This blog is a space for discussions about topics relevant to starting your career. Over time, I will provide information that supplements the material found in the book, but I will also occasionally remind you which Steps and Tips in my book discuss the topic. The posts on the blog will include additional suggestions about how to search for a job, develop interview skills, become more professional, make the most of your college years, take advantage of internships, and think about what’s important for success and happiness. If there are topics you would like to see covered in the blog, please use the Contact Me page to send me your ideas.

Free online aptitude tests

Posted by on 12:56 pm in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Free online aptitude tests

I just realized that not all of the information in the first Tip in my book is still accurate. In that Tip, I suggest three free online assessment tests to help you identify your skills and strengths. The first test, previously offered by, is no longer available. The second test, offered by, is still available as listed in the book. The third test, offered by the Dewey Color System, is still available, but at a different URL than the one listed in the book. The new URL is

Taking a break!

Posted by on 11:55 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Taking a break!

I’m taking a bit of a break from blogging, but I promise to return to blogging soon!

What NOT to share when networking

Posted by on 6:00 am in Networking, Uncategorized | Comments Off on What NOT to share when networking

This past Saturday I led a session on networking at a Career Day event hosted by the Carolina Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. One of the topics I covered in the session was networking phobias—the reasons people give for not networking—and one of those phobias is the idea that you don’t want other people to “know your business.” Although not a good reason to avoid networking, it is a good reminder that there are certain things we should keep to ourselves. An article posted recently on provides an excellent overview of “12 Things Successful People Never Reveal about Themselves at Work,” which can also serve as a list of things not to discuss when networking!

Not all 12 items are relevant to job searching, but the items that are fall into several categories:

When talking about work, don’t

  • Say that you hate your job
  • Describe co-workers as incompetent
  • Reveal your salary

When talking about your personal life, don’t

  • Discuss your religious or political views
  • Describe your sex life (or anyone else’s, for that matter!)
  • Talk about your alcohol consumption
  • Tell stories about your misspent youth

One final suggestion that doesn’t fall into either of those categories: Don’t tell offensive jokes. And if you’re not sure if your listeners would find the joke offensive, err on the side of caution and assume that they would!

Social media and you

Posted by on 6:00 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Social media and you

I’ve written other posts for this blog telling you about the importance of having an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn, using all the tools that LinkedIn has to offer, and making sure that your other social media sites present you in a way that is professionally acceptable. However, last week I read an article on that took a different approach—it talks to those who may have thought they could succeed at finding a job without having any social media presence at all (or by having their profiles set to “private”).

According to research from CareerBuilder, many employers won’t even consider an applicant if they can’t find information about them online. For some people, that’s a frightening thought. I have friends who take a great deal of pride in the fact that searching for their name online doesn’t lead to anything relevant about them. But most of those folks aren’t interested in looking for a job! If you’re actively searching, or even if you’re in a position where you have a job but would be willing to consider something different, you need to make sure that your information is available.

In addition to LinkedIn, Twitter has become an important resource for recruiters. A related article (found on gives detailed results of research on how Fortune 500 companies are using Twitter as a recruiting tool. If you’re not active on Twitter—or if you manage your Twitter feed poorly/unprofessionally—it may have a profound effect on your career. According to the article, Twitter is growing faster than LinkedIn (and according to that source, Facebook isn’t growing at all among adults), so I think you can expect to see more companies using Twitter as a resource. And it’s not a one-way street—job seekers can use Twitter to check out company profiles, search for job-specific hashtags, or even apply for tweeted jobs.

The bottom line is that social media is here to stay, and an important part of any job search is using it to maintain an active, professional presence online.

Where to look for work

Posted by on 6:00 am in Featured, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Where to look for work

As a follow up to Tuesday’s post about the success my NC State students had in finding work after graduation, it seems only fair to tell you that Raleigh, NC, is the number one city in the U.S. “for Jobs Right Now” according to research conducted by Glassdoor and published by Forbes a couple of weeks ago. The criteria for the rankings included the “ratio of available jobs to population, cost of living, and job satisfaction among residents.”

