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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

2014 May

TIP: Set SMART Goals to Chart your Course

Before you embark on your internship experience, you should set some SMART goals for specific knowledge, skills, and abilities you would like to acquire during the experience. Start with the end in mind…You need to know where you want to go before you can start the journey.  Setting goals helps you stay focused on what you want to accomplish.  What are SMART goals?

Specific – Spell out exactly what you want to accomplish.

Measurable – Helps you determine if you achieved it or not.  Quantify it.

Achievable – Set possible and attainable objectives.

Relevant – Set goals with the “big picture” in mind and have a clear purpose.

Timely – Set a deadline.  When do you want to accomplish the goal?

Here are a few questions to consider before developing your SMART goals:  What do you want to accomplish by the completion of your internship?  When you look back at the end of the summer, what do you want to be able to say that you have done or learned?  Are there new skills you would like to develop, such as giving public presentations or business writing? Is there something about this particular industry that you would like to know?

Before you start your internship, consider creating 2-3 SMART goals.  Focus on three key areas such as networking – the people you want to meet, skills – the skills you want to develop, and community – how you will get involved in the community where you will be living (such as through a service opportunity).  Involvement in the community is a great way to expand reach for meeting individuals outside of your inner-circle.  Most importantly, you’re continuing the spirit of Pro Humanitate.

Before you leave for your internship, get started using this easy worksheet.  Set the path you want to accomplish by charting your own course with SMART goals.  And, when you meet with your supervisor share these goals with him/her so that he can help you to develop a plan for achieving them.

TIP: Budgeting for Your Internship

Now that you landed the internship…You may be asking – How am I going to pay for it?  While some internships are paid (lucky you), others are not.  Even if you are getting paid a salary or a stipend, the cash flow is limited.  Think in terms of college – room and board.  Room – Where am I going to sleep at night?  Board – How am I going to provide for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?  These are the essentials – a roof over your head and a meal or three.  So, it may be time to kick the Starbucks habit.

Whether living at home or on your own, a budget will help you stay on track.  First, you need to know your monthly net income (amount received after taxes), scholarship or stipend amount.  Second, think about your expected monthly expenses.  For example, rent…This is a fixed expense; it doesn’t vary from month to month.  Some expenses fluctuate, like groceries. Third, research areas where you can spend less such as having a roommate to share the cost of rent, and taking your lunch to work as opposed to eating out.  Buying lunch everyday can quickly add up.

In preparation for your internship, create a spending plan and set a budget.  Register to use CashCourse as your resource for learning spending tips and your tool for implementing budget strategies for your summer internship and beyond.  For example, use the budget wizard tool or the worksheet to track your expenses.  Plan the work and work the plan.

Wouldn’t it be great to return to Wake Forest with extra cash in your pocket?!?

Diary of an Intern – Introducing our Student Contributors

Welcome to our Diary of an Intern’s student contributors! Our Diary of an Intern series will feature student interns sharing their internship experiences this summer. They will be working and developing skills in a variety of industries. Follow them on their journey of discovering the world of work, skill development, and the lessons learned in the process.

My name is Charles Thomas and I’m from Connecticut.  As a Politics and International Affairs major, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to intern with the Royal Geographical Society’s Hong Kong branch this summer.  First established in the United Kingdom, The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) is considered the largest scholarly geographical society in the world, with a mission to enhance a shared understanding of our interdependent world.  I do not yet know specifically what I will be doing, but I have great enthusiasm for out-of-the-box problem solving and I enjoy exposure to new situations.  Through my opportunity with RGS, I am excited to further explore my academic/career interests and to immerse myself in the culture of Hong Kong.  I look forward to sharing my experiences on this blog as I endeavor to broaden my global perspective both on and off the job.

Charles Thomas ’16 –Politics and International Affairs major, Communication and Entrepreneurship double minor

 

Hello all! My name is Maeghan Livingston and I am a rising senior at Wake Forest University. My love for people and my desire to become a positive catalyst for change in the world has driven my academic interest in Sociology as a major; these desires have also influenced my career interest in the education sector.

