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A Scholarship Story: Darlene Bois

We are proud to publish the last of four blog posts from The Opportunities Project’s 2011 career coaching scholarship recipients. Meet Darlene Bois, a public relations professional, Toastmasters extraordinaire, and career changer.

Darlene won a scholarship I gave away for my one year anniversary and she chose The Social Proof package. Here is her story about what she learned through our time together.

– Tracy

PS: Want to apply for a 2012 scholarship? Look for the info at the end of the post. 


Moving To The Beat of Social Media Drums With A Purpose

Do you have profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? Well, I was not plugged in for a longtime because I did not think that I needed to be.  Guess What? I finally gave in and created a Facebook account but I kept it for a very short period of time because I was not prepared for the content on the walls of those who wanted to “friend me”.

Reluctantly, I decided to have a LinkedIn account after attending yet another seminar where the presenter mentioned that everyone should get on board or get left behind. I felt comfortable with LinkedIn because it was a platform for professionals.

Would you believe that I had a bare minimum basics profile for one year on LinkedIn? Once again after attending another seminar, I learned to get more from my LinkedIn profile and added more dimensions to it. Unfortunately, I was still only scratching the surface.

Little did I know but help was around the corner.  I was referred to Tracy Brisson who helped me navigate the Social Media superhighway.  Before we delved into the social media, she took the time to ask about my career status and goals which include pursuing a career in public relations.  She even looked at my LinkedIn profile and gave me valuable tips to revamp it for branding purposes. Now, I use social media more purposefully and strategically in order to stay connected and share ideas.

Since training, I keep track of my LinkedIn account regularly, I tweet intermittently, and I even have a Hootsuite account. If you are not familiar with any of these social media platforms, do not be alarmed. It really is not as daunting as it seems once you have a road map that contains all the landmarks that you need to pass on the way to your ultimate destination.

Overall, I have expanded my networking capabilities as well as gained meaningful insight via my revamped LinkedIn account and the recent Twitter account that I now maintain.

If I can navigate the social media superhighway, so can you!

 


Inspired by Darlene? Apply for our Second Annual Scholarship Contest by Monday, September 3, 2012 (Labor Day). 

The Opportunities Project Second Annual Scholarship Contest

A Scholarship Story: Abby Cajudo

We are proud to publish the third of four blog posts from The Opportunities Project’s 2011 career coaching scholarship recipients. Meet Abby Cajudo, a northern California based scientist, social entrepreneur, and aspiring blogger.  

When I met Abby, she had a plan, but unanticipated opportunities came her way, leading her to different successes, so we changed course on our coaching topics. If I were you, I’d pay special attention to Abby’s advice on adapting- it’s something we can learn at any age! 

– Tracy

PS: Want to apply for a 2012 scholarship? Look for the info at the end of the post. 


Last May, I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. I experienced the same range of emotions most recent grads experience: excitement, fear, nervousness, “What the hell am I doing-ness?” It’s been over a year since I’ve graduated, and although I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be a year or two from now, I want to share some fundamental lessons that I’ve learned along the way.

Create your own opportunities.

“No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself” – Seth Godin 

During my last few months of undergrad, I was really nervous about what I would be doing after graduation. Most of my friends had plans. They had jobs lined up or plans to attend graduate school. I, on the other hand, had uncertainty. But instead of throwing myself a pity party, I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere by waiting for someone to pick me. Picked for an internship. Picked for a job. I needed to pick myself. I was volunteering at a non-profit organization during my last semester and it was there that I found my passion for community work, particularly around issues of health equity and health education. I saw so much potential to reach the local community through health education programs with this organization. But since the size of the organization was so small, I knew that I needed to let my voice be heard and share my ideas in order to show my value and potential to lead these programs. I needed to give myself permission to be bold. I proactively attended meetings and other events to gain as much knowledge as possible about the community I was working in and find ways I can help. Before I knew it, one month before graduation, I was offered a position at the organization as the program coordinator for a health education program!

Trust your value. You bring a whole lot to the table.

I remind myself of this every day. My first job out of college as a program coordinator, was a huge opportunity for me. I had demonstrated my potential to the organization and they were trusting me to lead their program. The program’s scope spanned the entire Bay Area I was in charge of collaboration between students, agencies, and other organizations. There were times I felt overwhelmed and under-qualified. Those were the times I needed to remind myself that I did have something to offer. Too often, recent grads feel like they don’t bring much to the table. The truth is, you bring a whole lot to the table! You bring your own perspectives, views, experiences, and opinions. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise due to your lack of work experience in “the real world”. Every internship, every college course, every assignment, every experience has shaped you into who you are. Own it. Bring it.

