Beware the Burnout!

Practicing good self-care is one of the most important and possibly overlooked aspects of being an adult. Whether you’re still in college, or out in the working world, it’s unbelievably common for people to work and work and work, spread ourselves too thin, and end up burning out.

What is burn out, you ask? Well according to this article from Psychology Today,

Burnout is

“A state of chronic stress that leads to: Physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”

Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t realize we’re overdoing it until it’s too late. Burnout is not specific to working, it can happen to students as well. As an academic advisor, it’s definitely something I talk about to first-time college students. When I was in college, I woke up one Saturday at a normal time, but was just exhausted. I ended up going back to sleep until 4 in the afternoon. I didn’t even try to fight my body on it, which looking back now, was probably smart. Your body knows what it needs, it’s so important to listen to it in times of stress. Here are some other symptoms of burnout from an article on Forbes .com:

  1. Keep in mind that exhaustion can be emotional, mental, or physical.
  2. Lack of Motivation
  3. Frustration, Cynicism, and Other Negative Emotions
  4. Cognitive Problems
  5. Slipping Job Performance (or Academic)
  6. Interpersonal problems at Home and at Work
  7. Not Taking Care of Yourself
  8. Being Preoccupied with Work…When You’re Not at Work
  9. Generally Decreased Satisfaction
  10. Health Problems: I don’t know about you, but in times of chronic stress, my health/body are definitely affected. This could range from stress-induced insomnia, to a bad cold, to more serious issues like heart disease and depression. Either way, you need to take care of yourself.

This Forbes article also offers a few tips on what to do if you recognize these symptoms in yourself:

  • Take Relaxation Seriously – this may seem like an oxymoron since relaxation is meant to be relaxing (duh), but it’s important to designate an actual time for it.
  • Cultivate a Rich Non-Work Life – find something that you like to do strictly because you enjoy doing it. Not because it helps someone else, not because it could help with work. Just because it’s something YOU like.
  • Unplug – In today’s world, this may be the hardest one to do. Technology can be so helpful for productivity, but it can get pretty obnoxious too. Try to set boundaries, like no cell phones at dinner. If you go out with friends or family, leave your phone in the car or put it on silent. Enjoy the moment that you’re in.unplug-quote-700x700
  • GET ENOUGH SLEEP!!! – I don’t care if you say you only need 4 hours of sleep a night to properly function. You need to get an adequate amount of sleep for a myriad of reasons, really. Not only can lack of sleep have negative effects on your job performance, but it can also lead to decreased motivation and leave you more sensitive to stressful events.
  • Get Organized – Make a to-do list, and prioritize. A lot of work-related stress might be the fear that you will forget to do something or something important will slip through the cracks. By making a list, you are actively putting a system in place to combat the worrying.
  • Stay Attuned – Pay attention to your body. Are you getting headaches more frequently? Are your shoulders and neck stiff? Do you feel depressed or like you’re in a funk? These types of things are not random (unless you’re accident prone like I am). Your body is trying to tell you something.
  • Know When It’s You and When It’s Them – Sometimes burnout is a result of internal factors, but sometimes it really is a result of external ones. Ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” and figure out what is causing you stress.
  • Figure Out When Enough is Enough – consider talking to your manager or HR about mental health services or stress management training. What would help make your work environment more positive and motivating?

I touched on this a little in You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup. Whether you want to improve your job performance or boost your grades, you can’t do that if you don’t take care of yourself. No one can expect you to do well if you’re falling asleep at your desk or constantly coming down with a cold. Take the time to evaluate yourself and listen to your body. It usually knows what it needs. Don’t be afraid to take a day off once in a while. Everyone needs a mental health day at one time or another.

My favorite piece of advice from all of this, is to find something to do that you enjoy simply because you enjoy it. Running, painting, cooking, knitting, skydiving, whatever. Find that thing you love and use it as an outlet. Take the time you need to take care of yourself. There is only one of you.

self-care

Advertisements

Don’t be afraid to show up

Greetings, and Happy Summer!!

