Archive for the 'Career' Category

Job Hunting in the Era of Big Data

May. 30th 2013

It seems as though terms such as ‘big data,’ ‘data analytics,’ and ‘data science’ have gotten their fair share of use as of late, but what exactly do they mean? Often, the people who throw around these buzz words in casual conversations are not fully aware of the significant impact big data has had on everything from college course offerings to the nation’s job market.

Big data was predicted to be a game changer in many aspects in 2013, and its influence is far-reaching. Because of this, a growing demand for a workforce skilled in analytics, programming, statistics, and numerous IT fields has emerged. Colleges and universities recognize this need and are offering more courses and degree specializations in fields focused on big data.

What Exactly is Big Data?

People know it’s important, seem excited about it, and have undoubtedly heard others make mention of it, but many still may not be clear on what exactly big data is. It’s fair to be a bit confused. Big data has different meanings to different people.

Some think that before defining what big data is, little data must first be defined. According to Andrew Gadomski, chief advisor and founder of Aspen Advisors, little data is “getting the data that we want, in the timeframe that we want, and with the accuracy that we want.”

Little data is what people know about themselves, for example, a spreadsheet listing all the groceries a person purchased over a three-month period. Big data, by contrast, is what organizations know about people. An example of big data might be the purchasing habits of shoppers at a certain grocery store.

For the sake of simplicity, big data can be considered an encompassment of the growth, availability, organization and use of information and data. It is, essentially, large collections of complex data — anything from customers’ purchasing habits to a person’s online behavior on social media sites. Big data involves various skill sets, which can vary, depending on the person asked. Now is an optimal time for big data because people have more ways to collect it and there is an identified need for collecting the data.

The job prospects for those adept in big data look promising. Businesses are interested in data scientists — people who are fascinated by data and good with numbers. These are the people that will help businesses make sense of large amounts of data, analyze and identify trends, and ultimately use the information to guide decisions and increase sales and success.

The New York Times reported that in order to meet the demand from employers, the U.S. needs to increase the number of graduates skilled in big data by as much as 60%. With expectations of almost half a million jobs in five years, there is a projected shortage of up to 190,000 qualified data scientists. Additionally, there’s a need for 1.5 million executives and support staff who understand data.

Big Data’s Role in Human Resources

For all its many purposes, perhaps big data’s most favorable role has developed in the form of HR recruiting and hiring. As Marcia LaReau, president of Forward Motion, LLC puts it, big data is the new science of hiring.

“The premise is that so much information exists and computerized analysis is so swift that technology is able to do a much better job of determining both the key success factors and potential individuals who should be considered,” LaReau said. “Mega-data can be collected, analyzed, and interpreted to identify the key attributes of a successful employee specific to the industry and identify the best candidates for a specific job — by name!”

More companies are veering away from using traditional methods such as HR managers, and relying on big data to make their hiring decisions. Advocates of big data believe software that crunches piles of information is more likely to spot things not apparent to the naked eye. Another perceived advantage is the avoidance of human error and biases.

“The big claim is that this process doesn’t have personal bias, but that isn’t true at all,” LaReau countered. “Every computer software program carries the bias of the programmers.”

Big data’s main advantage in HR may be in its ability to simplify and speed up the process of poring over mounds of applications — something which is beneficial for businesses that employ many workers with no specialized job training or education, often companies with large turnover and a slew of steady applicants.

“HR has been charged in many industries and companies with the responsibility for the bottom line. ‘If we didn’t make a profit, it’s because HR didn’t hire the right people,’” LaReau said. “HR asks if the business is willing to pay for the top talent and the business says ‘no.’ So, HR is pressured to find people who can bring value with the shortest possible ramp-up time. Enter big data — yes, I believe it will be embraced quickly.”

What Big Data Looks for in Potential Employees

The information that is uncovered by big data includes almost anything one could fathom: a city’s crime statistics, the most popular vacation destinations for the summer, or shopping patterns of college students. However, what employers are looking for from big data is a little different. They want specific information dependent upon their specific needs.

LaReau said if a company wants to hire a coder for a specific programming language, for example, that company might scan data on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or programmer chat rooms. Big data companies can then identify the people in a particular geographic area that do that kind of programming as well as their level of expertise and their ability to communicate with their peers and so forth.

Evolv, a company that analyzes recruitment and workplace data, has become a major player in big data. Evolv uses attrition data and real-time performance to weed through millions of available workers to find the best fit for hourly positions. Data analytics make quite a difference in the process of screening applicants.

“Big data reveals everything from the best route to work to the best companies to work for,” said Nathan West, director of analytical products at Evolv. “And now, data also reveals how companies can make the most of their biggest and most valuable investment — people.”

West said more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies have big data initiatives underway, and human resources data accounts for one-third of all enterprise data created.

“Employers looking to reduce attrition and optimize the productivity of their workforces are mining the mountains of data that they already have on applicants and employees to reveal new and, at times, surprising insights,” West said. “HR benefits from the application of big data analytics in more than just the hiring and onboarding part of the employee lifecycle. Analysis of millions of performance data points across the employee lifecycle, including termination, can inform the recruitment process at the beginning.”

As the Economist points out, rather than asking jobseekers if they are honest — which may yield dishonest answers, potential employees can take surveys which will measure honesty indirectly. Questions such as “How good are you with computers?” followed by “What does Control-V do in a word processing program?” will determine whether or not a candidate is being honest.

Big data allows companies to look less at traditional gauges of talent, such as an Ivy League degree or a previous high-profile job, and focus more on quantifiable data: how well does a person perform and what can a person do for the company?

How Jobseekers Can Catch the Eye of Big Data

The use of big data has certainly changed the way in which the hiring process works.

“Graduates are playing a different ballgame, so to speak. They aren’t expected to have the hard-honed skill sets of people in their mid-career,” LaReau said. “Consequently, they should design a resume that brings out other assets such as a pleasant demeanor, professional presence, resilience, ability to get along and make others comfortable in the workplace, adaptability, and creative solutions.”

According to Abby Kohut, career expert and blogger for AbsolutelyAbby, use of big data has made the hiring process become more impersonal, though it may prove easier for recruiters to manage and report on their data.

“Back when I started recruiting, my eyes told me if a candidate was qualified for a job based on their resume,” Kohut said. “Now a computer is making the decision. In my opinion, we all stand to lose when people are discounted because they don’t know how to ‘play the game’ to be found.”

The days of public job postings may be limited as the wave of big data plays an increasingly larger role in the recruiting process. There are some things graduates can do to better market themselves to employers in the age of big data:

