Why Graduates Who Want a Career Full of Travel and Adventure Should Consider the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service

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Vella Mbenna

Amelia Island, FL—Now that graduation is finally here, you may be dreaming of finding a job that encompasses everything you want in a career: adventure, travel, challenge, growth, risk, and reward. The problem is, most jobs come up short in these areas. But if you’re determined to do meaningful work that’s full of excitement, the Foreign Service may be the right place for you.

For those who may not know, the Foreign Service is the corps of employees dedicated to representing America abroad and responding to the needs of American citizens living and traveling around the world. While not everyone is cut out for this line of work, says Vella Mbenna—who worked in the Foreign Service for 26 years—it is a great job opportunity for ambitious new graduates.

“Being a diplomat with the US Department of State demands intellect, courage, and a sense of adventure—not to mention an unshakable work ethic,” says Mbenna, author of Muddy Roads Blue Skies: My Journey to the Foreign Service, from the Rural South to Tanzania and Beyond (Muddy Roads Press, 2019, ISBN: 978-1-7327918-0-0, $16.99). “If this describes you, you may have what it takes to join the ranks of hardworking citizens making a difference in our global society.”

But make no mistake: Jobs in the Foreign Service are not easy to come by.

“In my opinion, they are one of the hardest government positions to obtain,” says Mbenna. “And once you’re doing the work, you’ll be challenged daily to push yourself and find out what you’re truly made of. You must have the right mindset and the right skill set—and acquiring them is absolutely worth it.”

Early in her life, Mbenna never suspected that she would someday work as a US diplomat with the Foreign Service. After getting her college degree, she wound up back in her hometown in rural Georgia with a young child and few career prospects. But staying put was not an option. Her wanderlust prompted her to apply for a position with the US Department of State, where she eventually became an information management officer (IMO) in charge of information technology (IT) and communications, working in places like Beirut, Uganda, and Tunisia.

There, among her primarily “male, white, Yale” colleagues, Mbenna (a minority three times over: black, Southern, and female) started the long journey to the top. Despite facing instances of insubordination, racism, sexism, and culture shaming, Mbenna worked her way up to level “01,” the highest-grade level you can earn in the Foreign Service—provided there is no desire to hang around for some years to see if you will be selected to join the cadre of senior, policy-level foreign affairs professionals.

For a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, the challenges, victories, and even the near misses Mbenna experienced were the very definition of a fulfilling career. Part memoir and part how-to success guide, Muddy Roads Blue Skies tells the remarkable story of Mbenna’s journey from the backwoods of Georgia to the far reaches of the globe.

If you’re ready to graduate and may be interested in a career in the Foreign Service, here are the skills and behaviors Mbenna says you should turn into habits right now:

Do the work—and more. Dutifully do your work every day, and do it well. And when your work is done, see if you can help someone else with theirs. Mbenna routinely went above and beyond throughout her career, including her courageous efforts in the aftermath of the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam. Her contributions during this dangerous time even earned her a Heroism Award from the Department of State.

“My mother’s ‘hard work from dawn to dusk’ mandate, which I was raised with, shaped my professional work ethic,” says Mbenna. “The good news is, anyone can learn this skill with enough perseverance. Challenge yourself daily to not just show up for your work—whatever it may be—but come with a contagiously positive attitude that shows your gratefulness for the type of work you do. Rise to the occasion consistently, and soon it will become second nature, and people will take notice.”

Find a role model/mentor. Develop trusting relationships with colleagues—in the field or not—who can help guide and develop you in your career. Think of someone you admire whom you could learn from and ask them if they will offer you career guidance. The Department of State also has an excellent formal mentor program, which Mbenna highly recommends newer diplomats take full advantage of.

Don’t be afraid to share ideas. “Never sit around the table during meetings thinking you are too low in rank or too ignorant of the subject matter to contribute,” says Mbenna. “You would not be there if you did not have something to contribute. Meetings are the ideal time for discussing ideas; come prepared with at least one or two ideas or questions, and then communicate them. Around mid-career, I became tired of sitting in meetings and rarely contributing. So, my motto became: ‘If you think it, share it.’ It paid off for me, and it will for you too.”

Respect the chain of command. “I do not believe any leader wants to be second-guessed or challenged by a subordinate, especially not in public,” says Mbenna. “The leader is the leader for a reason. Respect the chain of command and insist on it regardless of whether you are the leader, the second-in-command, or the follower.

