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The Whale Shark – Five of My Personal Tips to Help You Succeed in Your Finance Career

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 9, 2014 in Career Path, Job Search

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Whale sharks are the largest known extant fish species in the world. They are found in warm ocean waters and live about 70 to 100 years. The whale shark feeds by gulping in massive Whale Sharkamounts of plankton or fish with its giant mouth. Finance, like the whale shark, is one of the largest and most utilized careers in the world absorbing a massive amount of responsibility and careers into its domain. Everyone and everything has to deal with money. Even if you aren’t a professional financial analyst or planner, you may be paying for education, financing real estate and cars, paying loans, buying insurance, taxes, investing and saving for retirement, etc.

I started working professionally in the finance sector 12 years ago and I wish there had been someone to guide me in the right direction, and impart words of wisdom that could have influenced my decisions and choices. I relied heavily on outdated textbooks, and it did help in some ways, but things are much better now for those who are just starting out in the field of finance. I really believe that the internet is a powerful force for candidates and trainees – after all, there is a lot of easily accessible advice all stored in one location.

Therefore I thought I would do my own part for the people who find themselves in a similar situation the one I was in all those years ago; looking for help in terms of their career. If you are one of these numbers, here are five of my personal tips to help you succeed in your finance career…

Learn continuously

In business, many people make the mistake of finding a job and then taking a back seat. They let their daily tasks become a routine that is hard to shake. Whilst carrying out the responsibilities of your job is vital, it is just as important to continue your education in many areas. There are always advancements in industries, regardless of what they are, so it would be unlikely that there wasn’t a course or workshop that would benefit you in some way. The whale shark is an active feeder. It goes to where the food is!

Seek the best opportunities

Of course it helps to find the right position in the first place, and I have plenty of advice on finding finance careers (www.nationwide-jobs.co.uk/), but I’ll try and keep it short. Don’t expect jobs to land in your email inbox, you will need to be proactive in order to find something special. Make a list of all of the companies you are currently aware of, and then search for their competitors online. You will then have a good place in which to start your job hunt, and you can start to learn the key decision makers that work in each company. Careers in finance are out there, but the exact parts of finance that you most want to work in and the companies you want to work for require some search and filtering. Food separation in whale sharks is by cross-flow filtration, in which the water travels nearly parallel to the filter pad surface, before passing to the outside, while denser food particles continue to the back of the throat.

Ask for feedback

In your job search and when you start working for a company, you should learn to ask for feedback. This can help you to identify areas for improvement when it comes to your interview style, as well as in your day-to-day work. Some businesses will have staff development at the forefront of their business and will automatically schedule appraisals for you, but you may need to ask for these directly in other companies. Whale sharks are actually very difficult to study in their natural habitat so keep an ear to the ground to get the most out of your experiences wherever you are!

Be friendly

It may also help you in the long run to be friendly. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should roll over and accept what people say or do, just that you should ensure that your attitude doesn’t negatively affect your career. Try and be open-minded and you may find that people are more receptive to your ideas and actions. Despite its size, the whale shark does not pose significant danger to humans. Whale sharks are docile fish and sometimes allow swimmers to catch a ride.

Don’t be afraid

Finally, don’t be afraid of taking some risks in your career – it’s something that is a strong theme throughout the finance sector! Take pride in networking and listing your skills on your LinkedIn profile; if another company is interested in them, it means you have been working hard to achieve what you set out to do. The whale shark grows to be so large in size, it does not have many natural enemies besides humans. So don’t hold back when you dive into finance!

This guest post was contributed by Victoria. If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Prey – Don’t Become Prey to Your Next Job Interview

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Feb 27, 2014 in Interviewing Skills

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As if the job search jungle wasn’t hard enough to manoeuvre through, once you’ve found that ideal position it’s time to overcome the dreaded job interview. Make sure you don’t fall victim to the common tests and trials that you’ll be put through. If you go prepared, you’ll ensure your best chance of demonstrating suitably for the role.

Do your research

There’s no quicker turn-off for an interviewer than discovering an applicant actually knows nothing about the company. It shows a lack of interest and, frankly, professionalism. Be sure to do your research into the business with which you’re applying, even if they would not be your first point of call. We know the marketplace is hugely completive and the next job you land might not be with your dream employer… but show an enthusiasm for every organisation you apply for.