  • Be Strategic in Your Online Presence. A person’s online presence will be the means by which they will be found (or not found) by recruiters. “Hiring professionals will go out and find people rather than having jobseekers approach them about potential positions,” LaReau said. “If I were a jobseeker, I would begin finding ways to build relationships with recruiters to understand how to present their online profiles.” LaReau also suggests graduates use LinkedIn extensively, especially groups in their industry, to demonstrate a strong desire for a specific kind of job.
  • Use Key Words on Your Resume. “Jobseekers at all levels need to be sure that they have the appropriate keywords on their resumes and cover letters,” Kohut said. “But more than having them listed, they need to repeat the words more than once. The person who matches the words more often rises to the top of the stack. That is how the game is played.” The keywords should reference specific job requirements to catch employers’ attention. These include skills, technological competencies, and other relevant credentials. Kohut suggested jobseekers review job descriptions for desired positions, review LindedIn profiles of their competition, and read industry articles to learn which words are frequently used.
  • Prep Your References. Since big data dictates so much of the hiring process, networking may not be as effective. Therefore, it’s extremely beneficial for jobseekers to make sure they have strong references. “Right now, there is a trend by hiring companies to call references as a part of their pre-selection process,” LaReau said. “So references are part of the de-selection process, even before the candidate knows they are being considered. Prepping references is important and every candidate can expect that anyone they know may be called, whether they are on their reference list or not.”
  • Be Smart in Choosing Internships. LaReau said regarding internships, the sooner the better. She urges students to identify potential companies in sophomore year of college, or even in high school, if possible. “Getting called back to an internship junior year speaks volumes,” she said. “A mistake some grads make is accepting an internship at a company that doesn’t have the capacity to hire them and doesn’t have potential mentors that will assist them in launching their career after the internship.”
  • Pay Attention to Market Trends. Big data is not something jobseekers can really control or manipulate, but remaining up-to-date and knowledgeable about industry trends will help jobseekers. “There is a huge brain drain as boomers are leaving the workplace in droves. In the next two years, at least 8 million boomers will leave the workplace,” LaReau said. “That means unemployment will go down to 4% and those not working will likely be ‘unemployable.’ HR is scrambling to pull together incentive packages to keep boomers because the next generation (Generation X) is very small and there aren’t enough of them to fill the need.”

Ready or not, big data is here and has markedly changed the job search as we know it. The era of big data has stamped a footprint in the rigid concrete known as the traditional job hunt. Though the system is not perfect — it’s new and there may be some unforeseen issues — many companies are excited about the prospect of creating a workforce full of employees picked specifically based on data relevant to the job.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Career | No Comments »

How to Donate to Your College Even When You’re Poor

May. 2nd 2013

Your phone rings. You look down to see a number you recognize; this call has come dozens of times before. Maybe you answer, and hear the cheerful voice from your alma mater asking once more for money, a request you’ll have to regretfully decline right now. Maybe you ignore it, hoping the caller will understand the message you’re trying to send by not answering: “I’m poor!”

For many young college graduates, making enough money to eat, pay bills and student loans, and stash a little away for a rainy day is a struggle in itself. Unemployment and underemployment, where you’re employed in a job for which you’re significantly overqualified, are both still serious problems for recent grads. Even those in jobs related to the careers they want aren’t necessarily making enough money to easily cover all their necessary expenses, let alone low-priority expenses like charity. While many young people may want to contribute to their universities, monetary donations just aren’t an option available to everyone.

So how do you give back to your university when you’re poor? Turns out there are a lot of ways.


Volunteering may conjure images of roadside crews cleaning up litter or people painting houses, but there are hundreds of ways you can volunteer. Harvard recently made news when it sent out an email to thousands of alumni asking them to volunteer as online mentors and discussion group managers for an online humanities course. While most schools aren’t asking for this kind of volunteers (yet), there are often plenty of options for alumni who want to get involved in some capacity.

The University of Oklahoma Alumni Association Executive Director Dave Hail says they often use the “three Ts” to describe the contributions alumni can make to their schools: time, talent, and treasure. “Of course the financial contributions are important, but in many ways, time and talent can benefit the university just as much,” Hail says.

On the more typical volunteering side, many schools offer programs for community service or event volunteers, which can be ongoing or just take a day of your time. Arizona State University involves alumni in its ASU Cares program where community volunteer projects are organized around the country once a year. Stanford University also hosts a Global Day of Service. Take a look at your alma mater’s website to see if there’s a day you can take part in improving your own community in the name of your school.

There are plenty of unique (and entertaining) opportunities for volunteering across the country.

  • Arizona State alum can help throw tailgates at away games.
  • University of South Florida encourages alumni to advocate on its behalf to the legislature as part of its Council of 100.
  • At the University of Pennsylvania, opportunities range from volunteering at the library, sewing lap quilts for cancer patients at the cancer research institute, or helping out at the annual Homecoming Run.

Volunteering for campus events can be a great way to contribute to the university by making sure current students have the best experience possible. “Alumni involvement in the university community can help ‘pay it forward’ to students by enriching their experiences and keeping traditions alive,” says Dr. Larry Routh, an alumni career specialist at the University of Nebraska.

Most schools have banks of volunteering opportunities for alumni, so no matter where your talents or interests lie, you can find a way to give back to your community and your school.

Off campus, recruitment is a common and important task that alumni can take on such as the case in Alabama, Michigan, and Georgia. University of Alabama alumni can volunteer as recruiters or recommend students for DISCOVERING BAMA, a highly personalized campus visit for high school students interested in the university. The University of Michigan, Georgia Tech, and many colleges across the country also have official programs for alumni to help recruit the next generation. If yours doesn’t, you can still contribute by recommending your school to intelligent and talented high school students in your community. Answer their questions and encourage them to look into your alma mater if you think they’d be a good fit.

“A university is so much more than the physical buildings, facilities, and programs that often get the headlines,” says Hail. “The community created by the people involved really defines a university. We have a tendency to think in terms of student recruit/enrolled student/graduate and have these lines that define our relationship to our alma mater. But the best-case scenario is when those lines are blurred and we think about it as a continuum of experience. When we as alumni continue that relationship, we not only feel like we’re still a part of the university community but a part of a whole new generation’s experience as well.”

Career guidance

With a tough job market that relies largely on who you know and whether you understand how to get your foot in the door, students can benefit greatly from hearing from alumni working in their chosen field. You could even argue that they benefit more, or at least more directly, from contributions to their careers than they do from monetary donations you make to a general fund.

Even if you’re a more recent graduate who has found a job, you have great insight into today’s economic climate. “I’ve found giving career advice to students about to graduate to be a fulfilling, free way to give back to my alma maters,” Zane Schwarzlose, who works in Internet marketing at Fahrenheit Marketing and earned degrees at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas, says. “Since I’m in a very specific field, I let the career advisor (at my alma mater) know that I’m willing to help students. If she hears about a student who wants to go into Internet marketing, she can send them my contact information.”

Just making yourself available like Schwarzlose has can have an impact on students’ career prospects. If you don’t know who to contact, reach out to alumni relations or your specific college within the university and they should be able to put you in touch with the right person.

If you want to be more actively involved in a student’s life, find out if there’s a mentoring program set up. For example, there’s an Alumni Mentor Network for Oklahoma University alumni, according to Hail; current students can contact alumni within their field or in a specific geographic region for advice in leadership, finding contacts, interviewing, and more. Fordham University has a similar mentoring program, helping students get advice on their resumes, visit workplaces, and learn to network. There are often mentoring programs for more specific demographics, such as University of Nebraska’s Cather Circle, a professional development program for women, or the Villanova Law Minority Mentoring Program. Teaming up with an alumnus with first-hand experience in a field or location they’re interested in is an invaluable experience for any student about to face the real world or trying to decide on a career path.

Alumni career events are also excellent opportunities to share your knowledge. They can be a useful option for people who may not have enough time to become a mentor, but want to contribute. Most schools provide chances for alumni to come back for single events, like roundtable discussions, workshops, and mock interviews if their expertise fits the event. If your knowledge is more limited than these events allow, you can always contact a professor or dean from your academic program to see if you might come to a class one day as a guest speaker or even Skype in to chat.

Greek life

If you went Greek during your time in school, your ties to that organization may be just as strong as your ties to the university itself. You don’t have to choose between supporting one or the other. By giving back to your Greek organization, you are also helping to continue traditions and community-building at your school.

Greek alumni can give back in many of the same ways college alumni do. Nicki Meneley, the executive director of the National Panhellenic Conference, suggests serving as mentors to collegiate members, giving advice on job searches, and support in networking. “Especially if a sorority alumna is an ‘expert’ in a specific field or situation, she can serve as a great speaker for a chapter’s programming or meetings,” she says. “If a sorority alumna can provide valuable advice to a collegiate chapter, or even an entire Panhellenic community, she is giving back in a very unique way and it will mean a lot to the organization as a whole.”

