Your online image is very important in this day and age, especially for interns and job seekers. As much as you change your privacy settings for social media, your posts, photos, and information will be on the internet forever. You should use this to your advantage and improve your online image as much as possible.
In a job interview, you generally work hard to portray the best image you can by speaking clearly, dressing well, showing up early, thinking through answers, and showing the potential employer that you really want the job. Why do most people not behave this way online? I understand that your Facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn are not job interviews, but they will be some day, and you can improve your image by thinking about it in that manner.
Here are some tips on how to improve your online image, whether job searching or not.
1. Carefully choose the photos you upload. This applies to all social media and internet sites, including Facebook, flickr, twitter, LinkedIn, and any blogs or webpages you control. Convey the image you want with your photos – don’t let a silly shot be the first impression when a potential employer looks you up. Consider posting a professional head shot or other photo of you working that is professionally done. You don’t need to delete all of your personal photos and fun shots, but what message do they send to a potential client or employer? Put yourself in that person’s shoes.
2. Put your resume on LinkedIn exactly as it appears on your paper resume. You should customize your resume for each potential employer, but your best job experience should be listed on your LinkedIn page. Use it to highlight your key strengths. This is helpful even when not job searching because potential clients or business partners are sometimes looking for more information about you when searching your contacts.
3. Think about your posts before posting. Many of the biggest mistakes online have come from people reacting immediately to news or someone else’s post. Who can forget when Ashton Kutcher tweeted immediately about JoePa’s firing from Penn State without checking the reason? Distinguish yourself by responding quickly but intelligently.
4. If it’s negative, don’t say it. My mom taught me as a child that if its negative, I shouldn’t say it and should keep it to myself. You never know when you might regret what you post online. A few years ago, interns in my office were posting on their Facebook and twitter about how bored they were at work while simultaneously missing deadlines they were assigned. They forgot that their supervisor was their friend on Facebook and that tweets can be read by anyone! There is nothing wrong with well-thought out criticism, especially when related to public policy or in the spirit of debate, but ad hominem attacks and name-calling have no place on your online profile.
Use your online social media profile to exhibit the best parts of your life that you want to highlight. Let technology help you advance your career and distinguish yourself, not hold you back and tarnish your reputation.
Roger Custer is Executive Director of America’s Future Foundation.
What do we celebrate on this Independence Day? It’s not just independence from Britain — it’s America’s independent spirit and commitment to free markets. Some call it the American Dream.
As we watch fireworks, eat barbeque and reflect on our history, our independent spirit is threatened by increased government dependence…
As we approach the end of the fiscal year, I want to share a personal update with you on how far we’ve come, and ask for your support to continue AFF’s growth.
Your support allows AFF to reach record numbers. The 2012 gala in May had more than 300 young professionals and 25 sponsor organizations. Senator Ron Johnson (WI) was our special guest. It was just one of 29 AFF events in 2012 that have already reached more than 2,670 people, and even more online.
Your gift today of $25, $50, $100, or even $500 will go a long way to make sure that AFF grows and young professionals nationwide are inspired by the ideas of liberty.
Your support allows AFF to reach increasing numbers in the states. Chapters are now active in Chicago, New York, Minneapolis, Raleigh, Denver, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh. Your tax-deductible gift will help AFF be in 20 cities by the end of 2013!
Your support strengthens our movement and grows AFF’s Washington, DC programs like tomorrow’s roundtable on crony capitalism. Your support allows young writers to find their voice and develop their skills right out of college through Doublethink magazine.
Your support strengthens our movement by improving the skills of young professionals. This spring, more than 100 participants learned from the AFF op-ed writing seminar, mock interview night, and public speaking courses. Your support also helps young professionals find new jobs in the liberty movement, and do the best they can once there.
I hope you’ll send your generous tax-deductible gift now by clicking here. Thanks for all you do to advance liberty!
America’s Future Foundation
As a young employee of a liberty organization (or any organization), you might consider finding a mentor. This person can be someone in your own organization or from another. It should be someone with considerable experience in your field, but doesn’t need to be the most senior level person.
