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  • Beginning, Middle, and End: Or The Ongoing Search for Story and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part IV.

    The End.

    “Good cover letters tell a story. Beginning, middle, and end.” -Hannah Frei, Career Advancement Center, Lake Forest College

    And so we are at the end... for now.

    I concluded the last post by speaking to what the final part of the Loop 202 semester looks like, and where we start examining how all of these steps, tools, and strategies hang together when it comes to the job search. Also, how I assign an article by an author I love, myself, to help the students further organize their thoughts, and that piece is titled “The Search: Obtaining the Right Job, Finding Yourself, and Crafting a Career.”

    But there is also what what was, and what is, which is to say, that even as I revisit the syllabus from semester to semester, revising and refining it, some times we do so during the semester as well.

    For example, this semester I wanted to introduce a greater focus on having the students grapple with how they can apply their story to thinking about their brand and looking forward. And so in that vein I've introduced simple branding exercises such as the following:

    - What 3 words would I use to describe myself when I first meet someone?
    - What 3 words would someone else use to describe me having just met me?
    - How do they compare, and are there words that work better?

    Refining.

    I've also sought to keep refining our focus in a more granular way however on skill-building and enhancing connections from class to class and tool to tool.

    Last semester as we talked about crafting resumes I got stuck on the idea that we were building out stronger resumes, but only briefly talking about cover letters... they go together though, and so I added a cover letter section this semester, where we spent time breaking cover letters down by component, looking at language, honing the craft.

    I was also struck that the students need to be able to tell their stories in all spaces, and in all ways, and that called for insights into how we break our story down and into an "Elevator Speech."

    And so we have have introduced a section on that as well, which might I add, is still to come, so more on that soon.

    Interviews... Informational and Otherwise.

    We focus on Information Interviewing as well, recognizing that while informational interviews may not yield jobs, one can still learn a lot about the jobs and industries, one wants to know more about, make connections, and work on their narrative. One thing I ask students to do when we cover this section, is Identify three orgs/people they want to schedule informational interviews with... and then go out and do so.   

    We move on to applying these skills through meeting with professionals from out in the field by hosting a career panel and Q&A. There are also now so many graduates of the program out in the work world, or looking anyway, that I hold a similar panel populated with Loop 202 grads as well.

    We further hone in on interview skills, by bringing back our Improv instructor, runnning warm-up exercises, and then swapping out interview questions for the usual Improv scenarios so everyone is thinking on their feet, engaging in active listening, and having fun.

    I added a section on salary negotiations in recent semesters too, because like with cover letters, if we were going to keep talking about somethinig, I felt like we ought to be sure we were actually covering it and learning something.

    We finish with a final project focused on building an online portfolio/web presence. Not everyone may need one, but with the marketplace transforming more and more from the traditional into something digital, one has to show what they've done and make it accessible. So why not start here, now, putting your best self, and ongoing narrative out in the world, and at worst, though ideally at best, be ahead of the curve?

    Finally.

    And so we are beginning, middle, and end ourselves.

    This has been intended as a love letter to this class I love, and these students who rock, where we talk about a topic I find endlessly fascinating.

    My ongoing goal is that the class becomes a lab and a piece of performance art, always, on and always thinking, creating, and becoming its best self.

    With that in mind, I will always tweak it, seeing some kind of ephemeral perfection.

    This semester I tweaked the response papers students have historically submitted, and we now do those in class, and in long hand, the facilitation, and facilitators, as well as the direction of the discussion unknown before the start of class. The first time I suggested this, no one volunteered to facilitate, but the second and third times both yielded results in terms of facilitation... and great discussion.

    Ultimately then, and on good days, there is a beginning, middle, and end to class as well. It is both tightly constructed, and loosely implemented, and we repeat it and build on it, and keep honing the craft.

    And with that we are end, and if you want to know more about any of this, you know what to do.

    Control Your Own Narrative: Or The Ongoing Search for Story and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part I.

    Did I Mention Story: Or The Ongoing Search for Story (maybe I did mention story) and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part II.

    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Or The Ongoing Search for Story and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part III.

  • What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Or The Ongoing Search for Story and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part III.

    INTRODUCTION

    In case you're wondering what's going on here please feel free to take a moment to visit Parts I and II in this ongoing series where I unpack the syllabus for Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century and the thinking behind it.

    (Pause)

    Welcome back.

    CONNECTIONS

    As we enter the enter the middle section of the semester we begin discussing the tools needed to find a job. But we also talk about love.

    More on the latter in the moment.

    Things at this point in the semester tend to kick-off with a Mixer organized by the administrators who run the In the Loop Program. There have always been two Mixers during the semester, but we now work together to integrate them into the syllabus. The Mixers gives the students the opportunity to meet Lake Forest alumni and both start, and practice, the process of connecting with those who might help them as they craft their careers, and narratives, as well as building a network of contacts they can (re-)connect with over time.

    The focus on thinking about how best to make connections begins during the first part of the semester as we both read, and talk, about pieces on "networking, or as one guest speaker on storytelling described it, 'connecting,' because as he said, networking is 'tired-ass" language.' All of which can be found in the previous post in this series: "Did I Mention Story: Or The Ongoing Search for Story (maybe I did mention story) and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part II."

