Alumni Spotlight – Melissa Wasser, Policy Counsel at the Project On Government Oversight

Recently, the Office of Alumni Career Management sat down with alumna Melissa Wasser to talk about her time at Ohio State, and how that has impacted her career since graduation.  Below are Melissa’s answers to some of our questions, as well as her advice for current and prospective Buckeyes considering following in her career path.

Melissa Wasser

Degree: J.D. & M.A. in Public Policy and Management
Graduation Year: 2017
Current Occupation: Policy Counsel at the Project On Government Oversight

  1. – What brought you to The Ohio State University?

I always knew I wanted to go to law school, but I still had an interest in policy work that I wasn’t able to explore during undergrad. Knowing The Ohio State University has one of the best dual degree programs in the country at the Moritz College of Law and the John Glenn College of Public Affairs was the main reason driving my decision to enroll at Ohio State. I wanted the opportunity to challenge myself at a top-tier university while building the necessary skills to enter the workforce as a lawyer.

  1. – How did your experiences at Ohio State shape your career path?

Ohio State gave me the opportunity to participate in the Moritz College of Law’s Legislation Clinic, which gave me clinical placement experience working at the Ohio Statehouse. Learning how to monitor and analyze legislative issues at the state level is valuable knowledge that I still use in my current role every day. I was able to work with state legislators, give input on legislative language, and see how the state legislative process really worked. Being able to have this experience in one of the few legislation clinics in the country really set me apart from my peers and I credit that experience for helping me realize what my dream job now looks like.

      3. – What advice do you have for OSU alumni and students interested in pursuing a career in your field?

If you’re looking for a career in the policy space, I highly recommend finding a mentor that can help guide you in your career. When I was searching for my current position, I reached out to mentors that I’ve had since college, mentors in law school, and other Buckeyes in this space to just ask for some advice. Find people who are where you want to be in 5 or 10 years and ask them how they got to their current position. Sometimes, all it takes is a random email or LinkedIn message asking another Buckeye for 15 minutes of their time to find the person who will make a profound impact on your professional life. Take advantage of resources at Ohio State that can connect you to alumni in the career field you want to be in! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there to not only better yourself, but to find that next opportunity.

  1. – What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

My greatest professional accomplishment would be testifying before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet last summer on the federal judiciary during the COVID-19 pandemic. Being able to speak to members of Congress directly on how important access to the federal courts is, especially so early in my professional career, was challenging and highly rewarding. I’m very grateful that I was able to have this accomplishment just three years after graduating from Ohio State. I can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store!

  1. – What inspires you in your profession?

Working hard at work worth doing and setting an example for others inspires me in my profession. Whether it’s breaking down complex issues for Congress or highlighting government accountability options for policy wonks, I want to be able to champion good government reforms and make more people aware of how corruption and abuse of power hurts us all. It’s also very important to me that I set an example for those looking to get into the legal and policy fields, both in my work as a Policy Counsel and in the mentoring space. Knowing what it took to get here and being real about the struggle is something that I want to be able to give back to others who are just starting out. If I can lift up another Buckeye to join me in this space, it makes it all worth it.

For more information about Melissa, or to connect with her, please visit her online here:

Twitter@Melissa_Wasser (https://twitter.com/Melissa_Wasser)
LinkedIn: Melissa Wasser (https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissawasser/)
Instagram@Melissa_Wasser (https://www.instagram.com/Melissa_Wasser/)

 

Looking Back and Moving Forward – How Alumni Career Management Supports You from 2020 and Beyond

Wow… 2020 was really something, right?

The Ohio State University Alumni Association launched the Bill and Susan Lhota Office of Alumni Career Management in 2012, largely in response to a significant movement among alumni requesting career guidance following the “Great Recession” of the late 2000s.  For the last nine years, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to supporting Ohio State alumni in their lifelong career management.  We strive to provide assistance in career development and transitions through a robust variety of resources, keeping our clients abreast of current trends and dynamics within the industry.  Through a combination of relevant programming, original content, and other offerings, we have remained true to our goal of inspiring, motivating, and encouraging alumni in their journey toward finding satisfying and successful careers, all within a professional environment fostering a community of Buckeyes helping Buckeyes.

