Becoming Professional: A Blog

Archive for November 2009


So you’re sitting at work, goofing off on… Linked In? Social Network for professionals, it’s the career version of 9 degrees of Kevin Bacon. And it’s where you, dear reader, ought to be, if you aren’t already. Open up a second browser window and go to www.linkedin.com right now. Sign up. Good, now we move on.

Linked in is the Facebook for serious professionals interested in linking up. It’s a useful tool not just for information gathering and sharing but for job searches and professional development. If you are interested in learning about seminars in your field of interest, Linked In might help you get there. I got a Linked In account a few years ago after creating a marketing plan that used it. I thought it was boring and promptly forgot my password. Now, I’ve rediscovered it and am a big fan. Changing your mind can be a good thing.

Now, other than it’s pure niftyness, why would you join Linked in? What can you do with it? According to LinkedIntelligence.com, there are three general categories of things to accomplish on Linked In.

  1. Look for people. If you need to find an accountant, a wedding planner, a reporter, a computer programmer… Linked in is a great resource. Not only do they come with recommendations on the website, but if you want to interview them and maybe make one a mentor, you have the introduction, “Hi, Mrs. Blob, I am a colleague of Mr. Green, a client of yours. I was wondering if I might talk to you a little bit about wedding planning. It’s the industry I hope to work in once I graduate.”
  2. Keep your network up to date. When you meet people, add them on Linked In, and when they change jobs or move, you’ll know about it, since they’ll up date their profiles, keeping you up to speed. So no matter where they are, you can always bug that first boss for a letter of recommendation. And keep in touch with him, too. Maybe you’ll be able to turn him a favor, after all.
  3. Your network as a web, not just a list. You know someone who knows someone who can help you land that job. And now you know that last person, too. There’s a handy feature that allows you to ask someone else to introduce you to their connections, so you can see who can help you and ask just that person, as opposed to all the other people who can’t help you but you though might’ve been able to. Plus, you know your needs better than anyone else. They might not realize that they could help you.

  If you are doubtful that your network is that useful, then you are shooting yourself in the foot. Guy Kawasaki (blogger) came up with a few other good reasons to use Linked In:

  1. You can ask for advice: If you go to my Linked In, you will see I have a question out there about how to be more professional. That’s just my first question. I’m getting more as I go. And I will hopefully be getting answers soon, too.
  2. Check out the companies you’re thinking of applying to: Sure, there are rankings like BusinessWeek and Fortune, but what about what the employees say or the customers? Linked in lets you do your research. And if you whip out a quote during an interview, they’ll be impressed.
  3. See where other people in your industry work: So you’re a graduating Finance Major from NYU. Where are alumni working? In what industry? Use your NYU network to find out, or research folk with Finance Degrees.
  4. Research your interviewer: If you have the name of the people you’ll be interviewing with, look them up. Find out what they are interested in and research that. Maybe you have a common interest which will make for a great ice breaker.


Okay, you got the interview! WOOT! This job economy sucks, so first off, good for you!

And then you ask the same question I did: Alright, now what?

They (meaning career services centers, your professors, your friends and family) say that you need to prepare. They say research the company, know it like the back of your hand. Use the Internet. One of the highest ranking sites on a Google search (which means that people likely link to this site from somewhere else) encourages job applicants to do their “homework.” It mentioned looking the part, a few basic and vague questions to rehearse, getting your references, getting there early, bringing the necessary documentation (here I have to wonder. Like what documentation? Your SS Card?) and then make sure you got your 25-second sales pitch down and ask questions and follow up. That’s all great. I’m sure you knew all that. It’s also absolutely vague and pretty much useless. (This is also a lesson on what domain names really mean: nothing. This list of “tips” came off of the website called Allbusiness. com. Hmm….)

I know because I did that. It got me zilch. I mean, I got unpaid internships. Experience is great. But does it help you ace the interview? Only one tip up there mentioned interview questions. Everything else translates loosely to “don’t be a moron and be professional.”

