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Requesting Strong Letters of Recommendation

Posted on November 20, 2014 with No Comments

Letter of Recommendation

Applying for a job or internship?  In most cases, employers will call your references.  For most other competitive opportunities, chances are you will need strong and descriptive letters of recommendation to help set you apart from other applicants.

Think you might apply to graduate or professional school, or for a national fellowship? Letters of recommendation will be critical to your candidacy.  You might even need letters well before you graduate, i.e. for a summer research grant or enhancement program.  The bottom line: you need to cultivate strong references while you are at UVM, and the sooner, the better.

Professors expect to write letters, but it’s your responsibility to give them something to write.  Ask good questions, and contribute to the conversations in class. Stop by office hours to clarify course material or revisit an interesting topic. Multiple contexts can also help.  Take another class with a professor you enjoyed. If you distinguish yourself, you might be asked to serve as a TA, or assist with their research if that genuinely interests you.

Consider this before asking for a letter:

  • What if any specific guidelines are provided?
  • Who could make a convincing case you are a strong fit based on direct observations of you in class, on the job, in the lab, etc.
  • A letter writer’s title can be impressive, but it is their details that count.  Don’t sacrifice the latter for the former.
  • Avoid personal (aka subjective) references.
  • Still not sure who to ask?  Seek advising.
  • Graduate School . Medical/Dental School . Fellowships . Research

Help Them Help You:

Ask, “Do you think you could write a strong recommendation for me?”  If they can’t, you want to know this outright so you can avoid bland, vague or mediocre letters.  When you get the “yes,” ask if they need other information.  Be sure to provide clear directions for submission, and plenty of lead-time.

Lastly, don’t forget to thank them.  Better yet, let them know how it all turns out.

~ Faith

How to Talk to Strangers

Posted on November 13, 2014 with No Comments

Always Talk to Strangers- The Power of Networking

Did your guardians tell you not to talk to strangers?  Now that you’re in college the buzzword is networking- talk to strangers, make new friends, and connect. Talking to strangers can make your hands sweat, voice crack, and heart race. How do I network and find out about opportunities that can inform and support my future goals without becoming nervous? Being prepared can help. The most underused job search tool is the informational interview—this allows you to seek leads and information regarding an industry or a career path. To do this well, do your homework:

1- Figure out what information you want.
2- Brainstorm people you know—that means everyone from your best friend’s cousin to your hairdresser.
3- Schedule an appointment with someone who seems interesting. It is generally no longer than 30 minutes. Just remember, people are busy.
4- Ask the right questions—here are some sample questions
5- Play the part—dress professionally and know as much as you can about the person you are talking to.
6- Get ready to talk about yourself- draft an elevator speech about yourself and where you hope to go. Bring a resume but only give it if requested.
7- The last question you ask should be, “Do you have any suggestions of other people I could talk?”
8- Be gracious for their time and SEND A THANK YOU NOTE. Stay in touch with your contacts and let them know how they have been helpful in the future.
9- Follow up on any referrals given and do it again and again and again. That job offer could be around the corner.

These tips can help you make strangers into a valuable contact!

~Kim

Savvy Seniors: Know Who You Are

Posted on October 30, 2014 with No Comments

Ben Mervis

A Networking story by Ben Mervis, ‘12
Account Manager @ Rescue Social Change Group

Before walking in to a networking event or job interview, I tell myself: “you have the experience and you have the hunger.” Most importantly, I remind myself to be confident. Then, I wipe the nervous sweat off my palms, stride into the venue and shake some hands.

As a Senior at UVM, I worked on my confidence by building my best story: “I’ve spent the last 4 years developing skills in marketing strategy and campaign implementation, and have a sincere interest in socially responsible businesses and marketing.” I tested different versions and lengths of this in front of the mirror, over dinner with friends and at networking events of every type. I realized that each time I told my story I understood more about who I was and what I was looking for.

