Place Holder Banner

Have You Thought About a Career Portfolio?

Consider a Career PortfolioFor years, creative professionals like architects, designers, artists and writers seeking opportunities have used career portfolios otherwise known as the job search portfolio to communicate their abilities by displaying prior work, either done for employment or for leisure. In today’s competitive, knowledge-based labor market, other professionals are discovering the value of a well put together career portfolio.

If well thought out, the act of putting together a career portfolio will help candidates from any industry reflect on their skills and create an occupational focus for future employment. It can help employees develop a marketing tool which is strategically laid out to influence a potential employer when making a selection. Career portfolios can also help the employed or the re-entry worker with career transitions or the already employed get promotions or new jobs by identifying transferable skills. Not only does the portfolio work well as a marketing tool, it also helps to catalog professional development information as you move through your career.

Career coaches and counselors are increasingly recommending the career portfolio as an important job search tool to help job search candidates stand out from the competition in a competitive job market. Of course once you have made the decision to move forward with your career portfolio the next big decision is about what to include. In short, for your first pass – include everything you can find in your first pass. Over time you might choose to retire items from your career portfolio or choose to create one on line.

What to include in the Portfolio?
The overall objective of the portfolio is to provide support for the information included in your resume. In other words you don’t just have to speak about what you have done; you can also demonstrate what you have done. To do this effectively, the career portfolio must be conveniently designed for travel and the material must be easy to retrieve and attractively displayed. In selecting items for your portfolio, ensure that the item has a clear purpose and is tailored to suit your audience. In addition, remember that the visual presentation will reflect your professional standards so categories need to be clearly defined and labeled and special attention paid to the fundamentals like font and layout.

Key Items to Include in a Career Portfolio

1. Current resume which would include details on education, jobs and duties performed. You may choose to use a chronological or functional resume format.

2. Awards & Honors, Diplomas, Degrees, Unofficial transcripts or any other document that verifies your education or outstanding work, for which you might have been recognized.

3. Membership cards, licenses, training or technical certifications or any other documents that supports your qualifications are a great asset to a career portfolio.

4. Letters of recommendation, performance reviews, employment evaluations, “Job well done” emails or letters and customer satisfaction surveys are all perfect examples that will showcase work ethic or express the opinions of others about your work.

5. Work samples and research output could demonstrate skills specific to the job for which you are applying.

6. Sample publications, reports and papers written or presented are always a positive add for your career portfolio as well.

7. Miscellaneous evidence of work and projects completed could include event programs and photos of events you have helped to plan or coordinate.

Now that you know what to include in the career portfolio, the following are some general tips to keep in mind for the completing and presenting your portfolio:

1. Make copies of items for use in your portfolio – Do not use your originals. Heaven forbid that your portfolio gets lost or ruined. Replacing originals of your life’s work will not be easy.

2. When displaying or showing your career portfolio – be sure to hold it for the viewer to see it clearly. You already know what’s there, so avoid keeping it directly in front of you. It is a good idea to practice sharing your portfolio with friends, colleagues or career professionals and watch for falling content as you open and display.

3. Explain items in the portfolio by talking about the “why” or the “back story” behind your work. Be sure to place these items not only in the historical context of what you have done, but in context of what you can and will do for this new potential employer.

4. If you have opting to create your portfolio offline at first, use a medium sized binder and sheet protectors as an easy way to get started..

5. Remove, reorder or relocate materials as they lose their relevance or your interest changes. Although your career portfolio is about cataloging your past, it is also about relevancy to your future

Posted in Career Tools | Tagged | Comments Off on Have You Thought About a Career Portfolio?

5 Summer Job Hunting Tips for Teens

Teens at WorkWith Teen unemployment rate at 17.1% among teens 16 to19 years old in the US; landing a summer job may be harder than you think. If you are looking for a summer job or the parent of a student hoping to find a summer job, use these job hunting tips for teens.

Start looking early

One of the most important job hunting tips for teens is to start early. If you are still in high school, you might be thinking that now is too early to look for a summer job and you would be wrong. Many employers are already starting to think about what their needs will be for summer employment and are even starting to think about staffing schedules. Water parks and amusement parks which offer great summer outdoor job opportunities for teens, are already posting their jobs.