Don’t rush the process. You are where you are for a reason. 

Don’t rush it. You can’t rush growth. I needed to work a year at a non-profit to understand my love for community and my heart for service. My interests in public health and community health continue to get deeper every day. I recently started working for a research study with one of the largest clinical research groups, studying factors of breast cancer survivorship. I had no idea that I would be working where I am today. I thought that I would graduate undergrad, get a job for my “gap year” and go back to graduate school. One year out, even though I’m not there, I lovewhere I’m at and have time to figure things out. I’m giving myself time to explore and grow my passions. I don’t feel rushed or pressured by where my peers are at or what my peers are doing.

Plans change. You need to adapt.

If you asked me three years ago what my plan was, it was to go to pharmacy school. If you asked me one year ago what my plan was, it was to work for a year then go to pharmacy school. I realized within that year that pharmacy is not the field for me. That’s okay. It’s okay for plans to change. It’s completely normal. The most important thing is that you adapt. Give yourself time to adapt. Your plans changing is not a sign of failure, rather your ability to adapt is an indicator of your future success. Last Spring, I was privileged to win The Opportunities Project’s College Student Scholarship. My coaching sessions with Tracy have been extremely helpful in organizing my life and making specific steps in my career goals and networking goals. 


Inspired by Abby? Apply for our Second Annual Scholarship Contest by Monday, September 3, 2012 (Labor Day). 

The Opportunities Project Second Annual Scholarship Contest

A Scholarship Story: Alexandra Patterson

We are proud to publish the second of four blog posts from The Opportunities Project’s 2011 career coaching scholarship recipients. Meet Alexandra Pattersona student entrepreneur, writer, and aspiring librarian. I met Alexandra through a joint scholarship program with our friends over at YouTern and was happy to work with her while she was abroad in London. 

When I met Alexandra, she was interested in exploring magazine work in New York and specifically how to market herself for those type of opportunities. As a former NYC’er, I was in full-support of that plan! I was happy to see that she made it to NYC in 2012 and followed her journey on her blog. I am even more excited that she is now a fellow Southerner.

I hope you enjoy Alexandra’s insights into her year following coaching.

– Tracy

PS: Want to apply for a 2012 scholarship? Look for the info at the end of the post. 


My Favorite Lessons: 2011-2012

1. I was underselling myself.

Though I had had lots of internship experience in the publishing industry, I didn’t sound like it when I wrote cover letters. I thought that just because my experience wasn’t at one of the top publishing houses it wasn’t worth it but after I learned that employers look at transferable skills I rethought my strategy.

2. My professional presence didn’t reflect what I wanted.

I had been writing a blog for a few months before coaching but I didn’t concentrate on my true passion: publishing. My blog was an asset, full of clips to show future employers and I wasn’t maximizing my blog. Once I started writing book reviews and concentrating on industry specific articles to repost, my clips improved.

3. I wasn’t concentrating on what makes me special.

I have a big personality. I’m always the girl who brings in snacks for the group and plans the outings but my job search didn’t reflect this. I decided to put a personal touch into my applications by creating a “brag book” full of my previous projects. For me, this was the “something special” that allowed me to showcase my personality, for others it might be something different.

What do you wish you could change?

 


Inspired by Alexandra? Apply for our Second Annual Scholarship Contest by Monday, September 3, 2012 (Labor Day). 

The Opportunities Project Second Annual Scholarship Contest

A Scholarship Story: Zack Laplante

We are proud to publish the first of four blog posts from The Opportunities Project’s 2011 career coaching scholarship recipients. Meet Zachary Laplante, an aspiring lawyer, do-gooder and all-around good guy who I was pleased to work with last year. At the end of our time together, Zack decided he was going to enroll in law school at the University of Pittsburgh- with funding!

Like me, Zack is a scrappy Massachusetts person so we hit it off from the start and I miss our Skype sessions. I know the world is going to be a better place when Zack graduates from law school. I hope you enjoy his insights and know that I did not pay him to say what he said about me.

– Tracy

PS: Want to apply for a 2012 scholarship? Look for the info at the end of the post. 