As a native of a rural and impoverished small town in North Carolina, I have had the wonderful  opportunity to attend one of the top universities in the country. This experience has equipped me with opportunities, skills, and perspectives that I would otherwise not have had access to. As a result, I know that I will achieve a certain level of success as a professional woman of color that many of my peers from my hometown will not. Economic strife has hindered many of my friends from more than the achievement of their goals, but even the sheer pursuit of them. For this reason, I have become dedicated to equipping all students, especially those in areas like mine, with the resources and education necessary to make their dreams realities.

Teach for America is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a quality education to students living in impoverished areas, similar to my own. All corps members attend a Summer Institute where they will undergo intensive training to prepare them for success in the classroom. I am excited to be working as an Operations Coordinator at a Teach for America Summer Institute.  I will be located at the regional institute for the Greater Nashville Area in Tennessee and working specifically with Residential operations.

What do I hope to gain from this amazing summer with Teach for America? Thanks for asking! My first goal is to continue to develop as a professional; this entails nurturing habits which are essential to becoming an effective and quality professional. An example of this practice is working in a timely manner and always submitting my best quality work. Setting and meeting expectations with my team is also a part of this vision. In my role, I also desire to develop meaningful relationships with my team, fellow staff and corps members. Relationship building is an integral component of any great experience and really helps shape a successful work environment.

I look forward to sharing the challenges and successes I experience during my time with Teach for America in Nashville this summer. I am really excited to blend my passion for service with an opportunity to develop personally and professionally. My hope is that you are encouraged to pursue your passions by my experience, and gain advice which will help further your own professional development.

Cheers to a great summer!

Maeghan Livingston ’15 – Sociology major

 

My name is Laura Jurotich, and I am a rising senior from Birmingham, Alabama. I am a double major in History and Art History. I am interning this summer in the Public Programs department at the Nantucket Historical Association in Nantucket, Massachusetts. This will be my third internship, as I have spent the previous two summers in the Communication and Public Relations department at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Birmingham, Alabama and in the Marketing and Public Relations department at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, respectively. These internship experiences solidified my potential career path in the museum field and have made me eager for museum experience outside the art world. I am surrounded by Civil War and Civil Rights history in the South, but I have not gotten to see many early 18th and 17th century American towns. Thus, I am so excited to spend the summer exploring and learning about one of America’s most historic and treasured early settlements. I have never lived outside of the Southeast, so living on a tiny island (less than 50 square miles) 30 miles from the mainland in the Northeast will be a big change, but it is one that I am ready for. I will head up to the island on May 30th, settle in over the weekend to the historical home where the other NHA interns and I will be living, and begin a week of orientation on June 2nd. I am excited to share my experiences with you all!

Laura Jurotich ’15 – History and Art History double major

 

TIP: Landed the Internship! Now What?

You have been on the interview. You received and accepted the offer. You are excited to start your internship. But wait, you are going to be a professional now. You have so many questions about how to move from being a student to a professional. We have employer guest contributors answering some of your questions. You may want to think about how you want to make a favorable impression this summer.

Watch this video highlighting what Wake Forest employers say you should do to make a favorable impression during your internship.

To learn more, read further for details on making a favorable impression.

 

CSX logo

Lauren Dealexandris, Director of Intermodal Finance

The surest way to quickly establish credibility and a strong reputation at our company and within our department is to illustrate both relationship development and critical thinking skills. While showing an interest in learning the business and organization is the primary focus when first getting started, it is also critically important to be responsive, thoughtful, and engaged. Ask questions, meet with people, take ownership and show initiative. Challenging appropriately and solving problems with recommendations supported by facts leave an indelible mark. The basic, underlying ability to analyze information, think both tactically and strategically, and identify opportunities for improvement are characteristics that are difficult to teach yet make a significant difference.

 

Deloitte logo

Liz Hannah, Carolinas Campus Recruiter

Deloitte hires people with the intellect, attention to detail, technical skills and intuitive power required by this profession but what really makes an intern or new hire stand out among their peers is their attitude and professionalism. The individuals who come into Deloitte ready to tackle, and value the experience, of any task, no matter how menial or trivial it may seem, are the ones who truly impress our leaders. Displaying a positive, accommodating demeanor and attitude at all times is powerful and definitely does not go unnoticed.