Things to consider as you research include current products and services offered and recent developments or news (good and bad).

Be inquisitive

It is common for an applicant to mistake ‘asking questions’ as a sign of weakness, but in fact showing that you are inquisitive can only be favourable. Make sure you have some questions prepared to ask at the end of your interview just in case none naturally arise as the meeting takes place. The questions you ask could be based on your recent research – perhaps you’re unsure of the future vision of the company, or maybe you’d like to know more practical formalities about the job on offer?

Think about your past

While you may be looking to the future as you apply for a new role, don’t forget to think about how your previous work experiences may apply to this new opportunity. It is common for companies to ask you about your last position and how the responsibilities you had there will have been useful to the job you are applying for.

Don’t be surprised if you are asked hypothetical questions that require you to draw on past business experience. You might be asked to talk through a previous job failing and how you handed it, or to describe what you would do to overcome an issue their company is currently facing in your department.

Educate yourself

Aside from industry relevant qualifications, IT is becoming a crucial skillset in every sector. Do you have what it takes to make it in today’s tech savvy marketplace? If you feel your lacking when it comes to keyboard skills and spreadsheet formulas, maybe it’s time to get trained. Click here for some more information on relevant IT courses that can help you expand your knowledge.

Be flexible and focussed

Perhaps the hardest part of a job interview is being ready to think on your feet. It’s not easy to predict the sort of things you might be asked, so don’t get hung up on planning the answer to everything in advance. Instead be prepared to take a flexible attitude. Relax and embrace the unknown! Listen carefully and answer honestly for your best shot at coming over confidently.

This guest post was contributed by Victoria. If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

 

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The Peacock – Making A Lasting Impression In The Wild

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Feb 17, 2014 in Lessons Learned

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The ostentatious Indian Peacock’s tail plumage has many admirers, but little understanding of why the colorful feathers evolved. Theories of sexual selection, camouflage, signaling, and defense have circulated since before Darwin’s time without any satisfactory conclusions. Sexual attraction is currently the reigning theory, but studies continue to research the complexities of the peahen’s choice since the incredibly elaborate feathered train of the peacock does not seem to have sole control over mate selection.

Networking events are common in the business world. They occur nearly every day in every major city across many industries. It’s important to stand out at these events in order to make contact with people, but you don’t want to be the one that during the event debrief everyone asks, “Who was the person with the crazy [tie/hat/coat/outfit, etc.], and what were they thinking?” Your choice of peacock flair for the occasion may be a great conversation starter, but is it a great first impression?

First impressions are lasting ones, particularly when you are interviewing. Networking events are crucial for people seeking new jobs, but you want to be the one that stands out by your intellectual conversation, not your outfit or something eccentric about yourself that you (over)shared. Having a unique hobby, skill or passion is a good discussion at a social event, but avoid tales that delve just a little too deep below the surface for new acquaintances to digest.

Keep conversation light and thoughtful and stay away from your recent divorce, loan applications, and too much personal talk about your family, children and pets. Rather than talking about yourself and simply offering information that may or may not be relatable to the person you are speaking to, ask the other person questions about themselves. Explore topics around what they’ve been writing or reading lately and solicit their thoughts so that you can expand on things that are already of interest to them. This will make you stand out in the forefront of their minds as a qualified professional as opposed to the person who told the slightly uncomfortable story about such and such.

Trends in attire come and go, but looking polished never goes out of style. As far as clothing for a networking event, pairing a nice conservative suit with a colorful tie or scarf without over-doing it is key. Even a single piece of interesting jewelry such as a necklace or a ring can be a simple artistic addition that will nicely go with a conventional suit without being overwhelming. Again, you want to be the one they remember, but not because you didn’t look the part or because you wore something that was out of place at the event.

Ask a friend or colleague if you are unsure about what you are wearing and whether it’s appropriate for the event. You will certainly be remembered if you imitate the peacock, but you probably do not want your new acquaintances to theorize through the next day about your outfit.

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The Social Wolf – Planning Your Career Pack With Social Media

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on May 22, 2013 in Career Path, Job Search, Self Improvement

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How to Utilize Social Media Effectively in Your CareerWolf

Wolves live predominantly in packs to search for food, raise pups, and defend hunting territory. When a wolf leaves their birth pack, it could be in order to join a new pack that may not have as many members or packs that have better opportunities in the hierarchy. Sometimes the searching wolf may even establish their own pack. If a wandering wolf doesn’t find the right pack, it is usually possible to return to their birth pack. Wolves may cover a large area and travel long distances in search of the perfect fit and it often seems to be a hit or miss process. Social media networking can take much of the guess work out of finding your career pack.