 


When I first came into contact with Tracy Brisson, I was in the midst of a very trying period in my career and my life in general.  I was preparing for law school simply because I felt out of options, and I had not developed the skills I needed to expand my network and determine the best path for me to take.  Fortunately, I was selected for a scholarship for coaching sessions from Tracy that were crucial in developing ideals and values that guide my goals and decisions to this day.  A mentor can be an absolute godsend when you’ve reached a brick wall, but it truly comes down to finding your own way and making decisions that fulfill you as an individual.  Here are a few of the key ideas that I have developed over the past year with a push in the right direction.

First, balancing your short-term and long-term goals is critical to success.

After graduating and finding that there seemed to be no clear-cut path for a liberal arts major with concentrations in psychology and political science (huge surprise!), I started looking into graduate school.  While I prepared my applications, I worked on a political campaign, went door-to-door raising money for an environmental awareness non-profit, interned with a couple different Internet start-ups, and even spent some time in retail.  All in all, every experience brought with it its own challenges and lessons, but I was always sure to take care of short-term needs while keeping a focus on long-term goals.  Time is money right?  You have to budget your time just as you budget your finances. Bills have to get paid, but that’s no reason you have to put your goals on the backburner.  Dedicate 20-30% of your day to networking and furthering your career, and give the rest to your day-to-day priorities, and you’ll be surprised how much you can get accomplished.

Second, the world owes you nothing.

I grew up with the naive notion that all you need is a college degree to make it, so I expected an immediate return simply from obtaining a degree.  Needless to say, I was dead wrong.  The truth is, you only get what you give.  Reaching your goals and fulfilling your dreams is less about what you have, and more about what you do with what you have.  The prodigiously talented author that dares not publish a word is doomed to obscurity just as a Harvard student will go nowhere without applying the innate talent that got them there in the first place (imagine if Mark Zuckerberg never dared to create Facebook!).  The world will not come to you unless you make it do so, so make connections, experiment and explore new possibilities, and don’t be afraid to introduce your own ideas into the mix.

Finally, every disaster is an opportunity.

When the economy crashed, the obvious reaction was panic.  Living in a country where we almost feel entitled to future prosperity, having the floor drop out from under us was a shock I don’t think anyone was ready for.  However, as we pick ourselves back up, our generation is beginning to redesign and re-envision the world based on our experiences and interpretations of this new world.  In the wake of catastrophe there will always be those with a vision for the future, and I believe that is a spirit everyone can come to embrace.  See the positive in every negative, find the upside to every downside, and when you find something worth fighting for, stick to your guns like your life depends on it.  I’ll end with wiser words than I could ever write, and I hope they inspire you like they inspire me:

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though
checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy
nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor
defeat.

– Teddy Roosevelt

Best of luck out there everybody, and thanks to Tracy and The Opportunities Project for helping me find my way.

 


Inspired by Zack? Apply for our Second Annual Scholarship Contest by Monday, September 3, 2012 (Labor Day). 

The Opportunities Project Second Annual Scholarship Contest

Guest Post: How to Get Your Employer to Pay for Your MBA

We’re publishing a long overdue guest post today from Erin Palmer, who works for US News University Directory. While we are not always a fan of taking on more debt and obligations to make a career change, if you are considering going back to school, there are some tangible tips in here. Enjoy!


So you’ve worked hard to earn your bachelor’s degree and you’re working your way up the company ladder, but you keep getting passed up for that big promotion. No matter what you do, someone always seems to have the advantage. If this sounds like you, then it may be time for you to consider earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

After some investigation, you know that getting an MBA can be expensive. If you don’t have the funds, you may consider a grant or scholarship to help you pay for your degree. Another option to consider is getting your employer to pay for your MBA. If this doesn’t sound easy to you, having a strategy will help your chances in getting your company to foot the bill and keep you from falling further into debt.

Will they pay?

Firstly, you’ll have to find out if your employer would even consider paying for your education. Many large companies have policies in place, so check your employee handbook. If you can’t find information on your own, check with your HR department, as they usually are the first to know about such programs. For smaller companies, you may have to go directly to your supervisor or the owner of the company. Before you do, make sure you’re ready and have your case clearly thought out ahead of time. If no policy is in place, your preparedness might be enough to set the trend in motion.