Beach Dog

 

Coming off my first round of college orientations, I wanted to write something about the concept of orientations in general. Anyone who recently graduated from college will remember their freshmen orientation, I’m sure. There was tons of information being thrown your way, corny games and icebreakers; maybe you met your roommate, got your student ID, and the like. At the time, you probably thought it was boring, the activities were silly, etc. Looking back on it now, do you still feel that way? Probably not, I know I don’t. My orientation was especially silly, since we all had to wear beanies for three days. freshmen_beanie-400x327

And if you’re also a Springfield College alum, I know exactly what song pops into your head when you see this:big-red-classic-atw-model-1800_1_1

I wanted to touch on this because orientation experiences are really important, not just at the college level, but in the work place too.

At the college level, there is so much information being thrown at you, sometimes it’s hard to enjoy the experience. One thing is certain, if you are present, you will learn a lot, meet new people, get to explore the campus, and connect with the resources that are available to you at your institution. It can make the transition to college a lot easier and a little less stressful. Offices like Financial Aid and Student Accounts might have open office hours during orientation, giving you opportunities to settle all the business stuff and ask any questions you might have. Take advantage of this time. You will of course have other opportunities, but why not get your answers while the questions are fresh in your mind?

At a new job, you might not get an actual orientation. But you will have a first day. First days at a new job are always exciting, but again, it’s a lot of information to process in one day. Always, always, always ask questions. It shows you’re excited to get started, and that you’re interested in your new work. If you’re so overwhelmed with information you can’t think of things to ask in the moment, don’t worry about it. Write them down when your mind finally stops spinning and have them to ask the next day.

Take these experiences as opportunities to learn about your new surroundings. Be involved. Be present. Starting something new can be stressful, but also exciting! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but most importantly, don’t be afraid to show up.

117375

 

It always seems impossible until it’s done

To recent graduates:

Congratulations! You did it! You should be very proud of your accomplishments, whether you graduated with your Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or your Doctorate. Not everyone makes it through college, so you should be proud, and I’m sure relieved to have finally achieved this goal.

14kjdy

What’s next? As a responsible person, and as someone who has been through this already, I would have told you to start applying for jobs even before you graduated. However, I also know the amount of hard work it takes to get through college, no matter what degree you have been working towards, so I also encourage you to take time to relax. Enjoy the feeling of being done with school. Enjoy not having to go to class, enjoy being home (if you lived in a dorm). Take time to celebrate yourself!

If you’re one of the lucky ones who already nailed down a job, it might seem a little harder to take time to breathe. It’s a big transition, especially for the traditional college grad. One piece of advice for entering real adulthood, especially for the traditional graduate group: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is not only job related, this goes for anything. Questions about your new apartment? Ask your landlord. About health insurance? Don’t be afraid to call your customer service line. About 401ks or new bank accounts? Stop in your bank and talk to someone! Never be afraid to ask questions.

As far as the new job is concerned, questions can show a lot about you as a new employee. It shows you care and want to make a good impression, and that you want to learn as much as you can so you can be successful.  I’m keeping this post short today, but those are the two pieces of advice I would give to any recent grad. One, take time to bask in the glory of all your hard work paying off, and two, never ever be afraid to ask questions.

CZhUfISUMAANiM9

There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind

Hello WordPress world!

Image result for i'm back meme

If I have any semi-regular readers, I apologize for the hiatus I unofficially took. I was working hard in my own job search, and I was at the point that I really needed to focus on it. And it worked out! I’m very happy to say that I have accepted a full-time position at another college. My previous position was part-time, so I worked two jobs for a little over a year, which as some of you probably know, sucks. Once I get settled in my new position in the coming weeks, I definitely want to start posting regularly again.

Today, I wanted to touch on the idea of relocating for a new job. Before I landed my new job, I started applying to jobs in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire…basically the  rest of New England and a little bit beyond (I’m in MA, for anyone’s reference).  My general rule for applying to jobs is to apply to everything and anything you’re qualified for, and see what sticks. For local stuff, this is fine, but when you’re widening your net, you have to be more selective.