People have always looked for ways to interact with their colleagues in order to develop a way of getting a step above the other competitors in their career. Many social networking websites that represent digital social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and others present an excellent way of not only staying close to your friends but at the same time offer various growth opportunities for one’s career. Let’s see how social media can help you in your career by allowing you to stay connected with professionals in the community.

How social media works to boost your career

Websites that focus on maintaining and managing one’s professional networks, like LinkedIn, utilize social networking software and principally work on the concept of managing and gathering multi-tiered contacts. “First connections” are those individuals with whom you have a direct connection, as in a co-worker or friend, and the further tiers, such as second or third connections, are professionals that are in your network sphere as a result of having relationships with your direct connections. An individual needs to become a registered user of the website in order to benefit from it. However, once registration is completed, that person can interact with thousands of professionals of the same or different fields as well as maintaining and managing a chain of direct professional connections.

With such career oriented social media websites one can look at companies in their respective fields and even apply for relevant jobs in order to plan a career move. This can be a great benefit to the individuals who are either looking to move companies or researching the first job in their career. Job seekers and employees are not limited by geographical boundaries, but only their own network. These websites realize the importance of personal branding in a job search and hence, suggest their users develop appropriate profiles which can help them represent their accomplishments, strengths, skills and academics to their potential employers or clients. Developing a personal brand with these social sites can make the professional a more valuable asset for the company they work for, their own enterprise, and for the potential employers as well.

Social media has evolved as a great advancement in social networking that boosts professional networking activities and career management for people in a resourceful manner. This electronic way of person-to-person networking is quite an effective marketing tool, which an individual can utilize to market his/ her professional skills. These social media platforms allow any individual to manage his/her own future and career just with a click of a mouse. These have made the professional connections and interconnections possible which grow into a wonderful professional web community. Not only does it offer career prospects, but professional discussions through forums and groups enable individuals to continue to learn many new things pertaining to their field or career.

The social media platforms have revolutionized career development for self management, personal and professional empowerment, as well as networking. It would not be wrong to say that one can indeed utilize the social media effectively for his/her career as it is a valuable way for building professional brand statement in the long run and for finding appropriate opportunities in their career.

Don’t be the lone wolf wandering aimlessly, research a pack with social media and develop the connections to move forward in your career.

This guest post was contributed by Patrick S. Patrick has been recently employed by a professional research paper writing service at SolidEssay.com, where he helps students fine tune their research papers and other academic work.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Monkey – Take A Survey!

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Nov 29, 2012 in Career Path, Self Improvement

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Social Media. Social Networking. These are the two hot buttons around these days. How can you use these tools to reach the high performing/high potential candidates that make the best employees? Imagine if you could reach the best people faster, before your competition snaps them up.

We are currently conducting a confidential international research study to learn how people who have been identified as high performers/high potential employees use social media and social networking. Our goal is to gain clarity around where these people are spending their time online in order that employers can more effectively interact with them via social media.

We are conducting online surveys with high performing employees to learn:

  • how they receive their daily news;
  • what they are reading on a personal and business level and how they access and obtain that information;
  • what they do for continuing professional education;
  • how these individuals network on a professional level and what their level of engagement is;
  • how these individuals interact with their personal friends;
  • what they do when they are bored;
  • what sources they use to find jobs;
  • how these individuals share information;
  • what they think about their current employer;
  • how they feel their employer could better position themselves in the market;
  • their top business concerns and what type of research could be done to help resolve these issues;
  • who they consider an expert in their filed and the reasons why; and how do they follow those individuals?

If you would like to participate and receive a complimentary copy of the white paper we ask that you send the link below to any number of people you know that have been promoted within the past 18 months and/or whom you consider to be a high potential/high performer. We estimate that the survey will take no more than 10 minutes to complete. If you reply “yes!” in the comments we can send you the results after they are compiled in January.

The survey will close in one week so please send it out as soon as you can.  We appreciate your help in our research!

The survey can be accessed here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HWHZXMT

Thank you!