“Overstepping boundaries without being invited to, especially if it is not your project or post, makes for a rough ride and stressful work environment for the entire team,” she continues. “As someone who has served as a leader and follower in my career, I can confirm that the chain of command works when everyone follows it.”

Be strategic. Don’t leave your career up to chance, advises Mbenna. Think carefully about the path you would like to take, then plan your career trajectory accordingly. Keep in mind that every position and grade level you attain are stepping stones to the next one, so be on the lookout for opportunities to learn and develop while whole-heartedly contributing to the mission. Finally, remember that new skills can qualify you for more advanced positions, so seize every chance to acquire them.

Know when to lead and when to follow. The higher you climb in the Foreign Service (and in most other fields), the more leadership responsibilities you will have. Still, different positions require you to serve in different capacities. Sometimes you will be asked to lead, and other times you will be asked to follow. Learn to do both with ease—and be aware of when either is appropriate—and you will be more valuable to your team and organization.

“After having been a leader in previous roles, I accepted a position on a ‘hardship’ tour in Kabul, Afghanistan,” says Mbenna. “I went in knowing and accepting that this time I would be a follower, and I became a good one because of that mindset. I did what I was supposed to do, and I did it as specified with a smile. Keep in mind that whether you’re a follower or a leader, your work counts. Whatever role you find yourself in, it matters, so be sure to make it work for you.”

Be dedicated/be useful, even in bad conditions. Learn to stay on task even during chaotic times (whether the chaos is work-related or personal). Mbenna’s last Foreign Service assignment was in Tunis, Tunisia, several years after the uprisings of the Arab Spring. Even though the turmoil had resulted in staff reduction and a revolving door of temporary staff at the embassy, Mbenna never stopped working and striving to uphold her responsibilities—not even when a broken leg forced her to work from a hotel and home for several weeks while she recovered.

“Don’t hesitate to do more than your specific duties in calm and chaotic periods,” says Mbenna. “Pitch in and help others, even if they do not ask. If they do not need your help, they will tell you. You’ll never regret going the extra mile, because eventually it will pay off for you, even if it only brings a smile to your face or a good memory years later when telling your Foreign Service story.”

Know when to leave. “When it’s time to leave the Foreign Service, you will know it,” says Mbenna. “This comes at a different time for everyone. It could be a few years into your career, or you may stay until you reach the mandatory retirement age of 65. You might start feeling restless, unsatisfied, or unhappy at work; or missing your family and friends so much that it distracts you from your duties; or simply realizing that you’re ready for your next adventure. Regardless of what it is, pack your bags and leave before you are burned-out or forced to leave. I reached my desired rank and left on my own terms, and what a happy feeling that was!”

“If you want to succeed in a high-stakes work environment like the Foreign Service, you’d better be ready to put your heart and soul into it,” concludes Mbenna. “Be ready to work hard and go all in, and from there the experience acquired and skills you are sharpening each day will help you truly excel. Yes, there are easier careers out there, but few are as rewarding or exhilarating. So if you want it, dig deep into who you are, find your greatness, and let it shine every day.”

About the Author:
Vella Mbenna is the author of Muddy Roads Blue Skies: My Journey to the Foreign Service, from the Rural South to Tanzania and Beyond. She was born in the Holmestown community of Midway, Georgia, where she grew up with eight siblings and parents who instilled in her the important values that would set her on the path to success. Throughout her youth, Vella dreamed of escaping small-town USA and traveling the world. In 1989, that dream came true when she was offered a position with the US Department of State Foreign Service. During her highly successful 26-year career as a diplomat, Vella served with honor in 13 foreign countries as well as two tours in Washington, DC.

17 College Majors That Report Higher Underemployment

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diverse college students

According to a recently released survey from salary, jobs and career database, PayScale, holders of these bachelors degrees said they felt they were unemployed.

To complete its study, PayScale collected data from 962,956 workers.