They’ll want to know your expectations for tuition. Are you asking for them to pay all of the tuition? Will you split it with them, or do you have outside sources (loans, scholarships, grants, etc.) that will cut down on the costs. If you do decide to split the costs, do the outside sources count toward your half, or are they deducted first with the balance then divided between each party. These details should be worked out prior to any arrangement or enrollment being made.

Know the company

A decision like funding education for an employee often comes down to timing and economic factors. Is now a good time to ask for assistance? If the company seems to be cutting down on expenses and is struggling during a troubled economy, the chances of your request being approved are slim. However, if the company seems to be growing and spending money toward their future, and if others before you have gotten similar requests approved, the scene may be set for a request.

Do your research and expect to answer questions

If you’re looking to work in top management at the executive level, a bachelor’s degree will most likely not be enough to get you there. According to a recent survey of top executives, 80% earned a graduate degree in business, which is important for those seeking top management positions.1 Having statistics like this to support your case will let your employer know you’ve taken the time to consider the value of an MBA.

Also, expect a lot of questions from the company. Have the basic facts down, but also generate some substance behind each fact that will heighten the value of your request.

Case for support

A good MBA program will train its students on basic business principles that will help them become a leader and an sharp business manager in the future. You can expect courses covering accounting, marketing, strategic planning, corporate finance and economics. Many specializations are available within MBA programs that you might want to consider as well. From finance and IT to marketing and management, if you have an interest in one of these areas, then you would probably want to select a specialization.

If a specialization fits within the company you’re working for, and you genuinely want to pursue that major, you’ve just found your angle. Explain how studying a specialization will benefit the company in the future, likening it to enhanced continuing education that will help the business profit down the road. Showing how spending the money now can return profits for the company in the future should always be a point for you to explain to your employer.

What can you expect?

A company isn’t usually going to invest the type of money associated with an MBA without some commitment from you, the employee. Many employers will require that you work for the company a certain period of time following your graduation date. Along with that, you’ll often be asked to sign a contract that outlines your obligations, including grade requirements, tuition terms and work periods. Should you not hold up your end of the contract, you may be required to repay all or part of the money spent by the company. So make sure you are comfortable with any contract you sign, prior to signing it.

Leave them with information

Offering up a printed outline of your case and the MBA program you’re interested in can give them some concrete information to look at when making their decision. Leaving them with some kind of report further shows your commitment and thought process behind the request. Include such items as:

  • Name of the school and the MBA program
  • The program’s curriculum
  • Costs and duration of the MBA program
  • The reasons why you need an MBA
  • Benefits of the MBA to the company
  • The reasons why you think the company should pay for it

By showing your commitment to the company and a willingness to develop yourself professionally for the benefit of the business, you will lay the foundation for a solid request of assistance. Remember that not all companies will agree to pay all or even a portion of tuition, but it shouldn’t keep you from seeking an MBA if you find it necessary. At the very least, your employer will know you have a desire to advance – which could go a long way during your time with the company.

About the author

Guest post provided by U.S. News University Directory an education portal designed to help students and working professionals locate hundreds of accredited bachelor degrees, online masters programs and certification courses from top colleges and universities, as well as, a growing collection of articles and career videos.

Guest Post: Virtually and Collectively by Tanisha Christie

Tanisha Christie, RecruitmentI am so pleased to feature a guest post from our team member Tanisha Christie on what it really takes to work virtually. So many clients and people I meet want to pursue virtual and independent work, but don’t always understand that to be successful in these positions, you ironically have to be fantastic at teaming. Even the traditional 9-5 worker can learn a lot from her post.

While Tanisha’s post is on some of her learnings from working directly on Teach Newark, she is also a critical member of The Opportunities Project’s team and you’ll be hearing more from her in the coming months as we launch more services and products for organizations. 

Now this post isn’t so much about time management.  No.  I’ve taken many a skype meeting while doing laundry and having eggs boiling for the breakfast I’ve yet to eat because I got an email from a principal at 6:45 am because she chose to go to the office early, and I chose to respond because I needed her answer on a few questions so that I can get to my tasks for the day that were predicated on that answer.  No. Not about time management but from working with the Teach Newark team, I wanted to share a few things that I’ve considered while working independently, yet  collectively, and almost all while virtually.

