media and the Internet have made branding yourself both relatively simple and affordable. For college students who can often be short on both time and money, this is wonderful news! 


LinkedIn is a social media site that allows users to highlight professional and academic achievements, skills, and interests. You’ll be able to put yourself out there and connect with professionals, coworkers, and classmates.

On your profile, you may add your experience, what your career interests are, and things you are passionate about. The skills section of your profile is a great way to let everyone know programs can use, languages you can speak, and professional traits you possess. Join groups of like-minded professionals, and you’ll be able to brand yourself within your industry.


Creating a personal website can be a free way to take your technology skills and creative talents and show your stuff! Sites like Wix and Weebly offer users a free account with several design styles to choose from.

If you have samples of writing, digital media, or graphic design, be sure to feature them on your site and create an online portfolio you can share with others. Use your site to really show off what makes you, you!


You don’t have to spend a fortune to have professional business cards. Business cards are an easy and convenient way to carry your contact information with you. You never know whom you might run into in the most random of places! Sites like Vistaprint offer sets of cards you can design yourself for under $20.

I’ve personally gotten several compliments on my business cards, especially at career fairs. In situations like that, something that sets you apart from your peers can make a big difference.

Branding is an effective way to make you stand out from the crowd. If you use the resources available, branding can be very low cost and often free.

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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How I Found My First Job After College

January 20, 2015

by Stephanie Watkins

As a current senior in college, one of my biggest challenges has been balancing my job search as a full time student. I never fully understood exactly how much time and energy would go into looking for a full time job after graduation.

It takes a lot of work to find, apply, prepare, and interview for jobs. Some interviews may even require several days of travel. It can be tough at times to balance your quest for employment alongside your obligations as a full time student.

Make Time

What worked for me was to set aside specific times to complete aspects of the job search. Treating it like homework prompted me to use the most of the allotted time to achieve a certain goal. Some days, my goal was to simply search for jobs I was interested in, while other days were spent filling out the extensive applications for each.

If you make goals and give your self a time limit, you are most likely to make progress in your job search.

Use Your Resources

Without a plan or strategy, a job search can feel extremely overwhelming. I took a class at UNC through the Career Center, and had access to career counselors who possess amazing resources.

You don’t have to search for a job and go through the process alone- career counselors are there to help you and provide you with knowledge you wouldn’t have on your own.

Use Your Friends

Having an “accountability buddy” helps to make sure you don’t miss out on deadlines or certain applications. As students, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of papers and exams, thus putting your job search on the backburner. Find a friend who’s going through a similar job search process, and check in with them.

Having someone to talk through your applications and prep for interviews with can be a great tool. Additionally, they will help you stay on top of your deadlines and job search goals.

Keep a Master Schedule

Being cognizant of your school deadlines in relation to your job search is vitally important. If you get a call to interview on a certain day, make sure you’re aware of all of your exam dates and assignment deadlines. When I would get calls from recruiters, I’d have my big school calendar on the desk with all important school dates filled in.

If you should advance in the process and have to travel for an interview, make sure you have all of your assignments completed in advance, and keep your teachers in the loop.

In all honesty, searching for a job is pretty much like having a job in itself. Dedicating time and energy into your job search can sometimes be difficult to manage given other school-related obligations. If you treat your job search as a serious matter and give yourself deadlines and goals, it will be much easier to manage (and stay sane!).

You’ll be so happy you did when you can graduate with a diploma AND a full time job in your hands!

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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7 Steps to Securing a Study Abroad Semester

January 19, 2015

by Alina Tang

At the end of this month, I will be in Madrid, Spain for USC Marshall’s Spring 2015 International Exchange Program. The university I’ll be attending is Universidad Carlos III de Madrid—otherwise known as UC3M. While I only heard about UC3M last year, Spain has been my dream study abroad location ever since I took my first Spanish class back in 6th grade. Now that my dream is actually coming true very soon, I would love to share some advice about how to get your top study abroad choice.

While every school has a different application process for studying abroad, USC evaluates applicants on a variety of criteria beyond just academics. Essays, resumes, letters of recommendation, and a mandatory interview were all just as important if not more important than GPA when it came to selecting the most qualified candidates.

With that said, here are my tips for the application process:

1) Expand your global perspective beforehand.

Make sure you approach studying abroad with an open mind. You will certainly be evaluated on your ability to adapt and willingness to venture outside of your comfort zone. I remember clearly that my interviewer asked me to describe a time when I was immersed in a completely unfamiliar environment and what I did to embrace it.

Although I was able to borrow my experience working in Shanghai as an example, you can talk about any situation in which you grew to become more flexible or understanding of different people and different cultures.

2) Talk to professors, mentors, friends, older students—anyone who has study abroad experience.