Physical Education Teaching

% Underemployed: 56.4%

Human Services

% Underemployed: 55.6%

Illustration

% Underemployed: 54.7%

Criminal Justice

% Underemployed: 53.0%

Project Management

% Underemployed: 52.8%

Radio/Television & Film Production

% Underemployed: 52.6%

Studio Art

% Underemployed: 52.0%

Health Care Administration

% Underemployed: 51.8%

Education

% Underemployed: 51.8%

Human Development & Family Studies

% Underemployed: 51.5%

Creative Writing

% Underemployed: 51.1%

Animal Science

% Underemployed: 51.1%

Exercise Science

% Underemployed: 51.0%

Health Sciences

% Underemployed: 50.9%

Paralegal Studies

% Underemployed: 50.9%

Theatre

% Underemployed: 50.8%

Art History

% Underemployed: 50.7%

Continue on to Forbes for the complete slideshow.

15 Work Conversations That Could Cost You Your Job

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Professional Woman pictured holding her finger up doing the shhhh sign

In August 2019, Google issued a new set of community guidelines that banned political discussions at work.

The new policy states, “While sharing information and ideas with colleagues helps build community, disrupting the workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story does not.

Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics. Avoid conversations that are disruptive to the workplace or otherwise violate Google’s workplace policies.”

Talking about politics isn’t the only conversation you should avoid at work. There are plenty of types of work conversations that could cost you your job, so you’ll want to learn how to avoid them if they come up.

 

Talking Openly About Wanting To Quit

Even if you’re among co-workers you trust, it’s a bad idea to talk openly about wanting to quit your job, said Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation.

“No matter how close you may be with your co-workers or even if you said it out of frustration, it’s best not to discuss something this sensitive in mixed company,” she said. “News of this nature travels quickly through an office grapevine. Before you know it, your manager might find out and will have questions for you.”

“The best approach is to avoid discussing this topic altogether with co-workers,” Case said. “It’s a personal matter that should be kept to yourself and a conversation to have with management when, and if, the time is suitable for it.”

Discussing Religion

In general, it’s best to avoid any topic that could make your colleagues uncomfortable and raise a flag with human resources. Because religion is such a sensitive topic, it’s one you should not discuss at work.

“You may need to talk to HR or a supervisor if you need accommodation for your religious beliefs, such as time off for religious holidays or a place to pray during the workday,” said Paula Brantner, an employment attorney and principal at PB Work Solutions. “But when it comes to your co-workers, no one wants to be proselytized to at work since you’re compelled to be there, and it’s harder to politely decline.”

“Although religious discrimination is illegal, you also need to be focused on your job while at work, so don’t spend time engaged in religious conversations,” she said. “And don’t engage in discrimination against or harass other workers in violation of federal, state, and/or local law because they don’t share the same beliefs or have individual characteristics that you don’t agree with.”

Discussing Your Home Life or Marital Issues

Leave any issues you have with your home life at home, said Baron Christopher Hanson, lead consultant and owner of RedBaronUSA.

“News about your home life or any litigious matters you or a spouse may be facing can spread … or reveal weaknesses that competitors and foes in any workplace may use against you,” he said.

Airing Out Workplace Secrets

“Any workplace secrets — marketing plans, financial strategies or legal disputes — that your company is dealing with should never be discussed in public where details may be overheard, recorded or distributed digitally in nanoseconds,” said Hanson.

“In today’s modern world, communication comes at us seemingly from every direction — other people, our computers and especially our smartphones. Private texts and conversations can be seen or heard over our shoulders like never before, even on the train home from work when you think no one is really listening or seeing what you type.”

Discussing Health Issues

As with your home life, discussions about your health don’t belong in the office. Talking openly about a medical issue should not cost you your job, but it can make co-workers feel uneasy.

Telling your co-workers that you had a routine dental appointment isn’t necessarily an issue. Still, you might want to hold off on discussing serious medical problems, Annette Harris, president and founder of personal branding agency ShowUp!, told HuffPost.

“Similar to marital problems, people often just don’t know how to react or respond in a work environment,” she said.

Gossiping About Other Co-Workers

You probably won’t like every person you work with, but you should definitely keep those thoughts to yourself, said business coach Stacy Caprio.

Continue on to Yahoo News to read the complete article.

3 Changes to The Job Search – Not Counting Technology

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Woman behind desk interviewing candidate

By Randy Wooden

Technology has changed our lives in many ways, including how we conduct a job search. I have witnessed a number of recruiting and job coaching changes in my 30+ year career. Most – but not all – involve the use of technology. Here are a few non-technology changes.