 

Red Ventures

Jessica Hensen, Recruiter

Successful interns have a strong intellectual curiosity and strive to gain a deep understanding of our business and culture. They have a can-do attitude and are always willing to try new things. Stand out interns don’t just wait for new projects and opportunities to be given to them, but rather they seek out new opportunities on their own. Interns can bring a fresh perspective to business challenges, so they should feel comfortable giving their opinion and speaking up in meetings. Confidence is an important attribute to have as an intern. If there is an area of the company that you’re interested in, schedule time to speak with someone in that area to learn more.

 

RAI logo (153x75)

Barbara Carter, Director of Talent Acquisition

The most important thing an intern or a new employee can do to stand out is to be “present” in the organization. This means being on time for the job (better to be early) – this is a given. Showing up late for work gives the perception that you really are not interested in the position. Also being present by being engaged in the learning process by being attentive, asking questions and offering your ideas. Often interns spend more time trying to “network” to get the full-time job offer rather than concentrating on doing the job at hand. If you do a good job and add value during your summer internship you are more likely to get the full time job offer.

 

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Meghan Hayden, HR Functional Development Manager

The best career advice I have received is to under-commit and over-deliver.  This careful balance is sometimes called a Say:Do Ratio, but it really means keep your promises.  In a busy workplace it is easy to sit in meetings and take on action items (“Sure, I’ll take care of that!”), it is much harder to get all of those things done.  I have too often seen enthusiastic new employees, who are eager to impress their managers, take on tasks they don’t have time for or offer up deadlines that are too aggressive.  During your internship you will need to set realistic objectives, but also stretch yourself and demonstrate your engagement and ability to be a team-player.

Here are some tactics to help you keep the right balance:

Ask clarifying questions up front.

  • What will a successful finished product look like?
  • When do you need this?
  • Do you want to review a draft at that time, or a final product?
  • Is there anyone I can speak with if I have questions?

Understand your workload.

  • Keep a running list of your assigned tasks and include status and estimated time to complete. 
  • Talk with your manager or other stakeholders about priorities; don’t assume you know which items are the most critical. 
  • If taking on a new task may interfere with other deliverables, raise the concern. (“This new Project B looks like it will take a lot of time, is it ok if I don’t get Project A to you until next week?”)   

Communicate.

  • If you are running behind, let someone know.  Not delivering on a deadline is usually much worse than setting a more reasonable schedule in the first place.
  • Ask for help when you get stuck.  Don’t get bogged down in trying to solve an unfamiliar problem by yourself, it is better to ask for five minutes of help than spend hours working an issue by yourself.

Above all else, remember that your job is to learn.  Take on assignments that will help your team and grow your experience, and try to learn from every mistake and challenge.

TIPS (The Intern Professional Series) Starts on 5/23

Join us for TIPS – The Internship Professional Series this summer. The internship series will provide tips and advice from experts in the Office of Personal and Career Development, employers, and current student interns for success before, during, and after the internship.  Also, the series will help prepare you for the internship, and develop your professional self and the skills most sought-after for life after college.

Real World Reality Bites

Entering the “real world” can be scary and exciting. To ease some of the anxiety, the OPCD’s WFU alums share their advice for leaving the familiarity of college and starting this thing called life after college.

Here are their bites of reality:

Allison McWilliamsAllison McWilliams (’95, English and Spanish), Ph.D., Director, Mentoring Resource Center and Alumni Personal and Professional Development 

Don’t worry so much about where you will be in 20 years, be focused on where you will be next year. Take ownership for your life and your choices. Lots of people will have opinions on what you should or should not do, but no one else can live your life but you, and you can’t live anyone else’s life but your own. Most of all, have fun!

 

Lauren Beam (’07, Communication and Religion), Assistant Director, Mentoring Resource Center and Alumni Personal and Professional Development

Be intentional and take the initiative in making new friendships and meeting new people, wherever you may be living after graduation. I quickly learned that the ease of making friends at Wake Forest, due to structured activities and being around people similar to myself, was not the real world! Look for opportunities to be social, even with people that at first glance may not seem like people that you’d be close friends with. One of my best friends in graduate school was 15 years older than me, from Massachusetts (I’m a southern girl), and a former librarian. You’ll be surprised who you might connect with and make life-long friendships with outside of college.

