Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Elevator Pitch

A.k.a the 1-minute commercial
How do you catch and retain an employer's attention during a busy career fair or in the beginning of an interview? 
When coming up with your Elevator Pitch to use at career fairs, during interviews, or when talking to employers, it is important to include some main points about yourself.

These include:
  • Who you are + a credential
    • "Hi, my name is Sally and I am currently a junior majoring in Human Development. I am currently a Residential Advisor on a hall of 33 students"
  • A specific objective [one that can be also found on your resume]
    • "I am seeking a full time position with Teach For America starting in the fall of 2018"
  • Why you are interested in the company
    • "I am interested in Teach For America because I can put my leadership and communication skills to work and make a difference in students' lives"
  • Why you are qualified for the position
    • "I have strengthened my leadership, communication and teamwork skills through managing a 15-student group project to facilitate a two-hour field day for elementary school children."
  • What you can do for the employer
    • "I am seeking this position to contribute my planning, leadership and communication skills to this organization"
You can mix and match these items depending on who you are talking to, or even just rearrange their order. It is also a good idea to ask a question at the end of your pitch to facilitate conversation with the employer.

Check out this video from Candid Career about how to prepare the perfect Elevator Pitch!

Write out a draft of your pitch, then come visit the Smith Career Center during walk-in hours (Monday-Friday, 12-3 PM) to practice it with a Peer Career Advisor who can help you revise it and help you become career fair and interview ready!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

New Graduate? New Job? New Grad Program? 3 Tips Just for You

As you prepare for your first full-time job or your first semester of graduate study, I have 3 tips to help you be more successful in this next step of your career journey, and they all relate to one small word: ASK. But, ask what?

Ask for help
Last week, I met with Andrea (I changed her name), a graduate student, in a mock interview to help her gear up for an actual interview for a job she really wants. During our conversation, I asked Andrea to describe a challenge she faced in the past and how she was able to get past the challenge. She told a story about her transition to graduate work here and how difficult that transition was. But, Andrea was smart, as Andrea asked for help.

When I was Andrea’s age, I avoided asking for help because I thought doing so would make me look bad. Was I ever wrong! You look worse if you’re struggling and don’t ask for help to navigate your struggles. Andrea, on the other hand, called on her "Personal Board of Directors" for assistance as she worked through the many changes and challenges she faced as she moved forward in her graduate program. And she took their advice to heart and is now preparing to finish her studies.

Ask questions
When I started my first job after college, I felt like I shouldn’t ask questions in meetings. I was afraid that not knowing all the answers made me look like I didn’t know what I was doing, or that my question might be viewed as a stupid question. It wasn’t until years later that I stumbled upon these words noted to be a Chinese Proverb (and also attributed to Mark Twain):

Asking questions comes from a position of strength where we who are doing the inquiring are self-aware enough to realize that admitting we don’t have all the answers or don’t understand makes us look smarter, not the opposite. Asking questions also demonstrates you’re interested in what is being discussed, you’re listening and you care. Asking questions as a new employee or a new graduate student also gives you an opportunity for your voice to be heard in a meeting.

Ask for more
A big fan of quotes, my final piece of advice relates to asking when it comes to salary offers.

A few days ago I met with a student, Natasha (name changed) by phone to discuss her upcoming conversation with an employer about her salary offer. I told her about a printout I have of the graphic above about Ask4More taped to my computer screen. This has been my mantra ever since I read these words for the first time a few years ago. Why? The starting salary you accept will most likely be the base from which future raises (often a percent of your current salary) are calculated. You’ll be better off starting higher, right?

Many employers expect you to negotiate after an offer is made. No matter how you feel about the offer,  you can ask if the offer is negotiable. And, even if you’re happy with the offer, consider asking for more if you feel you’re in a position to do so because of the value you’re bringing to the employer. 

If need help with evaluating your offer or with preparing for your offer discussion with an employer, contact us in Career and Professional Development so you, too, can Ask4More.