When you applied for college, you probably sought the advice of dozens of other people. Choosing a study abroad location is a lot like choosing a university – you want to find out as much as possible about the place beyond facts and figures that can be researched online.

You want to find out what it’s like commuting to school or living in dorms, or how difficult it is finding nearby restaurants and living on a budget. These are things only someone who went through the same experience can tell you.

3) Do your research on not just the location, but the UNIVERSITY.

So many people forget that studying abroad is just as much about the school you’ll be attending as it is about the city you’ll be living in.

My interviewer told me that she heard a lot of students say they wanted to study abroad in [insert location] to learn about the culture or visit the tourist attractions there, but very few could name a single course when they were asked to discuss their interest in the university.

Remember that this is STUDY abroad, not play abroad, so knowing about the school’s campus, curriculum, and community is very important!

4) Be prepared with an updated resume, elevator pitch, and personal examples anytime.

As I mentioned before, chances are you will be evaluated on categories other than academics. Make sure you present yourself as a well-rounded individual who can be trusted to represent your school in a foreign country.

Besides preparing a solid resume, elevator pitch, and communication skills for your interview, I also recommend nurturing and maintaining close relationships with professors who can vouch for you when the time comes.

My GPA might not be the highest, but it isn’t the only indication of my drive to learn. I definitely think that my global leadership professor’s recommendation letter played a big role in helping me get Spain as my study abroad location.

5) Recognize challenges and acknowledge that studying abroad isn’t just a fairytale adventure.

It’s easy to get giddy and excited about studying abroad because you’ll be living in an exotic foreign place for several months and experiencing new things every day. But you also have to realize that it’s not always going to be rainbows and cupcakes because moving to an unfamiliar place is difficult.

You’ll get lonely. You’ll get frustrated. At times, you’ll probably even get overwhelmingly homesick. But seize this opportunity to grow and remind yourself how lucky you are to see the world in a new perspective.

6) Set yourself apart and sell your story.

Really take the time to answer why YOU want to study abroad. Obviously, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but what can you, personally, gain from it?

For me, the prospect of improving my Spanish was the deal breaker because I think the best way to learn and master a foreign language is to surround yourself with it. Add on the fact that Madrid is the cultural and historic center of Spain, and I was all in.

7) Don’t rule out locations without a valid reason.

Finally, even if you don’t get your top choice, still give other places a chance. I know a friend who was set on Europe for studying abroad, but ended up getting the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Although he was hesitant to go there, he came back 6 months later telling me that it was the best decision he ever made, and if he could do it all over again, he would’ve picked Melbourne first with a heartbeat. 

I hope these tips help you with your study abroad application process. Best of luck and bon voyage!

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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Interning During the School Year

January 15, 2015

by Kaitlyn Lannan

Most people think of internships as experiences to have only during the summer months, but internships during the school year offer many of the same benefits as summer internships. Here are some tips on finding and working at internships during the school year.

1. Research any internship programs that your college offers during the school year, particularly if your school is located close to a bigger city.

For example, Northwestern University has a program called Chicago Field Studies, where students apply for either full-time internships or part-time internships during the school year and receive class credit for their participation. These types of programs often include a seminar-style class, which helps you to build on what you learn in your internship and study it in an academic way.

2. Make use of your usual methods of finding summer internships.

Ask your school’s career center for their recommendations on internships in your field to apply for, and search for jobs posted on your school’s online career portal. Network with family friends and acquaintances, and make your interest in your chosen career field known.

In addition, sometimes schools hold winter job and internship fairs held specifically for students looking for spring internships, so be sure to attend these types of events.

3. Once you have accepted an internship offer, if you are taking classes while interning, make sure they are still a high priority.

It can be easy to forget about your homework and upcoming tests when you are in the working world, but remember that you are still a student. Stay on top of your work by making to-do lists and keeping a planner.

Keep internships during the school year in mind as a way of beefing up your resume and giving you valuable work experiences. While summer internships are definitely important, the more meaningful internship experience you gain, the better!

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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Using the Major You Have to Get the Career You Want

January 14, 2015

by Stephanie Watkins

In a field as broad as business, you can get involved in just about anything. With seemingly endless opportunities and different career paths to go down, it can be tough to get an educational background in exactly what you will be doing ten years down the road.

Many schools don’t even offer undergraduate business degrees. Countless successful business executives come from varying, diverse educational backgrounds. So how do you use the major you have to get the business career you want?


Colleges and universities have an amazing selection of different clubs and organizations for you to get involved in. Check out what organizations are offered in your field of professional interest.

You may be able to join a professional club like Finance club, or an International Business club. Even if you don’t have a business degree offered at your school, there will be plenty of other like-minded individuals looking for ways to get involved.