One of the issues I came across was a lack of salary information. A number of jobs had salaries posted, but an equal number of them didn’t.  This makes budgeting for a move and future expenses a lot more difficult. I did a lot of research on various areas that I applied to; rent costs, what grocery stores were around if it was out  of state, gas prices, etc.  That stuff is easy to figure out, but when you don’t know what you would be making, you can’t really estimate on your living expenses.  There are a couple ways to go about getting this information. Generally, if I don’t get called for a phone interview, I don’t ask unless it’s a job I want more than any of the others. First, I would recommend calling or e-mailing HR. Make sure you have the job code or title handy so you’re not making them search for it. Ask for a range not an exact number. They are more apt to tell you if you’re not as pointed with your question.  In my experience, if they are aware you are applying from another state, they will let you know right out of the gate.  Using my own example, there was one job I applied to out in Ohio (I know, super random). They called me for a phone interview, and noted that I would have to relocate within the first few minutes, and gave me a general salary range for the position. I’m glad they did, because it ended up being much too low for me to move across several states. And if they don’t tell you, simply say something like: “This is a great opportunity and I appreciate the chance to speak to you about it. As you can see from my resume, I live in xyz, and I would obviously have to move in order to work in this position. I was hoping before the process moves further, you could give me a general salary range.” It doesn’t hurt to ask, especially when it means moving.

A second tip: if you’re living at home, save as much money as humanly possible! Assuming your parents aren’t making you pay rent, throw money into your savings like there’s no tomorrow! Even if you’re not planning to move too far way or out of state, moving is still costly. First month’s rent, security deposit, moving truck, furniture, first grocery shopping trip, cleaning supplies…do I need to go on? If you’re moving locally, it’s less of a concern, but if you’re moving out state or more than an hour away, it’s something that should be a top priority. If you’re not prepared financially to move across the state or out of state, I encourage you to start saving before you make a move. Yes, I understand spur of the moment opportunities and taking leaps of faith, but the truth of the matter is, you need a place to live. You need food. I’m all for taking chances, but don’t be thoughtless in your spontaneity.

If I still have any readers, thanks for sticking with me! I’m so happy to start this new adventure, and I wish you all luck in reaching  yours!

Image result for let the adventure quote

Body Language : What are you really saying?

First and foremost, Happy New Year to all! 2016 was a whirlwind for sure, but be ready to make 2017 kick-ass! It’s going to be a good one!

dory

I know I have written about interviews in various posts, but there is one MAJOR thing I haven’t hit yet: Body Language.  I found a quote recently that describes the importance of body language perfectly:

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said.”

Sure this can be applied to interviews, but it’s just as relevant to your everyday life as well. Some people may not buy into it, but take a second and think about it. Say you’re at a store looking for a particular item you just can’t seem to find. There are two store associates nearby that you could potentially ask for help. One of them is stocking shelves, looking absolutely miserable; slouching over the items they’re handling, not smiling, deep-sighing every so often. Sounds super approachable right? The other, doing similar work, is standing up straight, not totally cheesing (because that would be weird), but clearly not pissed off at the world because they have to be at work. Be honest, which one would you ask for help? I’m betting it wouldn’t be the first person.

It’s important to see how much body language can influence human behavior, even if you don’t realize it at the time.  Interviews can be nerve-racking of course, and we can all come off to the interviewer as nervous. I think being nervous for something like that is normal, but it’s also totally doable to control any nervous ticks or habits you might have.  I’ve compiled a list of a few common body language mistakes people often make in interviews.