Congratulations on your new role as an employee or graduate student. And, remember…


Monday, May 8, 2017

Open the Door

As the semester draws to a close, many of us are in different places in our lives. Some of us are finishing up our first year in college, baffled at the fact that we made it through and it is over already. Some of us are sophomores excited and thankful to mark this as the halfway point of our college career. Some of us are juniors, eager and nervous to start our first internship for the summer. Some of us are seniors in awe that four years have come and gone, and that soon enough we will be jumping in Lane Stadium for the last time with our cap and gowns on.
We all may be in different places in our lives, but all of us share this place, a place we like to call home.  As many of us know, at this home we hold the door for each other, it is just what we do. Fortunately, this home has a variety of doors we travel through together each day. Each of us has been through so many doors this year; the door to our residence hall, the door to our classroom, the door to a dining hall, the door to the library, and the list could go on.

Each door has an opportunity that we have the opportunity to grab on to. But there is one door yet that maybe you have not faced or entered yet.
The Smith Career Center is home to Career and Professional Development, which in reality is your home too! As my time as an undergraduate and a Peer Career Advisor draws to a close, I wanted to share an invitation for you to always utilize and feel welcomed by our office.
Career and Professional Development is a resource for all students at Virginia Tech to use as a tool for assistance in their professional development journey. Our mission is to:

“Recognizing that career development is a life-long process, the mission of Career and Professional Development is to educate and support students as they explore and further understand themselves and career options, gain valuable experience, develop as professionals, and launch their post-graduation career plans.”

At Career and Professional Development, we want to see you succeed and we want to help you get there. Each of our journeys and successes are different, not one is the same, and we want to provide you individualized attention in order to help you find your unique path.
Our core values revolve around you, because together in this home we are family. 
We build relationships.
We believe in passion.
We are catalysts.
We are educators.
We are open to all ideas.
We are challengers.
We have valuable connections.
We are a team.

There are so many resources and information that we as students coming out of high school into college were simply not given. I know that coming into college, I had no idea how to write a resume, how to get an internship, or honestly what I wanted to do with my life. A little bird told me I needed to stop by the office, just walk in, and see what was going on. That first walk through the doors of the Smith Career Center changed my life.

I cannot emphasize enough how much this office has impacted my time as an undergraduate, and it can for you. The first step is opening the door and walking in. Even if you don’t know what questions to ask, come in and find out more about the resources available for you.

Virginia Tech students are welcome to visit us during office hours to use our Career Resource Center, to take full advantage of our website, and to seek advising with us. We are excited to meet you, listen, and grow to know what you need most from our office to get you wherever life might take you next.
Thanks for reading, sharing, and listening this year with me. It has been a joy sharing with all of you. Best of luck in all the doors you are invited to and the opportunities they bring.

Springing for Experience!

Believe it or not, spring is here! I don’t know about you all, but this is my favorite time of year on our campus. The flowers are blooming, the grass is greener, and the smiles on campus are brighter. Now that classes have come to and end, this is an exciting time for so many of us, so be sure to cherish every moment!

In addition to all the fun and adventures you will be having over summer, we encourage you to take some time to gain some experience too! Summer will be a great time for you to take what you have learned in the classroom, and apply it to an experience, whether that is a job, internship, volunteer opportunity, shadowing, and more.

Gaining experience helps you to be more self-aware and discover what you are looking for in the future. You may enjoy working on a computer, but learn through an experience that you want to work more with people. This is always better to do sooner rather than later in what we call the “real world.”

Here are a few resources to take advantage of to help you find some experience for the summer!

1. Hokies4Hire

Want to work for a company who wants to hire Hokies? We want you to as well! Hokies4Hire is a database that lets students search for co-ops, internships or full-time positions that have been posted by employers specifically looking to hire Hokies. The database also allows you to participate in the On Campus-Interviewing program, and post your resume to the online resume database. Take some time to search the list of employers; you never know what you might find!

2. CareerShift

Want to live at home this summer, but still gain some experience? You can do that too! CareerShift is a comprehensive online resource that allows you to bring everything together to search for jobs in once place and you can save your searches. You can search based on your location, so you don’t have to worry about that! This resource is not only great for location specific or industry specific searches, you can also find contacts at a particular organization.