The goal of the Office of Alumni Career Management has always been to ensure accessibility to resources for every member of our 550,000+ strong global community of Buckeye alumni.  We are proud to have been pioneers in providing virtual career resources among alumni offices in higher education for several years.  When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the university, and the world at large, in early 2020, we were well poised to pivot to all virtual offerings, ensuring that we could meet the needs of alumni that we knew would need us now more than ever.

Although this is a scenario that no one imagined or could have been prepared for, the Office of Alumni Career Management staff was able to quickly assess and address the challenges stemming from our “new normal”.   The most urgent issue was the need to create programming and materials to guide alumni in navigating this new career landscape.

Looking Back – How We Adjusted to a COVID-19 World in 2020

In March of 2020, we began offering webinars tailored to topics immediately relevant to the COVID-19 crisis.  Our presentations, “Laid Off – Now What?” and “Career Pivots for Experienced Job Seekers” had more than 250 combined registrants – many of whom were first time attendees for an event hosted by our office.  Our presentation, “How to Optimize Your Job Search During COVID-19” featured alumna Marissa Lee, who provided invaluable insight as a human resources professional and career coach. We supplemented this with podcasts relating to topics including, “Managing Stress when Working from Home”, “Maintaining Connections Across the Digital Distance”, and “Work/Life Balance for Working Parents”.

In addition to reframing our existing webinar curriculum to reflect the new circumstances we found ourselves under in 2020, the Career Management team also launched a new initiative to assist the influx of new job seekers with their many questions surrounding the search.  Job Search Q&A sessions were held monthly beginning in May of last year, with a total of 724 alumni and friends registering for these events throughout the year, an average of 80 participants at each of these roundtables.   We also piloted a biweekly group coaching program for six months last year as we worked to phase out one on one coaching and were able to support a number of alumni in crafting an effective elevator pitch, learning to network in a virtual medium, and job searching in the hidden market.

All told, in 2020 the Office of Alumni Career Management website had a total of 435,600 individual visits to our departmental website, which includes invaluable resources for alumni and friends such as resume and cover letter templates, our webinar archive, job search tools, and our alumni-specific job board, Alumni Career Connection.

Our departmental blog, Coach’s Corner, also received significant attention in the last year, with more than 13,000 individual users visiting the site during the year from all over the world, including 14 countries other than the United States.

Moving Forward – What We Are Looking Forward to in the New Year

It is safe to say that the Office of Alumni Career Management was successful in pivoting our offerings to meet the quickly changing needs of the Ohio State alumni community over the last year, and we look forward to continuing to elevate our offerings as we move into 2021.  In February, we will launch Career Corner, a monthly newsletter curated to include relevant career content, advice, and events for alumni interested in job search or professional development topics.

In March, we are excited to announce that our office will launch a monthly Job Club series.  Inspired by our group coaching pilot last fall, the Job Club will be a monthly meeting that combines guidance on a specific job search topic and a guided networking experience for participating alumni. We look forward to engaging with you in a fun and interactive way that provides meaningful assistance to those alumni who need it most.

Other projects on the horizon for the Career Management team include the launch of three self-paced mini-courses on leadership and professional development, for which we will be offering a Certificate of Completion for alumni who participate in those modules, collaborative partnerships with our colleagues in the alumni association, around campus, and around our community to further the reach of our services and advice, innovative volunteer opportunities for alumni who would like to give back to the university, and engagement with companies seeking to connect with our alumni and our university.

Where We Need You

For alumni who have not yet taken advantage of the many resources offered through the Office of Alumni Career Management, we extend an invitation for you to do so now – there is so much that we have available, and it is our sincere hope that you will utilize these resources as you continue in your own career development journey.

We’d also like to lean on alumni in the coming year, asking you to weigh in with your own expertise as our subject matter experts in your individual fields.  We would love to see you engage with us on social media – particularly in our LinkedIn group or on AlumniFire – where your commentary can be seen by thousands of your fellow alumni, as well as current students.   If you would like information on how you can get involved with our office, and ways that you can contribute, feel free to contact us directly at lacount.7@osu.edu.