  1. Bad Posture – controlling your posture in an interview can be tricky. You want to appear relaxed and confident, but not overly so like you’re not concerned about being there. Leaning too far back can make you come off as lazy or arrogant, but leaning too far forward can have you looking a little aggressive. Aim for a more neutral position, sitting straight and tall. Also, sitting with both feet flat on the floor can help you sit up straighter.
  2. Eye Contact – There is a fine line between staring and keeping eye contact with your interviewer(s). When you arrive at your interview, not breaking eye contact while shaking hands is key. Even if you’re nervous, it shows confidence right off the bat. When answering a question, keep it like a normal conversation. When you talk to other people, you keep eye contact with them, right? You don’t stare them down while you’re speaking; you make eye contact, break away, make eye contact again. When you need to look away, look down at your notes, look at the wall behind your interviewer, etc.
    • Now the fun part: Having more than one interviewer, aka a panel interview. Who do you look at? The person who asked the question, the person who would be your supervisor, the person that called you in for the interview? Panel interviews can be terrifying as is, especially if you don’t know how many people you’ll be facing. I always try to look at the person who asked me the question initially, and once I get into my answer, try to scan the room and make eye contact very very briefly with the others. You don’t want to look like you’re frantically trying to look at everyone, it might make you look a little shifty, not to mention more nervous.
  3. Talking with your hands – Talking with your hands in general can actually be a good thing! It shows you’re passionate about what you’re talking about. However, that doesn’t mean you should be flailing all over the place to make your point. Keep it under control. Don’t point or make a fist, it could be seen as aggressive.
  4. Don’t cross your arms. – Crossing your arms makes you seem less approachable, not just in interviews, but in general. If you cross your arms so they won’t be hanging there awkwardly like I do, try holding a pen; this allows you to, one, be ready to write something down if need be, and two, keeps your hand busy so you don’t fidget with other things. Which leads me to number 5:
  5. Don’t fidget! This is probably the one I struggle with the most myself. On one of my school counselor interviews I, first, walked in to a room with 9 people in it waiting to interview me (talk about a deer in headlights), and two, was seated in a swivel chair. Because there were so many people in the room, I found myself swiveling to look at people, which is so not what I should have done. As I was answering questions, I noticed I kept doing it, but I was so caught off guard by the number of people on the panel, I couldn’t make myself sit still. This is a world of many swivel chairs, so heed my advice: position yourself before you start answering questions so you can see everyone and have no need to turn your chair.
    • For women especially: don’t play with or twirl your hair. It’s a nervous tick for so many, but it’s distracting to the interviewer, and they will be watching you and your hair, not listening to the super awesome and intelligent things you have to say. Note any other nervous habits you might have before you go in for an interview, so if you notice yourself doing it, you can shut it down quickly.
  6. Don’t chew gum. That just looks rude.
  7. Mismatched expressions – If you’re excited about what you’re talking about, don’t be afraid to show it! Don’t shout at your interviewers or anything, but it’s okay to show that you’re passionate about this field and the job you applied for. If you’re asked what you’re most passionate about and your answer is accompanied by vacant expression, how is that going to look? It’s not going to translate well, and it most definitely won’t show your interest in the subject.bill

 

Controlling your unconscious behavior is hard, and will certainly take some practice, but it will pay off in the end when you get that call back! If you’re feeling really nervous about an interview, try some high power poses before you leave the house.

body-language-power-poses

 

Yes, you might feel silly, but it could also relieve some of your stress! Just try it, trust me.

Nobody has it all figured out

keepcalm

First, if I have any regular readers, I apologize for my lack of posts these days. It’s peak advising season in the world of Higher Ed, so needless to say, I’ve been pretty swamped. However, it has given me some inspiration for this post, so yay silver lining!

This post is, as always, for anyone who finds it to be helpful, but also for current students. During this advising period, I have seen a lot of students with varying degrees of decisiveness and career goals. There are so many  different ways to go about picking  classes and figuring out your course load,  but one thing I always tell everyone is: It’s okay  if you don’t know what you want to do.  No, really, it is.

I have few students who are at various points  of exploring their options. One in particular started as a  Computer Science major, but now she thinks she wants to teach English in Japan (which is awesome!). But then she’s also interested in a few other things too. For someone who is a “fixer,”or someone who wants one concrete answer, my job would definitely not be for you. This student is great because she has the ability to sort things out for herself, do her own research, and  talk herself through it without me really offering an opinion, only validating the choices she’s  considering. One of the points I wanted to make with this post is that it’s great to explore, and important to  as well. Explore all viable options. If you’re still in school and you’re not sure what you want to do, take electives  geared toward different paths/careers. Take the gen eds first and get them out of the way while you’re deciding, that’s what gen eds are for.

In a world full of uncertainty (especially after this  election), it’s important to find your niche. But its also important to know that you don’t have to have everything decided right away. You have time. Use it to explore different options,  and most importantly to explore yourself and  your interests. Is it important to pick a major (if you’re still in school), yes but it’s also perfectly okay to change it. Multiple times.  It’s your prerogative as a human being to change your mind. The same goes for changing careers.

On the other side of that, if you want to pursue something, pursue it. Don’t worry about the super distant future and how you might change your mind when you’re 45, and want to change careers because of a midlife crisis. Could it happen? Absolutely. But there’s NOTHING wrong with that. For now though, focus on the here and now. If you love doing something or love a particular job or major, stick with it. If you’re not entirely sure and need to look around a bit more, then keeping looking. If you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, relax. Nobody else does either.