1)    Know how you work, e.g. understand your working style.  Are you detailed oriented? Do you need to understand every part of the process to do your share effectively?  Are you a ‘lone wolf’?  I’m a whirling dervish, but I like tasks that have a beginning, middle and end.  I’m also deft at the soft skills, strategy, brainstorming and assessment.  Ask me to set up an eventbrite url…I’m not so good. Knowing how you work best and communicating that to your team leader will not only help the relationship prosper but gives you more control over your work product.

2)   While there is no “I” in Team, you have to remember that you are on one. We often worked in silos, handling various areas of the project.  Deadlines became important but sometimes pieces of a particular project may or may not be connected to the work I was doing.  So I made sure to keep deadlines. Or if there was difficulty, I asked questions. It may not be necessary to know what people are doing, but chances are your work affects someone else’s.

3)    More often than not, it’s better to pick up the phone or Gchat or Skype.   One of the benefits of working virtually is that you get to avoid meetings, which can be a time suck, however once you’re getting into a high number count on an email exchange over one issue, context does gets lost.  At times I would stop the madness and call.  Schedule a time to talk or just call the person.  Partial comments, fishing through long emails can be tedious and take more effort than necessary.

4)    And speaking of emails put proper subject headings on all correspondence.  This may seem trivial but this is an easy way to manage your emails, and others on the team will appreciate it.  This aiding my time management needs and gave me a way to organize my work.

5)    Participate in the corporate “culture.”  This might sound crazy but even if you are working alone in your pajamas, it is a good idea to pass along interesting articles to the team based on your work, connect to others on Linkedin, or follow the team on Twitter or Facebook (if you use your profile for professional purposes.)  I’ve written a recommendation for one of my colleagues on this project; linked, ‘friended’ and followed where appropriate.   If you are local to the project, go to events or at least ask how things went.  It’s important to show that you have some interest in the success of the project/organization.  It engenders good will and initiative could lead to more work for you.

 

Guest Post: Notes from a Skype Interview by Rachel Eckhardt

Rachel Eckhardt Here’s a new post from one of our team members on our Teach Newark project, Rachel Eckhardt. Rachel helped us persuade teachers across the Northeast that Newark Public Schools was the place for them and then identify the best from that pool via many tools, including Skype interviews. Read her thoughts and advice if you’re an organization considering conducting Skype interviews as part of your recruiting process, or a job seeker who has been invited to one.  

My first experience conducting Skype interviews occurred during my work with Teach Newark. To prepare for using Skype, a free online video conferencing service, I did a trial run with my partner from opposite ends of our apartment. That was sufficient for me to familiarize myself with the setup, which is very self explanatory but I would still recommend a trial run for anyone using it for the first time.

How to Invite Applicants to a Skype Interview

Wondering if some candidates would decline to use Skype, our team gave them the option for a phone interview to occur the following week. This decision provided candidates with an incentive to learn to use video conferencing in order to have an earlier time slot, and it also provided a way out to anyone who legitimately could not. We effectively set a relatively low bar for candidates to demonstrate their technological mastery. Those who opted for phone interviews ranged from reporting that they did not have “a skype” to apologizing for having a broken webcam.

For many, it was their first time using video conferencing. Almost everyone expressed a certain wonder and delight, maybe recalling the video communication systems on the Jetsons or the original Star Trek! Skype interviews gave a positive impression of Newark Public Schools as a forward-thinking, tech savvy district. This tone left me well set up as the interviewer to convey the positive changes, improvements and transformations occurring in Newark.

The Candidate Experience

People were excited at the initial connection of the video! There was something fun about making it work and people got a kick out of it. It is unusual to start an interview with having a laugh together, but Skype added a sense of delight and novelty to the usual process of introducing ourselves. Candidates seemed to feel like they accomplished something just by connecting, which allowed them to start the interview on the right foot. When occasionally the video didn’t work for them, it turned out to be a frustrating process which I somewhat mitigated by allowing them to see me, reminding myself to smile at the computer, and moving along to the questions. In a few cases, it functioned merely as a phone interview.

Even for those who were being screened out, I wanted to leave them with a positive impression of the process and the district. Regardless of the medium, my goal as an interviewer is to always give the candidate every opportunity to show their best self. In order to do this via Skype, I tried to put them at ease but also convey the importance of the interview process and the work at hand. It is tempting with video conferencing to be more casual, so inserting a little professionalism can go a long way. Some candidates were especially taken with Skype and wanted to chat about how awesome it was, which we did a little just to ease into the conversation, but not for too long. Often it was up to me to hold the formality, and this may be a function of the culture of education or it may be a function of video conferencing. Either way, just as it does in person, a warm yet professional tone is essential for putting the candidate at ease while simultaneously setting them up for success.