Don’t have the expertise? Just represent your organization. “One of the best ways to support sorority life as an alumna is to ‘tell your story’ and to spread the word about the wonderful benefits of sorority life to women who are interested in getting involved,” Meneley says. “For example, Alumnae Panhellenic organizations often host recruitment information events to help educate women in their area who want to join a sorority on how the process works and why sorority life is beneficial to their college experience.”

How to Get Started

  • Do your research: Universities rely on donations and volunteer efforts of alumni and friends to thrive, so most schools include helpful information on their websites. Check out the pages for your alumni relations department, your alumni association, and calendar of events. How do you fit in? Look up alumni events at Homecoming, whether there are mentoring and volunteering programs in place, or if other alumni have previously acted as guest speakers.
  • Get in contact: If you can’t find what you’re looking for on your school’s website, reach out. If you have an idea in mind for how you want to help or if you just want to make yourself available, contact alumni relations or professors in your academic program. They’ll probably be open to your suggestions or put you in contact with someone who can help you put your plan into action.
  • Find a chapter: A disadvantage many alumni face is living far from campus. Volunteering for campus events or ongoing campus projects isn’t possible, especially when you consider the costs of travel and accommodation. But that’s not the only way to get involved. Most schools have alumni chapters in major cities and online communities for those who don’t live near a chapter. Find out what’s available in your community and get involved. Even contributing to discussions or answering potential student questions online can go a long way. And if there’s no chapter in your town, reach out to your school or alumni association to find out about starting one.
  • Consider all of your skills: If you’re a young alumnus, you may not have established yourself in your field yet, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have some skills or knowledge to contribute. Are you skilled in graphic design, have great organizational skills, or have created an awesome network for yourself? Ask your university or specific school if they need any posters designed, find out if your local alumni chapter is looking for help planning an event, or offer yourself to students in your field for networking advice and some contacts. Still stumped at what you can offer? At the very least, you have first-hand experience with the current job market as a new grad that you can share, something professors can’t give their students.

“It’s a common and reasonable misconception that alumni can only contribute when they have the financial resources to write a check,” Hail says. “Serving on a local club committee, hosting a table at student recruitment event, volunteering to be a mentor, or offering expertise to students in your academic area are all great ways to stay involved without any financial gift. All of these things can serve to be a part of the continuum of experience with our alma mater, and that lifetime relationship is priceless.”

Even if you don’t have the cash to hand out the next time the university fundraisers call you, don’t ignore the non-monetary contributions you can make to your school. Making a connection with your school and helping create a positive experience for future generations can be just as beneficial. Find out what opportunities your school already offers and don’t be afraid to suggest new ways that you’d like to give back.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Career | No Comments »

The After-50 Guide to Continuing Education

May. 1st 2013

With the average retirement age increasing, many people over 50 are taking on opportunities to learn a new, necessary skill and stay marketable. In addition, many retirees take on second careers to supplement their pensions and stay active. With roughly 30% of the population older than 62 and financially ready to retire, it has never been more important for middle-aged and senior Americans to engage in professional development, particularly within employment sectors in which they can contribute and be productive past the age of 65.

Post-Retirement Careers

Those who are able to retire often want to work at least a part-time schedule in order to earn extra income and remain engaged with the world. Many even choose to follow through with dreams they once had as young people. As noted in a recent article in Forbes, ‘encore careers’ frequently involve stints with charity groups, non-profit organizations or other volunteer agencies. Many older Americans find fulfilling post-retirement employment with organizations such as Teach for America and the Peace Corps.

Others build on the skills they developed over a lifetime to create service-oriented second careers. One long-time litigator established an agency to find pro bono lawyers for social entrepreneurs. Another, a former PR consultant, became a senior move manager, helping others downsize their lives when they moved into smaller homes. Although their new careers may not be nearly as lucrative as if they had remained at their old positions, these seniors enjoy fulfilling second careers that reinvigorate them.

One profession growing across age groups is the home-based entrepreneur; those over 50, with their years of experience and fully developed professional skills, have a qualified advantage over younger self-starters. Some of the most common home-based job titles among the AARP crowd include handyman (or woman), real estate appraiser, senior helper, and financial planner.

Many seniors are tapping into their skills and flexible schedules to become freelance workers. Those who speak a second language are highly desired as translators. Others, whose first career was in human resources or conflict resolution, are often hired as mediators. Those who spent years conducting research and tending to details find work as blog and grant writers.

There are a few helpful guidelines for those switching careers later in life. First, think about what you want your life to be going forward and choose a career that fits that vision. Second, particularly if you’re thinking of investing in a new home based business or franchise, take it for a “test ride” first by volunteering in the field. Third, become visible on social media and other networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter.

Professional Development

Professional development is an ongoing enterprise for anyone who is serious about acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary for furthering their career. Although many individuals receive professional development opportunities through work, others enroll in online college courses and attend conferences and seminars to hone new skills.

Seniors can often take college courses at reduced tuition rates, and sometimes for free. According to a recent report, nearly 60% of accredited colleges waive tuition for older adults. There may be a few hurdles to jump through before you get the waiver, such as obtaining an instructor’s permission, but the savings are worth it.

Another frugal option is to simply audit a course. Since many professionals over 50 no longer have to prove their qualifications with a degree, simply having the knowledge to apply in the workplace is often sufficient. Community colleges are generally less expensive, and many offer reduced-fee classes designed for seniors.

One caveat: older adults should weigh the risks and benefits of college if they’re thinking of attending a full-tuition program. With fewer years left to recoup the cost of that tuition, it simply may not be worth paying for a new degree. One far less expensive option is to learn new skills through professional development seminars. Some of the most popular careers that can be started this way include medical transcriptionist, substitute teaching, practical nursing, freelance writing, and home-based healthcare.

Continuing Education

Whether seeking a second career or just satisfying an interest, a number of online course options are ideal for seniors. Even the under 50 set enjoy the flexibility and lower cost of the thousands of classes available on the web. Many courses are offered for free, a boon for those on a fixed income, and the flexible structure enables students to learn at their own pace.

One such online education site,, offers a wide variety of online classes that are free of charge. Courses are taught by top educators from colleges across the country; subjects range from genetics and calculus to digital programming and Greek mythology. Anyone in need of credentials, such as people hoping to launch a career in financial planning, can take a flexible online course and receive a verified certificate for a modest fee.

Others who are looking to move into positions with service organizations can also find informative and engaging online material. The courses offered at Edx, which are taught by professors from top universities like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, explore themes that have great appeal to those who wish to enter the public sector, such as justice and poverty.

Another option for seniors looking to broaden their minds is free educational content known as open courseware, or OCW. MIT has made nearly all of its course content available for free through the school’s OPENCOURSEWARE site. This open content is perfect for the self-starter who can learn on his own, such as an entrepreneur hoping to launch a home-based business.

Whether they are looking to take a different path or develop a new skill, older Americans have found that continuing their education is a great way to enhance life after 50. Take some time to explore the wide array of professional development opportunities, seminars and conferences, formal coursework and online materials designed to make your retirement years as much fun, fulfilling, and productive as the first 50.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Career, Education | No Comments »

Missing the Water Cooler: A Recent Grad’s Guide to Navigating Telecommuting

Apr. 3rd 2013

Yahoo’s recent decision to eliminate its work-from-home option drew mixed responses from critics, and it’s easy to see why. According to a WorldatWork survey, 12.4 million employees around the world work remotely. In Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, Nevada, and the entire U.S. alone, 4.8 million people work from home on at least a part-time basis.