4f25388a720914abb7f26a825f5f5f5b

Interview Prep: 7 Tips to Get You Through!

4435256

Congratulations! You landed the interview! Now what?

Trying to prepare for an interview can be intimidating, overwhelming, nerve-racking, and whatever other –ing adjective you can think of. However, your feelings about it are totally justified, because this could potentially be the start of a new chapter in your life.  But, that doesn’t mean you need to freak out and lose focus either. Luckily, I have compiled a list of tips to keep you cool, calm, and collected so you can nail your interview.

1. Do your research

I cannot stress enough how important this is. Yes, you will be asked questions about your ability to do the job in question, but you will also be working for a company, organization, school, etc, and it’s important to learn everything you can about them before going in for your interview.  Print the job description, or take notes on it; use it to come up with questions to ask them.  Visit their website and click on every possible clickable thing on there. If anything seems significant to you, or stands out, write it down so you remember to mention it. Some employers like to ask what you know about their company, or why you want to work there, so having some background information on hand definitely helps. Always come up with at least two questions to ask them at the end. If you think of some during the interview, great, but have some back-up questions to ask too. Having questions for them shows you are genuinely interested in the position and you put effort into your preparation

2. Pick the right outfit.

This can be a little tricky. You want to be comfortable, so you don’t feel awkward or stiff sitting there, but look professional at the same time. As I mentioned in 7 Quick Tips for the Job Search, even if you read somewhere that a particular place has a “business casual” or casual dress code, always take it up another notch and dress professionally. If you’re on a budget and don’t have an actual suit, that’s okay. I personally have a few different jackets I wear with dress pants on interviews, and it still looks professional. Don’t wear sneakers.  Just don’t.  Also, don’t overload on cologne/perfume.  It might seem insignificant, but some people are really sensitive to smells. And while you may love whatever scent you have, others may not agree.

3. Always bring a copy of your resume.

Chances are, whomever you’re interviewing with has a copy of your resume right in front of them, but some like to ask to see if you’re prepared. Yes, I know, it’s tricky and slightly devious, but it happens.

4. Practice.

As silly as you might feel rehearsing answers in your bathroom mirror or in your car on the way there, I think it helps. By answering potential questions out loud, you can hear how it sounds and even get the awkward “uh’s”  and “um’s” out of the way.  Also, if you’re someone who blanks out when you’re nervous sometimes, practicing it ahead of time can really make it stick in your mind so you don’t forget.

5. Be polite to everyone you encounter.

Obviously, you would be polite and courteous to the people conducting the interview, but on interview days, your politeness should know no bounds. If you check in with a secretary or assistant, don’t just brush them off. These people are important, and will be even more so after you  get the job. The director of my school counseling program also told us that sometimes your interviewer will sit in the front office or wherever it is you check in, and observe before they start the interview. That has never happened to me, and I’m not sure how often that actually occurs, but you never know. They could really like Undercover Boss.

6. Thank-you’s, they go a long way.

Always, always, always send a thank-you after the interview. Whether you send an e-mail or a handwritten note, it could set you apart from other candidates.

7. Remember to breathe; they’re just people.

A while back I went on an interview for a Guidance Counselor position, and I was so nervous, I walked right by the front desk and got half lost. When I finally made it to the right place, the security officer stopped me and said, “Relax, okay? They’re just people.” This totally blew my mind, and it’s completely true. The person/people interviewing you have been in your shoes; they know you’re nervous.  If they are the ones making the hiring decisions, yes they are important, but they are truthfully, just people. They understand the effects nerves can have.

Interviews 4ff4469e48f65fa7078d38a42d64730acan be tough, but try to remember to relax a little. It’s part of the job search process, but it doesn’t have to be the most terrible. Try to be present in the moment and keep a clear mind. Obviously this list is not totally comprehensive, but hopefully it
still helps. Good luck, you’re going to nail it!

Know Yourself First

know

Exploration is how we learn, whether it’s exploring a new place, a new job/career, or even yourself. Yes, college is a stereotypical time for exploration, but it can happen at any point in your life.  Although college does offer the advantage of providing many different options and opportunities, there are still tools available to help you get to know yourself on another level. There are, of course, many different ways of doing this, and I am using this post to explore one that I have used myself, and also enjoy implementing  when working with students.