Buckeye to Buckeye – Top Free Career Resources to Help You Get Started

Below are just a few of the great offerings available to you through the OSUAA Office of Alumni Career Management. Your fellow Buckeyes have been utilizing these continuously in their own career search, and we invite you to take advantage of them as well.

  1. AlumniFire

AlumniFire is Ohio State’s premier professional networking tool that allows you to connect directly with other alumni and students, as well as employers seeking to fill positions with Buckeyes like you!  Here you can find people volunteering to give general career advice, resume reviews, relocation assistance, and other fun topics – you can also raise your hand to help another Buckeye in need as well!

  1. Alumni Career Connection

Alumni Career Connection is our Buckeye alumni exclusive job board.  With more than 20 new jobs posted every week from all around the country, you’re sure to find a position that fits what you’re looking for in terms of a next career move.

  1. HireOhio Virtual Alumni Career Fair

Ohio State’s biggest alumni career fair will be going virtual once again this year! Join us in June and November as we provide opportunities to get in front of employers looking to hire someone like you.  Upcoming career fairs are posted regularly on our departmental webpage in the “Upcoming Events” section.

  1. Goin’ Global

COVID got you thinking of taking a wander year somewhere outside of the United States?  As an alumnus of the university, you have free access to Goin’ Global, a database that contains country-specific career and employment resources for more than 90 locations worldwide.  Create a free account to access this resource and find your next great adventure abroad.

Pandemic-Proofing Your LinkedIn Profile

 

More and more over the last several months, we are learning the continuing value of developing and maintaining a strong digital presence.  As our world becomes increasingly reliant on virtual connection in the age of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to adapt and hone our networking and communication skills to meet these needs.

Whether you are currently in the job search, or simply want to keep your marketing materials sharp and relevant in the event of an opportunity presenting itself, one of the most important things that you can do in this time is refresh your LinkedIn profile.

This article from Business Insider demonstrates exactly why LinkedIn is such a great opportunity for jobseekers at the moment, and does an excellent job of showcasing how you can go about updating your LinkedIn profile to meet the needs of the “next normal’s” job market.

A few key takeaways:

1. – Shift your thinking of the LinkedIn profile to that of a resource, not just a resume.

Too many times job seekers are guilty of treating their LinkedIn profile like a static online resume instead of like a resource that can be used to demonstrate your areas of expertise and allow you the ability to communicate with your audience.

Instead of creating a standing resume, experts suggest that you work to communicate how you contribute to your teams/industry and share your expertise.  You can do this in a number of ways, including sharing articles, references, media, and more.

2. – Refocus your “About” section

Historically on LinkedIn, people have had a tendency to craft an “About” section that is nearly identical to the professional summary on their resumes.  Instead, think about the About section as a more organic way to tell your story – what is it that you want readers to know about you as a professional – what is your “remarkable difference”?

3. – Connect with others genuinely

This one kind of seems like a no-brainer, but in the age of COVID-19, where so many of us are adjusting to the idea that we are #AloneTogether – genuine human connection can be hard to come by.  Making an effort to use LinkedIn to create genuine connections and network with people on a deeper scale will help you really gain traction in building your network and opening yourself up to new opportunities.

If you’re interested in reading the entire article from Business Insider, you can do so by clicking here.  We hope that this has been informative in helping you think about redesigning your LinkedIn profile a bit, and also in helping you think about redefining the way you think  about LinkedIn as part of your networking and job search strategy.

Have a great day and Go Bucks!

 

Networking Tips for Introverts

 

We’ve all been there – the dreaded “networking” meet and greet situation.  Some of us – the extroverts – often find these situations easy (or even exciting) to delve into.  Others of us (the not-so-extroverts) can find these situations challenging, however.  If you fall into the latter category, this post is for you.  The following tips, originally published on GetFive, are an excellent starting point for someone finding themselves (possibly uncomfortably) in a networking situation.