 

 Patrick SullivanPatrick Sullivan (‘93, Politics), Associate Director, Career Education and Counseling

You DO NOT have to be an expert right away.  In my first real job, it felt like I was expected to have all of the information I needed at my fingertips.  What I came to appreciate is that I didn’t have to have all of the information at my fingertips.  I DID, however, have to be willing to go get that information.

 

Matthew Williams's profile photoMatt Williams (’09, Communication), Associate Director, Marketing and Communication 

Buy an iron. Im(press)ions are everything. The first one, the last one, and all the ones in between. For many, your external appearance often is a representation of how you approach your work. If you’re wrinkled from head to toe, one might assume you’re disorganized and disheveled. Walk in nicely pressed and confident; however, and people will immediately view you as a respected professional. Buying an iron seems like a small thing, but it has a HUGE impact on your professional reputation. 

 

Tiffany WaddellTiffany Waddell (’07, Theatre and Psychology), Assistant Director, Career Education and Counseling

You do belong, you deserve to be [here], and you deserve the good things that come your way.  Own your excellence and learn as much as you can, wherever you go!

 

 

Caleigh McElweeCaleigh McElwee (’02, Psychology) – Associate Director, Undergraduate Market Readiness & Employment

Jump in! You are responsible for your immediate future but don’t need to figure out the rest of your life. Consider the next two years as you make plans. 

Jump in! Talent matters but so does persistence. Many opportunities go to those who volunteer and put themselves forward, not just to those who are best prepared. 

Jump in! “It’s easier to tame a wild horse than it is to move a dead horse.” 

Then pay attention to the work you enjoy most. Figure out how to do more of it on your own time — Skills are developed with practice. Then, gradually, ultimately, make the move to make it your full-time gig and get paid to do more of what interests you most. 

 

Ben Magee (’13, Health & Exercise Science) – Presidential Fellow for the OPCD

Going into the workplace is a lot like that scene from the film, The Mighty Ducks, where Goldberg, the goalie, is forced to face his fears of being hit by the hockey puck. He realizes that his greatest fear actually turned out not to be so bad once he was forced to experience it. That’s how I wish I had approached more of the fears I had about the workplace – rather than stressing over them, just take steps to face whatever you are nervous about and you’ll probably see it’s not so bad. Like Goldberg, you might realize you’re actually talented in some of those areas. 

 

DeeDe Pinckney (’09, Communication), Assistant Director Marketing and Communication

The term”work/life balance” isn’t reserved solely for individuals with families or small children. Carving out time to pursue passions outside of your 9-5 is crucial to your overall health and happiness. Staying physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally fit requires taking a 360 degree approach to life and avoiding the pitfalls of focusing all of your energy on a singular task. 

 

 

Stay Connected to Mother So Dear

Stephen EdwardsStephen Edwards (’10), Office of Alumni Services Young Alumni Programs
edwardsj@nullwfu.edu / @stephenjedwards

Welcome to the Alumni Family, Class of 2014!

From the moment you enrolled at Wake Forest four years ago, you probably had little idea how much fun you would have, how hard you would work, and how you would feel at the end of your Demon Deacon career. While you may be having mixed emotions about leaving a place so special to us all, let me give you a piece of encouragement: the connection does not have to end here. 

Four years may seem like a long time, but if you eat your vegetables and take your vitamins, you may live to be 100! You have merely scratched the surface to what is a lifelong relationship with Mother So Dear, and leads to all sorts of wonderful friendships, experiences, and much more.

In order to make the most of your alumni experience, I want to encourage you in 5 specific ways that have made my four years as an alumnus that much greater:

1. Stay in Touch with Friends

You don’t need me to tell you that Wake Forest is special. Campus and it’s daily life has a certain mystique to it, that I would argue, is all about the people. If you had an experience at Wake like I did (and I hope you did!), you made some incredible friends along the way. Whether classmates, professors, mentors, coaches, or other colleagues, Wake Forest is filled with wonderful people that make this place so great. When you graduate and move to somewhere exciting for a job, graduate school, or other opportunity,  I encourage you to stay in touch with your fellow Deacs. Though at times it may be hard due to a new work and social schedule, or different life changes, it is a worthy investment. The relationships you have developed in these four years have come during some of your most formative years, and staying connected with these friends and mentors as you embark on the next stage in your journey, will serve you well.