When looking for a new job or even when trying to settle into a current one, it’s important to know your personality and how you go about doing things.  There are quite a few personality tests and assessments out there, but my favorite, and also the most comprehensive (I have found), is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

To be brief, this assessment was created to better explain the theory of psychological types put forth by Carl Jung. The MBTI identifies your preferences for each of the four dichotomies in Jung’s theory, which in turn, results in one of the 16 personality types.

The Four Dichotomies:

  1. Extraversion(E) or Introversion (I): Where do you put your attention and get your energy? Do you get your energy from being around people (Extravert) or do you need time alone to recharge(Introvert)?
  2. Sensing (S) or Intuition(N): Do you pay more attention to information you gain from your five senses (Sensing), or do you pay more attention to patterns and possibilities that you see in information you receive (Intuition)?
  3. Thinking (T) or Feeling (F): When making decisions, do you value facts and objective principles (Thinking), or do you focus more on personal concerns and the people involved (Feeling)?
  4. Judging (J) or Perceiving (P): Do you prefer a more structured, decided lifestyle (Judging), or are you more flexible and adaptable (Perceiving)?

The 16 Personality Types:

mbti

As I said, I’m being very brief with this; this is possibly my favorite thing I have learned since I decided to major in Psychology when I started college, so I could talk about it forever. For more detailed descriptions of the four dichotomies, as well as more general information  I recommend visiting The Myers & Briggs Foundation. I have taken the actual assessment while in school, but there are quite a few free ones out there as well. I personally recommend this one: Human Metrics. It’s pretty comprehensive and also gives you a few different resources in your results, including your personality type (obviously), learning styles, and different career options that work well with the type you scored.

I personally scored as an INFJ. Education and counseling are high on the list for career choices, so in that sense I’m pretty on track. However, this knowledge of myself became more useful while I was still looking for a job. It allowed me to get to know my tendencies better and rework my thoughts to help myself stay positive. I’ve found it’s a lot easier to control your potentially negative thoughts when you know how your mind works. But for those still exploring different career options, assessments like the MBTI could help you weed out jobs that may not be best for you.  I find these tests to be extremely accurate, but like with everything else, they might not be the best tool for everyone.  The reason I share it and recommend it, is because I want to emphasize how important it is to be self-aware.

Be aware of how you make decisions, how you see the world, how you organize your thoughts, and how your process information; knowing this about yourself can help immensely in the job search and in life in general.  It allows you to think more clearly about what you want to do and where you want go, which coincidentally, is a common interview question. Funny how that works, huh?

know yourself

You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup

2ba8a099957f47057a9a362155f4e543

Everyone knows the quote: “Finding a job is a full-time job in itself.”

This is completely true, but that also means you need a break once in a while! Finding a job or changing your career is hard, there’s no doubting that. Not all of us are lucky enough to get something right away, and sometimes it seems never-ending. Trust me, I know.

As I mentioned in 7 Quick Tips for the Job Search , staying positive is important, but also extremely difficult at times. After a few rejections and a slew of potential employers who simply didn’t respond, I found myself struggling with this a lot. Although I’m not sure what the average amount of time is for a college grad to find a job after leaving school, I consider my time to be slightly longer than most. I graduated in May 2014, and I didn’t start my current position until the end of February 2016. I never thought I would be in the position of struggling to find a job, but that is where I found myself during that time. To be totally blunt, it sucks. It really does.  No need to sugarcoat this, right? However, while I thought I was struggling to keep a positive attitude, my Dad actually commended me on my resiliency. Probably about half-way through this almost two-year period, he told me he was actually surprised at how well I was handling it, which was comical to me, since I didn’t think I was handling it particularly well at all.  But regardless of how I was feeling, I kept with it, kept applying for any job I thought would be in the realm of possibility. Was I always a positive ray of sunshine? Absolutely not.  But in this process, it’s important to give yourself a break and realize that some things are out of your control. What you can control is how you go about organizing yourself and how you let yourself unwind. I, of course, have tips for that.