1 Whether due to downsizing or a worker’s desire for a new challenge, today’s workplace sees more turnover than ever before. All this change means it is important to keep your resume up to date and be a lifelong learner to remain competitive with constantly improving and expanding skills. Take a class. Earn a certification. Do what you can to best position yourself with market-relevant skills expected by today’s employers.

2 While networking has always been part of the search process, I would argue it is more important than ever. The days of walking into a company, shaking hands with the hiring manager and having an unscheduled conversation are largely over. Technology makes it easier to locate and apply for work, and human resource departments are overwhelmed with applicants. Some companies have responded by building digital barriers to protect their time. You may be qualified for the position, but, if you are one of 300 applicants, personal referrals can improve your chances the employer will choose to speak with you rather than other candidates.

3 Employer expectations and what you can do to meet them have shifted. I am seeing companies place more emphasis on soft skills and cultural fit than ever before. For many jobs, you will be required to take an assessment or two. You may have the skills and experience to perform the work, but if your personality does not mesh with that employer’s desired target, you may not get the job.

Employers expect candidates to be prepared; technology allows easy access to information about the company. Online resources help answer interview questions. Doing your homework – being prepared – is more significant than ever.

Technology is a tool. Use it and know you need more than a search and a few clicks to get the job. Good luck!

Randy Wooden, director, professional center at Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina. He is the author of the “Job & Career Advice” blogs.

Source: Goodwill

These are the top 4 ways to get to the C-suite

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woman shaking mans hand in a room withdiverse co-workers

If your goal is to climb the career ladder of success all the way to the top, chances are your path may not be direct. But it can also be hard to predict. “When you’re in the middle of an organization or even a few levels away, knowing what it takes to get into the C-suite becomes a bit of a black box,” says Cassandra Frangos, former head of the global executive talent practice at Cisco and author of Crack the C-Suite Code: How Successful Leaders Make it to the Top. “Some think that it’s a straight line, and others think it’s a matter of luck or even politics—and at times it can be.”

However, having played a role in many C-suite successions, Frangos found that there isn’t always a one-size-fits-all approach. “All organizations are different, and every executive brings unique strengths,” she says. “It’s often a portfolio of experiences that you need to have as well as a lot of skill in terms of navigating different career paths.”

Frangos is the co-instructor of a new course at MIT Sloan School of Management’s Executive Education Program called “Charting Your Path to the C-Suite.” In it, she shares the four most common paths you can follow to reach the C-suite.

The tenured executive

The tenured path is where executives stay at company they love and find a great culture fit, says Frangos. This is also the most predictable and common path, with the majority of CEOs and other C-suite leaders promoted from within, including 69% of Fortune 100 CFOs, according to a study from CFO Journal.

This path also requires the most patience. While Frangos says internal hires that rise to the C-suite were identified as high performers within their first year, she also says they often spend more time in roles than those who take other paths. “Know how long you’ll be in line, and decide how long you’re willing to wait,” she advises.

For example, if you’re second in line, and the current CEO is young, well-liked, and only in the job for two years, it could take a while for you to be promoted. On the other hand, if your boss has been there for a decade and mentioned that they’d like to retire or do something new in the next couple of years, your time might be coming soon.

“You can’t control someone else’s succession,” says Frangos. “If you are a C-suite hopeful and there’s no spot opening up in your timeframe, it may be a signal to look elsewhere.”

The free agent

Free agents C-suite members reach a certain point at a company and then jump to another to continue their climb. They’re often recruited because the company is looking for an outsider’s perspective and ideas. “This path seems to be picking up steam, as 22% of CEOs between 2012 and 2015 were appointed from outside organizations,” says Frangos.

To be a free agent, you’ll need to demonstrate a flawless track record and reputation, says Frangos. “Also, [you’ll need to] develop your leadership brand in a more deliberate way compared with internal peers,” she says.

The leapfrog leader

Leapfrog Leaders pass over their peers as well as superiors, jumping several steps ahead based on their vision and potential. Frangos says this was the case when Chuck Robbins was appointed CEO of Cisco in 2015. Formerly the head of sales, Robbins jumped two spots ahead to take the top spot.