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The Underbrush – New Nannies Navigating The Jungle

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Oct 16, 2012 in Career Path, Job Search, Thinking Positive

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In a jungle there are many layers. The top layer is the canopy, where birds flutter from treetop to treetop. A little farther down are the branches. They are a bit harder to move through but still navigable. Then you get to the lower layer. Shadowed by the treetops overhead and tangled with underbrush, this layer is full of snares and entanglements that can trip you up.

The job market is like a jungle. You have the top layer of well-educated and experienced job searchers who seem to flit and fly from job to job landing where they please. Then you have the middle layer of individuals who are either well-educated but not experienced or experienced but not well educated. These job seekers have a little bit of climbing as they grasp and swing from branch to branch collecting experience and education. Then you come to the bottom layer. This layer can contain job seekers who may only have a basic education, little or no experience, or have decided to change fields and are starting from scratch. It is the most difficult layer to navigate and not for the faint-hearted explorers. Experience will come with time and many in this layer are also pursing higher education, but challenging and rewarding employment opportunities may seem few. Someone on this path in the jungle who loves children may want to consider becoming a nanny. You get to spend time one-on-one with a child and really get to know them.

Being a nanny is very different then working in a day care facility or even as a teacher. You get to spend time with one child or maybe a couple of children inside their home, where they feel comfortable. Typically, nannies are also paid more than a day care worker depending on the number of children they supervise and the family. But how do you become a nanny?

Nannies do not generally need any special qualifications. A degree, for instance, is not necessary to get started. What you do need, however, is a clean criminal and driving record. If you are or wish to be certified in CPR or other childcare related things such as early education, it is certainly helpful but not necessary.

The lives of many nannies involve traveling the world and making money. Some nannies vacation with families while others look specifically for work overseas. Job seekers who enjoy children and are interested in exploring can take steps to prepare themselves for a career as a nanny.

1.Consider Your Skills

Nannying seems similar to babysitting, but parents take the job very seriously. You should list all qualifications that make you capable of caring for a child like your educational background, volunteering experience or aspects in your personal life. Miscellaneous jobs and hobbies may also be relevant. If you know how to play an instrument or had a job cooking, then your experiences can add value. Taking the initiative and being CPR certified or learning a families’ native language also shows you are serious.

2. Applying

Taking the time to consider your skills and build the strongest resume helps for the next step. The easiest way to find opportunities is to join an online agency. Nanny boards appeal to families because they usually require ID verification and a background check. You can search through families and apply to good fits, and many sites cater specifically to opportunities abroad. Applications will vary, but most will require a resume, personal statement and references. Agencies usually charge a fee. Ensure the site you choose is easy to navigate and can send applications to as many available jobs as possible.

3. The Fine Print

When vacationing with a family or residing in a new country to nanny, various details should be considered. Find out if you have to pay for airfare, dining, or other expenses. If residing in a country, research the specific requirements for work visas and nannying. Pay rates may be different than what you are used to in foreign countries. You may also be paid less if the family provides accommodations. Not all nanny jobs are lucrative, but you are given spending money and a chance to visit foreign locations.

4. Meet The Family

Impressing the parents with an application and interview sets you on the right track. However, the real challenge is meeting the child. Communicate honestly with parents because you may not meet the child before traveling. You and the parents will have to decide if your personality and skills will work well with the child. You may have plans, but do not be afraid to make changes. Start friendly and tailor your approach to the child’s attitude. It may take time for them to see you as an authority and trust you.

Patience, adaptability and determination are crucial when nannying overseas because you cannot back out easily. Considering your skills, researching, and finding and communicating with families that you work well with will make the process rewarding.

To look for a nanny job close to home, simply contact a local agency or go online to a site like enannysource.com or nannypro.com. There you will be walked through the application process and your resume and application will be seen by families in your area that are looking for a nanny. If you have any previous childcare experience, like babysitting or even taking care of younger family members, that is a plus. Parents also love multi-lingual nannies.

Being a nanny can mean different things to different people, so be very clear on what your expectations are and what the parents expect from you. Some nannies also do light housework, like picking up after the kids, or even some tutoring. It all depends on what the parents want and what you are willing and able to do.

Being a nanny can be an extremely rewarding job. If you love children, then you may want to look into becoming a nanny.