The first thing I will tell anyone embarking on a career change or a job search is to make a spreadsheet. No matter what kind of organizer you are, having a spreadsheet with a list of the jobs you’ve applied to is incredibly helpful. Some employers/companies seem to take their abnormally slow time in getting back to you, or even starting their  interviewing process,  so having  a record you can refer back to is useful. If you’re going at this full speed, chances are you won’t totally remember every single job you applied for. My personal spreadsheet has four columns: place of employment, job title, application date (the date you apply) and interview. Under the last column, I put the date of my interview, as well as dates of any follow-up communication post-interview. The only reason I put this in a post about self-care is that I believe if your actions are organized, your mind will follow.

My second tip I also mentioned in 7 Quick Tips for the Job Search: Make time for yourself not to do any job search related things. The first step in this is to eliminate it on the weekends. The weekend should be yours to do with what you will and relax, not agonize over how to phrase your cover letter. For a while, I would search and apply every day of the week, but I burnt myself out. It’s not healthy to do that, especially not for your mind. I started limiting it to Monday-Friday, and also eventually only until 5 or 6pm on those days. I  can honestly tell you it helped. Taking time away from it allows you to come back refreshed and more motivated. Stretching yourself too thin isn’t going to help you in the long run. Will you add the number of jobs, you apply to, sure, but it’s better to do that with a clear mind and clear focus.2f0cf827ebc97819f6d3a198ce3ab118

Cover Letters: a necessary evil

coverletter

Cover letters.

Yes, we all hate them. Yes, they were the bane of my existence while I was job searching, how did you know?!

Unfortunately, cover letters are a necessary part of applying to jobs, and also an important one. Along with your Resume, your cover letter can set the tone for your whole application package. However, they can be tricky and ambiguous, to say the least. In my personal experience alone, I have seen countless methods of writing cover letters, and I have course, tried the majority of them.

One of the most common issues I have picked up on is that of length. Unlike the resume, which could potentially be 1-2 pages, the cover letter should ALWAYS be one. There’s really no need to add the extra fluff and ramble on for more than a short paragraph or two.

As disheartening as it is, I believe most employers skim cover letters and resumes, especially when they have a huge influx of applications. All the more reason to use those buzz words! Read through the job descriptions of jobs you’re applying for, and include some of it in your cover letter. No, don’t copy it word-for-word; that my friends is called plagiarism. But, for example, one of the many jobs I applied for had a lot to do with student transcripts, schedules, records, etc. Am I an expert, no, but I at least have some experience with those things. And that’s all you really need to say: “I am familiar with…” “I have dealt with…” This leaves it somewhat open and gives you a chance to elaborate when you get called in for an interview. However, as I said in my post about resumes: Don’t Lie! Don’t say that you’ve done something or worked with a certain program or application when you really haven’t. Inevitably, that is what someone will ask you about, and it will look really bad when you have no idea what to say.

Now for the good stuff: format.

A basic cover letter has a pretty simple format.

Untitled

The biggest thing I can say is, don’t ramble. Be clear and concise in your cover letter; you’ll have the opportunity to elaborate in the interview, and even on your resume. Also, if by chance you’re snail-mailing your application packet to a prospective employer, make sure you leave a big enough space between “Sincerely” (or whatever closing you choose) and your name so you can put your signature there. Yes, it’s a little old school, but it also looks professional.

Another popular complication with cover letters is personalizing them for each job you’re applying to. Yes, that is more work, and yes, there is somewhat of a shortcut in doing this. Assuming that the majority of the jobs you’re looking at are relatively the same, or at least in the same industry, I believe it’s okay to have one cover letter that you simply tweak a bit. For School Counseling jobs, I had one cover letter that I worked off of for pretty much all of them. Your introductory paragraph can essentially stay the same, except for the name of the position and employer, of course. Don’t forget to change that, as well as the address where the cover letter is going. Seriously, DON’T FORGET. I’ve unfortunately done it, and needless to say, I did not get an invitation to interview. The middle paragraph is important to switch around also. If the jobs you’re applying for require the same skills and experience, great, but like I’ve said, pay attention to how each job description is worded, and adjust your buzz words accordingly.

For now, this is my advice to you all. Like the resume, there are different types and formats of cover letters as well, but I will be dedicating another post to exploring those in more detail. Talking about yourself and your accomplishments is never easy, but in the job search, it becomes a requirement. Practice, try to get used to it, and if all else fails, fake it till you make it!

coverletter1