*****

The annual Chamber of Commerce dinner is being held after work tonight. Does the idea of attending fill you with anticipation or dread?

Extroverts love the opportunity to meet and greet, make connections, and chat with new people. It energizes them and revs them up. Introverts, not so much. Even the idea of a room full of people at a chamber dinner can cause the energy to drain out of them. Schmoozing and small talk — the lifeblood of networking — is painful and awkward.

But, like it or not, when it comes to business and career advancement, networking is a vital tool. It comes naturally to extroverts, but with a little planning, introverts can navigate those events like a pro, too.

Here are a few tips:

Do some research beforehand

If you know who might be there — other members of the chamber, say — jump on LinkedIn and look them up. See if you have any shared connections and look for other commonalities in their profiles. That way, they won’t feel like complete strangers.

Come armed with questions (and follow-ups)

One stifling problem introverts have with networking is the dreaded conversation starter. You’re waiting for a drink at the bar, standing next to someone. What do you say?

Offering a handshake and introducing yourself is a great go-to icebreaker. The other person will respond in kind. Now what? That’s when it’s useful to have a follow-up question ready. A safe bet is to say something about the event. “Have you been a chamber member long?” “Have you tried the hors d’oeuvres?” “What did you think of the speaker?”

Another way to go is to look at the name tag and ask about his or her profession. “Oh! I see you’re in HR. How did you get into that?”

Plant “hooks” in your responses

To keep the conversation going, don’t give one-word answers to questions. Instead, say something that will hook the other person.

“Where are you from?”

“Minneapolis. Yep, it’s as cold and snowy as people say it is. We don’t mess around with winter.”

Give yourself a time limit …

Don’t go into the event thinking you have to stay for the entire time. Give yourself 30 minutes or an hour. That way, it won’t seem so overwhelming when you walk in.

… and a goal

You don’t need to come away from the event with a stack of business cards and email addresses after having worked the room like a seasoned politician. Give yourself the goal of talking to three new people, and once that’s accomplished, call it a success.

Using these tips, networking will be easier. We’re not going to say you’ll learn to love it, but you can make it work for you. And that’s the whole point.

Three Tips for Rocking an Out of State Job Search

So, you’ve decided that you’re ready to spread your wings and relocate to another state for your next career move.  If so, you’re not alone.  A recent survey from MSN shows that 1 in 4 jobseekers are willing and ready to relocate in order to facilitate a career change.  With those statistics, you might think that employers are open to candidates from varying locales, but ask any number of job seekers who have been in the hunt for a job outside of their current area, and you will likely find that securing a position in another state is a bit more challenging than you’d expect.  Oftentimes employers do not offer relocation packages, and they may look poorly on candidates from different areas because of the time and effort that it would take to have them move to the job location.  Sometimes employers just don’t want the bother.

So, what can you do about it?  Below are three tips to help you move your interstate job search forward.

  1. – Remove location markers from your resume

Most recruiters agree that when they see a resume with an out of state address, it comes off as something of a red flag.  They anticipate that employers will give pushback on those candidates, and therefore they are moved to the bottom of the “priority list”.  One of the easiest things that you can do to make yourself more competitive in the out-of-state job market is to remove your address from the document altogether.

Also, keep in mind that an address is no longer an important element of the resume – in fact, it is pretty erroneous information at this point.  You would be better served to use the area traditionally reserved for your address to instead showcase a link to your Linkedin profile or a headline introducing yourself to the employer.

You can also take it a bit farther and remove the locations of previous jobs that you have held as well (since this is also not pertinent information) and use the Google voice app to create a local phone number.  These two strategies are less common, but still considered acceptable according to most recruiters.

  1. – Talk about it and BE HONEST

Once you’ve been called for an interview, it is best to address the topic upfront.  When talking with a potential employer, you should use affirmative language and reference a time-frame for your move.  For example, you might ask for a Skype or phone interview for the first round.  At that point, you would let the company know that you are planning to relocate by saying something along the lines of, “Yes, I currently live in Ohio – however, I anticipate moving to Boston within the next 8 weeks.”  You should also include that you are prepared to move at your own cost, as many companies rule out candidates for whom they feel they will have to make a substantial investment in up front (such as a relocation package).