Look for seasonal jobs

Many places like water parks, botanical gardens, amusement parks, music festivals, zoos and even your local YMCA take on additional staff in the summer. Many of these facilities hire teens who are looking for summer jobs. The earlier you start applying the better off you will be.

Write a resume

You may be thinking that as a teenager looking for a summer job, you do not need a resume. However, in a competitive economy and a tight job market, I would rethink that strategy and get a resume completed as soon as possible. Visit the career or counseling office at your high school or college campus for samples to help you get started. Having a resume can really set you apart as you start to look for summer employment. For example, let’s say you visit the local YMCA and they are not quite ready yet to hire, one way to impress the manager is to leave a copy of your resume with your correct phone number and an email.

Network with friends and family

If you are looking for job search advice online, you will see the word “network” many times. Some teens don’t really know what that means and think they have to start looking for this special group of people to help with their job search. Not correct. You already have a network and just don’t know it. Parents, aunts, uncles, coaches, friends at school or in social clubs are a part of your network. Tap into that network early, before everyone else starts to ask for jobs. I landed my first job at 16 because my friend’s mother was a marketing executive for a company that was looking to launch a new product. You can do it too.

Clean up your social media profile

Today’s teens are super active on social media including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  By the time you read this, there may very well be new platforms that are popular among teens.   If you don’t know it by now, employers do look people up on social media.  I am not sure how many employers will look for teens on social media, but I do know teens are living on and through social media.  Just take a quick trip through your social media pages and make sure there is nothing there that will let an employer think twice about hiring you for a summer job.

Posted in Millennials at Work, Teens at Work | Tagged | Comments Off on 5 Summer Job Hunting Tips for Teens

Before Workplace Stress Creates a Meltdown

melting stressRemember Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who quit his job by jumping down an emergency escape hatch, beer in hand about five years ago?

If the internet buzz and water cooler conversations were any indication, Slater was the everyday-working-man’s hero and a cult sensation for a while.  Everyone, it seemed, was living vicariously through Slater wishing secretly they could jump out of their jobs the way Slater jumped out of his.

For a little while, I imagine, employees everywhere dared to dream of the exhilaration and sense of freedom that must come from being able to get on an intercom system and vent about your company, your boss, your co-workers and / or your customers…before making a grand exit.

Many were thinking..”Wow! How empowering that must be.”

That is, until you wake up the next day and like the characters in the movie The Hangover, you try to retrace your steps and figure out what really happened. Yes, of course the world might on your side during your 15 seconds of fame, and that may make you feel really good. Then slowly it might set in… I don’t have a job AND now I have a very public, not-so-nice reputation in my own industry … making it hard for me to go back to the work I claim I love.

So I thought that while we continue to live vicariously through Slater and others who up and quit their jobs in grand style, we should have our own escape hatch at work.

You might find any little activity like these may be all you need to do to gain some perspective.

The goal of course is to find out what works for you in those tiny moments when bad judgment, if unchecked, could get the best of you.

Here are some possibilities for when workplace stress is getting the best of you:

Enjoy a treat

Go get an ice cream cone or yogurt or something “not-so-good-for-you.”  Sometimes all we need is a taste of childhood to feel adult again.

Have a buddy at work

Someone you can rely on who will talk you down off the ledge. A quick phone call or hallway meeting may be all you need.

Connect to your reality

Keep a copy of your child’s college tuition bill taped inside your top drawer. An orthodontics or summer camp bill could work as well as a mortgage statement or a photo of the new car in your future. Whatever your motivation, now is the time to remember it.

Take a few minutes, and go outside if you can

Go sit in your car. Listen to your favorite station – Music, sports or talk radio. Whatever floats your boat! Just get out of the situation and change your surroundings.

Engage your glass curtain

Finally, as my mother would say, and this has worked for me in the past, pull down your glass curtain, squeeze your toes in your shoes…and release. Aaahh! No one but you will know that you just took a mental vacation.