This guest post was contributed by Ken Myers. Ken is an Expert Advisor on multiple household help issues to many organizations and groups, and is a mentor for other “Mom-preneurs” seeking guidance.  He is a regular contributor of www.gonannies.com.  You can get in touch with him at kmyers.ceo @gmail.com

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Elements of the Sea – Traversing the World of First Time Employment

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Aug 16, 2012 in Building Confidence, Job Search, Thinking Positive

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There are few things more terrifying to a 20-something than entering the world of “real” employment. You’ve obtained your degree, put in the classroom hours, stayed up late in the library, written that final essay, and walked that final trip from campus to the ever-looming “real world”. While the working world has always been a challenging aspect of growing up for young adults throughout the year, 20-somethings today face several new (or seemingly new) challenges. With a job market that values experience, an economy struggling to survive, and a youth society burdened by hefty student loan debt, the waters of the “real-world” are turbulent and harsh at times. Many new graduates are either struggling to find work and struggling to stay afloat in the working world. That being said, the waters of new employment don’t have to be overwhelming. As an educated, intelligent, and passionate young professional, you are equipped with the wits and ability to swim the employment sea—and even enjoy the waves.

Jumping In

The first step to succeeding in the world of first time employment is to fully commit to the process. The water might be cold and uninviting in many ways, but you’ve got to just jump right in. Throw yourself out there. Send out endless resumes. Network with everyone you can. Make the job search your first full time job. Trust me—you’ll succeed eventually. Once you land that first “real” job, dive in head first once again. You have to commit. Your first position may not be that dream job you’ve always wanted, but it is a start. Commit yourself to completing the best work you possibly can. Diving in full force will help you make the most of your experience. Try not to be the reserved and timid new kid. Take charge (in the appropriate ways of course) and own your work.

Head above Water

As a first time employee, it can be easy to feel in over your head at times. Just as swimming in the big waves can be scary the first few times, a new job can take some time to find your footing. But, never underestimate your ability to stay afloat. Those first few weeks at a new job can be a struggle. You’re meeting new people, learning new tasks, familiarizing yourself with new procedures—it can be a lot to take on. Even more so, new grads have the added challenge of being new to the employment waters completely. It will take some time to feel comfortable among the waves and choppiness, but you’ll eventually find your way past the break.

Going with the Motions

As a newbie employee in the workforce, things can be choppy at first. The working world isn’t going to be exactly like college. But, even with the changes and challenges, you are well prepared to succeed with your professional pursuits. Think about the things you did in college to succeed and translate those pursuits to your professional life. Your drive, motivation, brains, and goals drove you to succeed in school—and will drive you to succeed in a career as well. While making flashcards and staying up all night in the library may not be the right plan of attack anymore in the working world, that dedication is still essential. You’ve got to learn to go with the motions when you enter the working world for the first time. Things are going to be different. Think of it like this—college was like swimming in the Gulf and the professional world is jumping fresh-faced into the Atlantic (it’s a different pond). Learn to go with the motions. Don’t fight to try to do things the same way you always have. Sometimes you’ll have to let yourself just move with the waves and learn as you go (and with some help).

This guest post was contributed by Samantha Gray. Samantha is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about career advice for college students. She enjoys spending time with her various pets, reading poetry, and traveling to off-the-beaten-path countries and regions. She welcomes questions or comments at samanthagray024 @gmail.com.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Landscape – Surveying The Job

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 13, 2012 in Job Search, Lessons Learned

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“The Bare Necessities of any Job Hunt”

Whether you’re fresh out of college or a veteran of the workforce, establishing expectations is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself when you’re searching for a job.

Many people are so consumed with obtaining a job they may have to forgo considering whether it’s a good job. Settling for a good enough for right now job is likely to be a poor investment, but unfortunately it is sometimes unavoidable. With so many dangers and pitfalls in the job search jungle, a survey of the landscape in any position will give you enough information about what kind of employment is right for you.

If you find yourself in a less than favorable position, turn it into a learning experience. Write down what you dislike about your work life, and consider what circumstances would make it better. This can give you a better sense of what you will want in your next position, and it could possibly inspire you to suggest changes in your current job.

For those young, bright-eyed college graduates who are not expecting the pitfalls such as office politics and income taxes, it’s easy to get blindsided by a job that seems appealing in the interview stages. The challenge is, without work experience, you may not know what you want.