Also take care not to lie or lead an employer on.  I’ve often seen candidates use a local address on an application in order to avoid getting red flagged for being a non-local applicant.  This is fine – however, be sure that you explain clearly to an employer that this is the address you anticipate staying at once you arrive in the area, and not your current address.  Telling an employer you currently reside in LA with a current employer in Colorado is a sure fire way to get those red flags raised again, and, what’s worse, now you look like a liar to the hiring manager.  Don’t do it – this is never a good idea.

  1. – NETWORK!

Aside from the above two tips, you should treat your out of state job search largely the way that you would a local search – with the exception of needing to cast a much wider net.  Network with as many people as you can from your target area – Linkedin is a great tool for this.  You should be making connections with people in your industry and preferred area – be diligent about this, and make sure any meetings/informational interviews/etc. are as fruitful and meaningful as possible.

You should also be prepared to make a few trips to your target area as well.  Doing this will allow you to meet with your connections in real time, as well as become familiar with the area itself.  Depending on your familial situation, you may also need to research housing, schools, etc.  All of this will be much easier to do in person.

8 Easy Ways to Add Impact to Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is the number one professional networking site in the world, with more than 467 million users and 3 million current active job listings.  Every company on the Fortune 500 list is represented on the platform, as well as a plethora of others.  The site offers opportunities for networking, connection with recruiters, job listings, and more.  From a job seeker’s perspective, being an active, engaged member of LinkedIn is not only a good option, it is a necessity!  Here are 8 ways you can improve your profile for career management and job search success:

  1. Update Your Profile Photo

Make sure you have a professional headshot photo that lets your personality shine through.  It should be fresh-looking and welcoming, and should allow any user who meets you in person to immediately be able to recognize you from this photo.  A good rule of thumb is to use a picture that is no more than five years old, the clearly shows your face, and that encompasses just a few hints of your personality.

  1. Communicate Your Unique Value Proposition in Your Headline

Write a headline that grabs the attention of your audience, and makes them want to read more about you.  Don’t be afraid to stray from the default headline of your current or most recent position – make it about where you want to be, and what you want others to know about you when connecting with you.

  1. Use the Summary Section to Tell Your Story – Concisely.

Think of the summary section as the executive summary of your resume – it should be personal and written in first person, and should communicate within the first two lines the things that you feel are most important for others to know.  Remember that the first two lines are all that your audience will initially see – grab their attention and make them want to click “read more” so that they can learn more about you!

  1. Customize Your Public Profile URL

Make your LinkedIn URL easier to share by making it shorter.

  1. Click on Profile.
  2. Click Edit Profile.
  3. Click on the “settings” icon to the right of your URL.
  4. Under Your public profile URLsection on the right of the page, click the “edit” icon.
  5. Type the last part of your new custom URL in the text box.
  6. Click Save.

 

BONUS! Once you do this, be sure to share it on your resume (in the place where your address used to be)!

 

  1. Ask for Recommendations

Recommendations are essential to a solid profile.  Reach out to former colleagues or supervisors, clients, professors, or vendors and ask them to write a short note on your behalf.  Make sure that you ask someone who knows you well and with whom you have a good relationship to write a solid recommendation.  Also remember that you have control over any recommendations that appear on your page – you have the final say in whether or not to include them.  Don’t feel bad about skipping lackluster endorsements or those that contain spelling/grammar errors.

  1. Connect with Coworkers and Classmates

LinkedIn is all about building and cultivating your professional network, so reach out to those around you and invite them to connect.  This is an easy way to build your network.  One easy way to do this is to join The Ohio State University Buckeye Network group – where you can connect with nearly 10,000 Buckeye alumni and staff members, as well as receive ongoing advice and discussions from ACM.

  1. Share Your Professional and Academic Accomplishments

Attract attention by adding visual representations of your work to your profile.  Upload videos, images, documents and presentations.  You’ve had some excellent achievements that set you apart from the rest, but those aren’t always easy to work into a resume – use LinkedIn to showcase your best work!