It’s on Skype, but It’s an Interview!

A video interview creates a very condensed interaction so it is important to be deliberate about each element of the experience, even things you might not ever need to consider as closely for an in-person interview. All we see of each other is from the waist up, if that much. For attire, the most formal candidate wore a suit and tie. He aced the interview. The least formal candidate was seated on her couch and apologized for not dressing up, but she aced the interview too. Both of these extreme cases were able to demonstrate their commitment to students. Somewhere there should be a happy medium where attire is not a distraction, somewhere more on the formal side.

Participants on both sides of the interview see everything behind the other, so it is important to remove distractions. It is also important to be well lit. I found that a light source that is shining on me from behind my computer is best. Definitely avoid sitting with your back to a window! A silhouette makes you appear anonymous, which is not a good quality for interviewer or interviewee. After being distracted by an email notification, I made it a rule to close all other applications on my computer. Another thing that can be distracting is our own narcissistic desire to observe ourselves talking! Skype provides a tiny window where you see yourself over the person on the other end. It helped me to reduce this window to be as small as possible, and place it near the web cam.  That way if I couldn’t help but glance at it, at least it would appear that I was looking directly at the candidate. Overall, a Skype interview is something like a compromise between in-person and telephone. Setting yourself up for success on either side of the interview takes technical preparation, mindfulness of professionalism, and willingness to enjoy a little futuristic fun.

Guest Post: Creating the Perfect Internship by Justin Mathews

Justin MathewsI am super, super pleased to feature a post today by Justin Mathews who I met over a year ago through my college mentor at Syracuse University, and has worked with The Opportunities Project since January 2011. Justin has helped me take my little idea of changing people’s perspectives on careers and education to a real live profitable organization with national credibility. I can’t thank him enough for sticking by me through all the peaks and valleys of the last nine months and keeping us on track.

While Justin and I make a great team, I also support his career goal to work in the consulting industry and think any organization who convinces him to accept their offer will be a very lucky place. 


Many college students waste too much time looking for that perfect internship. They apply at big shot companies, become discouraged when they don’t get it or, if they do get in, are disappointed to find that most of their work involves answering phones, clipping news article, or shredding paper.

But what if you could construct the perfect internship from scratch? What if the entire experience was sculpted from the beginning to utilize your strengths while broadening your skill set with tools to help you succeed in a career?

It’s a very real possibility. In fact, that is exactly what happened to me during my virtual internship with The Opportunities Project last spring. I began in January when I was brought on as Market Research and Digital Strategy Assistant. Before discussing the details of my position, Tracy and I searched job descriptions for “my perfect job” and identified recurring skills an ideal candidate would possess. When we met to structure the internship, we incorporated learning these into my daily responsibilities.

Even with three and a half years of college under my belt, most of my duties required the use of tools that I had barely (if ever) learned to use. I had never touched Google Analytics or WordPress, I used social media exclusively to communicate with friends I saw on a daily basis, and I had all but forgotten the little HTML and CSS I learned in Intro to Web Design.

But I learned them quickly. I analyzed the site’s website traffic, created a custom landing page on Facebook, co-authored a white paper, managed cost per click advertising campaigns, and more.

That was the true beauty of my internship. At the time, I was one of two team members working for The Opportunities Project, which meant that the company’s potential successes and failures hinged very much on my ability to learn and apply these new skills. My work didn’t just impact a grade – it had a very real effect on the overall health of a small business.

I have since been hired by The Opportunities Project as a paid operations and marketing consultant, as well as a subcontractor on their latest recruitment consulting contract. While other recent grads may be scrambling for their first, income-generating, post-grad opportunity, I am getting paid to use all of the skills I learned through my internship, make a difference, and learn even more skills. I expect these skills to aid me as I continue to search for long-term career opportunities in consulting.

That said, here is my best advice for college students:

Reach out to small businesses:

There are tons of startups out there. In fact, with businesses becoming increasingly web-based, your opportunities for a virtual internship are endless (I’ve done all my work while at least five hours away). Many of these startups haven’t even considered the possibility of having an intern yet. Use this to your advantage. If you’re trustworthy and present a compelling argument as to how you can help, you might just create an internship on the spot. You can work with your supervisor to structure the experience to learn new skills and employ the ones you have.