2. Come Back and Visit Campus

Whether it is for Homecoming (which is September 19-20 this year), to visit underclassmen friends, take a stroll on The Quad, or dinner at Putter’s and a basketball game in the Joel, I encourage you to visit, and visit often! There are few things as fun as Homecoming festivities for alumni, and each visit back to Winston-Salem connects you, your family and friends, on an even deeper level, as you are reminded of what makes Wake Forest the school you chose to attend, and the alumni status you are increasingly proud of among your peers. When you visit, try to connect with those friends mentioned in point one; catch up with a favorite professor, grab a cup of coffee in Campus Grounds with a mentor, or coordinate with friends what time to meet at Shorty’s. No matter what brings you back, just know that we LOVE having our alumni family on campus.  

3. Utilize WFU Professional Resources

Now that you have graduated, you may think that your professional relationship with the University will be drastically different. It doesn’t have to be! Take advantage of the resources provided by your alma mater.

  • Alumni Office: Update your contact information, set up your Gmail account, use the alumni directory, and more
  • OPCD: Utilize the career coaches if you are looking for a job or graduate school placement
  • ZSR Library: Take advantage of free database resources whether you are in graduate school or as a tool in your industry
  • LinkedIn: Join the WFU Alumni Group and the 25+ alumni subgroups by industry and geography
  • Twitter, Instagram & Facebook: As always, stay connected with Wake Forest via social media for updates on news, events, and much more.

4. Get Connected with Your Local Alumni

When I moved to Dallas, TX after graduating four years ago, I knew no one in Texas… except for a few Demon Deacons! This connection runs deep, and I was able to really begin to meet people, make meaningful social and professional connections through this network, and I encourage you to do the same. There are nearly 50 local WFU Alumni clubs around the world, so wherever you are moving, more than likely, there is an active group of Deacs waiting for you to get connected with them! You can find the list here

Take advantage of the affinity we share as Wake Forest graduates; it allows you opportunities like meeting Deacs in the NBA following a local game, getting a book signed by author Emily Giffin at an event in NYC, hearing from a panel of experts within the tech industry in San Francisco, attending the symphony in Philadelphia, watching the Deacs play football at a Dallas restaurant, or serving at a food bank with a group of Miami Deacs.  Regardless of how you want to stay connected as an alum, the local clubs are a great way to deepen your relationship with other Deacs, and the University.

5. Be an Ambassador of Wake Forest

Lastly, I encourage you to look for opportunities to be an ambassador of Wake Forest, living out a spirit of “Pro Humanitate” the rest of your days. That may mean serving regularly with a community partner seeking to meet social services or make an impact on areas of injustice in your city, but it can also mean other things as well. Consider serving with the Admissions Office, as an alumni volunteer, partnering with the Alumni Office as a local club young alumni leader, or investing in the future of Wake Forest as best you can.

Most importantly, always share your love of Wake Forest with your family, friends, and local community, strengthening the ties to Wake Forest wherever you are from, or wherever you live now. 

All the best to each of you in your personal and professional endeavors. While graduation may seem like an ending of sorts, it is the beginning of an exciting journey! There is nothing like the Old Gold and Black. I look forward to staying connected with you.   

 

Before Summer Begins, Reflect.

Congratulations! You made it through the academic year. Finals are done. Take a deep breath and exhale. Whew! You did it. Many of you are headed in different directions this summer. You will be starting your first job after graduation or beginning an internship with a possible vacation sprinkled in with family and friends. But, before you get too far into the summer months, spend some time in reflection. What did you learn about yourself? What was challenging? What was rewarding? How did you develop personally and professionally? These are a few questions to ponder as you reflect upon this semester and year. Summer is a great time for respite and unplugging from reality. But, don’t rest on your laurels for too long. The answers you gather from reflection will help you set the intention and goals you want to accomplish this summer.

To help set the course for a meaningful and productive summer, follow these three simple steps:

1. Be Intentional. First, leave the past in the past. Move forward. Think about what you will do differently as a result of past failures. So, you accepted the offer for a new job or internship. What do you intend to learn and gain from the first few months on the job or the internship experience? What do you hope to gain? How are you going to be intentional in your skill development and network building? Consider answering these questions before getting too deep into the summer months. You will have a better grasp of what you intend to learn, develop, and accomplish.