Not to say that research isn’t vital. It is. Really. If you don’t do it, you have just figuratively shot yourself in the foot. But there’s more to it than that. Interviews are conversations, but conversations with a point: You impressing Them enough for Them to pay You. So the question becomes, what can you do to do that?

The first thing is to take a really good look the job ad. What are they looking for? Creativity? Team work skills? Flexibility? Now think up, and write it out, a singular instant, when you exhibited each of those qualities. Use this format:

S: situation (the background)

T: task (what you had to do, the problem)

A: action (what you did)

R: results (results)

Often interviewers actually take notes using this format, looking for verbs that let them know what part of the format your in. According to the Interview Strategy Guide from the ASU Business Career Center, a few common situations that interviewers ask for are: initiative, motivation, leadership, goal achievement, flexibility, maturity, organizational skills, integrity, problem solving, influencing others, communication skills, and decision making skills.

Other common questions and good responses are

  • Tell me about yourself.

This question, according to to my strategy guide, is a chance to show how you, based on your background, are an ideal candidate. But keep the response on-topic. According to a FOCUS Magazine article printed January 5, 1983 (found online here), keep your answer down to 2 minutes, focusing mostly on recent career experience. Save some stuff for later though. Don’t toss out all your best points.

  • Why should we hire you?

Here’s a chance to show them how you’ll “fit” in with their company. I would say this is where your research into company culture can pay off. FOCUS suggests you talk about your ability, experience, and energy, specifically.

  • What are your career goals?

Be careful with this one. Unlike some interview questions, this one has a defined right answer: To be with XYZ company in such and such capacity. My ASU Business Career Coach warned me that this is a loyalty question. FOCUS emphasizes that you talk about the progression of your career, not just “I want this job.”

  • What are your strengths?

Career Coach says: have 3 strengths and have examples for them (go back to STAR). I like to change them for each interview. Some interviewers may care that I am a good presenter, but if I’m applying for an analyst position where I have more to do with a computer monitor, that’s probably not going to sell her on me. I’d have to mention, say, great with numbers, instead.

  • What are your weaknesses?

A lot of people fall into a trap here. Who wants to admit to a weakness when the entire point is to impress the interviewer? But that’s exactly what you have to do, but also show how you’ve overcome them or work past them. Mine, so you get the idea, are: I’m hyper-focused (“I often concentrate too much on a little thing, but I learn to focus on priorities, which helps me spend time where it needs to go, not just where my gut takes me”), I’m often convinced I’m right (“I sometimes get convinced it’s my way or the high way. I have learned to read non-verbal cues, so I know when this is happening, and then I take a back seat. I frame my ideas in questions and make a conscious effort to listen.”), and I can over book myself (“I like to do a lot of things, and sometimes I overestimate how much I can accomplish in small period of time. I use a day planner and plan out all my time in order to avoid this.”)

  • Tell me about a time when you dealt with a disgruntled team mate?

This question is relatively easy. They want to hear about you in a team situation. Think hard. Are you thinking of a school project? Don’t use it. Apparently 95% of us use school examples. Recruiters have heard them all. Be original. Stick out in their minds.

  • Tell me about a time you worked on a team/were a leader?

Same thing as the one above. If you have been the leader of a club, that’s a classic example. Have you ever babysat? How about headed up a church discussion group?

  • What motivates you?

Relate this back to the position. If it’s a sales position, money motivates you. If it’s a customer service position with Disney, how about smiling guests? Don’t lie, but it’s okay to make it fit the position.

So as you can see, there’s a bit more to prepping for an interview than going on to the website and seeing what the Mission Statement is. My recommendation is prep at least the day before the interview. Give yourself some time. Research about the industry, too, and do a Google News or Yahoo News search for the company and see what comes up.

Now, I have to give credit where credit is due: Thank you to ASU’s WPCarey Business Career Center. They gave me the format and helped me figure this all out the first time with a lovely flier. Thank you, Jyll. And thank you to the people who posted the FOCUS webpage.