I caution you, of course, that this is not a long term solution and unchecked workplace stress can cause irreparable damage. Steven Slater learned that first hand. 

Posted in Career Advice | Tagged , | Comments Off on Before Workplace Stress Creates a Meltdown

7 Stupid Questions We Ask in the Job Interview

So far your job search strategy has workresume lies can catch up with youed well.  Your hard work and networking is paying off and you have landed a job interview for in your dream company.  You think you have interviewed well so far and done a pretty good job answering the questions from the interviewer.  Just before the job interview ends, the interviewer asks you a pretty simple question – Do you have any questions for us?  Of course you do.

Right about here, the words of a Frank Sinatra song comes to mind – “and then I go and spoil it all, by saying something stupid like…” the following kinds of questions.  Trust me; these are questions I have heard that just derails the entire process and could jeopardize the job offer.  I get it – we are nervous and so things just fly out before we have a real chance to think through them.  These 7 stupid questions we ask in the job interview, do not always come out like this word for word, but are in the ball park of what not to say.

What exactly does your company do?

When job seekers ask this kind of question about the company in the job interview it demonstrates a lack of company research. As part of the preparation for job interviews, job seekers should research basic company information such as the products or services the company provides.  You cannot interview well without knowing what the company does.  Yet, you would be amazed about how many times it gets asked.

Who would I speak with about taking longer lunch breaks because sometimes I will need to run personal errands or take care of family issues?

I’ve heard this kind of question more often than I care to remember. There is nothing wrong with getting clarification about a work schedule in the job interview. In this case, however, you do not want to sound as if you will be making up your own schedule to fit your needs rather than meeting the requirements of the company.

Is there any plan to get a union here at this company?

This was a question a colleague shared with me. Again, this is something that can be researched before the interview. You may very well not get a job offer if the recruiter gets the sense that you will organize employees into collective bargaining units.

How long do I have to work in this position before I can ask for a raise?

Your focus should be on getting the job offer for the position for which you are interviewing. If growth within the company is of interest to you, consider rephrasing the question. For example, “What are the opportunities for advancement for employees in this position?”

Can you guarantee me that I will still have a job here by next year?

No one can guarantee that a company will exist for any specific time in the future. You should be skeptical of anyone who might attempt to make you such a guarantee. Although stability may be a concern, it could make you seem desperate.  This type of question actually is heard pretty frequently from people who may have been laid off or downsized.  Try to get a sense of the organizational stability via company research, industry trends or general press or media.

What will you look for in the background screening? I am concerned about what you will find.

This question will be particularly worrisome to the recruiter if a job seeker raises it in the job interview. You can certainly ask about the next step in the hiring process, but to plant any seeds about what they may find in a background screening is not a wise move. Having said that, complete any background questionnaire honestly and clearly.

I did not get along with my last two supervisors; can you tell me more about my supervisor?

The age old rule is to not speak badly in the job interview about former employers or former supervisors in the job interview. Although the statement you are making may be true, it can also ruin your chances of a job offer. You don’t want the recruiter to see you as the problem employee who is unmanageable.

The actual words of that song I referenced in the opening is “..and then I go and spoil it all, by saying something stupid likeI love you.”  Your goal is to ask questions that will get the employer to say – We love that candidate. Let’s make an offer!


Posted in Job Interviews | Tagged | Comments Off on 7 Stupid Questions We Ask in the Job Interview

7 Reasons HBCU Presidents Must Support Career Centers

questions for new grads The HBCU Career Center conducted a survey to learn more about the state of career centers on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). The survey results revealed an interesting dilemma faced by career centers. Of the 33 respondents, 76% agreed, somewhat agreed or strongly agreed that career services on HBCU campuses are a priority for executive leadership. However, in the same survey, 64% felt that the career services budget was definitely or somewhat inadequate to meet the university’s needs. That is an indication to me that while some HBCU leadership say that career services are important, they are not making the commitment to put the adequate resources and funds behind career services.  Based on my experience, this is not just a HBCU issue.  It is an issue for most of America’s colleges.

Despite low graduation rates, significant financial burden on graduates and more public discourse about the value of college degrees, many executives have not yet made the connection between career programming and student success.