  1. Showcase Professional Expertise and Writing Skills through the Self-Publishing Feature

LinkedIn makes it easy to share your knowledge through its self-publishing feature.  You can write a book review, share how you have applied your learning to the workplace, or write about your subject matter expertise.

Updating your profile using these 8 improvements could make the difference between being overlooked for a position or called for an interview.  Feel free to reach out to Alumni Career Management for more strategies and one on one coaching for LinkedIn success!

Meeting New People

One of the most common asks by clients in our office is what are the best strategies for networking.  While there are a litany of tips that abound on the internet and in other career building resources, however, often you’ll find that those strategies don’t really work.  There are a few tried a true bits of advice that do work, however, whether you’re specifically in a networking situation, or just looking to meet new people in general.  This advice is as follows:

1.      – SMILE!

 Your smile is the first thing that people see when they look at you, and it should make a definite impression.  Think of your smile as your best accessory – it is the first thing that you put on and the way in which you present it says so much about you as a person.

 Smiling warmly allows you to give off good vibes and positive energy, and makes you more approachable to strangers.  The best thing about smiling is that it is free, easy, and requires no effort on your part!  Whether you have just started a new job, moved into a new neighborhood, or are just looking to meet new people, a smile and good attitude are the keys to making friends and getting to know people.

 2.      – Remember, people aren’t interested in you, they’re interested in themselves

 Now, that may sound harsh, but let’s be honest, it’s human nature.   Dale Carnegie said it best:

 “You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people thank you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”

 This actually makes meeting people easier because it alleviates the pressure of starting a conversation with your own interesting personal information.  All you really have to do is ask the people about themselves.  The more you can get others to open up to you about who they are, the better connection you will be able to make with them.  Try asking questions like:

 ·         What do you do for fun around here?

·         What was the best thing you did this weekend?

·         Why did you decide to live in this area/work for this company/join this group?

Of course, there are many different options for this – the most important thing is that you are able to strike up a conversation.  Listen well, and add input where needed.  This allows you to not only get to know the person, but also to become a better conversationalist.

3.      – Remember names

 This kind of sounds like one of those “duh” things, but it cannot be stressed enough how important this is.  How many times have you gone through an entire conversation and at the end realized that you had no idea what the person’s name was?  Or worse, how many times have you gone to speak to someone and realized that they had no idea what your name was?  This is the ultimate networking faux pas.  In order to avoid this situation, use the following tips:

 ·         Listen!

·         Repeat the person’s name back to them

·         Commit it to memory using a cue (“Shana has pretty eyes” or “Whitney had on killer shoes!”)

·         Write it down (back of their business card is best UNLESS you are dealing with someone of a different culture – then err on the side of sensitivity)

 4.      – Finally, know where to go

 How can you meet successfully meet new people if you don’t know where to go?  Maybe you aren’t beginning a new job, or you haven’t moved – you can still find new and interesting people if you know where to look.   Why not try joining a new club, group or class?  Some options could be:  your local YP organization, a book club or other interest group, Toastmasters, a volunteer agency, or a continuing education class (cooking, photography, pottery, etc.).  Any of these options will give you ample opportunity in a relaxed setting to meet and interact with others.

All of these are tips to help you find success in your networking on a personal and professional level.  Of course, through all of these, don’t forget to let everyone get to know you too!  You are a great person with plenty to offer – so get out there and show ‘em what you’ve got!

Monster Releases Top 10 Best Companies for Veterans List

November is the month for veterans.  Veterans’ Day is this month, and in recognition of that, and of the wonderful people who have chosen to serve our country, we choose to focus on some of the specific needs and interests of those who are currently or formerly serving in the armed forces.

For those who have left the service and are looking to begin a career in the civilian world, there’s a new article on Monster.com that may be of interest to you.  Monster has released its list of the “Top 10 Best Companies for Veterans” for 2017. Take a sneak peek at which companies made the list below, or get the scoop on why each company was chosen by visiting the full article here.