To be a leapfrog leader, you need to able to confront industry disruption and present yourself as a strong champion for change in the organization, says Frangos. This can be the most difficult path to execute because it’s not one you can plan for; you need to prepare for opportunities and be ready to seize them if and when they arise.

The founder

Perhaps the fastest track to the C-suite is to create your own. Founders start their own companies because they have an idea and a passion—not simply a desire to be a CEO.

With this type of career path, you have more control over the timing of your entrance to the C-suite. However, it requires different skills sets. You need to be entrepreneurial and have a willingness to take risk. You also must be willing to take on a wider range of responsibilities during your startup mode, as founders wear many hats.

Whatever path you take

Anyone headed to the C-suite should have a willingness to reinvent themselves, as well as the confidence to state their ambition, no matter which path they eventually take. The landscape of the C-suite is changing in terms of its dynamics and the way to think about leading, says Frangos.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Answers To 7 Cliché Interview Questions

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Man shaking woman's hand after a job interview

By Heather Huhman

Throughout your career, you will participate in many, many job interviews. In all of these interviews, you will hear a few questions time and time again: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Why should we hire you? Even though these questions are incredibly cliché, there’s a reason so many interviewers rely on them.

Your answers to the cliché questions say a lot about you. They can make or break your chance at landing the job.

It’s essential to prepare original answers for the cliché questions you know you’ll hear at your next job interview.

The strongest answers are unique and will give you a leg up in the competition.

Here are seven of the most cliché interview questions and how to answer them with originality:

 

  1. Tell me about yourself.

Employers will often begin the interview with this one. Because it’s so vague, this answer needs to be prepared ahead of time. You can answer using your elevator speech. Talk briefly about three areas of your career: job history, most impressive accomplishments, and relevant goals. Your interviewer already has your resume, so rather than memorizing your background, you need to expand on what makes you different and emphasize your passion. Keep it concise.

  1. Why do you want to work here?

This question will show hiring managers if you’ve done your research before the interview. You should enter the interview knowing background information about the company, recent news surrounding the company and industry, and specific details about the position. Understand the company culture and mission. Use what you learn to highlight the detailed reasons you want the job and why your background makes you a perfect fit for the company.

  1. What are your biggest strengths?

Your strengths and weaknesses tend to be paired together by interviewers, so have answers for both. When it comes to your strengths, you need to tailor your answers to the job description. In addition to a laundry list of responsibilities, job descriptions will often list soft skills required for the role. If you have these qualities, list them as your greatest strengths in the interview. It’s not enough, however, to say your biggest strength is your ability to communicate. You need to show them why by telling a story that showcases a time when you used your skills to accomplish a goal.

  1. What is your biggest weakness?

On the flip side come your weaknesses. This one is tough because it’s easy to give a cliché answer. Avoid giving a strength disguised as a weakness like, “I’m a perfectionist.” Interviewers know this is a cop-out. Instead, choose a real weakness, and put a positive spin on it. Talk about the fact that you realize it’s a problem, and discuss the ways you’re working to improve. For example, “I tend to rush through tasks because I want to get them done quickly, but I am learning to step back and put a bit more emphasis on quality than speed. I’ve started to become both efficient and effective.”

  1. Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?

Your answer to this question should demonstrate your desire to commit to the job and grow within the company. Talk about how you want to learn everything you can and expand your skills to benefit the company. Mention your desire to move up in the company over time. Explain you want this job to be the start of a long career with the company.

  1. How do you handle conflict?

When interviewers ask this (or similar questions about teamwork, leadership, etc.), they are looking for you to describe specific examples of your experience. Describe a time when you faced conflict in the workplace. Explain the situation, how you handled it, and the results. Don’t forget to tell the story from start to finish to show how you accomplished your goal.

  1. Why should we hire you?

This question might be one of the last things you’re asked in an interview. Like #1, it’s pretty vague, so have an answer prepared. Talk about your best skills and accomplishments that show why you, and you alone, are the perfect person for the position. Use specific details from the job description, and emphasize why you are capable of doing them best. If you’re not asked this question, you might be asked, “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?” Use the same principles to answer this question. End your interview by proving why you’re the only person for the job.

Even though all of these questions are cliché, you can use them to shine in your interview. The fact that they’re so cliché is an opportunity. Expect to be asked these questions and answer them with stories tailored to make you the best candidate.