Other non-professional clubs can make just as good business experiences. Seek out leadership roles in a service club you’re passionate about, run for marketing chair of your sorority, or get involved in a student government committee.

By getting involved in clubs, you can learn what it’s like to work with a team on a project, and use the experiences you gain from participating in professional and non-professional clubs alike to further your future business aspirations.


It can be really valuable to start tapping into and expanding your network during undergrad. You never know which classmate will go on to be an executive, or who your former boss knows in your field of interest.

One great way to use your network is to conduct an informational interview with someone whose career you admire. Are they doing something you would want to do a few years down the road? Make time to meet with or call them, and ask them about their career path, what skills they use day to day, and what you can do as an undergrad to put yourself on the path to success.

Without a formal undergraduate business degree, connections you make with other professionals can lead to opportunities you may not be exposed to otherwise. Don’t take relationships lightly- making connections and keeping in touch is a resource that can be a useful as you make it.


Despite the diverse fields that business offers, employers still love to see you have the hard skills they’re looking for. It’s never too early to start thinking about furthering education, and an MBA can help you stand out from the crowd while teaching you valuable information not included at the undergrad level.

Most business schools require you to take the GMAT or GRE as an entrance exam. The scores from the exam last for five years after you take it, so they’ll still hold their value. It can be helpful to take the exam during undergrad while you’re still in prime studying and test taking mode. Even if you’re not sure exactly what you want to do, taking the GMAT or GRE while in undergrad can be a really smart career move to get you to the professional position you want to be in down the road. 

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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What You Should Know About Mock Interviews

January 13, 2015

by Valeria Tirado

A mock interview is basically a practice job interview. You can make mistakes before they even count at these kinds of interviews. They are really helpful and let you see what you need to improve on before you go into an actual interview.

How to Get Started

I didn’t even know about mock interviews until I got an email about it from my school during my freshman year. I didn’t really think I needed it at the time; after all, I was a freshman and had years before I graduated and started looking for jobs. I wasn’t going to be going to interviews before then, right? Wrong. Very wrong.

I quickly learned about things like internships and mentorships and how helpful they could be to your career. I also learned they involved interviews. Still, I thought, how hard can an interview be? Apparently, if you aren’t prepared then it can be pretty hard. I’m a shy person so public speaking has never been my forté, and I think that’s the biggest reason my first interview for a mentorship didn’t go so well.

After that, I decided to stop being stubborn and actually set up a mock interview. It was really easy for me since I already knew my school offered them. They have a system dedicated to just finding jobs and honing interview skills so all I had to do was set up a date and time and I was set. If your school doesn’t have a system like this then I suggest speaking to a professor or advisor about it. I’m sure someone will be willing to give you a mock interview.

If you really can’t find anyone on campus, then I’d ask a friend or relative who has experience in interviewing. My brother, for example, is the manager at his job so if I asked him for a mock interview then he would be helpful since he does interviews all the time.

It isn’t hard to find someone, just don’t be like me and wait until after you do an interview to start asking for help!

My Mock Interview

I must say that my mock interview really helped with showing me what my strengths and weaknesses were during an interview.

My biggest tip to you is to treat it like it’s a real interview. Your interviewer won’t appreciate if you don’t take it seriously. For example, don’t show up late or arrive dressed in sweats and a t-shirt. Make sure you’re there 10-15 minutes early and dressed professionally. After all, what’s the point of a mock interview if you’re going to treat it as joke? You’ll just be wasting their time and your own time.

So I got to my mock interview, got called in, and then did the interview. Many of the questions I got asked were general, typical interview questions, which I liked because they are likely to be asked at future interviews. Everything was just like a real interview, including the interviewer and the atmosphere.

The only difference was that at the end, they followed up with me and critiqued the interview. It’s very important to take their criticism constructively and not be offended. Remember, they are there to help you.

They told me what I did right and what I could improve on. Some of the things they complimented me on were the fact that I asked several questions and that I smiled often. They noted that I could improve on not being so nervous and answering certain questions more specifically. Afterwards, I thanked them for their time and was on my way.

The whole thing took about an hour or less, including the time I spent waiting to be called in. I haven’t done another one yet, but I probably will before I graduate.

All in all, the mock interview was a great learning experience for me. I would highly recommend college students to have at least one mock interview before going to a real one.

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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4 Tips to Strengthen Quantitative Skills

January 8, 2015

by Nicole Chacin

When trying to improve quantitative skills, it is important to give yourself varied materials in segments to absorb and learn at a reasonable pace. Cramming learning materials in such a way is much like heavy lifting when your muscles are overworked or out of shape; more often than not it will be very exhausting and may not produce the results desired.

The following 4 tips will address just how students can choose cost-effective resources at their disposal for a strong approach to improve their quantitative skills in business.