If you are successful, you’ll be able to broaden your skill set and have the opportunity to make a positive and measurable impact on the business, both of which will make you extremely attractive to future employers.

Guest Post: Why I Chose Energy by Megan Atkinson

I am happy to feature a guest post from Megan Atkinson today. Megan blogs at The Life and Times of an Energy Careerist. I loved this post and thought it would be a good edition to the Why We Do What We Do series.

Here’s Megan’s post!


When people ask me why I chose to get into energy, I have a quick answer and a not-so-quick answer:

Quick answer: It’s my passion. Because I would eat, sleep, and breathe the energy industry for free if I were independently wealthy.

Not-so-quick answer: I blame my dad.

Dear old Dad. It’s all his fault.

I grew up in a household where my mother would do her motherly thing after work and run around the house doing whatever it was she needed to do – turning the lights on in every room, at every stop. Then my father would run around after her griping about the electric bills and turning them off. I came to understand the economic value of energy efficiency at a very early age but was generally disinterested.

First I wanted to be a super model, then a forensic scientist (before all the CSI, Law and Order, and NCIS shows), then a teacher. Eventually I got into high school and actually had to assess my abilities and interests before choosing a career. Because really… I couldn’t even model rubber gloves let alone clothing.

 
MeganatkinsonThis is when my dad really started harping on me about finding a career I love. He would always tell me, “If you can find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’m sure he stole the mantra from some super wise famous guy, but it stuck with me.

First I majored in fine art. That was idiotic. I had the skill and enjoyed creating but had zero interest in having the word “starving” as part of my job title later in life.

Then it was political science and economics. That was fine and dandy, but who wants to have their financial security hang on the re-electability of some skeezy politician? Not me.

So I took a hard look at what I loved about public policy and economic theory – energy issues, how we power (literally) our economy. So I took a wind power class and it was all over from there. I knew I was made for an energy job.

I eventually decided that though I love renewable energy, energy efficiency is where I needed to be. It was recession-proof (recession-friendly, even), an emerging industry with cutting edge technology, I understood the industry jargon much more fluently than I did Spanish, and I had so much fun learning about it.

So I pursued it. The more I kept learning and doing and experiencing, the more I couldn’t wait to get a jump start on my big energy career.
My dad was right. Turning off the lights DOES save money – and having a job you love really DOES make your job feel a lot less like work and lot more like “holy crap, you mean I get paid to learn all this stuff and talk to strangers and nerd it out?!“

Why do you do what you do?


If you’d like to guest post for The Opportunities Project about Why You Do What You Do, contact us.


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You Don’t Need to Be Batman to Join Forces with a Robin: Guest Post from Brett Kunsch

I am happy to feature a guest post from my colleague, Brett Kunsch of Millennial Coach. Don’t forget about our Make the Change You Want networking event on Tuesday, April 19th.


One of the most famous partnerships in pop culture is the Dynamic Duo, Batman and Robin. The two caped crusaders crucially helped each other with their one big goal: keep the crime way down in Gotham City. We resonate with Batman and Robin because we like a good team with a worthy cause. And we like them because they have a fierce level of commitment to their partnership. Your goal may not be as ambitious, nor as risky to your life. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a partner to help you out with your mission, and them with theirs. But how do you find a partner in the real world? Forming a “dynamic duo” probably sounds far-fetched, if not cheesy. And to a lot of us, trusting part of our goal’s outcome with a partner seems downright scary. Yet the research shows, many of us experience greater success when we hold each other accountable to making things happen. There’s no exact science to soliciting partnerships, but the one thing you absolutely must do is interact with people and have your goals be known. To take it further, find people who’d be within your goal’s category.

Here are some potential categories:

  • Jobseekers/Career-changers
  • Marathoners/Triathletes
  • Bloggers
  • Language learners
  • Promoters/fundraisers of causes
  • Business builders
  • Superheroes (the non-violent variety)

I know getting out there isn’t everyone’s favorite cup of tea, but if you’ve been having a tough time holding yourself accountable to reaching your target goal, finding a partner might be your secret sauce to make it happen.

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Brett

Brett Kunsch is the founder of Millennial Coach. To read more about him and his blog posts on partnerships, see Accountability Partner and I Got a Guy.

 

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog