5 Tips for New College Grads

Congratulations, recent college grads!  You've worked hard for 4 years and now you're ready to enter the professional workforce.  While that idea may seem overwhelming, relax.  We have some tips to prepare you for what's ahead:

1. Clean Up Your Social Media Profiles.  With the Internet, people no longer just need to represent themselves professionally from 9-5.  Now, it's a full-time job.  Check that your social media profiles are professional and that your settings only allow friends to view personal content.

2. Remain Open-Minded About Your Career.  In college, you were highly focused on a very narrow field of interest—your major.  While you may imagine working directly in that field, be willing to explore your options.  According to Salary.com, “Only 54% of Americans work in an industry directly related to their college degree.”

3. Network.  By and large, most people don't find jobs by sending out hundreds of resumes.  Typically, employment comes down to who you know or a personal reference.  Take advantage of that by attending networking events in your community that give you the opportunity to socialize with other professionals.

4. Put Your 401K to Work.  Once you've gotten your first job, you want to regularly contribute to your 401K—preferably enough to get the maximum employer match.  As Robert Farrington, founder of The College Investor website, explains, “The younger you are when you start [contributing], the more powerful compounding interest works for you.  By starting at 22 vs. 30, you could add hundreds of thousands of dollars more to your retirement account.”

5. Don't Default on Your Student Loan.  When you're faced with paying your rent or making your student loan payment, it can be tempting to ignore those notices from Sallie Mae.  However, there are very unpleasant consequences for defaulting on a student loan including: bad credit, wage garnishment, increased debt due to late fees/court costs, and having the government withhold future state and federal tax refunds.  If you can't make your payment, contact your lender immediately for help.  There are ways to reduce or defer payments until your financial situation improves.

How to Answer 5 of the Most Common Interview Questions

Interviews can be stressful, but they're much less so if you've spent time preparing.  If you want to ace your next interview, read on to learn the 5 most common questions you're likely to hear and how best to answer them:

  1. Tell me about yourself...”  This question is probably the one you'll hear most frequently.  Rather than launching into a monologue about your love of theater, have a 2-minute script prepared that highlights your past experience, professional accomplishments, strengths, and current situation (“I'm seeking a job that will allow me to use my skillset to do X, Y, and Z.”)  Then, practice it until you can deliver it naturally.

  2. What is your greatest weakness?”  In this case, you'll want to name something, but you want to select an issue that's relatively minor.  Now would not be the time to confess that you manage your time poorly and rarely meet deadlines.  Instead, you might focus on something like public speaking or delegation.  Most importantly, after naming your weakness, explain what steps you've taken to overcome it.  You want to end your response on a positive note.

  3. Why are you leaving your current job?”  Avoid badmouthing your current employer.  Instead, say something about how you're seeking to expand your work responsibilities.  You'll want to emphasize what you're looking for in a new job, rather than all of the things that are wrong with your current job.

  4. Why should we hire you?”  As with the 1st question, you're going to want to have a script prepared and practiced so it feels natural.  You should highlight how your past experience makes you a great candidate for the job at hand.

  5. Tell me about a time when...”  This will require a little brainstorming on your part.  Think about the job that you're applying for and the challenges you're most likely to experience.  Then, think back to situations in your professional life where you successfully dealt with similar obstacles and have some examples prepared. In doing so, you'll feel much more confident should you be asked to present real-life examples of past job successes.

Thought For The Day

“Study as if you were going to live forever; live as if you
were going to die tomorrow.”

Maria Mitchell


Thought For The Day

“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they'll take you.”

Beatrix Potter


5 Tips for Dealing with Unhappy Customers

For many people, dealing with angry customers is the worst part of their job.  While unfortunately, we can't promise that you'll enjoy this activity going forward, we can help to minimize your frustration by sharing 5 tips to diffuse the situation:

  1. Listen with Empathy.  If you're accustomed to listening to complaints, you may have grown jaded.  Rather than approaching an unhappy customer with a “What now?” mindset, listen with understanding and empathy.  A customer who feels like he is being heard will calm down much quicker than one who thinks his problem isn't being taken seriously.

  2. Don't Take It Personally.  It's tempting to become angry and defensive when we feel attacked.  However, this response will only make a tense situation worse.  Instead, take a few deep breaths and remember that reconciliation is your goal, not conflict escalation. 

  3. Take Ownership.  If your company has made a mistake in some way, don't try to deny or minimize it.  Oftentimes, the mere act of taking responsibility is enough to appease the unhappy customer.

  4. Provide a Solution.  After listening to the complaint, offer a concrete solution to the problem that doesn't create additional hassles for the customer.  For instance, if the customer received a defective product, you might offer to ship a new product to them free of charge without making them go to the hassle of returning the defective product.  This approach shows that you value the customer by not inconveniencing them over an issue that was your company's fault.

  5. Learn from Your Mistakes.  Customers can be a critical source of information when it comes to identifying ongoing service or manufacturing issues.  Rather than just providing a one-time solution to the customer's problem, use the input to make organizational changes that will prevent reoccurrences.