3. LinkedIn

Want to get connected with people in your potential future industry? That is a GREAT idea! LinkedIn is a way for you to professionally connect with employers, alumni, and organizations. You can check out the jobs section, get connected, and learn more about the job and internship search. Do you know a specific organization that you would like to work with? Find them on LinkedIn! A lot of organizations post their current position openings on their page. Developing your online presence is extremely important in today’s world, so let’s start with LinkedIn. Be sure to check out the Virginia Tech Alumni page on LinkedIn. You can see what alumni are doing now, where they are working and more!

4. Post-Graduation Survey and Report

Want to see what other Hokies are doing? You can! Be sure to take some time to check out our Post-Graduation Survey and Report. The report is collected every year for Virginia Tech graduates who have completed bachelor’s and associate’s degrees. In the report you can find information based on university, college, and major. Once there, you can find out what grads are doing, and if they are working, where/who they are working for. This is a really great tool to see the endless possibilities ahead of you!


The important thing to keep in mind when attaining these positions is to keep your options open. Know that there is no one-way to search for experiences and you can create your own path. But you never know where experiences might take you, with whom they might connect you, and what skills you will gain along the way!

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the process, that is okay! We are here to help! Spring on over to our office to talk to someone about gaining experience. We have walk-in advising available Monday-Friday from 12-3pm. You can also schedule a 30-minute appointment with an advisor if you feel that will be most helpful. We want you to enjoy your path to summer, and want to help you get there.

Happy summer and happy searching!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

March Madness: Negotiating Your Offer

Well friends, it’s been a week since we started our journey in March Madness! I hope your brackets are going well and you will continue to strive for the final four! However, if you bracket is completely and absolutely messed up, I totally feel you. Even though you can’t really change or negotiate your bracket, you can negotiate your job offer! Taking the time to understand why and how you should negotiate your offer is very important in your professional development. Below are tips, need to knows, and what to do in regards to negotiating your job offer:
You got this!
Receiving a job offer is exciting, but can be stressful if you feel your expectations or worth is not met. If you feel you have a reason to request a higher salary or benefits, take the time to go through the process of negotiation. Be empowered to negotiate your offer if the facts are all there. Maybe last summer you interned for the same company who offered you a job. You may feel that is a benefit for the company, because you will need less training. This is a perfect example of thinking about what you bring to the table, and why you deserve to negotiate your offer. Do your back ground and qualifications go above the average in your credentials?

Remember that you do not always have to just negotiate your salary. In negotiating your offer, you can negotiate benefits, signing bonuses, time-off, relocation expenses, your start date, and more.

The Ball is in YOUR Court!
First you need to make sure you do your research. Does the company your offer is with do salary negotiations? If so, you need to be prepared to show evidence of that salary. Take the time to do some comparisons of the salaries relative to the cost of living in that area. As long as you do your research, the ball is in your court to share the reasons why you deserve this negotiation.
Use your Equipment!
Be sure to check out our Post-Graduation Report! This annual survey is from previous Virginia Tech graduates that can provide you with major-specific salary information. Data from over the past five years is available.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics can also be helpful in finding information on your industry on the topics of wages, earnings, and benefits. This resources is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. Salary.com will also be a similar useful tool in finding a specific job in a specific location.
Paycheckcity.com can be useful tool as a salary calculator that you can take out your financial expenses and see if how doable your offered salary is for the area you will be in.
Still want to take some time to look at more resources? Feel free to check out the list of salary information resources on our website.

Pass the Ball
Once you feel that you are ready and prepared to negotiate your offer, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
1.     Ask first! You want the company to know that you are thankful for their offer but would like to discuss compensation.
2.     Ask how the organization structures salary ranges and how your offer was determined.
3.     Present your case with numbers and facts.
4.     If you are told no, that is okay! Be okay with getting a decline if that happens, because you tried your best!
Teamwork for the WIN!
Know that you do not need to go through this process alone!

You can always make an appointment with an advisor to talk about job offers and negotiation. We are excited for you to go through the process of negotiating your salary and would love to help you along the way. You can also stop by the Smith Career Center for walk-in advising available Monday – Friday from 12-3pm to get a conversation started about your offer. Enjoy the negotiating process and feel empowered to take the next step! Good luck!