    We debrief the Mixer(s) in the following class and explore a mix of questions focused on assessing individual behaviors/connections (or lack there of) and the structure/content of the mixer itself. Questions discussed include:

    What went well? And what didn't?
    What would you do differently? And what you like the school to do differently?
    Which of your goals did you achieve and how did you go about doing so?
    What next steps have you taken, or will you be taking?

    Any one of these questions can be taken as leading questions, though the final one is the most bluntly so. I ask it because I want to know if the students asked for numbers or emails, attempted to schedule discussions with anyone of interest, or formally thanked any of the Alumni they spoke to for their time?

    If not, why?

    We then talk about love.

    LOVE

    As the semesters have evolved over time I have been struck again and again, and in looking back over my own work life, am reminded again and again, how much pressure there is to take the jobs that are available, pay well, suit what one's parents' want one to do, and on and on.

    But what about doing work we love? Do we even know what we love?

    I was always interested in bringing this kind of thinking into class, and when and where I could, I did, but it never felt quite formal enough. Until that is I ran into a brief piece in the New York Times titled, “The Incalculable Value of Finding a Job You Love.”

    This piece eloquently speaks to identifying what you love and making it your work, and so I now assign this piece as one of the Response Papers due during the semester (more on the Response Papers here), and I ask the students to address any questions they want in response to the article, but to also consider the following:

    What task(s) has absorbed you completely? Said, differently, what do you love?

    This assignment has also come to serve multiple purposes. First, and most obviously, talking about how we do work we love in a more formal fashion, but also as an exercise to begin laying out a structure for the next class presentation, and more on that later, which focuses on the field or industry the students are intrigued by or already immersed in.

    The intent here is to launch a conversation about what one might want to know about an industry of interest, if one is trying to figure out what one will need to know if one is going to "love" their work. My goal is that through the discussion of this article we get to a point where we more or less idenitfy the below elements about the world of work, which then also provide a framework for the presentations themselves:

    Hours
    Diversity
    Training
    Travel
    Benefits
    Types of Jobs
    Flexibility/Telecommuting
    Salary
    Culture/Work Environment - for example, values
    Location - particularly top companies
    Opportunities for Advancement
    Requirements - skills, classes, degrees, training, licenses

    SKILLS

    I'll come back to the presentations themselves in a moment, but before we get to them, both here, and during the semester, we take a field trip. One field trip we've consistently taken over the years - respective schedules permitting - is to the studio of Carlos "Dzine" Rolon, who talks about how he draws on everything from the ideas he loves, his childhood, inspirations, and personal connections - as we do in class - to create art, and run his business.

    More recently, though I've also built-in a field trip to the IO Theater to watch the Improvised Shakespeare Company, which allows the students to see professional improvisers at work. I've written previously how I strongly believe that the skills, games, and expectations that make for effective improv are an important part of this class and by extension the job search.

    This is followed by an in-class Improv skill-building session, which comes during a stretch of classes where we focus on specific tools and skills. A series of guest speakers join us in class, and speak to:

    Improv - history, exercises, applications to the job search;

    Creating a public profile - everything from personal websites to utilzing Twitter and LinkedIn;

    LinkedIn itself, inlcuding upgrading their LinkedIn pages and enhancing their understaning of the platform's tools for job search and making connections;


    As well as staff from Lake Forest's Career Advancement Center to talk about how the students can enhance their resumes, drawing on current best practice, which has proven to be one topic that is continually changing.


    FIELD PRESENTATIONS

    We also hold the field, or industry, presentations during this time, and with this presentation I invite the students to present individually or in groups. The important thing is that they explore work that excites them and I use the following Expectations/Grading Rubric to assess their work:

    Expectations/Grading Rubric - All categories are scored from 1-5, 5 being the best.

    I. Preparation

    Have you organized your thoughts in advance and have you been thoughtful in doing so? Please take this seriously.

    II. Presentation

    Are you taking your time, speaking clearly, and allowing yourself to breathe, and the words to flow? Further, is what you're saying aligned with what your actually sharing with the class in terms of the final product?

    III. The Basics

    Please look to answer questions such as:

    The top companies in the field.
    Where they are located. And the cost of living.
    Academic requirements.
    Skills and experience.
    The range/types of jobs.
    Organizational structure.

    IV. The Amenities

    Please look to answer questions such as:

    Salary range. Or ranges.
    Benefits.
    Hours.
    Advancement.
    Updated systems.

    V.  Organizational culture.

    Please look to answer questions such as:

    What does a day on the job look like.
    Dress code.
    Values.
    Happiness.

    Grading:

    A - 24-25 points

    A- - 23 points

    B+ - 22 points

    B - 20-21 points

    C - 19 points and below

    CONCLUSION (for now)

    I will save the final part of the semester for a final post on the class, but one last thing we do before heading into the final stretch, is we start examining how all of these steps, tools, and  strategies hang together when it comes to the job search. I also assign an article by an author I love, myself, to help the students further organize their thoughts, and that piece is titled “The Search: Obtaining the Right Job, Finding Yourself, and Crafting a Career.”

    I hope you read it too.

    If you have any questions or thoughts on any of this, please let me know.

    Otherwise, speak to you soon.

    Control Your Own Narrative: Or The Ongoing Search for Story and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part I.

    Did I Mention Story: Or The Ongoing Search for Story (maybe I did mention story) and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part II.