For entry-level workers and recent college graduates, telecommuting might be inevitable — especially since it can ultimately save companies money. But are you missing out? Maybe not. Telecommuting can build and develop practical, in-demand skills, help you save money, and with some coordination with the home office, you can find the best of both worlds.


Why It Works for Entry-Level … and Beyond

The major reason companies support telecommuting is the comparatively low overhead cost. Businesses would collectively save $2.3 billion a year in real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and turnover costs, according to Kate Lister, co-author of Undress for Success: The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home. But for all the talk of how much this benefits employers, the telecommuting option places workers at a fiscal advantage as well.

Considering so many entry-level employees grapple against student loans and day-to-day living expenses, any small savings help out. Not having to shell out money for gas and other car-related expenses as often makes for an especially generous boon to their bank accounts. Lister estimates that those savings could add up to as much as $11,000 annually.

Resources like the Telework Calculator, which she co-developed, let workers see for themselves just how much money working from a home office will save. Savings go well beyond reducing trips to the gas station. The calculator tells potential telecommuters where they could save in:

  • Child care
  • Transportation needs for disabled workers
  • Typical in-office necessities like work attire, lunch, and/or parking

In addition to saving money, working remotely helps nurture essential 21st century job skills. Because telecommuting involves using smartphones, webcams, tablets, laptops, and, the Internet, participants hone their digital literacy — which employers these days desire in their job candidates. Since entry-level positions prepare workers for future professional undertakings, a telecommuting arrangement works very well in this regard.

Telecommuting also affords a far higher degree of flexibility and independence than driving to an office every day. New and established workers alike must be highly self-motivated and self-disciplined to navigate such an arrangement. Consider these qualities a more lo-fi counterpart to the digital literacy. Employers love applicants with enough gumption and drive to keep themselves focused on their tasks, requiring little prodding from their superiors. Building these skills early on in one’s career only increases their chances of advancement later.


Overcoming Remote Challenges

Being dropped into the world of telecommuting early on in one’s career will not magically turn a poor self-motivator into a plucky Horatio Alger protagonist. The system does not gel with such struggling individuals, nor will it inherently provide them with the tools to address the problem. By its very nature, the onus of pressing forward falls on the worker.

“Telecommuting can make it possible for employees to integrate their work and home lives to a great extent,” says Dr. MaryAnne Hyland, Associate Professor of Human Resources Management at Adelphi University. “If an individual is working from home while other family members are present, having a separate workspace with a door can be beneficial. Some companies require that telecommuting employees have a private workspace.”

Telecommuting employees, regardless of whether or not they work an entry-level job, can do a few things to ensure they remain focused and manage their time responsibly. Setting up a personalized system of rewards for completing specific tasks, reaching certain milestones, or accomplishing professional goals is a great strategy for building motivation. Aligning said milestones and goals with those set by the company makes it much, much easier to meet them.

The schedule flexibility afforded by telecommuting-friendly companies varies from place to place. Some require rigid hours, while others assume a more free-form shape and allow employees to complete assignments in a manner best befitting their working style or life needs. When it comes to the latter arrangement, employees must painstakingly organize themselves to remain on task. This means drawing up a tight schedule and sticking with it — though they’ll have to leave at least a bit of time for breaks and breathers. Staying within these rigid, self-created guidelines, be it the usual 9-5 or something else entirely, is one of the best strategies for remaining on task.

“With regard to skills, discipline is key,” she advises. “The television, refrigerator, and washing machine may be within eyesight of an employee’s workstation. While at times it may make sense to run a load of laundry during a few minutes of downtime at work, frequent distractions and interruptions can detract from focus and productivity.”

“That said, many employees report being more focused and productive at home due to fewer distractions,” she says. “In addition, some employees who are good at ‘integrating’ their work and personal lives are able to transition between work activities and other activities throughout the day and still be productive and effective in all of their roles.”

Because telecommuting does not involve face-to-face interaction (except, in some cases, via webcam), employees lose out on sharpening the basic social skills needed to survive the workplace. Establishing camaraderie with coworkers nurtures teamwork and efficiency. Telecommuting minimizes chatting-related distractions. But it also denies workers a chance at building valuable relationships.

A couple of easy fixes exist. Some employers might want to consider only part-time telecommuting so their workers hone a more well-rounded skill set. They receive the flexibility, independence, and lowered commuting cost (comparatively speaking in this case) of a home office, but still enjoy opportunities to socialize with their peers.

Alternately, employers could stick with a full-time telecommuting arrangements, but add in-person meetings a few times every quarter, or they could organize more fun, team-building events. Both of these solutions also ensure their employees are not denied opportunities to learn how to fraternize with coworkers while still enjoying the relative freedom of working from home.

“Social isolation can be challenging for telecommuting employees, especially entry-level employees,” says Hyland. “Understanding the culture of an organization and participating in informal collaboration efforts are often important for successful job performance. Working at the office on a regular basis, such as once or twice a week if possible, should reduce these problems.”


What Industries to Look Into

Some industries in particular lend themselves to telecommuting. While not exactly an ideal arrangement for, say, neurosurgeons or astronauts, the remote option still works well for a diverse range of industries — as CNN’s top 10 listing of the most telecommuting-friendly companies reveals. Unsurprisingly, Cisco — an industry leader in telecom — allows 90% of its employees to work from home at least 20% of the time. Other notable names include Teach for America, marketing consultants Accenture, and Intel.

Media and publishing, particularly Internet-based outlets, are also viable options for entry-level employees who prefer working from home. Because so much writing and editing can be completed independently, cash-strapped companies can easily offer up telecommuting as a perk. Employers from almost every industry imaginable are branching out into social media, hiring managers for their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. These positions revolve entirely around online interactions, so it makes perfect sense that telecommuting proves a snuggly fit.

Whether a recent graduate or a seasoned veteran of the work force, resources such as FlexJobs offer a one-stop digital locale to find part-time and full-time telecommuting positions. Since working remotely is consistently increasing in popularity, sites like this make finding an ideal job a faster, easier ordeal. Household name employers such as AT&T, the IRS, Trip Advisor, Capitol One, and IBM list openings on FlexJobs, showcasing just how diverse the industry options are for all jobseekers these days.


Recommended Tools

The specifics of what a telecommuting job will specifically require varies from company to company. However, growing familiar with the most common accoutrements can help the aspirant job-hunters out there. Take the time to get to know the ins and outs of the hardware and software that makes telecommuting possible. It may mean a valuable edge when submitting resumes and cover letters to potential employers.

