Career Advice for Every Young Professional

by Tara Torok on October 30, 2014

Career Advice for Every Young ProfessionalYoung professionals often face a paradigm of feeling like they don’t know what they’re doing while also feeling the need to have all the answers. We all start our professional careers with an overwhelming mix of big expectations and uncertainty about what “employed and responsible adults” are supposed to do.

Everyone’s professional journey is a little different, but over the years, we all learn a thing or two that we wish someone had told us when we were starting out. Ragan Communications compiled some great advice that every young professional should follow. Here are a few of my favorites.

Establish Your Personal Brand

Creating a strong personal brand is a great way to your solidify your reputation among peers and colleagues. Decide what you want your reputation in the workplace to be, and let your actions define you.

Avoid things in your personal life that might damage your professional life (a rule that’s even more applicable today with all the risks and exposure of social media). Remember that details count, especially when getting the details right sets you apart from others.

Keep Up with the News Every Day

Know what’s going on in the world and in your industry. Not only will it make you a better member of society, your boss or clients will be impressed when you know news about your organization or industry before they ask. Make reading the paper, checking news websites and blogs, and listening to NPR on the way to work part of your daily routine.

Don’t Pass Up a Chance to Learn

Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you’re finished learning. Find out what your boss or leaders in your profession are reading (books, professional publications, websites, etc.) and add those to your must-read lists.

Take advantage of professional development opportunities, even if that means paying for them yourself. Whether it’s a multiday conference or a lunch and learn session once a month, both offer great opportunities for advancing your career through learning and networking. Professional organizations are also a great way to get involved and stay in the know with things going on in your industry.

Write Thank-You and Follow-Up Notes

This means the old-fashioned way — handwritten, not emailed. Technology is good, but the personal touch still matters. Handwritten notes set you apart and can leave a lasting impression.

Travel Any Chance You Get

If you’re offered a chance to travel, don’t pass it up! Whether it’s a road trip to a small town or big cities across the country or around the world, traveling teaches a lot of life lessons that you can’t get in the office and exposes you to a whole slew of new perspectives. You’ll never tell your grandchildren about that great trip you didn’t take because you were too busy at work, so don’t put it off.

Be Interested and Inquisitive

There’s no such thing as too many questions, so don’t be afraid to ask — and ask often. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to speak up when you have something to offer. Young professionals have a lot to offer a work environment — just remember to balance your enthusiasm with senior-level colleagues’ experience. You don’t want to gain the reputation for being a young, arrogant employee.

Take Risks

This might be the most important advice anyone can give you. It’s OK to mess up occasionally. No one is perfect — and no one expects you to be.

Even if you make a mistake, taking chances shows that you’re willing to take initiative on things. You can often learn more from mistakes than successes. Yes, really, you can; I promise.

If you’re interested in more great pieces of advice, check out Ragan’s full list here. And we’d love to hear from you. What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received? What tips do you have for new employees just starting out in the workforce?

Tara Torok is a college recruiter for Burns & McDonnell. She works with universities across the country to recruit interns and top entry-level talent to join our engineering, architecture, construction and drafting teams. Connect with Tara on LinkedIn to learn more about the many opportunities available at Burns & McDonnell.

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9 Tips for Virtual Career Fair Success

by Lauren Bertram on October 27, 2014

9 Tips for Virtual Career Fair SuccessFrom e-books to university courses taught solely in the cybersphere, the Internet is changing the way we interact, learn and communicate. Now it’s transforming the way people network through the rise of virtual career fairs.

Imagine being able to put your resume in the hands of multiple recruiters in one afternoon without leaving your home. Now imagine securing an interview with one of those recruiters regardless of geographic restrictions.

Sound too good to be true? Not if you’re capitalizing on the unique benefits of a virtual job fair.

Cyber-based fairs and networking events are a great way to meet potential employers and professional connections without the once-necessary inconvenience of traveling to a career expo.

But new technologies do come with a few roadblocks. One of the biggest for these online events is that attendees often don’t know what to expect or how to optimize their experience. To help you find your way, we’ve put together a list of tips for your next virtual career fair. Check it out.

1. Do Your Homework

Just like preparing for a traditional, in-person interview, researching the company and the position is a must. Before the event, review the roster of employers participating and the types of jobs available at that particular job fair.

Once you have a better understanding of which companies will be there, visit those companies’ websites and social media pages to educate yourself on important company news. Simple research like this will set you apart from the crowd and show recruiters that you’re a serious candidate.