Once you identify who you would like as your mentor, invite that person to coffee or lunch. Think about what you want to learn from that person and formulate a set of 5 or 6 questions to ask during the first meeting. Be sure to ask specific questions instead of just asking for general advice. For example, ask for specific examples and what your mentor learned from the situation. Come ready to listen, and take notes so you don’t forget what is said.
If you are nervous about using the person’s time or unsure what to discuss, don’t worry too much. Most people are happy to help and excited that you took initiative to ask them to lunch or coffee. Several professionals in their mid-30s have told me they offer themselves as mentors when speaking to interns and new staff, but few accept their offer. Distinguish yourself by learning from the experience of others.
Be sure to thank the person for his or her time after your meeting (maybe with a handwritten note) and ask if there is anything you can do to help them. If this mentor is the right fit for you, the relationship will grow to where you can bounce ideas off the mentor regularly and go to him or her when you need help or have a dilemma.
Several members of the board and executive council at AFF have been mentors to me during my first year as Executive Director and for that I am very thankful. In particular, I thank Roger Ream, Kmele Foster, and Joanna Robinson for their time and advice.
We are often told not to “burn bridges,” but what does that mean for a young professional? In my opinion, the most important way is to be careful about which words are selected when talking about our colleagues and bosses. This becomes especially important when changing jobs.
What kind of bridges are we talking about? The bridges that lead to new positions in your industry, recommendations for future jobs, and maybe even collaboration on future projects. It could also be hiring interns or new staff who worked with your previous employer, or co-authoring studies or books on your shared topic area.
My mother taught me not to say anything unless it is positive. The Bible teaches that “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). That’s great advice, but how can it be applied when you are laid off or have a conflict with a colleague? The answer is that is takes discipline and self-control. You can distinguish yourself by being a respectful person who keeps his or her mouth shut in key situations. You can’t always choose your situation (ie. lay off), but you can choose your words.
Gossip in the workplace is very tempting because we feel like we have to share the latest tidbit in order to remain popular and well-liked in the office. Isn’t it ironic, then, that the people in your office who are the most liked tend to be the ones who gossip the least? A great way to burn bridges is by gossiping about your boss or former bosses. Even worse is when you start rumors or spread false information or hear-say.
Another way to burn bridges is to use proprietary information from a previous employer at a new job. In the nonprofit sector, this could include using mailing lists from previous organizations to raise money for a different organization, or using email or stationary for an inappropriate cause. It could also include not returning valuable documents to the organization when your internship or job ends. Putting down hours on your time sheet that you did not work is in this category as well.
In a positive sense, you can build bridges by highlighting positive aspects about former employers, and looking for opportunities to collaborate. Maybe you refer people to that organization’s services when appropriate, or you go back and volunteer for an event. You can still seek advice from your former colleagues, and maintain relationships that may create bridges in the future that you don’t anticipate now. Distinguish yourself by building bridges, not burning them.
Roger Custer is Executive Director of America’s Future Foundation
Your resume is the first thing a potential employer will see. Make it tell a story that conveys information as opposed to just conveying information. Distinguish yourself by giving extra thought to the bullet points on your resume.
The best resumes show details instead of lists of responsibilities. For example, one person was involved with her sorority in college. She noted how she “coordinated a fund raising campaign that raised more than $10,000 for cancer research, breaking school records.” This really stands out, while most resumes might simply list “President, XYZ Sorority” or “Organized events through sorority.”
Potential employers want to know what you did quantitatively, when possible. If you worked at the campus bookstore, tell the reader how many customers you served, how many hours you worked, how many promotions you earned, and how many staff you managed. Highlight any special distinctions such as longest-serving campus bookstore student employee or received employee of the month award for positive attitude. These distinctions also help your potential employer to ask questions. One resume I saw stood out because it highlighted how the applicant worked his way through college with a full-time job.