*1 day late. sorry!

The first problem some people have with interviews is the same one teenage girls have every morning.

What to wear?

There are, in general, 3 levels of dress: Casual, Business Casual, and Business Professional. Here’s what they look like:

Casual

casual clothes

Me in a casual outfit

According to the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary, casual means “feeling or showing little concern…lacking a high degree of interest or devotion…done without serious intent or commitment…informal, natural…designed for informal use <casual clothing>.” The last, of course, is the only specific reference to clothes, and there are other definitions. This is English. It’s never nice and clean when you get it out of a dictionary, is it?

Still, do you want those definitions to describe you? Probably at a bar, probably not at a job interview. So what not to wear: jeans, fashion clothes (one exception and you’ll get it later). Basically, if it’s something you’d wear to the bar, don’t wear it to the office, even if it makes you look fantastic.

Business Casual

biz cas clothes

Me in a Biz Cas outfit

This one’s very confusing. There’s no definition. So I’m going to reach for the Walt Disney Company’s Disney Look, which, in my humble opinion, epitomizes business cas.

Women have more choices than men. We get to wear pants or skirts. Yay for us. Business casual basically means that jackets are optional. Your top

can be fashionable, but it should have sleeves. Disney doesn’t allow sleeveless unless you wear a jacket over i

t, and I can see why. Skirts and dresses should be at most three inches above the knee. Be careful about the slits at the back of skirts and dresses too. You don’t really want them longer than 5 inches above the middle of the knee. Could look wrong. And pants should be cover your ankle, so unfortanely no clam diggers. Shucks. And don’t wear denim anything. Double Shucks.

biz cas jewelry

Biz Cas Jewelry

As for accessories, try to keep them modest. Disney allows two necklaces, two bracelets, and rings, but earrings have to be simple, one per ear, and smaller than a quarter. Personally, I love big jewelry. Give me big earings and long necklaces, please. Still, being modest is good. Conservative, better. Use your judgement, but when in doubt, downsize. Fingernails should be kept well groomed and in traditional colors. Bright green is awesome, but it doesn’t fit in with most business scenarios. Shoes should be closed toed or closed healed, or a normal pump or flat. Your tennies might be comfy but they probably wont work.

Men have it easier in someways. I’ll skip Disney’s facial hair guidelines. Gentlemen, just try to be well-groomed. You should wear slacks and tuck in your shirts, excepting some sweaters. Button-ups are a constant, but you don’t need the tie. I’ve seen men wear polos, but I’d recommend against them unless you are comfortable in the environment. They are a bit informal for Bis. Cas. As for male jewelry, it’s generally advisable not to wear a necklace. No Bling. Sorry. Keep everything else modest, just like the ladies. And try to stear clear away from earings. They fall under Bling. This is one time it’s nice to be a girl. Yay!

Business Professional

biz professional suit

Me in a professional suit

biz professional dress

Me in a professional dress

This one is really, really easy: Wear a Jacket. It’s an automatic upgrade. Works best when the jacket matches the pants, but we’ll go with it. Gentlemen, add a tie. Ladies, have fun with your shirt. If you’re going to wear a jacket, throw on a cute tank in a fun color. No one will even know it’s a classic clubbing shirt, and if you go out for drinks afterward, you don’t need to change (don’t ask me how I know). If you have a really businessy dress, like the one in my second picture, you can get away with that, too. It’s looks like a suit.

And here’s a secret you don’t often hear. Dress up. If they say it’s an informal informational session, wear Biz Cas. If they say that Biz Cas. is the minimum, wear Professional. If they say Professional, wear your best. This shows whoever you’re meeting that you take them very seriously and respect them. That they’re worth your effort to look good.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the secret behind the dress code. Let me know your experiences and what you think. Makes my research easier for the next post.


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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog (maskedgeek.wordpress.com) and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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