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8 Things To Do NOW Before Studying Abroad (Part 1)

study abroad suitcasePreparation is key for success.   Whether you have only thought about studying abroad or made up your mind that you’ll certainly do it – it won’t happen over night. Without ample time, preparing for studying abroad can be overwhelming, but if you start the process this summer it will be much easier.  Note, unforeseen challenges may arise – to that I say be flexible and have a sense of humor!

Generally speaking, the average preparation time from idea to departure can be anywhere from 6 months to a year.  I’ve curated all of the tips and to-do lists to consider when planning to study abroad, below are the top 8 I found to be most impactful.

8. Think strategically

Ask yourself, what location is best for your industry? What country is an active player in the field you’d like to enter? Be careful not to approach it emotionally and think in terms of what would be a cool or fun place. While both approaches may get you into a country – one will prepare you for more career opportunities in the long run.

7. Research Studying Abroad

You must do your homework. In addition to researching destinations (see #8), become familiar with the study abroad options your university offers.  Do they run their own programs or work with a third party provider? What options are there for your country of interest? Are there any travel warnings or restrictions to your destination? Are there any immunizations you need?

6. Network

Who do you know that has studied abroad or worked abroad in your industry?  If you haven’t already, speak with them about their experiences as well as resources they may know of that could help you to have a positive experience.

5. Passport

You can’t go anywhere outside of the country without a passport!  Generally, it takes at minimum 4-6 weeks to receive a new passport; sometimes longer around peak travel seasons (holidays, summer months, etc.).   First time applicants must apply in person and it is cheaper (about $110) to go to a US Passport Agency (vs. a post office or other acceptance facility.)  Visit the US Department of State to find the agency nearest you.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of 8 Things to Do Now Before Studying Abroad in August! I encourage you to take notes on the above and begin a list of questions that you have.  You can always ask me or save the list for your study abroad office when you get back to campus.  Either way, you don’t have to go through this process alone!

J.Renay Loper, Speaker and Writer about Studying AbroadJ.Renay Loper is a global education professional writer and speaker based in New York City. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or send questions on studying abroad to us at thehbcucareercenter@yahoo.com and we will make sure Ms. Loper gets your questions.

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No Work Experience? No Problem

One of the big questions new college grads and career changers ask when we discuss their workplace transitions is – I have no work experience in that area so who will hire me? Where will I get the experience that employers seek if I haven’t had a real job?no work experience

For new grads with no significant work experience or “real job”, I  encourage grads to think about transferable skills from any of the following experiences.  These does NOT have to be paid experiences.

Identify Transferable Skills if you Have No Work Experience

– volunteer work on and off campus
– classroom, individual, group projects; research
– campus work study and non work study jobs
– campus club involvement
– student chapter of professional organizations
– greek life leadership
– overseas experiences or study abroad
– working in a family business or starting your own business
– seasonal part-time jobs
– technical skills such as web development, blogging, gaming (self taught or otherwise)
– campus teams (eg. sports and music)

College students have a lot of options to gain exposure to fill a resume and  develop good professional behaviors.  If a college student have no work experience, we just need to explore other activities where they have developed transferable skills.

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Desperate Job Search Strategies for New Grads

job searchIf you are one of the new grads out there who has not yet found a job, there are still plenty or career options for you. You have to remember that job search success requires that you be prepared, be flexible and be willing to “pound the pavement” so to speak. Rather than panic, new grads should explore these desperate job search strategies.

1. Check in with your campus career center. 98% of HBCU career centers work with alumni.  Career center staff are still working hard all summer to help companies hire new graduates. If nothing else, have one of the career advisors take a look at your resume.

2. Stay confident in the job search. Sounds simple enough.  But rather than panic and get flustered, stay confident and positive.   Might sound desperate, but you have to find a way to stay calm during the job search.

3. You still only get one chance to make a good first impression. Dress appropriately and more conservatively than you have done in the past. There will be plenty of time to bring personal style to the job once you get hired.  Take your interview attire down a peg.

4. Make a list of everyone you know and start reaching out to them.  Tell them you don’t have a job, but you are looking.  You would be amazed at how willing people are to help.