Have I seen some changes in the last eight years since I started The HBCU Career Center to focus on career development for the diverse community? Yes; I do see HBCU leadership starting to pay greater attention to the programs on their campuses that are designed to produce career-ready graduates.  However, most HBCU’s still have a long way to go to realize the connections between the long term sustainability of our institutions, enrollment, retention, graduation rates, alumni giving and career programming,  Here are 7 reasons HBCU Presidents must support career centers on their campuses.

Career Programming in Enrollment Management Strategy

I often say that the college career center is the campus department that has reason to interact with students from Freshman to Forever. There never needs to be an end to the relationship between students and the career centers.  Professional career staff can play a significant role in the enrollment management process in a number of ways.  Some examples include connecting early with prospective students through open houses and orientation programs, crafting 4-year graduation strategies and helping students find their first part-time jobs as college students and their first jobs as career professionals. Colleges that are serious about marketing their academic programs as a means to a successful professional life in the future, connect students with career development programs early. If the ultimate goal is gainful employment and long term career satisfaction, why would career centers not be considered part of the university’s overall enrollment management strategy? By engaging career centers in the enrollment path, we are immediately building a pipeline of successful professional alumni.

Last best opportunity to improve student satisfaction with their overall college experience.

Have you ever spoken with a dissatisfied new college graduate? From residence life, professors, cost or financial aid; you name it, students and new graduates will find things to complain about. However, I have found, that ultimately at the core of new alumni disappointment, is confusion and apprehension about  the perceived value of the college degree they have just earned from your college.  This value for most new graduates is immediately about how they will land that first job or transition into graduate school.  In most cases, the overwhelming majority of new graduates don’t know what to do with the degree they just earned.  Campus career centers are uniquely positioned to support new graduates with the college to career or grad school transition.  Through career center operations, staff routinely help students understand the value of the degree they just earned, help them identify their marketable skills and launch their careers.

Graduates can use career centers for life.

In the same survey of career centers we learned that 97% of these career centers provide career services to alumni. This is a phenomenal opportunity for new graduates to leave campus knowing that their college remains a professional resource forever. This is not really the case for any other department on campus except for maybe the Registrar where copies of transcripts will be purchased over a life time. For the overwhelming majority of colleges, career centers offer lifetime career support to alumni. In the current evolving workplace, where employees are expected to re-skill often, career centers are a reminder to alumni of the longer term value of their Alma mater and reconnect them to training opportunities on campus through academic programs.

Success of your graduates promotes your campus and your programs to prospective students.

I have listened to university leaders including trustees and presidents brag about their successful alumni – as well they should.  To speak about the success of alumni, is to speak about the name those alumni have made for themselves professionally. Go to any college website and notice how they brag about the professional success of their alumni. No alumni will make the “Distinguished Alumni” list for just being a good parent or just for being a graduate. “Distinguished Alumni” lists are always about career and life success. The further you can take the name of your Alma mater as an alumni, the greater your chance of being listed among the successful alumni. The career center on campus helps universities set expectations for life and career success for students beyond college. By promoting alumni success stories or engaging alumni with students as mentors or career advocates, career centers play a role in developing future distinguished alumni who ultimately model the way for other students. Expectation of and envisioning professional and career success in life after college, is a key driver for student retention.

Career centers can transform new alumni into giving alumni.

Working with the career center staff is a great opportunity to engage new graduates into becoming giving alumni. It is through their transition into work and graduate schools that students will understand the value of the skills they developed on your campus. If alumni experience and understand the role your campus played in their personal and professional growth, it is easier to ask for their sustaining support. Since successful career centers help students with their transitions into the workplace, these new alumni become champions and advocates for their Alma mater where they work. I have worked with alumni to help career centers develop job shadow and mentoring opportunities, design and present workshops and be champions inside their companies to recruit interns and other professionals from their Alma mater.  These relationships with alumni start out simple, but can transition into bigger opportunities for collaboration. An effective career center team can assist very effectively with this kind of relationship building.

Career center as a major gateway into corporate relationships.