Raleigh’s population is listed as 1.3 million, but that’s really the total metropolitan area, which includes Durham and Chapel Hill and the surrounding towns. The number of available jobs was shown to be more than 24,000, the median base salary came in at just over $50,000, and the median home value was just under $200,000. All of those factors make it a highly desirable area and explain why the population has grown dramatically in the past two decades.

Other cities making it to the top ten were (in order)

Kansas City, Missouri

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Austin, Texas

Seattle, Washington

Salt Lake City, Utah

San Jose, California

Louisville, Kentucky

San Antonio, Texas

Washington, D.C.

The northeastern part of the U.S. is noticeably missing from the list (although, in fairness, Boston did come in at #15), and that reminds me that there’s more to choosing a place to live than the number of job openings and/or the cost of living. While those are certainly important factors, if you’re thinking of making a big move, you will also want to consider things such as

  • Weather—I can’t imagine any scenario where I would live in a part of the country where it snows more than it does in Raleigh, but I have family members who have always lived in western New York (and friends who live in Minnesota) who wouldn’t trade it for anything because they love snow and winter sports
  • Political climate—I’m pretty good at adapting to the fluctuations that have surrounded me since moving to Raleigh, but there are parts of the country where my beliefs would not fit in as well as they do here. Or where I wouldn’t want to have to try to adapt to the local politics.
  • Cultural opportunities—Easy access to museums, theater, live music, sporting events, art galleries, dance and other forms of artistic performance could be a determining factor for many people.
  • Availability of work for a partner or spouse.
  • Quality of the public school system (or availability of affordable private schools) for children.
  • Location vis-à-vis other family members.
  • Population density/traffic/availability of public transportation.

I think you’re starting to get the idea that there are a lot of factors that you need to consider when planning your job search. My book’s Step 2. Envision a satisfying worklife provides some tools for helping you sort through what’s important and gather data to help you make a decision.

More success stories

Posted by on 6:00 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on More success stories

Each fall and spring since 2005, I have taught an undergraduate internship course for student majoring in any program within the NC State College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Students in the course are required to spend 120 hours at an internship relevant to their career interests, attend the class that I teach, and complete assignments pertaining to job search and application processes and strategies. The students must be either juniors or seniors when they take the class, and this past spring most of the students were seniors.

After the semester ended, I asked them to write and tell me what they’re doing next—either for the summer or after graduation. I only heard from 10 of the 23 students—but they’re responses were pretty impressive, and they emphasized the value of internships.

  • Six graduating seniors had secured full-time jobs, two of which were with the organization where they interned this spring, and three of which were directly related to the internship.
  • One graduating senior will be working free-lance for the newspaper where she interned (and also waitressing to pay off some debt) and is planning on applying to graduate school for fall 2016.
  • One graduating senior had been hired full time for the summer at the law firm where he interned, and in the fall he’ll be going to law school.
  • Two juniors were also hired for the summer at the organizations where they interned.

In the past, I’ve been thrilled when even one or two students were taken on, part time  or full time, by their internship hosts, so this past semester was a real success! I subsequently learned that two other students who graduated in May, and who did internships last fall, have found full-time employment, either with their internship host or because of their internship experience.

In addition to reinforcing the fact that internships can provide valuable experience as well as entry into established workplaces, this information gives me hope that the economy is improving and that students in all majors will be finding jobs more easily. Another confirming piece of data: We had 100% placement for the students who completed the MS in Technical Communication at NC State this spring!

Now that you’re earning, spend wisely

Posted by on 6:00 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Now that you’re earning, spend wisely

When you’ve been living on limited funds—whether an allowance from your parents, earnings from a part-time job, or some type of scholarship/stipend—it’s easy to go a little crazy when you start earning a decent salary in your first full-time job. However, a recent article from Yahoo Finance titled “10 ways recent grads waste money” provides a good reminder that financial security beings early! In today’s post I’m going to share some of the highlights with you, but I encourage you to take a long, hard look at the article to make sure that you’re not making mistakes you’ll regret down the road.,/p>

One of the most important lessons from the article is that if someone else has been paying the bills all your life, you may not even know what reasonable expenses are. You may have shopped for clothing, but do you know what rents cost in the city where you live (or plan to live)? Do you know how much to budget for utilities? (Do you even know what utilities you will need? And if any of them will be included in your rent?) Do you know how to shop for groceries: how to choose a supermarket, how to choose healthy but reasonably priced food, how to choose among different brands? You need to make sure you know how to cover the basic necessities before you start to splurge on things you want.