5. Think about short term opportunities and land something in a good company which could lead to a better career opportunity.

6. Look where you are.  If you are Hospitality major and already have a great job at a restaurant with a national brand why are you leaving? Talk to managers about transitioning into a Manager Trainee rolew. Don’t just walk away from a job if you are already in the industry.

7. Get connected with a staffing firm and have a recruiter advocate for you during your job search.  Many companies hire temporary staff, before they make permanent offers.

8. In addition to your online job search – create an “on-land” job search strategy. Get up from behind your computer and go meet employers at networking events, meet-ups, job fairs and open houses etc.

Embrace these job search tips and your next interview could be the step to your first year on the job!

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Combat Job Search Age Discrimination

older workerI spoke with a colleague recently who had lost a spouse and was looking to reenter the workplace.  It was pretty clear that his biggest concern was the job search age discrimination he felt he would face.

He was worried about his chances of finding, what he called, decent employment.  “Nobody wants to hire old people anyway and with all these young people looking for work, I feel bad trying to take a job from them.  They have families. They are starting out. I’m just too old for a job search anyway.”

Not only did he feel most employers would show some type of age discrimination towards him, he also felt that those who would offer him a job, were not willing to pay what his experience deserved.  After talking about using salary surveys to get current wage information, we talked about tips to help him battle job search age discrimination.

Keep Job Search Energy High

Stay positive, cheerful and high energy for all phone or in-person job interviews.

Talk about experience, professional maturity and expertise.

Keep resume content current and stick to relevant information.

Speak to the long term value you can bring to the company.

Tell stories about outstanding outcomes in prior assignments.

Consider using a functional resume and group experiences in relevant blocks.

Use cover letters to focus on relevant, successful experiences.

Speak to your ability to collaborate and work with everyone from Boomers to Millennials.

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Job Fair Questions Job Seekers Should Ask

african american groupIf you are looking for a job then attending job fairs should be part of your job search strategy.  Although a job fair will only give you only a few minutes to speak with a recruiter, you can still make an impact as a good potential candidate. Do your research and in addition to answering questions asked by the recruiters, pick a few of these job fair questions to ask about the company, the industry or the job at the career fair.

About the Industry

• What should I really know about succeeding in this industry before I apply for a job or begin a career?

• What professional associations would you recommend to someone pursuing jobs in this industry?

• Can you recommend periodicals and journals you think would be important for new professionals in this field?

• What skills do you think are the now most important in building a successful career in this field?

• Where can I find out more about career paths in your industry?

• What advice would you give to someone trying to break into this field?

About the Company

• I am interested in your company because (fill in the blank). Can you offer me suggestions on how I can successfully apply to your organization?

• Can you tell me what types of skills and experience your company looks for in new graduates, interns or experienced professional?

• Can you describe a typical (entry-level, accounting etc.) position in your company for which I might qualify?

• What kinds of training programs does your company have set up for new employees?

• What do you like most about working for your company?

About the Job

• Can you tell me more about the (mention a specific position) mentioned on your website?

• What kinds of professional development activities do you plan for your new hires?

• I am interested in (blank), who in your company would you suggest that I contact?

• May I leave my resume with you?

• How should I follow up with you?

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Add a College Minor to Get your Foot in the Door

african american maleMany college students consider whether or not to add a college minor to their Bachelor’s degree.  Despite the potential benefits, before you add a college minor think about the extra coursework, additional time in college and the potential additional costs.  Here are some of the potential job search advantages if you add a college minor.

Why add a college minor?

1. Students who add a college minor get additional preparation in a complementary area without adding the extra time needed to complete a double major. Students can complete all the requirements to fulfill a college minor, by selecting elective courses wisely. Eg. Business major with a minor in Marketing. You might have to take a Marketing class anyway, so why not take a few more marketing courses and complete a college minor.

2. A college minor can be the way to add some practical skills to a broad based college degree. For example, if you are a Hospitality major, why not do a college minor in Accounting?  The college minor could be the way to get your foot into a company or industry.

3. College students can add a college minor to get basic knowledge of an emerging industry or an industry with projected high job growth. Eg. Computer Science major who chooses to minor in  Social Media Marketing or Mobile Technology.

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