  • High-speed Internet connection: Reliable Internet is more or less standard for telecommuters these days. It might prove a worthwhile investment for those pursuing entry-level jobs to have wi-fi or other high-speed connection installed in their homes — especially if they hope to work in social media. And make sure to draw up a viable backup plan or two in case the connection at home drops out. Most public libraries offer up free Internet, and of course coffee shops and cafes provide it to paying customers. Smartphone users might want to download an app like WiFi Finder for iPhone and Android so they always stay attuned to their emergency options.
  • Laptop or tablet computing device: Portable computing devices make telecommuting so much easier than desktops, largely because if the Internet shuts down, the negative productivity impact lessens. Remote employees need a tablet or a laptop they can tote around with them — especially if their positions require some modicum of travel. Look for models with built-in webcams, too.
  • Smartphone: While not nearly as conducive for long-term tasks as laptops and tablets, a working knowledge of smartphone basics is a boost to any wannabe telecommuter’s skillset. Text messaging and e-mail let them stay in touch with their employers, coworkers, and clients while on the go. Depending on what apps they download, workers can also use the devices to organize to-do lists, map their thoughts, and even update projects across all platforms. Employers might not require a smartphone of their telecommuters, but Androids, iPhones, Blackberrys and the like nevertheless make the jobs run that much smoother.
  • Webcam: Not every telecommuting company necessarily needs employees to converse with their coworkers, managers, and clients face-to-face. The ones that do will require workers to really know their way around a webcam. Fortunately, these devices come standard with most newer laptop and tablet models. And they are inexpensive enough so that telecommuters saddled with older machines do not have to sink too much money into buying one.
  • Headset: Most of the built-in microphones on tablets and laptops are rather lousy, to be frank. Telecommuters who use their mobile computers for verbal correspondence should research their best options for a headset. Some combine headphones — noise-cancelling or not — and a microphone, while others come with only the latter.
  • Speakers: Like microphones, the speakers on many laptops and tablets frequently leave plenty to be desired. They might compensate for this using headphones or a headset including headphones, or purchasing a set of extra speakers.
  • Cisco: Companies who allow their employees to telecommute regularly often turn towards Cisco for the most sophisticated hardware and software available. Depending on the job up for grabs, applicants are not required to know the intricacies of how the different Cisco products and services work — just the basics enabling them to fully participate in meetings at most. Nor will they need to purchase anything. The employers themselves usually shoulder the cost of these platforms.
  • Skype: Most cost-conscious employers might prefer telecommuting via free or low-cost providers such as Skype. Despite its reputation as a video communication tool, Skype still allows for audio-only meetings and screen-sharing. When combined with a service like Audacity, employers and employees alike can record important meetings for sharing with absent coworkers or future reference.
  • Google Hangouts: A completely free alternative to Skype and Cisco, allowing up to ten people to talk via video and audio. It also makes screen sharing a painless undertaking and even plugs into Google Drive so coworkers quickly update their required documents.

Telecommuting’s shape varies depending on a company’s unique needs and wants. In the right industries, it works fabulously for both employee and employer. According to Telework Research Network, Gen Y’ers are more difficult to recruit (as reported by 56% of hiring managers) and to retain (as reported by 64% of hiring managers) but they are particularly attracted flexible work arrangements (ranked as 8 on a 10 scale for impact on overall job satisfaction). Telecommuting makes both sides of the table happy … and then there’s the whole being able to complete assignments in your underwear thing.

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10 Techy Career Paths for Liberal Arts Majors

Dec. 6th 2012

In a national dialogue around education that seems to be getting increasingly heated, one of the main bones of contention is whether, and to what degree, we ought to emphasize STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) at the expense of a more classical education in the liberal arts. Thanks to public statements by Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs, we can even fit this controversy neatly into the rubric of everyone’s favorite argument: a Mac vs. PC flamewar! While we’re more partial to the Jobs perspective that “computer science is a liberal art,” the bottom line is, any education is good education, and we should help people pursue what they’re most talented at. That said, there are plenty of opportunities in high tech even for students who prefer Stendhal to STEM. Career paths of this nature will tend to be highly individualized and idiosyncratic. Furthermore, at the most innovative tech companies, job titles are often totally arbitrary, empty conventions, with responsibilities divided ad hoc and constantly changing. But just as examples, here are 10 jobs in the field that liberal arts majors may find particularly congenial:

  1. Blogging/Copywriting

    Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The World Wide Web has grown from a hobbyists’ paradise to a vast and lucrative ecosystem of both ideas and commerce. One thing remains true, though, as Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone (and later Bill Gates) famously said: “Content is king.” Even as the Web 2.0 model of monetizing free user content continues its apparent dominance, there remain many ways to get paid for your writing online. You can start your own site and figure out a way to monetize it, or you can go the other route and find a job (ahem, ahem) writing for an established web company. This has benefits such as, well, benefits, and a steady salary.

  2. Game Design

    Video games have been called the next Hollywood. Measured by fandom, by sheer profit, or even by artistic innovation, the industry is on the tantalizing verge of eclipsing the movies. Just like that great, defining 20th century art form (or any art form), however, producing the games themselves is partly a matter of technical know-how, and partly a matter of creative artistry. Storytelling, aesthetics, psychology, and so many more factors go into this incredibly interdisciplinary undertaking. It’s a competitive (of course) industry that requires a real passion and a ton of work, but there are many angles from which to approach a career in it.

  3. Customer Support

    There are still some good tech support jobs in America that haven’t been outsourced to foreign countries. In fact, there’s been a backlash against that practice, and for good reason. The main skill required for the job is an ability to work through confusion to clarity, with other human beings, via conversation, in real time. Coincidentally, this is precisely what liberal arts students do in those silly seminars of theirs all afternoon. The technical aspect of this job is surprisingly secondary, especially since it’s often for a single product that you’ll come to know like the back of your hand (which you’ll also, despite your well-practiced diplomacy, want to give to the millionth customer who didn’t try a simple restart).

  4. Technical Writing

    So maybe you weren’t the extroverted and spontaneous type who rattled off brilliant ideas in the aforementioned seminars. Maybe you made up for it with A+ term papers at the end of each semester: rigorously argued, meticulously sourced, and precisely worded to nail your thesis down. If that kind of solitary, painstaking work is more your style, then technical writing may be for you. Effective communication skills are still the name of the game, but in a more premeditated context.

  5. Project Management

    Project managers must be generalists who are able to read people well and synthesize diverse areas of experience. They must know every team member’s task just well enough to understand how it works and its importance to the whole. This holistic thinking is cultivated in the liberal arts domain, and perhaps even more so in extracurricular activities: the best example might be putting on a play, where you have to integrate so many working parts into a seamless human machine in time for a strict deadline (opening night).

  6. Social Media

    In a difficult job market for recent graduates, this has become almost a cliche entry-level job for twentysomethings. Managers naturally assume we’re better at it than older people (and thank God, because otherwise baby boomers would be hogging all the jobs); it’s basically the corporate equivalent of helping your grandparents learn how to use email or program their VCR. As this linked article from PR pro Nathan Burgess explains well, liberal arts students are often naturals at social media, because they’re trained to be inquisitive and hone in on interesting things to talk about.

  7. Quality Assurance

    QA is essentially preemptive tech support. You’re checking a product for bugs, glitches, unexplored contingencies, and just plain annoyances. This job can be very rigorous and technical, but it requires gestalt thinking and an understanding of how non-techie people will approach technology. Ignoring this latter factor is a common mistake that can lead to commercial failure, whereas paying attention to it is a huge part of Apple’s success, for instance.

  8. Digital Humanities

    If you’d prefer a career in the ivory tower, but still want to combine your interest in the cutting edge of technology with your love of the timeless verities, here’s a chance to get in on the ground floor. Digital humanities is the name for efforts to integrate the latest information technology advances in a meaningful way that creates genuinely new ways to understand and promulgate the traditionally paper-bound world of arts and letters. This is guaranteed to be a growth field; academic funding will increasingly move in this direction, and these skills provide an edge in a workplace where seniority otherwise carries disproportionate clout. If you’re someone who can both translate ancient Greek and code iOS, there’s not just an app, there’s an endowed chair for that.

  9. Entrepreneurship

    Granted, this one’s a little easier if you don’t have mountains of student loan debt, because you’re likely to incur some more (on your way to billionaire status, of course). Also, all the same people who told you you were crazy for double-majoring in Art History and Slavic Studies will also tell you you’re crazy for starting a business. They’re probably right, but screw ‘em. After all, Steve Jobs dropped out of his degree program altogether, studied calligraphy, then went backpacking in India. Did that make him any more or less qualified to be an entrepreneur than you are now?