2. Write SMART Goals. They will be your guide to the results you want by the end of the summer. Here are a few questions to consider before developing your SMART goals: What do you want to accomplish this summer? When you look back at the end of the summer, what do you want to be able to say that you have done or learned? Are there new skills you would like to develop such as delivering public presentations? I recommend setting 2-3 goals for the summer. Consider focusing on areas such as the skills you want to further develop, the project(s) you want to accomplish, and the people you want to meet and network with to learn more about the industry. Need help writing goals? Use the SMART goal worksheet as a guide. Share these goals with an advisor, counselor, or mentor so that s/he can help you develop a plan for achieving them.

3. Reflect. Spend some time reflecting on your courses, extracurricular activities, and experiences from the spring semester. Reflect upon your intention and goals set for these areas. To help guide the reflection process, print or download the reflection exercise worksheet. Upon completion of the reflection exercise, you may need to adjust your goals based on the information gathered about yourself, courses, and activities from the past semester. If needed, repeat step two and revise your goals. Goals do not have to be static. They can be modified as plans change.

Remember – Be intentional. Be goal-oriented. Be reflective.

Best wishes for a restful, productive summer!

 

What Do You Do for a Living?

“What do you do for a living?” or “What do you do?” are questions you will be asked at a networking event or any event when meeting new people. Also, it’s important to be able to answer these questions for your family and friends to better understand what you do. I don’t think my friends truly understand what I do. And I can’t count the number of times I have been asked, “What do you do?” I have fallen victim to the mundane of stating my name, job title, and place of work. It’s easy to do because we can simply state the answer without thought. Be intentional and craft an interesting pitch to the question. You never know who will be asking you the question. Use this opportunity to shine, create your brand, and give life to your work. No matter if it’s your first job, fifth job, or internship, be prepared to answer the question.

For several key tips on how best to answer “What do you do for a living?” or “What do you do?”, follow the story and instructions below:

How NOT to Sound Confusing or Bland at Your Next Networking Event

Orignally published on January 6, 2014 by Daniel Jordi on Jordico.

I recently wrote about the question “What do you do?” during my experience at the TEDxZurich 2013 conference.

In short, I was not able to properly answer this question so people outside of my industry would actually understand the full scope of what I do in one sentence. This made me think.

A lot of people get asked this question many times every week and most of them answer it in a way that is confusing or sounds like everybody else (including me until a few months ago).

In this blog post, I will show you how you can answer this question to make it crystal clear to people, even outside of your industry, what you do so they can remember and refer you to their friends.

So, What Do You Do For a Living?

This question always comes up at every single event you go to. No matter if it is an industry conference, social networking meetup, hiking trip, new years eve party or if you go to the cinema and your friend brings along somebody you have never met before. 

The question is usually coming up soon after you have introduced yourself with your name.

I’m a Partner at a Startup

Think about this situation for a moment. You are working at a startup as a partner and are responsible for the growth of the company. You are basically the business development guy.

Now, let’s say you go for Friday evening drinks in the city with some friends and they bring along some people you don’t know. You introduce each other and where you know your mutual friend from. 

Then, the question comes up “So, what do you do for a living?”.

You try to think of something sophisticated, something elegant, something impressive. What comes out is “I’m a partner at a startup and responsible for business development”. 

Not a very unique statement. Not even a statement that somebody can easily understand. What does partner at a startup mean exactly? What is business development anyway?

I’m a Banker

Let’s look at another example. Let’s say you meet somebody and after asking the person what he does for a living, he says “I’m a banker”.

Let’s imagine that you are not an immense fan of banking after what happened in the past years in the banking industry. Let’s imagine your only real experience with banking is your knowledge of the insanely low interest rates of your bank account and the recent news articles about the extraordinarily high bonuses the bankers take home even when they screw up.

What is your first impression about that banker? How do you judge this person based on what he told you he does?

I don’t think this chat is going very far.

Maybe he is a really nice person, maybe he is somebody you would get along with great, but because of his extremely generic statement and your experience and beliefs about banking, the conversation ends here.

I’m a Consultant

One more example. Let’s say you are consulting with startups. Maybe you are doing something pretty complex and specific.

You go to an expat meetup in Zurich and introduce yourself as your name and with “I’m a consultant”.