Consider using the space where you list skills to highlight a story about your career and what makes you special. A list of the computer programs you can use, or that you are “skilled in research and writing” doesn’t say much, but a story about how your undergraduate research was published in a journal that only takes 1% of submissions would be much better. If you started your own business, be sure to list it and give details about what you learned.
Use the education section to tell a story. Most resumes say the college, the year, the major, and the GPA. Especially for entry-level and 1-3 years out of college, consider using this space to tell your college story. Did you receive a scholarship? Did you take special coursework? Were you a campus activist who overcame hardship and advanced liberty? The potential employer wants to know this, even if it was not a specific position.
By telling a story, I don’t mean in paragraph form. Andrea McCarthy is right when saying that whole paragraphs are too long to read. You should tell your story in the bullet points that go under each job heading. Don’t just give information – give your story.
Roger Custer is Executive Director of America’s Future Foundation
Your reputation is very important as you climb the ladder in any industry. It is even more important in Washington, DC and the liberty movement since we know each other well and word travels quickly. One way to uphold a great reputation is to keep your word. Always do what you say, follow through on promises, and do more than expected.
Keep your word 100% of the time. If you say you are going to do something, make sure you do it. This could be as small as replying to someone’s email, or as large as quitting smoking or resolving to be on time. Email is one place where it is easy to say something and not do it. Always be careful about how you word your email when it comes to offering something. For example, if you aren’t sure if you can make an event, don’t say you “will” be there, but you will “try to” be there. If you can help with a project, say you “will” help with the project, not that you “might.”
When you schedule a meeting with someone, be sure to 1) be there early, or 2) change it more than 24 hours before if something else comes up. It is very frustrating when people cancel a lunch meeting an hour or two before, unless there is a real emergency or a sudden illness. If you anticipate too much work, decline the lunch meeting in the first place.
Recently, someone invited me to lunch and we scheduled it 2 weeks in advance. The day of the meeting, the person cancelled two hours before and we re-scheduled a week later. The person also cancelled the postponed meeting that day, two hours before the reservation. I decided not to re-schedule fearing a third postponement. Don’t be that person who disrespects the other person’s time by scheduling and cancelling without sufficient notice. Keep your word.
Go above and beyond what you promise. Definitely keep your word and deliver what you promise, but consider going above and beyond. For example, you could email a colleague and say you will help with a research project. Find a way not only to help with one aspect, but to help the whole project succeed. It could be asking your friend to also help, or maybe posting it to your social media sites to get more readers.
What do you want your reputation to be? What do you want people saying about you when you’re not there? Think about those questions and make a list of actions you can take today (and in the long term) to arrive at that reputation. Keeping your word is a great place to start.
Roger Custer is Executive Director of America’s Future Foundation
Are you nervous for an upcoming interview? Maybe you are graduating from college this month and starting to get calls from the places you applied to work. Maybe you are looking for your second or third job and lining up interviews. Don’t be nervous – just keep in mind these simple tips.
1. Early is On Time. Make sure you allow for enough time in your schedule to show up early for your interview. You should arrive at least 10 minutes early as evidence that you are organized and respectful of the interviewer’s time. If you arrive on time, that should be considered late in your mind. Use this principle for all meetings, not just interviews.
2. Do Background Research. Ask the organization who will be interviewing you and do research about that person. Most groups in the liberty movement list biographies of their employees on their website. Search for blogs or articles the person has written, and be sure to google their name. If there are several people interviewing you, be sure to research them too because you probably don’t know who the key decision-maker will be. Also be prepared to discuss the organization intelligently and offer specific suggestions for improvement.
3. Remain Poised Throughout. Make a concerted effort to listen carefully to the interviewer, especially in the last few minutes. Don’t get antsy, slouch in the chair, look at your watch, or start checking your phone. Take notes when the interviewer makes important points – which will help you follow up in subsequent interviews.