  10. Software Development

    Yes, even this path is not foreclosed to you just yet, and here are a few reasons why. For one thing, the demand is huge. If you’re a decent coder you can pretty much literally write your own ticket to success. For another thing, because the popular and lucrative programming languages are always in flux, years of experience and study don’t always count for as much as you’d think. Even the original gangstas of programming need to constantly update their skills. Furthermore, this is just as easily done through practical on-the-job experience as through formal education. However, that’s another thing to consider for all of these jobs: additional training and certification can never hurt. Most of the time it doesn’t matter what you’ve studied in the past, as long as you can hack it in the present. If you’re a quick study, there’s no reason you can’t bone up on this stuff, pass some certifications, and start working.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Career | No Comments »

16 Desk Meditations That Will Change Your Life

Nov. 5th 2012

OK. Maybe “change your life” is a bit of a hyperbole, but meditation’s myriad forms still hold quite a few benefits for employees holed up at desks and inside cubicles all day. Benefits confirmed by reputable scientists, no less. Sitting all day leads to mental and physical health issues, but trying some of the following tactics might very well help chip away at them over time. We’re not doctors, though, so don’t take our advice as if we were!

  1. Zen:

    Emory University’s Charles Raison outlines a five-minute technique for calming down and clearing up the mind while working. Just set a timer, assume the position, and start breathing. He notes that the background noise in office settings might distract at first but can be incorporated into an exercise over time.

  2. Guided Meditation:

    It only takes a minute to mentally retreat into a “happy place” (here, a “warm, sunny meadow”) and soothe a (not seriously) troubled attitude. Try Susan Helene Kramer’s recommended positioning and breathing mechanisms when things get a little stressful at work. It may not necessarily lead to transcendent insights into the intimate workings of the universe, but it sure might alleviate some of the strain from those TPS reports.

  3. Rock garden:

    Buy or assemble a small rock and sand garden inspired by traditional Buddhist constructs used in Zen meditation. Not only will it make for a unique decoration, but offer up an anytime (or, anytime at the desk, anyways) opportunity to get contemplative while working out a difficult project or succumbing to stressors. Rock garden users can build their own personalized meditative practices around them, or check online for tips from other enthusiasts.

  4. Walk:

    OK, this suggestion is kind of cheating a little since it’s not technically at the desk, but whatever. It still works. Rather than taking a cue from spirituality, simply getting up and walking might provide a meditative moment in times of conflict. Use the time away from what’s causing the problem to chip away at negativity and formulate more viable solutions for peace and calm, both internal and external.

  5. Yoga:

    Great for the body — and mind, when paired with a meditative ritual. Yoga exercises, like the ones listed here tailored specifically for desk dwellers, stretch out muscles atrophying from too much sitting and provide an opportunity to defog the brainmeat during rough patches. Pick a few and start moving to see if it makes any positive difference.

  6. Eat:

    Employees lucky enough to be allowed to eat at their desks might want to clear some space and take advantage of the free time to meditate. After all, the art of mastication is a satisfying art indeed, so it makes sense that it would work wonders for the harried mind in need of a break from work. Focus on something simple and try “waking up to whatever’s happening right now,” as Jay Michaelson describes the experience.

  7. Audio guidance:

    Whip out a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and try some of these guided meditation recordings, including offerings by Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh. posts several different selections to peruse, so hopefully some of the ones included here work wonders. If not, Google is a thing that exists, and plenty of free guided meditation audio and podcasts are available online. Or one could head to the store and check for CDs, too.

  8. Pray:

    More religious types might prefer prayer as a form of meditation during the rough work day, which can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Keep a reminder of a favorite verse, adage, or passage — or even a copy of a favorite religious text – on hand for reference and inspiration whenever it’s needed. No matter one’s temporal needs, chances are a tiny amount of time set aside to reflect on faith will help more than not bothering at all.

  9. Just breathe:

    Take inspiration from Drew Barrymore in Ever After and … just breathe (Hey! That’s the name of the entry!). Seeing as how it forms an integral component of meditation, paying mind to inhaling and exhaling could provide an easy, quick strategy for staying calm throughout the work day. Experiment with a few different methods and see which one proves most satisfying when navigating the daily migraines of office life.

  10. Sitting comfy:

    Try sitting on a pillow on the floor (if the company allows) and get cozy with it before launching a brief meditation session at the desk. More self-conscious individuals might want to just arrange it on their chairs instead. Either way, opting for this might not necessarily directly lead to any sort of calm or enlightenment, but it definitely can’t hurt when trying to attain it during the work day.

  11. Transcendental meditation:

    Creative Renaissance man David Lynch attributes his successes to transcendental meditation, which might very well work for the office dwellers of the world as well. While it requires a little more effort than some of the strategies listed here, some might want to explore this trendy practice’s tenets without leaving their desks. Considering one of its main thrusts involves dissolving stress levels, it might prove a tactic worthy of experimentation for practitioners in more anxiety-ridden fields.

  12. Progressive muscle relaxation:

    Psychology professionals sometimes prescribe this calming technique to their depressed and anxious patients, and it dovetails lovely with meditation practices. Which makes sense, seeing as how breathing also just happens to ensure proper muscle relaxation. Try pairing it with Zen, transcendental, or other techniques for overarching mind and body calm.

  13. Aromatherapy:

    It’s kind of a bad idea to light a candle or start smearing essential oils around at the office, but aromatherapy might prove a viable option for the work-from-home crowd. Pick a particularly soothing scent and get transported to a mental plane beyond daily drudgery. Or at least smell nice. Smelling nice is always pretty good.

  14. Mantras:

    Mantras run the gamut from a single word to a beloved hymn, and concentrating on them during the day could very well prove exactly what the stressed-out corporate drone needs to succeed. Try different ones at home and at work to see which — if any, of course — prove the snuggest fit. Some might induce meditation in certain situations better than others, so it’s probably a good idea to keep a few different ones in mind.

  15. Music:

    The right tunes at the right time are all it takes for some people to sink into a meditative state of comfort and calm. Some Internet radio stations, apps, and podcast hosts feature free streaming music specifically for inducing relaxation, but obviously desk jockeys may pick whatever they want. Getting lost in a favorite jam stands as a near-universal experience and a very simple strategy for decompressing during a long day.

  16. THIS:

    Nothing else is a more effective technique for attaining oneness with the universe beyond mortal perception. Don’t argue. It’s science.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Career | No Comments »

American Industries with Surprisingly Poor Outlooks

Oct. 9th 2012

We’ve all heard how badly newspapers and the Postal Service are hurting. Even if we didn’t hear about it in the news all the time, we would have to assume they can’t be doing too great. After all, when was the last time you licked an envelope or got black ink on your fingers? On the other hand, unless we intentionally seek out info on it, the suffering of some other industries may escape us. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has made its predictions of which industries will decline the most by 2020 in both output and employment. We broke down 10 of the ones that surprised us.

  1. Defense:

    One would think even hawks could agree that military spending that accounts for 58% of spending in the entire world is, dare we say, enough already. With the passage of 2011′s Budget Control Act, Congress finally acknowledged that the military could afford to make some sacrifices to help meet a $1.2 trillion goal of federal spending cuts over the next 10 years. The news is not welcome for the civilian defense industry (what the BLS calls “general federal defense government compensation”), which is predicted to lose $16.5 billion in output and just shy of 50,000 jobs by 2020.