Another important point is that you need to save some of your money. Americans are notorious for not planning for the future. A huge percentage of Americans over the age of 60 do not have adequate savings for retirement, and it’s very easy for people in their 20s to think that they have plenty of time to worry about that later in life. But you don’t. Later in life you’re likely to get married, have children, buy a house, move multiple times, put kids through college, and/or need more medical care, so it’s actually true that when you’re just starting out, you may be in a better position to save then you will be later. Sure, you have lots of “start up” expenses—furniture, a car, perhaps even a new wardrobe appropriate to your job, as well as paying off college loans—but it’s also true that you may have more control over your spending now than you will later. So if you start the habit of saving (financial planners recommend saving 20% of your net salary), it will be easier to continue saving so that when those big expenses do come along, you won’t have to take out as many loans.

Keep in mind that small things add up. If you go out to lunch every day, you could drop anywhere from $10 to $20 (or even more, but probably not less) each day, which adds up to $2500 to $5000! Spending a few minutes packing a sandwich and piece of fruit would cost considerably less and allow you to enjoy the occasional lunch out even more.

The bottom line of this article is that you need to think about how you’re spending your money: don’t spend it on things you won’t really use, don’t spend it on things you don’t need, don’t spend it without really thinking about what you’re doing! If you can create a budget and live by it, that’s great. Not everyone is that disciplined, but at least try to spend mindfully.

One system that works for many people is to calculate how much you take home per hour of work, and then think of anything you want to buy in terms of how many hours you would need to work to pay for it. So is that new shirt really worth five hours of your time? Or can you find something that will only cost the equivalent of one hour of work?

Let’s talk about negotiation

Posted by on 6:00 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Let’s talk about negotiation

If you’re like me, negotiating for a salary is not a task to relish. However, it’s important to recognize that when you’re looking for a job, your ability to negotiate can be very useful and have long-term repercussions.

When you’re offered a job, most employers are going to expect you to negotiate for salary. Even if it’s your first full-time job, it pays to ask for a higher salary than what you’re initially offered. Keep in mind these key points when preparing to negotiate.

  • You should begin your job search only after gaining a good idea of the typical salary range for that job in that geographic area. There are resources that can help you do your research ahead of time (including professional associations and websites such as, so that when you do get an offer, you’ll know if it’s reasonable.
  • Make your request for a higher salary politely. You will want to first say that you’re excited about the offer and the opportunity to work with the organization (assuming that those are true statements) and provide evidence to support your request for more money. Your evidence should come from reliable sources, but it can also be based on your experience in the field. If it’s your first full-time job, that experience would need to include relevant internships, co-op positions, and/or part-time/summer jobs.
  • If the employer says that the salary they have offered you is as high as they can go at this time, ask for a couple of days to think about it. Most employers are going to realize that you will want to think about the offer, and asking for up to a week to make your decision is reasonable.
  • If you have more than one offer, you can use them as an opportunity to demonstrate your value to the organization. You can say something such as, “I’d really like to work for your organization, but I have an offer from another company in town that is somewhat higher. Can you match that offer?” Only use this line if it’s true. . .if the other offer is not higher, that’s not going to work; but you may be able to think of another aspect of that offer—another benefit they offer—that can help you negotiate.
  • In thinking about what competing jobs will let you earn, make sure your comparison includes steps to monetize circumstances and benefits, especially when they are not directly comparable. For example, a job that pays 10% more but requires a two-hour commute may not be worth it once you look at the cost of commuting (and the loss of all that personal time!). A job that pays $1,000 less but includes free parking may beat a job that pays more but makes you pay to park. There are lots of similar factors you may need to consider.
  • If the employer says that salary is non-negotiable, consider asking about the possibility of other benefits, such as education reimbursement, additional vacation time, or a flexible schedule (if you have a legitimate reason to need one).
  • Finally, always treat the employer with respect. If you do get the job, you’re going to be working with this person and you’ll want to have a foundation for a good relationship. Even if you end up taking a different job, you never know what direction your career may take—so somewhere down the road, it may be helpful to have that employer as a contact.