Mantech International – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  46%

Intelligent Waves – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  47%

US Customs and Border Protection – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  29%

Lockheed Martin – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  23%

Booz Allen Hamilton – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  30%

Schneider International – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  28%

USAA – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  15%

BAE Systems – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  16.5%

Union Pacific Railroad – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  17.5%

Boeing – Percentage of workforce who are vets:  15%

What is perhaps most interesting about this list is that it is comprised by a high number of federal contractors, as well as many transportation and logistics companies.  This means that there is a high chance of being able to easily convert many of the skills veterans were trained on in their time in the service to practical application in the civilian workplace.

Remember that Alumni Career Management offers one on one support for all alumni of Ohio State, and welcomes veterans who are in search of advice while planning a career transition.  Additional resources can be found on our veterans’ resource page located here.

 

Communication 101 – Speaking Mistakes You Should No Longer Be Making

Have you ever been in the midst of a conversation with someone, and been so completely distracted by the way that they speak that you completely missed what they were trying to say?  Their delivery somehow muddled their message for you, and the effectiveness of their words was cut short by the way they were communicated to you.

Differences in communication styles have a significant impact on how well we are able to understand and work with one another.  People often make judgements and assumptions about others based on the way that they speak, and many times we draw on diction and inflection as ways to infer and build connections with others.

While we can’t always help certain things about the way we speak – like our accent, innate vocabulary, etc. – we can avoid a few of the most common communication pitfalls that affect people in the workplace.  So, whether you’re preparing to give a presentation, gearing up for a networking event, or simply looking to speak to a colleague or superior, being cognizant of eliminating these from your everyday speech will help ensure that your message is being conveyed clearly, and that the person to whom you’re speaking takes you seriously.

  1. – Vocal Fry

You know that thing that people sometimes do where they make their voice sound like a deflating balloon?  That’s vocal fry.  It can best be observed among people who bring their voice to a lower register as they complete a sentence – examples of famous people who use this communication style often are Britney Spears and any of the Kardashian clan (see below).

Unfortunately, people (particularly women) who use this speaking technique are often perceived as less competent, less educated, and less hireable in the workplace.

  1. – Upspeak /Uptalk

Upspeak (or Uptalk) is one of the most contentious trends in communication over the last 20-30 years.  A quick search of YouTube will foster results from as early as 1994, where people were lamenting the use of the technique even back then.  While there is little agreement to be found on where upspeak itself originates, what is clear is that it is a vocal trend that is almost universally considered annoying and unprofessional.  It can be most easily characterized as ending declarative statements with an “up” sound, giving the indication that you are asking a questions instead of stating something outright.

Upspeak is often considered to be unprofessional because it undermines the speaker’s level of competence in the eyes of the listener.  Ending each statement by appearing to ask a question gives the impression that the speaker is not confident in what he or she is saying, and that impression of lost confidence (whether accurate or not) often causes the listener to lost confidence in them as well.

  1. – Crutches

“Ah” – “Umm” – “Like” – “You know…” – How often do you use one or more of these words when speaking to others?  Words like those above are considered to be “fillers”, and are typically seen as crutches that help a person when he or she is at a momentary loss for words, or is not entirely sure of what he or she is speaking about.  Often we use them without thinking, and don’t even notice when they escape from our lips.

But other people notice them.

As with the other two speech patterns discussed here, crutches can have a negative impact on your ability to communicate well with others because their use conveys a lack of confidence and/or competence.  Often people who overuse crutches give the impression that they are either lying outright or that they don’t have a clear grasp on what they are talking about.

The key takeaway from each of these communication killers is that it is crucial to display confidence and competence when speaking with others, particularly in the workplace.  If you give the impression that you are unsure of yourself and what you are saying, you run the risk of being passed over and not being taken seriously.  Be cognizant not only of what you are saying, but also of how you are saying when speaking with others.