I met my life-changing connection on Church Street. His name is Jeff, and he was visiting from California; his non-traditional marketing agency works with different branches of State and Federal Governments to develop behavior change marketing campaigns.  After staying in-touch via LinkedIn and other means, Jeff introduced me to his client, and I began working for the Vermont Department of Health coordinating social marketing campaigns. I launched my career as the direct liaison to Jeff’s marketing agency, in-addition to other marketing and advertising contractors. Eighteen months later I moved to California to work for Jeff as the Account Manager on a National tobacco-prevention campaign.

The Takeaway:

  1. Figure out what you ACTUALLY want to do.  Conversations with people will help you get there by exploring the different roles and fields where you can apply your skills.
  2. Talk to people. Tell your story. You never know where that connection will take you.
  3. Follow-up! My company’s CEO constantly says “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” I say that it’s the tactful, confident and persistent (within reason) applicant that gets the job.

You have the experience, you have the hunger, now go shake some hands!

Choosing a Major–A Major Adventure!

Posted on October 29, 2014 with No Comments

Woman drawing a 3D spiral off a wall

Undecided? Great! Some colleges use the word “exploratory” to identify students who have not yet decided on a major. It’s a great reminder that choosing a major can be a positive process that helps you make the most of your college experience!

Where to begin?

  • Start with some self-exploration. What interests you? What do you like to read… do….watch? What kinds of things intrigued you as a kid?
  • What are your options? You may be more decided than you think! Rule out those of no interest, and watch that list of possibilities shrink to something more manageable.
  • Get more info on majors you are curious about. Check out course listings, read course descriptions. Get brave! Follow up by meeting with a faculty member in the department and ask them to refer you to a student who is enjoying the major.
  • Test the waters by taking a course or two in the major. What piques your interest?

Take the pressure off yourself!

Need help getting started? You don’t have to do this alone!

  • Stop by the Career+Experience Hub for a quick consult to help you get started.
  • Still puzzled? Schedule an appointment at the Career Center for a longer conversation and a more in-depth look at your interests, values and skills.

With 100+ majors at UVM, there are many wonderful options. You can have a major that intrigues you, leads to interesting experiences and helps you prepare for a successful life after graduation. We’re here to help you as your make this choice!

~Mary Beth

The Party’s Not Over Yet! Here’s How to Stand Out AFTER the Job Fair.

Posted on October 21, 2014 with No Comments

Staff of City Year Corps Members

Vilma Rodrigues-Silva is the Recruitment Manager of the Northeast Region for City Year New Hampshire. She goes to lots of job fairs, so we asked her about the best ways for candidates to stand out after the event.

Is there an appropriate way to follow up with an employer after a Job Fair, even if I didn’t get a chance to meet you there?

YES! Following up with an email is fine if you missed us at a fair or could not make it. You do not need to be shy about letting a recruiter know that you are interested in a program (that is what we are here for!), and there is no need to explain in detail about why you didn’t make it to the fair. Following up with an email shows us that you are taking the initiative to learn more about our program, and that is a good thing.

What do you think about thank you notes after a Job Fair?

Personalized, hand-written notes are amazing! However, if I received these from even half of all of the students I met at job fairs, I would have hundreds of them coming in and I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I believe handwritten notes should be left to more personal interactions or after an interview. All other instances of meeting at fairs or presentations could be followed up with an email note, thanking the recruiter for their time and for coming to campus. What makes a good note is simply saying thank you and mentioning something specific that you learned or that the recruiter said that stuck with you.

Is it possible to follow up too much?

Yes, there is a “too much policy.”  It’s important to show recruiters that you are interested in their program, but keep in mind that there is an abundance of information on the websites and brochures. You don’t want to ask a recruiter something that could simply be found on the homepage of a website. However, if you need clarification on something you’ve read, want more information on something you found, or want a personal account of the recruiter’s experience, then feel free to call and email.

What else should candidates know?

I – and many recruiters – love talking to students at fairs! If you already know a little about a program and plan on visiting the fair, you should come prepared to ask questions to gain more knowledge. If you randomly end up at a table because it caught your attention, politely introduce yourself and ask to learn more! Don’t be afraid to inquire for more information, and to tell the recruiter a little about yourself. Show confidence!

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