4. Have Questions Prepared. Be sure to have at bring 5 well-researched, well-thought out questions that relate to the position for which you are applying. You will probably get answers to several of the questions during the course of the interview, so don’t ask about something you already discussed (unless it is an intelligent follow-up). Some examples might be: how would you describe the office culture, what do you most enjoy about working here, what is the organization’s long term vision, and something related to the specific position to which you applied. When candidates can’t come up with a good question during the interview, it shows the person didn’t do much homework.
5. Write a Thank You Note. The best way to follow up after the interview is to promptly send a thank you note. Email is sufficient, but a handwritten note really distinguishes yourself in a pool of similarly qualified candidates. Be sure to re-emphasize how much you want to work there and why you are the right fit (using humility, of course). If more than one person interviewed you, send something to each person individually and be very careful if you are cutting and pasting the same text to multiple people!
If you do those five things well, you will have a better chance of getting the job. There are many other factors in hiring decisions, but don’t be that person who was late, unprepared, underwhelming on knowledge of the organization, bored in the interview, or silent after it took place. Distinguish yourself by doing the basics well.
Roger Custer is Executive Director of America’s Future Foundation
In our youth, we were taught to “stop, drop, and roll” for fire safety. I remember going outside and practicing in elementary school – maybe you do too. As a professional, you can use the same principle for job safety instead of fire safety. Distinguish yourself by making a habit of proofreading written communications. In other words, stop, drop and proofread each written communication!
I receive many resumes and cover letters. It becomes clear when the writer did not take time to proofread. Common errors include misspelling the recipient’s name or organization (I’ve gotten “Dear Robert” and “Dear Mr. Custard”). Even worse is when the job applicant sends the same cover letter to several potential employers and forgets to change the organization or misspells the organization. These are very simple errors that can be prevented by a few minutes of proofreading.
Consider asking a friend or colleague to proofread important documents, including job applications, high-priority emails, letters, or messages. A fresh set of eyes can improve your communication immensely by noticing errors you overlooked or pointing out poorly articulated ideas. For example, misplaced commas or punctuation can convey an entirely different meaning, as explained by Lynne Truss in Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
Don’t trust spell check or auto correcting software on your phone. Proofreading will help you find auto-corrected errors, the most common of which include words with multiple spellings or misuse of “their,” “they’re,” and “there.” I had one cover letter that was probably auto-corrected to say “I am defiantly interested.” You can find plenty of examples of epic fail auto-corrected text messages through google!
On email, be sure to check the recipient so you don’t reply instead of forward, or reply all instead of replying to one person. Also re-read your message to make sure you don’t promise an attachment that’s not attached, or write something you will regret later.
In this competitive job market, don’t be that person who is excluded from consideration just because you forgot to stop, drop, and proofread. Distinguish yourself through clear written communications.
Don’t be afraid to ask. There is no way that one person can know all the answers, but a person can learn many answers by asking others. Distinguish yourself in the workplace by making a habit of seeking knowledge, feedback, and collaboration with others.
In 1945, Friedrich Hayek wrote his essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” He argues that knowledge is so dispersed among individuals in society that decision-making cannot be done rationally by a central authority. He writes,
“the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.”
In the workplace, this means that your colleagues have knowledge that will help you make better decisions. Those who have been around the organization for longer than you probably have a better idea of past activity from which they have learned valuable lessons. You won’t know about that until you ask them, and ask the right, specific questions. You can even ask people who no longer work there but have knowledge from previous time there.
When you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to ask for help to fix it. It may be embarrassing to admit your mistake, but the long-term benefit from your humble honesty, and faster repair of the problem, outweighs the temporary discomfort. You will gain respect when you form a pattern of gathering dispersed knowledge from your colleagues, and asking for help when you make mistakes.
In the case of development for nonprofits, don’t be afraid to ask for gifts. When you are passionate about your cause and asking for support, people will respond. Even a “no” should be interpreted as “not now” and you can ask for other help like friend referrals or in-kind gifts.
America’s Future Foundation is here to help you advance your career in the liberty movement, whether that means improving your speaking, writing, organizing, debating, or networking. However, we can’t help you if you don’t ask…
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