In the jungle, you will need food, water, and shelter to survive. In the work world, salary, coworkers, and work environment are among the bare necessities. Here are some questions to help you whittle down your expectations to the bare necessities.

But first, let me explain that the bare necessities are different for everyone. Some people crave order and instruction, while others crave creativity and independence. Some people prefer benefits over salary, and some prefer great personnel dynamics.

How much money will I take home?

The least romantic (but most practical) question is often the first and only question that eager potential employees will ask. The answer to this question is more complicated than it seems. In addition to the salary, you will need to factor in the state’s income tax, cost of benefits and other costs such as commuting and purchasing new clothes. All jobs come with a price.

Employers are rarely upfront with starting salaries in the preliminary interview, which means you can be excited about a position only to be disappointed with the amount of money offered. Also, the opposite is possible. The job could sound iffy, but the money may be appealing.

Money is the bare necessity of any job, but it can’t realistically be your only gauge for whether a job will be a good fit. Before you step foot in an interview, know the absolute lowest amount you can afford to accept and be willing to negotiate based on the above factors.

Who is on my team?

This question isn’t just about who is on your team; it’s also about how your team operates. Office dynamics can ruin or strengthen a good work experience.

If you haven’t had enough experience to know what type of office environment suits you, consider what types of organizations or circumstances have allowed you to excel.

Think back to your strongest relationships among peers, employers, mentors, coaches, parents, teachers and professionals. Did you feel that the motivation was coming from a superior, your team or yourself? Chances are, you’ve found motivation in all three; but pick the one that made you feel the most successful and brand it as a bare necessity.

  1. I respect strong leadership from my superiors.
  2. I need a strong support system and open communication from my teammates on all levels.
  3. I prefer minimal supervision for maximum creativity and success.

Depending on which type of communication you prefer, you can use an above statement to open up a dialogue with your interviewer about team dynamics.  The right communication is vital to feeling motivated, inspired and fulfilled at your job.

What are the working conditions?

Considering the job, you could be on the road, at a desk or under the sun. Asking this question in advance can help clue you in to overtime expectations. It can also prepare you for the challenges of the office environment. (No office environment is perfect.)

In this instance, your health is the absolute bare necessity. Make sure your work environment offers plenty of breaks and that it won’t strain existing medical conditions. If you feel it’s appropriate, inquire about social activities (sports teams, happy hours or charity events) that allow for a sense of community beyond the office.

Whatever landscape you prefer, keep your salary, coworkers, and working conditions on your mind for your next position.

This blog post was contributed by Mariana Ashley. Mariana is a freelance blogger who primarily writes about how online education and technology are transforming academia as we know it. Having spent a good portion of her professional career trying to reform high schools in East St. Louis, Mariana is particularly interested in how online colleges in Missouri make higher education a possibility for students of all backgrounds. Please contact her at mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com if you’d like to discuss this article or education in general.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Predator – Watch out for Exploitative Internships

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 21, 2012 in Career Path, Lessons Learned

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For those who are still in college or just now graduating, the saying, “It’s a jungle out there,” is truer now more than ever. One of the many options that students or recent graduates flock to in lieu of full- or even part-time employment is the unpaid internship. Don’t get me wrong—internships, especially in certain hard-to-break-into industries like journalism, are often the only way to get your foot in the door. But in hard economic times, it’s not uncommon for companies and businesses to offer internships that are either exploitative, technically illegal, or some combination of both. Here’s what you should watch out for to avoid becoming the prey of shady internship programs:

1.      Ask former interns about their experiences; don’t join an internship program blind.

Thanks to the Internet, there’s plenty of information out there about both good and bad internships. Sometimes a simple Google search will suffice. You can also look into websites that rank and review internships, like Vault.com. Whatever you do, try to get in personal touch with a former intern—either through email, on the phone, or in-person—so that you understand from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, what the internship is really like.

2.      You should not be asked to do the same work in amount and kind as a full-time worker.

What makes an internship illegal is getting paid nothing to conduct “essential work.” Essential work is basically a full set of tasks that a full-time employee who gets paid does on a daily basis. Internships are essentially a networking opportunity combined with a few diverse tasks to give you a better idea of what the company or organization does as a whole. If you’re being asked to do essential work, then you’re working for a company that’s breaking the law. For more information about the legality of unpaid internships, check out this article.