More suggestions for networking

Posted by on 6:00 am in Networking | Comments Off on More suggestions for networking

As I continue examining recent articles on networking to share with you, I’ve been finding really interesting advice that comes at the topic from a variety of angles. Today I’m going to briefly review and comment on three more articles.

We’ll start with one that is applicable to everyone, a Forbes article titled “The Only Three Networking Rules You Really Need to Know.” You can read the article yourself to get all the details, but the basic “rules” are:

  1. Network “clean,” which is a very strange way of saying that you should think of networking as a way to make industry “friends,” not professional contacts. There’s a logic to what they’re saying, but I wish the advice had been explained more clearly.
  2. Own your value, which means don’t forget that networking is a two-way street. You’re not just looking for something from others, you have something to offer—so remember to put it out there!
  3. Farm strategically, which is a strange metaphor that they use to talk about networking in such a way that you will produce the result (harvest the crop?) that you seek.

Despite any quibbles about how the article presents the information, it does contain some good ideas about networking effectively.

The second article, “Networking When You Hate Talking to Strangers,” comes from the Harvard Business Review and is intended for those of you who are introverts. The tips are all logical, but not terribly innovative: Take a friend with you, prepare some opening lines, do research about the people you want to meet. The best part of this article is a set of suggestions about some opening lines that just might work! If you’re less than supremely comfortable with public speaking, it would probably be worth your time to take a look.

The title of the third article, Huffington Post’s “Shy Girl’s Guide to Networking,” suggests that the advice will be specific to women, but I don’t see anything in it that wouldn’t work for either sex. The suggestions include get a drink (and talk to the other people in line at the bar), don’t be afraid to stand by yourself for a while and observe the crowd (although I would take this suggestion one step further and propose that you use the time to identify someone else who looks awkward and go introduce yourself to that person, who will probably thank you for easing their discomfort), focus on meeting just two or three people instead of feeling that you have to talk with everyone in the room, and be yourself.

The real lesson from all these articles is that if you need help with networking, there’s plenty of help available! And as I find additional worthy articles, I’ll share them with you here.

Networking on LinkedIn

Posted by on 6:00 am in Networking, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Networking on LinkedIn

According to various sources, something like 90% of all recruiters are now using LinkedIn as a key mechanism for finding prospective hires. LinkedIn itself report that more than 30,000 companies use LinkedIn to recruit new employees. What that means for you (if you’re looking for a job) is that you really need to develop a lot of LinkedIn savvy.

I am far from expert at using LinkedIn, although I have had a profile for many years and I do have about 750 connections. If I were a intending to look for a job, I would learn more about the subtleties of using LinkedIn to best advantage. But instead, I’m going to identify some resources that can help you use LinkedIn more effectively.

Neil Fogarty, writing for Virgin Entrepreneur, provides “15 tips: How to get the most out of LinkedIn.” This is a great place to start because it gives you some very basic advice about how to set up your profile. The suggestions are concise and clear, and should help you get off the ground if you haven’t used LinkedIn before.

HubSpot’s blog writer, Pamela Vaughan, wrote “How to Use LinkedIn: The Ultimate List of LinkedIn Tips,” and I found it to be a very detailed and thorough overview of basic (and some not-so-basic) information about making the most of LinkedIn.

A recent article from Forbes lists “24 LinkedIn Rules that you might be breaking.” This is a great article that can help you add to your network and connect with people who are going to be able to help you the most. It assumes you already have a profile and know the basics, but it provides suggestions that make that profile work for you.

A somewhat older article, by Libby Kane writing for Forbes, tells you about “8 mistakes you should never make on LinkedIn.” I’m including this one because, even though the suggestions might seem pretty obvious, it describes “mistakes” that I see people making all the time.

So do yourself a favor and spend some time learning how to use LinkedIn. Your career will thank you for it.