Source: Glassdoor

2020 Hot Jobs

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African American woman working on her laptop

Looking for the next big thing? Here are some of the hottest jobs for 2020.

Application Software Developers

Annual Wage: $103,620

Entry-level education: bachelor’s degree

Job outlook from 2016–2026: 24 percent (much faster than average)

Application software developers develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device.

Biomedical Engineers

Annual wage: $88,550

Entry-level education: bachelor’s degree

Job outlook from 2016–2026: 7 percent (as fast as average)

Biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with medical sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare.

Carpenters

Annual wage: $46,590

Entry-level education: high school diploma or equivalent

Job outlook from 2016–2026: 8 percent (as fast as average)

Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

Genetic Counselors

Annual wage: $80,370

Entry-level education: master’s degree

Job outlook from 2016–2026: 29 percent (much faster than average)

Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. They provide information and support to other healthcare providers, or to individuals and families concerned with the risk of inherited conditions.

Home Health Aides

Annual wage: $24,200

Entry-level education: high school diploma or equivalent

Job outlook from 2016–2026: 41 percent (much faster than average)

Home health aides and personal care aides help people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or cognitive impairment by assisting in their daily living activities. They often help older adults who need assistance. In some states, home health aides may be able to give a client medication or check the client’s vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.

Nurse Practitioners

Annual wage: $113,930

Entry-level education: master’s degree

Job outlook from 2016–2026: 31 percent (much faster than average)

Nurse practitioners coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty healthcare. The scope of practice varies from state to state.

Solar Energy Technicians

Annual wage: $42,680

Entry-level education: high school diploma or equivalent

Job outlook from 2016–2026: 105 percent (much faster than average)

Solar energy technicians or Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, also known as PV installers, assemble, install, and maintain solar panel systems on rooftops or other structures.

Statisticians

Annual wage: $87,780

Entry-level education: master’s degree

Job outlook from 2016–2026: 33 percent (much faster than average)

Statisticians analyze data and apply statistical techniques to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, healthcare, or other fields.

Physical Therapist Assistants

Annual wage: $58,040

Entry-level education: associate’s degree

Job outlook from 2016–2026: 30 percent (much faster than average)

Physical therapist assistants, sometimes called PTAs, work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain.

Wind Turbine Technicians

Annual wage: $54,370

Entry-level education: postsecondary nondegree award

Job outlook from 2016–2026: 96 percent (much faster than average)

Wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, install, maintain, and repair wind turbines.

Source: bls.gov

6 things to consider when choosing a job interview outfit

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Women job interview

While it may seem like the interview suit is a thing of the past, a fair number of hiring managers may disagree.

In a new Accountemps survey of senior managers, the overwhelming majority (94%) said what you wear to a job interview matters. But managers were split on how to get the attire right. More than one-third said candidates should always wear formal suits, while an almost equal number said it all depends on the position or department at the company.

Figuring out just how formally to dress can be tricky, because industries and companies vary wildly when it comes to what people wear to work, says Michael Steinitz, senior executive director for professional staffing services at Robert Half and the global executive director of Accountemps. If you show up completely out of step with company norms, you could risk leaving the impression that you’re not a cultural fit.

“Depending on that dress code, we still recommend, and what hiring managers tend to say is, you don’t necessarily have to be a 100% match, but maybe one step above,” he says.

Determining what “one step above” might mean is another challenge, though. And even that might not be right for very conservative industries. So, before you attempt to plan your dress for a successful interview, keep these six tips in mind:

1. GET MORE INFORMATION
Today, you have more options than ever to do some sleuthing beforehand, says image consultant Sylvie di Giusto, author of The Image of Leadership. If you’re working with a recruiter, ask that person for some insight about what to wear. Look into industry norms; dressing for a job as a financial analyst will likely be different than dressing for a job as a retail buyer or creative director.

Geography may also play a role in what you wear. The Accountemps survey found that, in New York, Miami, and Washington, D.C., more than half of hiring managers (54%) want to see you in a suit when you show up for an interview. The size of the company may matter, too: 40% of managers at companies with more than 250 employees prefer suited candidates, while just 31% of managers at organizations with 20 to 99 employees expect to see you dress formally for an interview.

Get some insight by checking out the company website and social media accounts. Consult websites and social media accounts of industry events that company employees have attended to get a sense of what people wear in different environments. You have various avenues available to gather information, di Giusto says. Use them.