What does that say about you? How much does the person you are talking to know about what you actually do?

I think this is one of the most confusing answers you can give. 

This does not only go for consultants. It goes for coaches, project managers and any type of job title that is so generic that nobody has a clue about what you do.

How to Answer the Question “What Do You Do?” Like a Rockstar

Let’s talk about how you can answer the question so people have a crystal clear idea about what you do and are easily able to refer you to their friends.

Part 1: Who Do You Serve?

This is the first part of the sentence. Who do you help?

Do you help biotech startups? Do you help social entrepreneurs? Do you help technology startups?

In other words, who is your target market? 

If you want to have a highly effective answer for any occasion, this is crucial. It does not matter if you are self-employed or an employee, you are serving somebody (a person or an organization), otherwise you are not a service professional.

Part 2: What Do You Help Them Achieve?

This is the second part to the equation. What is the result they get from working with you?

Do you help them reduce costs? Do you help them get more clients? Do you help them communicate more effectively?

This part needs to be in place to make a lasting and memorable impression. 

No matter what your profession or your background is, you are helping a person or organization achieve something, otherwise there is no rational reason why somebody would ever hire you.

No matter if you are self-employed or an employee, you need to force yourself into thinking like a business owner. If you want to succeed in today’s world, this is a must.

5 Example Answers to the Question “What Do You Do?”

“I help technology startups in Switzerland establish a company culture based on their core values”

“I help clean-tech startups in Switzerland raise more money for funding”

“I help social entrepreneurs in Switzerland implement a highly profitable business model”

“I help biotech startups in Switzerland implement highly efficient software systems”

“I help technology startups in Switzerland multiply their profits”

In my case, I help English speaking business professionals in Switzerland create a career on their own terms.

You Decide How You Are Known in the World

What you basically do with this exercise is create one part of your personal brand identity in the way that you define. You tell the people you meet how you want to be known in the world. They will remember you the way you want.

Also, if you use this simple formula, you help the people you meet remember you when they get an opportunity to refer you.

How to Get Referred by New Contacts

Let’s say you help technology startups in Switzerland to multiply their profits. Imagine you just met somebody at an event and he meets a startup founder two weeks later at the Startup Weekend in Zurich

The founder tells your contact that he is very excited about his new venture but even though revenue grows, the bottom line stays red since quite some time.

Do you think the chance that your new contact remembers you is higher if you answered the question “What do you do?” with ”I help technology startups in Switzerland multiply their profits” than with “I’m a business development director”?

Create Your Unique Statement Now

It’s time to get to work. It’s great to know all of what is mentioned above but if you don’t implement, there will be no results.

Take 15 minutes right now and write down your best answer to the following two questions:

1. Who Do You Serve?

2. What Do You Help Them Achieve?

Finding Meaning in Your Work

Finding meaning in your work is something most of us consider when we think about our careers. Individuals seek purpose and fulfillment in their work and lives. College students are not immune. I found the post below by Dr. Kate Brooks helpful in breaking down five facets of meaning based on Roman Krznaric’s dimensions of meaning in a career.  If you are starting a new job, internship, service-learning, or study abroad experience, you may be asking yourself – What is the purpose?  Why am I here?  I encourage you to ask those questions and read further about meaning in work.

Finding Meaning in Your Work
Can you construct a career that will enhance your life?

Originally published on February 25, 2014 by Katharine Brooks, Ed.D. in Career Transitions for Psychology Today

“What is your current work doing to you as a person – to your mind, character and relationships?”

This quote is from one of my favorite career books, How to Find Fulfilling Work by Roman Krznaric (The School of Life/PicadorUSA, 2013). There’s much to recommend here: I like the way he traces the history of career decision-making (including career counseling’s rather shady history and the failure of career testing) and offers insights as to why many of us struggle with career choices.

I also like his philosophy of “act-first, process-later”—too many people think about their ideal career occurring sometime in the future (if at all) without stopping to consider what they could do today to move toward it. And I especially like his emphasis on our “many selves”—a notion similar to the “Possible Lives” map and exercise I devoted a chapter to in my own book, You Majored in What?. I highly recommend Krznaric’s book for anyone going through or considering a career transition.