  2. Apparel knitting mills:

    This summer’s public furor over the discovery that Ralph Lauren had the Team USA Olympic uniforms made in China highlighted just how shocked people still get when they hear their goods were not American-made. Nearly every apparel manufacturing operation ditched the States decades ago. Nevertheless, the ones that are still here have been badly bruised by increased import competition and a lower American family clothing budget. By 2020, the industry is projected to lose more than 91,000 jobs, a whopping 58% drop. Output is also expected to plummet $7.1 billion over that time, making it the fastest-declining industry in America by output volume.

  3. Dry cleaning:

    You probably don’t realize it, but your local dry cleaner is probably struggling. All those laid-off people of recent years meant fewer people wearing work clothes, which meant decreased need for starched shirts and bleached blouses. Just one extra wear per garment per person translates into a dry cleaner’s losing substantial revenue. And even before the recession, the market was overcrowded with dry cleaners and laundromats. As one expert puts it, things haven’t been this bad since “the polyester surge of the early ’70s.” Throw on top of everything the fact that hanger prices (of all things) are on the climb, and it’s easy to see why the BLS has the industry slashing 36,400 jobs by the end of the decade at a rate of 1.3% per year.

  4. Tobacco manufacturing:

    The surprising thing about the tobacco industry may be that it’s not doing nearly as bad as you might think, what with smoking being lethal and all. Forty-five million Americans still smoke, and no less than 1 billion people around the world still enjoy a good cigarette. The recession actually helped cigarette sales at home and consumption of tobacco products in second- and third-world countries has increased. But with an ease in the recession, tax increases, a hike in the price of the tobacco leaf, tough competition abroad from foreign competitors, and potential exclusion from a multinational trade deal, the BLS sees American tobacco firms losing $2.2 billion in the next eight years.

  5. Crop production:

    Surely demand for food is in no danger of dropping, right? We won’t all be anorexic models in the future, will we? By one indicator, the crop production industry is increasing. Output is expected to shoot up $20.1 billion by 2020, a healthy 1.5% increase per year. Prices will rise due to an increase in demand from both an increased population and need for biofuel materials in the U.S., E.U., and Brazil. But wage and salary employment for agricultural workers will experience one of the biggest drops of any American industry. More than 40,000 workers will be out of a job within the next eight years, a decline of 6.4%.

  6. Fiber, yarn, and thread mills:

    Like its sister industry apparel knitting mills, fiber, yarn, and thread mills have had a tough time recently, and though the outlook is a little brighter today, the future is bleak. Although cotton prices might have reasonably risen as a result of severe droughts in the U.S., mills have benefited in recent months from a drop in prices due to falling demand from major buyer China. But demand has not been high enough for yarn producers to raise prices or boost production, and the BLS estimates output will be down across the industry by $4.2 billion by 2020, with nearly 32,000 more jobs lost.

  7. Electric power:

    Like the crop production industry, the output and employment of this utilities sector are moving in opposite directions. Although some had predicted new eco-friendly rules for power plants would create as many as 250,000 new jobs, many of them (like painters and plumbers) would only be short-term. Regardless, the technology has advanced so far that electric plants are more efficient and require fewer workers to operate them. The industry will be hit harder than any other utility segment in terms of employment, losing another 35,500 jobs by 2020 on top of the 37,500 lost between 2000 and 2010. But there’s no need to worry about rolling blackouts; real output is projected to rise 2.4% to almost $300 billion in 2020.

  8. Leather:

    Second only to apparel knitting mills in how fast both its output and employment are declining, the leather and hide tanning and finishing industry has a tough road to hoe this decade. The BLS blames the fall-off on competition from imports and the fact that production is very labor-intensive. It neglects to mention that real leather goods are universally seen as first-class and are priced accordingly, putting them out of reach for Americans who are watching their spending when it comes to leather domains like purses, jackets, and car seats. Until earnings come back up, cheaper alternatives like vinyl and plastic will continue to win out. The BLS believes a 7.6% job loss rate each year is not at all unrealistic, nor is a $1.3 billion drop in output by 2020.

  9. Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing:

    Judging only by output growth, the forecast for this industry is anything but poor. In fact, it is projected to be the number one fastest-growing industry in the entire economy, with output growing by leaps and bounds from $466 billion today to $896 billion in 2020 for an annual increase of 6.8%, an incredible rate. But employment numbers have been falling since the Oughts, with a 4.9% decrease in jobs over the decade, and that trend promises to continue in this decade due to ever-increasing efficiency and expertise in production. The BLS has the computer and computer peripheral industry saying goodbye to 44,100 jobs at a rate of -3.1% a year. Only the Postal Service and apparel knitting mills will have worse rates.

  10. Fishing, hunting, and trapping:

    Time will tell whether the BLS is right about this one. Certainly interest in outdoor activities like hunting and fishing has been sliding for 20 years, and very public campaigns against killing animals for fur have put demand for the material in the basement. But the recession seems to have renewed focus on outdoor activities for both recreation and sources of food — 11% more Americans fished in 2011 than 2006, and nearly as many more (9%) hunted. Nevertheless, this new-found appreciation for Mother Nature may wear off as the economy comes back, justifying the BLS’ forecast of $200 million in lost revenue and 84,100 jobs lost by self-employed and unpaid family workers in the industry.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Career | No Comments »

Social Media Guidelines for Students and Job Seekers

Oct. 4th 2012

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Posted by Staff Writers | in Career, Education | No Comments »

25 Essential Steps To Clean Up Your Facebook Profile Before Graduation

Oct. 3rd 2012

By now, we hope that it’s no longer a news flash that recruiters and employers are checking out your Facebook profile, and that often, hiring decisions are made based on what they find. It’s been proven that a whopping 91% of employers are screening job applicants on social networking sites, and 76% of them prefer to use Facebook. Obviously, that means you’ve got to make your Facebook profile employer-ready, but it’s a process that’s about so much more than simply removing embarrassing photos. Consider this your to-do list for cleaning up Facebook before you graduate and start your job search.

  1. Review privacy settings:

    Without the right privacy settings, anyone can see anything they want to on your Facebook profile. That includes your likes, friends list, photos, and information you’ve shared about yourself, like your education and employment. We recommend shutting everything out but your education and employment, keeping the rest of your life locked behind a “Friends Only” wall, and consider the level you want to choose for new posts on a per-post basis.

  2. Show off posts that are helpful to employers:

    You can choose to hide all of your posts, but there are some that might be useful for employers to see. Simply select these as being available to “Everyone.”

  3. Update your professional history:

    You may be more on top of updating your resume than your Facebook, but if employers see that they don’t match up, they might think you’re lying. Make sure that your degrees, jobs, and internships follow the same history on your resume and social media.

  4. Take a hard look at your info page:

    Be sure that your interests, quotes, and relationship status show off the best you. Drug references, bad language, and political quotes can be a major turnoff for employers.

  5. Go through your photos with a fine-toothed comb:

    Drunk college photos and pics from the beach are pretty obviously inappropriate, and should definitely be untagged and/or removed, but don’t stop there. Keep an eye out for seemingly innocent photos, like mixer parties that involve alcohol or images that might reveal your political persuasion.

  6. Set up profile review:

    Using this feature, you can make sure that everything going on your wall: posts, videos, and photos are personally approved by you. That means friends can’t take embarrassing photos of you at a party, tag you, and leave them to haunt you on your Facebook timeline.

  7. Hide protected information:

    Employers can’t discriminate based on your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, or pregnancy, to name a few. But for many Facebook users, this information is out in the open. You may be comfortable sharing it, but do keep in mind that employers can see this information to discriminate against you without ever even having you come in for an interview.