3.      Always first seek out paid internships. They do exist.

Of course, the vast majority of internships are unpaid. But you’d be surprised by how many internships are out there that do pay, even if it’s not very much. Paid internships tend to be more serious in the nature of the work you’ll be doing, and they’re more affordable.

4.      There are definite alternatives to unpaid internships. You just have to know where to look.

Although many of my friends and relatives have had internships, and I’ve counseled younger people who’ve participated in good internships, I’ve never done unpaid work in my life beyond extracurricular volunteer work. When I graduated from college and couldn’t find work, I instead took on freelance projects as a writer and consultant. These (paid) projects can be just as rewarding as internships. You’ll establish connections that can lead to full-time work, you’ll learn the basics of various industries, and you’ll be getting paid to boot. So while internships can be wonderful experiences, you don’t absolutely need them to get your foot in the door.

In virtually every industry, there are predators out there. Don’t be their victim. Do your research and choose internships wisely. Good luck!

This guest post was contributed by Barbara Jolie. Barbara is a full time freelance writer and blogger in the Houston area. She enjoys writing about education and the advantages of online classes for all students. If you have any questions email Barbara at barbara.jolie876 @gmail.com.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Extinction – Employment Advertising

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 12, 2012 in Job Search

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Things change.  Flowers bloom, technology advances, leaves fall, consumer needs and buying habits evolve. Even the way we do business is changing largely due to the emergence of social media which is also threatening conventional job search methods. This may not be a species to save and there are gads of ways to tap in to these emerging trends before the extinction of the traditional wanted ad.

I know we have said this many times on this blog. So, if you’re a job seeker, I’m sure you’ve seen the statistic that 80% of jobs are obtained through personal networking.

It never fails that when a friend of mine is faced with job change, I am one of their first calls no matter what their field of expertise.  While this makes sense – I have thousands of contacts and am happy to help them – the first thing I ask is what they are doing to look for a new job. They express how frustrated they are that when they reply to ads that they get no response but that is the only thing they have been doing. Here are a few avenues you can search to gain control over your job hunt so you won’t have to rely on blind luck; which is what you are doing if you are only selectively responding to ads.

In my book TEN STEPS TO FINDING THE PERFECT JOB one of the first points made is that it is fiscally impossible for companies to professionally advertise and post every job they have open. They would go broke!  It’s expensive to advertise on even the most common job seeker sites. If an employer is looking for hard-to-find people (programmers, DBA’s, tax, audit, etc.), many times the right people aren’t responding so the companies stop advertising and look to referral methods.

To tap into that network of unadvertised jobs you have to do some research.  Who would have needs for you and your skill sets? Classified employment advertising is a great place to get leads even if the job advertised isn’t perfect for you.  For example, if you are a Hyperion System Administrator, looking for companies that post other positions requiring Hyperion skills on their websites or on job boards would make that company a target of yours. Why? Because they, at some point, will need a person like you and the employees there who use Hyperion know other former employers and co-workers they can refer you to as well.

Remember, finding a job is all about timing so expanding your network when the timing is right can be tricky.  Adopting a constant approach to networking is a better plan than waiting until you are desperate.  People find it easier to help you when there isn’t a crucial deadline to be met.  Setting a goal of reaching out to a new person every day, as an example, that you have something in common with on LinkedIn is a great way to expand your on line presence and profile. To expand your sphere of personal influence, you have to network online, professionally and personally.

Your LinkedIn profile should be peppered with appropriate keywords indicating the work you would like to be contacted about.  Professional networking via industry conferences, association meetings ,and other business groups organized around geography (like the chamber of commerce) are great places to meet people that can help you uncover unadvertised opportunities.

People ask me all the time about Twitter.  If you look for #jobs you will see thousands of jobs popping up every day that you can link to on Twitter.  If you Tweet, make sure your profile, again, has all the keywords you want to be found for in it.

Be mindful of the companionship you keep on line. This past week someone was recommended to me as a person who was influential via social media but when I looked at this person’s profile I saw something different.  The posts from their “friends” and “followers” were littered with profanity, slang and were generally unprofessional.  We can’t control what others are posting but we can monitor it and remove it so, if you are looking for a job, you want to make sure you look as professional on line as you are for an interview.

Embrase the extinction with these new ways of job searching.

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