During my fifteen years working with career centers, I have been fortunate to foster and facilitate great relationships between students, alumni, faculty and industry.  I have seen first hand the value that a cutting edge career center can bring to campus through innovative employer partnership programs.  University presidents and executive leadership who understand the value of career centers in sponsored programming are big supporters of career programming on campus.  The bottom line is that if employers are satisfied with the work-ready professionals your college is producing, there are win-win  opportunities that would be of longer term interest to HBCU Presidents.  These opportunities which can be both inside and outside the classroom, are limited only by the collaborative and innovative capacity of your career center staff.

Career center outcomes is an assessment tool for the entire university.

need a jobHBCU Presidents should know that feedback from employers on the preparedness of lack of preparedness of their students and alumni, is a window into the entire university. Whether employers are sharing feedback on students they meet at career fairs, on-campus interviews, for internships or full time careers; the responses and feedback is valuable for all campus constituents. The extent to which students are workplace-ready or graduate school-ready, is the extent to which your campus can attract future students, raise money and engage employer partners. Presidents need to be evaluating how the anecdotes from faculty about student outcomes actually match up with what employer and industry partners are saying?

Our HBCU campuses are under a microscope.  Too many believe our campuses are too costly, are draining scarce resources and are no longer relevant in the American landscape.  I don’t agree.  However, I do believe that some HBCU leadership do not yet embrace the evolutions taking place in higher education and in the world of work.  As such, the students graduating are under prepared for a competitive job search and often struggle to transition successfully into the world of work.

Again, this is not just an issue at HBCU’s.  It is something many colleges and universities are struggling with at this time.  The difference for HBCU’s is that our very existence is at stake and there really is not much time remaining for leadership to understand this imperative.  HBCU’s have for almost two centuries played a critical role in developing  the American workforce.  We must continue to do that with renewed emphasis on career development to play our role in re-skilling America.

Find us on Facebook and Twitter!

Posted in Career and Industry Awareness, Employment Trends, HBCU Career Programs | Tagged | Comments Off on 7 Reasons HBCU Presidents Must Support Career Centers

Essence Magazine Study on Black Women at Work

Black women at WorkEssence Magazine released survey findings  a few days ago spawned much discussion in social media around the hashtag #BlackWomenatWork.  Some of us who have been immersed in workplace and career issues for diverse audiences for years weren’t surprised by any of the survey results.  We are just thrilled that Essence Magazine had the courage to do the survey and launch the results.

Hopefully, these results will just help us to arm our daughters, sisters, wives and friends with more knowledge about how to be authentic at work.  Results show the #BlackWomenatWork who demonstrate their more authentic selves, could be more successful.  Still much to debate what that even means. (;>

Black Women at Work Survey Results

-80 % of Black women surveyed felt they needed to make adjustments to their personalities to succeed at work. (If you have ever been accused of being the angry black woman because you stood up for yourself, you know what this means).

-50 % of Black female Millennials, 42 % of Gen Xers and 30 % of Baby Boomers strive to be seen as the “Acculturated Girl Next Door,” a professional who is unthreatening and willing to conform.

-39% of Black female executives said that they want to be known as “Inspiring Stars,” women who are risk takers and who openly share the traits that differentiate them from others.

Explore the full survey results here and to bring your authentic self to work. Lets keep the discussion going with #BlackWomenatWork on Twitter.

Subscribe to our blog and find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Posted in Business Etiquette, Career and Industry Awareness, Diversity Recruiting, Employment Trends | Tagged , | Comments Off on Essence Magazine Study on Black Women at Work

    If you would like your company to be showcased as a Featured Employer on our site, let us know by contacting thehbcucareercenter@yahoo.com:

    • Our mission at The HBCU Career Center is to be an advocate for America's diverse and often underrepresented students and alumni seeking career and professional success.
    • If you share our vision for diverse, inclusive workplaces and would like to connect with the diverse talent from America’s 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, then consider becoming a Featured Employer on our site.
    • Become a Featured Employer by consistently sharing jobs and internships on our niche job board or by sharing your expert career advice for our readers on our blog.