  8. Go through your wall:

    With the new Timeline feature, this can get pretty tedious. Even posts and photos from your early days on Facebook can come back to haunt you. But doing a review of everything that can be seen is essential. Simply go through your entire Timeline, removing or hiding any posts and photos that don’t reflect well on you professionally.

  9. Review your activity log:

    It’s pretty straightforward to go through posts and photos on your Facebook timeline, but what about comments, likes and posts that you’ve shared elsewhere? Check out your activity log to make sure all of your activities on Facebook are employer safe.

  10. Cut out emoticons:

    Employers aren’t impressed by emoticons as a method of expression: 12% of employers say they wouldn’t hire someone who uses them. Be sure to hide or remove any posts that include emoticons, and stop using them for future posts.

  11. Watch your language:

    Worse than emoticons are f-bombs, which employers generally frown upon. Delete status updates with foul language and remember to keep things professional.

  12. Don’t forget spellcheck:

    Along with cussing, poor spelling is also a terrible reflection on your language that can be a major turn-off for employers. Show off your professionalism with proper spelling and grammar.

  13. Stay positive:

    Although drinking, drugs, sexual content, and political discussions are the major red flags on any profile, general negativity can hurt you too. Employers look for job candidates with a positive attitude, so be careful about posting negative or snarky updates on a regular basis.

  14. Keep your rants offline:

    In a similar vein, ranting about nearly anything is a major turnoff for employers. We’re not saying you should keep every comment to yourself, but be sure to consider how your long, drawn-out comment might look to someone who is interesting in hiring you.

  15. Claim your vanity URL:

    Make sure that your name is popping up in searches by claiming the vanity URL for your name. To do so, you’ll just need to choose your “Facebook Username,” and we recommend that you use your real name if it’s available.

  16. Establish your brand with a profile photo:

    Show off a unified image of yourself on social media, using the same professional photo as your profile on Twitter, Facebook, and any other site.

  17. Create a professional cover photo, too:

    Show off your professionalism and personality with a cool cover photo for Facebook Timeline.

  18. Manage your social media reputation with a service:

    Websites like will monitor your social media image on Facebook and other sites to help identify any potentially embarrassing issues and risks that might compromise your image among employers.

  19. Keep quiet about your terrible job:

    It’s OK not to like your job (especially if you’re searching for a new one), but don’t whine about it on Facebook. You might scare off potential employers with your negative attitude. Hide or remove negative employment-related posts, and keep if to yourself moving forward.

  20. Highlight what’s important:

    On your Facebook timeline, you can identify some of the most important posts that you’d really like to show off. All you have to do is click the star in the top right corner and choose Highlight. Then, your post will enjoy full-width status on your page to gather more attention.

  21. Stay on top of deleting and untagging:

    Anything on your wall, whether you posted it or not, is a reflection on you. So the wild political rant that got shared on your wall or the embarrassing photo you were tagged in reflect on you whether they’re welcome or not. Be sure to check out what’s being posted to your wall, and hide, delete, or untag anything that’s questionable.

  22. Cull your friends list:

    Every friend you have on Facebook is a liability. They can post unsavory messages to your wall, check you in to places, and tag you in photos. And if employers want to find out about the company you keep, they may judge you by the friends you have on Facebook. Do you really know everyone on your list? Unfriend anyone that’s not really a friend, or whose profile has rude or embarrassing photos and posts.

  23. Watch out for apps that open your profile up:

    Apps from employers and job search sites often have terms and conditions that give the app access to features on Facebook, like your photos. So even if you’ve locked them behind a private wall, they can be accessed through apps.

  24. Check up on app permissions:

    Be sure to go through your privacy settings to make sure that you’re not allowing too much. You can find out what permissions each app has and decide if you want to keep it by going to your application settings.

  25. Delete your account:

    There’s always the nuclear option: opting out of Facebook altogether. It’s a surefire way to keep things private, but also keep in mind that without a profile, employers may be missing out on valuable information that can get you hired.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Career, Technology | No Comments »

The True Meaning of “Entry Level” in Today’s Economy

Oct. 1st 2012

By the end of 2010, job experts were wondering if internships were the new entry-level jobs. These often unpaid positions were becoming the place young people gained experience and professional behavior. Companies didn’t have the patience or the funds to wait the six-odd months for a new employee to become profitable. The requirements for first-time workers had changed dramatically, giving us a new meaning of “entry-level” that persists today.

First, what hasn’t changed.

Basically it’s the negative stuff that comes with being an entry-level employee that has remained the same. As the low man or woman on the totem pole, you can still expect to be given the dirty work, the tasks the more experienced members of your team don’t want to do. Depending on your line of work, it may be difficult for you to get much exposure at first, as the level of responsibility you are entrusted with will be minimal. Should layoffs become necessary, the “last in, first out” policy will put you squarely in the line of fire (unless they decide your salary is cheap enough that they can afford to keep you).

Here’s the difference.

  • Employers won’t train you.

    In 2011, consulting firm Accenture conducted a survey that found in the previous five years, only 21% of workers said their companies had given them formal training. However, 55% said they felt pressure to improve their skills base to keep their current jobs or to advance. And as fully two-thirds of the respondents said they felt it was their responsibility to attain their own training, it’s clear this way of thinking has become institutionalized and not likely to change any time soon.

  • Companies want you to already have experience.

    In a cruel and frustrating twist, recruiters for supposedly entry-level jobs want candidates to have one, two, and sometimes as much as five years’ previous work experience, thus voiding the definition of the term “entry-level.” Three-fourths of companies who responded to National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook Survey said they preferred candidates to have previous experience. A recent survey by Millennial Branding and Experience Inc. (which we’ll get into more momentarily) found nearly half (49%) of companies think college grads need two years of internships, barely nudging those who chose one year (42%). If you missed it, that’s 91% of companies that think experience is a must for entry-level jobs. The only problem? Exactly half these same companies haven’t hired a single intern since 2011. Such is the state of entry-level jobs today — employers want college grads with experience, they just don’t want to be the ones to give it to them.

  • The expectations for skills are much higher.

    Long gone are the days when employers took a “kids will be kids” approach to first-time full-time workers. Managers aren’t willing to put up with immature or irresponsible candidates, and they don’t have to; the job market is completely in their favor.

    • The Millennial Branding and Experience survey we mentioned asked 225 companies what skills they look for in entry-level hires. The top five answers were all “soft” skills that employers ranked even higher than education. Communication skills came in at No. 1, with 98% of companies saying it was a must-have. A positive attitude, ability to adapt to change, teamworking, and being goal-oriented rounded out the top five. One-third said they wanted applicants to have entrepreneurial skills, another qualification that so many employers wouldn’t have dreamed of looking for a generation ago.

    • We haven’t yet reached the point where “entry-level” hires have to also have all the necessary “hard” skills to do their job, and possibly we never will. Surely a certain amount of company-specific training will always be necessary. However, four in 10 employers in the Millennial survey said they have been alarmed by candidates’ lack of knowledge about their company’s workings and/or what the job might entail. In other words, a certain amount of industry knowledge is now considered a prerequisite for not blowing an entry-level interview.

    This demand for skills is why companies are placing so much emphasis on prior experience: they know college students need real-world work environments to develop them. This is a paradigm shift in the hiring of recent college grads, as never before have employers sought candidates with such complete skill sets for first-time jobs.

The evidence is clear that college graduates will have to shed any preconceived notions they may have held about entry-level jobs. The landscape has changed. Many are picking up their third or fourth internships after graduation or volunteering simply to gain experience. Until the job market picks up, staying aggressive and constantly updating skills seem to be the best ways of getting one’s foot in the door.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Career, Education | No Comments »