Making the Most of Career Fairs

If you’re in the midst of a career transition, or happen to be in the market seeking a new job, career fairs can be a great way to connect with potential employers.  When done well, career fairs are a very effective way of seeking employment opportunities, because they allow you to access a large group of companies and organizations who are looking to hire immediately (or at least in the very near future).  They are a low-pressure way for you to get in front of the people who are either making hiring decisions, or who can ensure that your resume gets to the appropriate decision-making individual.  Overall, career fairs can be an excellent investment of your time – but it is important that you approach them with care in order to avoid mistakes that could hurt your chances of success.  Here are five tips for making the most of your next career fair: 

  1. – Prioritize employers you would most like to visit

Career fairs – particularly large events – can be overwhelming.  You want to be as engaging as possible, and to give a great first impression to each person with whom you interact.  However, there may not be time to engage meaningfully with every employer there, and you don’t want to miss out on a company that you have a specific interest in working for because you “didn’t have time” to get around to their table and representative.  Even worse, you don’t want to find out after the fact that your dream company was there all along and you never even knew they were in the room.

Do some research ahead of time and create a priority list of “must visit” employers.  Most career fair sites will list the registered employers on their site for you to review, and will have maps available the day of the event.  Take a few moments to highlight for yourself where those VIP employers are located within the venue and ensure that you have enough time allotted to get to them before they become the “one that got away”.

  1. – Dress to impress

One of my favorite professors from undergrad had a signature saying that has stuck with me far better than anything that I learned from his textbook:  “Presentation is everything, and everything is presentation.”  This career fair will be your first and best opportunity to get to know a potential employer.  You want to stand out – but not because you chose to dress in casual jeans and flip-flops.

Dress professionally and neatly – act as though each interaction at this event is a mini-interview, and understand that you are being vetted for your fitness with these organizations even at this early stage.  Your hair should be neat and well-groomed, your nails should be clean and trimmed, and your dress should exude an overall impression of confidence and put-togetherness.

  1. – Make a plan (and execute it!)

As we’ve already established, career fairs are often large events with a myriad of different employers available for you to interact with.  In order to make the best of this opportunity, you should make a plan ahead of schedule and then give yourself plenty of time to execute it.  Do your research and know which employers are planning to attend.  Prepare your elevator speech and how you will approach them.  Budget a set amount of time for each interaction, giving yourself a cushion in the event that a meeting turns into a great conversation or something more. Be Prepared!

  1. – Prepare your pitch – and make it good!

The elevator pitch is one of the most important networking tools to have in your arsenal.  This is a simple, effective way to communicate to any potential employer or connection who you are and what you are about.  It should be no longer than about 30 seconds, and should let them know a little bit about who you are and why you might be a good fit for their company, organization, or project.  Don’t worry – the purpose of an elevator pitch isn’t to “close the deal” – meaning you shouldn’t worry that you’ve failed if you don’t walk away with a job offer in hand.  Rather, the purpose of the pitch is to simply spark an interest in you and your work from whomever you’re delivering it to.  Be gracious, be friendly, and be yourself.

  1. – Take notes and follow up

Here’s where you have a serious opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd – take notes and follow up.  One of the primary reasons people who don’t find job fairs to be an effective place to seek employment feel that way is because they often fail to follow up properly once the event is over.  When someone hands you their business card or company information, jot a quick note or two on the back about your conversation with the person that will help you remember them in your follow up later (unless you’re in an environment where this is considered culturally insensitive – then you may make notes in your phone or on a separate note pad instead).  After you’ve done that, do the actual follow up.  Reach out to this contact via email of LinkedIn and thank them for the opportunity to talk.  Remind them about your conversation, noting anything that was memorable for you, and then ask for another opportunity to talk more one on one when they’re free.  It will make a difference that you took the time to reach out in a personal way, and also help them stay connected with who you are and what they can look for in you to help fulfill their current needs.

The big takeaway here is this:  If you plan well, utilize your time in the most efficient ways, and are prepared to follow up with connections that you’ve made after the event is over, you will dramatically increase your chances of finding success with a career fair.  Just a little extra attention spent on preparation may make all the difference for you and your job search!

Feel free to contact the Office of Alumni Career Management if you would like to talk to a career consultant in greater detail about how you can maximize the benefits of career fairs.