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bigfileUSCgirlWhen I was in high school, I was an intense, focused straight-A student, a typical INTJ (in Meyers-Briggs lingo) with a small, homogeneous group of close friends. With my introverted temperament and singular goal orientation, I was not one for glad-handing with everyone in my 750-student high school class. I remember a classmate, my polar opposite, a perky young lady named Denise, who was active in student council and cheerleading; she earned good grades but was no egghead. Seared in my memory (to this day) was her personal rallying cry: “I ‘dig’ people.”

handshakekidsI gradually learned to branch out beyond my singular focus comfort zone during business school and my corporate career, and I now appreciate the value of networking as an entrepreneur whose consulting business depends on word-of-mouth as well as social media connections. But being one of Susan Cain‘s Quiet introverts, networking never came naturally to me. Recently, I came across the concept of the strength of weak ties formulated by sociologist Mark Granovetter and described in user-friendly language for twenty-somethings by Meg Jay in her tour-de-force, The Defining DecadeWhy Your Twenties Matter–and How to Make the Most of Them Now. So how can college students and recent grads find the balance between nerdy, focused accomplishment and spreading themselves thin by glad handing? Is there any hope for achievers who don’t ‘dig’ people?

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smilingphoneMany organizations and graduate programs use SkypeInternet technology to interview applicants, sometimes as a pre-screen to select finalists for office headquarters or campus visits. The old-fashioned telephone, however, is still used for this purpose as well, for internships, jobs, and grad programs. Are there any special considerations for phone interviews?

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interviewonlineEmployers and graduate school programs are increasingly using online technology such as Skype™ to interview potential applicants. College students may be initially relieved to find out they are going to be interviewed over the Internet, because it is so convenient and, in some ways, less intimidating than a meeting in person in the organization’s offices. However, a Skype interview needs to be taken every bit as seriously as an in-person meeting and, in many ways, is actually more challenging.

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I recently read a helpful article in a blog called The New Talent Times, ”Nine Job-Seeking Tips for College Graduates.” It offered solid advice worth reading, but I was most taken with its Number #1 Tip: “Create a 10-year plan, even if it doesn’t play out.” 

thoughtbookOne’s first reaction to a tip like this might be, “Oh, yeah, so you can answer the interview question (or business school essay prompt).” But the author, Software Advice CEO Don Fornes, is not just talking about formulating glib answers for potential employers; he is talking about stepping back and looking at the big picture for its own sake:  “You need to focus your search by determining where you want to be in ten years. Then apply for roles that will help you get there. This is important personal introspection that will help you develop career goals.” Read More…

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You have heard about everything you’re “supposed” to do to get ready for the “real world” while you’re still in college. Your parents asked you if you’ve stopped by Career Services yet, to start creating a resume for an internship when you’re still a freshman. And of course, you haven’t. But in fact, there are many things —at least fifteen that I can think of—you can be doing, from your first day of college, to prepare for the bleak reality of the adult world waiting for you when you graduate. Some of these items are, in fact, simple attitudes, modi operandi for being a proactive, self-advocating adult, building your own equity as a professional. They include….

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As a college and graduate school admissions consultant and career counselor, I work with young adults of all levels of motivation, many who amaze me with their talent, discipline and goal-orientation. Often, however, I find myself nudging clients along, usually at the request of their parents, hoping to breathe life into comfortable suburban twenty-somethings who are sadly lacking in passion and purpose.

I have frequently posted about the next generation’s need for meaning and purpose. Occasionally, I encounter a young person who seems to have found a rudder for the future.

Last night, I attended a reception for the children of family friends, a son graduating from Georgetown and a daughter finishing high school and headed for Elon. I had met their parents back in my corporate years. I had known the children since they were babies, but due to geographical moves had not seen them in recent years. The reception was held at the family’s close-knit African-American Baptist church in NJ, which had been a nurturing home base for them despite several relocations over the years.
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Elle Woods, Reese Witherspoon‘s character from Legally Blonde, studies ferociously for the LSATs on her exercise bike, as sorority sisters and Bruiser the chihuahua cheer her on. Harvard Law School‘s admissions committee watch her stylish video application, dumbfounded, as she makes her case for admission in a bikini poolside at her home in Southern California.

The stunned admissions officers reason that Ms. Woods “did get a 175 LSAT score” (the magic number), and “a 4.0 GPA.” When one disbeliever questions her “A in Polka Dots,” another notes that they’ve never admitted a Fashion Merchandising major before. Shaking his head and shrugging helplessly, the Admissions Director acquiesces: “Well, Ms. Woods… welcome to Harvard.” Somehow there is this urban legend that law school admissions is only about the numbers, in contrast to, say, graduate business school. The student forums cynically proclaim that it’s only about your LSAT and GPA, as if nothing else matters. This belief sounded a bit too simplistic to me, so I dug into the class profiles of the top twenty U.S. law schools to see what they look for in JD applicants.

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In 2003, Educational Testing Service (ETS) lost the contract to manage the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) to ACT and a division of Pearson. Since then, ETS has been aggressively urging business schools and students to consider using the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) instead of the GMAT.

Since Stanford Graduate School of Business took the step of accepting the GRE in 2005, 450 B-schools have followed suit. ETS will be launching a revised GRE in August, 2011, which should further intensify the competition. For those interested in the Coke-Pepsi rivalries in standardized testing, you can read the flurry of articles in the business press over the past two years: “GRE or GMAT: Test-Takers Dilemma” in BusinessWeek; “G.R.E. vs. the GMAT” in NY Times; “GRE is Fast Becoming a GMAT Alternative for B-School Applicants” in US News & World Report.

But as a college student or recent grad, you simply want to know: “Which test should I take?” Here are some considerations:

1. Differences between the two tests and your own test-taking strengths. Historically, the GMAT has been known to emphasize  logic, while the GRE has measured the test-takers’ ability more in vocabulary. The GMAT has been known to favor students of higher mathematical ability. However, I would warn against studying specific internet comparisons of GMAT vs. GRE right now, because the GRE is about to be changed (8/2011). Check out a comparison of the old vs. new GRE in About.com.
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Resources abound to help you create a resume for internships and your first job out of college. Your college career center is a great place to start, especially because your school may have a specific required template for its resume book and interview sign-up process.

The internet has plenty of great sites with resume templates, such as CollegeGrad.com and QuintCareers.com. And check out What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens Second Edition by Richard Nelson Bolles or Resume Magic Fourth Edition by Susan Britton Whitcomb.

So do you really need a resume post on my blog, too? Rather than repeat what every website says, I will offer you a few of my own macro perspectives on resumes.

1. One page for college students is enough. You may have gone to two pages on your high school resume for your college application, because you went into great detail about your extra-curricular activities. That was okay for admissions people reviewing your application, interested in all the ways in which you could potentially enrich campus life. But companies looking at internship and entry level resumes have hundreds, perhaps thousands, to review for a few positions, and they need to get a quick snapshot of you, that’s it.
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You majored in medieval history, but you ended up in retail merchandising. You still love history, but management and marketing in the real world is actually quite fascinating. You’re better at it than you thought you would be, and judging from that recent promotion, your managers must have faith in you.

But your lack of business background may eventually hold you back. You would like to have more practical tools in accounting, statistics, operations and business law. If you want to advance within your organization, switch companies or industries, start your own business, or just make more money, you probably will want an MBA.

But you’ve never taken a business course. Doesn’t getting a Masters degree in a subject require some previous study of that discipline?
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