2. Choose the Right Fair

Doing your homework is also an important principle for choosing which virtual job fairs to attend. Don’t just participate in an online fair because you can.

Check job board websites, like Monster and Brazen Careerist, for listings of upcoming fairs. LinkedIn, industry groups and college career centers can also point you in the right direction for job fairs featuring companies in your industry and in areas where you’d like to live.

3. Update Your Resume and Social Media Accounts

When you register for the fair, you’ll probably have to fill out a profile and upload a basic resume with photo. Tweak your resume before submitting it — or even better, create several versions of it to match the specific jobs you’re applying for. Save each resume with a detailed description to your desktop so you can quickly and easily refer back to it.

It goes without saying that you should always keep your social media accounts “work appropriate,” but just in case, be sure to scrub your online profiles of any “unprofessional” posts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Don’t lose a potential job because of a careless mistake.

4. Dress for Success

Just because you’re networking from your couch doesn’t mean you should dress like it. Often times, there’s a video component to virtual career fairs, but even when there’s not, be sure to wear the same professional outfit you’d wear for a real face-to-face interview. Virtual job fairs may seem less formal and more relaxed, but when it comes down to the main goal of finding a job, they’re just as professional.

Recruiters take these events seriously and they don’t want to waste their time talking with a candidate who couldn’t even bother changing out of his or her pajamas. Dressing professionally shows them that you also take this seriously.

5. Choose the Right Setting

You may not think that where you access the virtual career matters, but it does. Take note of your surroundings. Are there distractions in the background that will take away from your conversation with recruiters? Do you have a dog at home that may start barking? Is there loud construction going on in your neighborhood? These are all factors to take into consideration when deciding where you’ll participate. If there’s even an ounce of doubt that your home may be distracting, consider booking a private conference room at your local library.

We understand that technical difficulties happen, but do your part to take the necessary precautions beforehand.  Make sure you have a good, reliable Internet connection and double check that your phone or computer battery is fully charged so that you don’t lose power in the middle of a conversation.

6. Plan Your Questions and Talking Points

Come up with several relevant questions you can use to start the conversation. Open-ended questions tend to spark more insightful responses, but if you get stuck, asking “why” is a sure-fire way to elicit a deeper explanation.

You can also post sticky notes on your desk to remind you of three main selling points about yourself. These will help keep you focused and guarantee you present your best self.

7. Be Ready to Dive Right In

There’s no better way to show your assertiveness by diving right in to the conversation. Don’t wait for the other person to begin the chat — introduce yourself right away! But don’t be over-bearing. Chat session can last as few as 10 minutes, so don’t waste precious time waiting for someone else to begin the conversation.

If you’re worried about freezing up, write a brief introduction for yourself before the event begins. You’re guaranteed to make a strong first impression if you keep it brief and highlight the main points in a few sentences that describe you, your experience and your goals.

8. Take Notes

This might be the easiest — and most important — key to a successful virtual career fair. Before logging on, jot down some notes on the companies participating, like their core values, mission statement or company culture. What job openings do they have listed? Why are you a viable choice for that job title? What would you bring to the company?

Use your notes to help develop questions when talking with recruiters. Having notes prepared beforehand to answer the tough questions will make you seem more confident and put you ahead of the competition.

9. Follow Up After the Event

It’s always good manners to send thank you notes to any who takes the time to talk to you, especially if they’re helping you find a career. A simple thank you note will impress recruiters and keep your name and resume fresh in their mind.

Also, be sure to connect on LinkedIn with the people you met during the career fair. This a great way to not only keep the relationship alive, but it allows the other people to learn more details about your background that might not have been mentioned on your resume.

Now that you have the steps to maximize your next online job fair, put them into practice! Burns & McDonnell is hosting its first Diversity Virtual Career Fair Wednesday, Nov. 5 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. (Central time), and we want to see you there!

This is your opportunity to connect with recruiters and hiring managers here at Burns & McDonnell, where employee-owners work with the advantages of cutting-edge ideas and technology. Interested in learning more? Click here to register!

Lauren Bertram is a recruitment manager for Burns & McDonnell. She heads up our college recruiting team and oversees our K-12 and intern programs. If you want to learn more about our educational outreach, intern program or working at Burns & McDonnell, connect with Lauren on LinkedIn

Other posts you might like:

Tips for Using Social Media to Get a Job

7 Strategies for Networking Your Way Into an Exciting Job

Getting the Most Out of Online Job Websites

So Long, Interview Suit: Here Comes the Virtual Career Fair


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