I think a particularly compelling element is Krznaric’s discussion of the dimensions of meaning in a career (Chapter 3- pp. 55-93).  After considering whether one has the luxury, in this day and age, of even considering meaning in a career (one does, he concludes), he lays out five dimensions of meaning:

  1. Earning money
  2. Achieving status
  3. Making a difference
  4. Following your passions (interests)
  5. Using your talents (skills)

Let’s break down these five dimensions and examine them. You might want to start by re-ordering the list based on your priorities. For example, while money might be a key driver for one individual, another might consider the use of his/her talents more important. As you consider these dimensions, consider how much of each dimension you need. How much money is enough? What percentage of time spent with interests or talents is enough?

Try considering each dimension in light of your current (or desired) work situation:

Money. Ever since the recession, money has been the primary driver of articles about “best careers.” Best career choices (not to mention college majors) are reduced to which fields will pay the most—”engineering good, social work bad” goes the common wisdom. This is not an illogical thinking process: one should consider future income when thinking about how much college debt to take on, for instance. But, at the same time, reducing career decisions simply to earning power can cause one to lose the broader perspective. How much income do you want/need? Are you setting your own monetary goals or complying with someone else’s? What is a comfortable living, and what careers might fulfill that? What career fields might suit you in other ways from which you could also earn a reasonable (from your perspective) salary? (See my earlier post on should we all become engineers.)

Status. How does status or respect fit into your definition of meaningful work? I like to think of this as a form of pride: do you take pride in what you do each day? Pride is subjective—you can be proud that you simply show up every day and do your job despite obstacles.  There is honor in that. There is also honor in teaching children, building a bridge, designing a building, writing a novel, or making a hamburger in a restaurant. Status as defined by others is compelling yet seductive—at what point did you select your current career to please someone else or meet someone else’s definition of status or success? How concerned are you with others’ definitions? As with money, it would be a mistake to rely solely on others’ perspectives: take some time to determine your proudest moments at work and in life. That may give you some perspective of what constitutes “status” to you. Does your current position provide you with the sense of pride and status you desire?

Making a difference is often relegated to the background in those “Top Ten Career” listings.  And yet this is a common desire in job-seekers. Treated sometimes as a naïve or youthful pipe-dream, making a difference, is in fact, an extremely important component of a job. What is your definition of “making a difference”? Making a difference isn’t always about saving the whales or other large humanitarian projects; you can also make a difference when you compile the payroll for your company. Teachers make a difference every day– but the results aren’t always seen immediately. What does “making a difference” mean to you?  Are you perhaps underplaying the difference you make in your current job—or would a different job provide more fulfillment for you in this area? Is making a difference important to you—or do other factors trump this desire? Only you can decide.

Following your passions is a long-running and oft-derided theme in career decision-making. The image that comes to mind is that of a musician or artist off “following their passions” but unable to pay for dinner that evening. (See my post on Can You Really Do What You Love These Days?) Like many things, the truth often lies in the middle. How important are your passions and interests? Have you investigated the variety of careers where your interests could be used? How have other people made a reasonable income out of their passions? Must you be a starving artist or are there other, perhaps better, models to follow? Once again, there are no hard and fast answers here.

Using your talents is closely related to following passions. Presumably many passions are also talents. But here’s where you look behind the passion to find the talents/skills that lie behind it.  For instance, you might be passionate about raising orchids, but careers directly related to that passion might be limited. So what talents are behind that passion? Could it be your patience?  Or attention to detail? Or the researching skills needed to learn how best to care for the orchids? Or your appreciation of beauty/aesthetics? Consider your top 5 skills or talents. When you are at your all-time best, what are you doing? And how can you find a job that lets you do more of that?

That’s the key to successful career transitioning: you take a job, figure out what you like best, and then look for a job that lets you do more of that.

Now that you’ve examined these dimensions, which is most important? Which is least? How much of each is “enough” in your work?

Let’s go back to Krznaric’s original question: “What is your current work doing to you as a person—to your mind, character and relationships?” Would making changes in these five dimensions change your life for the better? Is one area neglected at the expense of another? How can you fix that?

I am reminded of a quote from the wonderful movie, The Peaceful Warrior: “A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does.” Would examining these five dimensions of career meaning help you find the love in what you do?

©2014 Katharine S. Brooks. All rights reserved. Find me on Facebook and Twitter.