Read Business Oriented Materials such as Journals, Articles, and Blogs

Becoming familiar with the language of business is pivotal to being able to advance in your study of business concepts and models. The vocabulary of business is not the typical vernacular you hear every day and requires familiarization.

By reading these materials you will also strengthen qualitative understanding of business such as the climate of the marketplace, the key movers and shakers, and the way policy affects business here and all over the world.

Pick at least one business role model in the industry you want to enter and examine how they became successful.

There is a great deal we can learn from leaders in business in the way they got started and how they advanced in their industry. Great leaders were all students at one point, and it was their decisions at this key time in their life that paved the way for their future successes.

Studying at least one role model is not just good to boost your morale and inspire you, but it will remind you that you are more than capable of achieving all that you intend to if you take the right steps to prepare yourself.

Pick up from the library or purchase a copy of a prep material book in a subject you need work on.

If your background is not business, math, or science it can be difficult to dive into business studies. To help facilitate the transition, a lot of students take time during the summer or during their breaks to brush up on some old math concepts and learn some basic statistical concepts.

I have found that the materials students use to study for AP tests in Math and Statistics are great for preparing for business classes in college. There are a great deal of prep materials for students in college or post college to pick up and peruse. You may even find your campus offers certain discounts to purchase these materials if you ask your career center or business school advisor.

An even more targeted approach would be to pick up the exact textbook from a course you will be taking and get a head start on the material so you have a strong start and not such a steep learning curve to circumvent.

Look online to see videos for certain math concepts performed on paper or in a classroom setting.

There are many websites which students can use to review their calculus, algebra, and geometry concepts with practice problems and detailed solutions. There are certain courses online students can audit or take free of charge to enhance many other quantitative skills.

Community colleges also offer summer enrichment programs for those who prefer a classroom setting in person. In fact, if you want to brush up on a specific mathematical or statistical concept, you can look at the online non-profit, Khan Academy, which has pre-recorded video tutorials for students at no cost to you.

As great as these resources are, a college education and obtaining a degree are the ultimate accreditation you can receive for your hard work as a student.

Quantitative studies can be very exciting when you have a confident approach to tackling them and have good inspiration and guidance along the way. Happy studying!

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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High School Seniors: How to Pick the Right College for You

January 7, 2015

by Alina Tang

During this stressful time of the year, high school seniors around the nation are planning the next four years of their life and potentially their entire future. But don’t be overwhelmed because choosing the right college is actually a very fun and exciting process.

Think about it – after all those tedious applications and long weeks waiting for admission results, you’ve finally made it to the other side and now it’s YOUR turn to be the picky one. So take the time to really think about what you want and how you would like to grow.

Here are some tips I have after going through the experience myself:

Visit the school (and pretend to be a student there).

You honestly don’t know what a school is like until you’ve physically stepped onto its campus. Walking across the quad or sitting inside a dining hall can do so much more than researching online or hearing things through word of mouth. I would even recommend taking a personal tour of the school in addition to a university-organized one just because it’s so important to give yourself as much exposure to the school’s environment as possible. For example, find out what it’s like to grab a cup of coffee between classes or how to find a study spot on a busy Tuesday afternoon.

Even though these little details might seem insignificant, they do represent a lifestyle that you will have to adapt to and embrace.

Talk to current students (and ask to see their dorms if you can!).

It’s extremely helpful to gather insight from current students because their college experience is fresh and might be very relevant to the type of experience you are seeking. Of course many students you talk to will likely be very biased, but you can pick up on how genuinely they enjoy their school by body language and facial expressions.

Because trust me, if a college kid loves their school, IT WILL SHOW!

Mind your major.

Whether or not you have decided what you are going to major in, it’s important to at least gauge some of your interests and be aware of the programs and opportunities the school offers. For instance, if you’re planning on studying business, but also want to explore a film minor, a university that has not only a business school but also a cinema school is definitely a plus.

Seriously consider weather.

Coming from Seattle, I couldn’t have been more excited to go to sunny California. After 18 years of living in too much rain, I just knew I needed a change of scenery. And to be perfectly honest, the weather has made a tremendous difference because my mood is ten times better when I wake up in the morning with the sun peeping through my window.

For you, it might be different, but be warned: 30 degrees can sound reasonable when you’re tucked away in a warm place, but remember you’re still going to have to go to class when it snows/rains/hails.

To sum everything up: pick a school where you can truly picture yourself.

While it’s really easy to get caught up with rankings, statistics, and prestige, there’s more to college than just academics, so do your research and apply to universities that are also a good match for you in terms of location, size, and student life.

I got lucky because USC turned out to be the perfect fit for me—not only did it have the amazing programs and professors I wanted, but it was also a place I could really call home. Remember, your university is where you’ll be spending some of the most exciting years of your life!


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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