2. DRESS “ASPIRATIONALLY”
You want the people interviewing you to see you as capable of doing the job for which you’re being hired and then some. “Your appearance is your logo,” says Sheila A. Anderson, founder of Image Power Play, an image branding agency, and author of I.C.U.: The Comprehensive Guide to Breathing Life Back Into Your Personal Brand. “Your clothing is the first filter. It gives clues to what you believe in. Think of the clothes you wear in terms of visual data. They help others makes sense of who you are and what you stand for.”

So, think about the requirements of the job you’re seeking, and dress to be appropriate for the most professional circumstances you’ll face. For example, will you be going on sales calls to new clients? Show up as you would for such meetings. You want the hiring manager to feel comfortable that you’ll represent the company well, Anderson says.

3. CHOOSE CLOTHES THAT FIT
It may be tempting to reach for the old standby outfit, but if it’s too big or small, that may be a mistake. The importance of wearing clothes that fit you can’t be overstated, Anderson says. If your clothes are too big or long, they may look sloppy. If they’re too tight, they may be unflattering and make you uncomfortable, which can be distracting and have a negative effect on interview performance or body language.

4. MIND THE DETAILS
Regardless of how formally you dress, details matter, Anderson says. Clothes should be neat and pressed. Avoid scuffed shoes, pilled sweaters, or clothes with other signs of wear and tear.

And, while some suggest wearing a memorable statement piece, di Giusto advises caution here: “On the one hand, I say yes, you can show your personality.” That may mean a great silk pocket square in a suit, a pop of color on your socks, or a great piece of jewelry to show your creativity and style. But, if the piece is too over the top, it could backfire. Opt for tasteful instead of attention-getting.

5. REFLECT YOUR STYLE
This generally isn’t the time to test out a whole new look or a style that isn’t comfortable for you, Anderson says. Buying a very on-trend outfit that isn’t really representative of who you are could leave your interviewer with the wrong impression. “Stand out for who you are not with what you are wearing. You want the interviewer to focus on you and not be distracted by what you have on,” she says. At the same time, update your look to reflect trends. Choose cuts of clothing and shoes that reflect a modern style.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Meet NBMBAA’s New President & CEO: Kay Wallace

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Kay Wallace of the National Black MBA Association stands with a dress suit on in front of a NBMBAA logo filled canvas for picture taking

Kay Wallace lives by the quote, “Results. Period.” The new president and CEO of the National Black MBA Association—which just held its 41st Annual Conference and Exposition in Houston, Texas—is all about achieving results.

Black EOE Journal attended the action-packed conference in September and had the pleasure of speaking with Wallace about her goals as new president of NBMBAA.

Tell us about your background and how you became the new president of NBMBAA.
I have a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Alabama and a Master’s in Business Administration from Harvard Business School. My experience is in strategy and operations. I was the deputy chief operating officer of the Atlanta Olympic Games, and worked for Coca-Cola in South Africa after the fall of apartheid. I’ve worked for McKinsey & Company and Dow Chemical, have had experiences inside and outside of the U.S., and have worked for nonprofit startups, which is all part of my background before coming to National Black MBA.

What are your goals for NBMBAA, now that you’re the new president?
Meeting the needs of our 16,000 members is [goal] number one. That we’re providing products, services and programs that are relevant to them. We are always engaging in conversations with them, about what they need and what will be of value to them. Number two—the organization is going into our 50th anniversary next year, and we want to make sure that not only do we celebrate where we’ve been, but we also take that same celebration to where we’re going. That is part of my vision for the organization— to be clear about what we’re going to do to make sure there are more black people in corporate America, that there are more entrepreneurs and that we are also building and retaining wealth within black families. Education, development and wealth generation—those are three parts of our mission that we’ve been focusing on in the last 50 years and will continue to do so.

Why do you think it’s important for students to join NBMBAA?
Fifty years ago, this organization was created out of a need. That need still exists today because in a lot of places in corporate America, there’s still very few of us, meaning black people. Students should look into joining this organization because it is made up of people who have been where you’re going. Some of them are still there, so they can provide the same things to you. Students can network with people who know and understand what they may experience. Then bring together those experiences for professional development. You can do it at your chapter and then nationally when we come together for Conference, where you are going to meet thousands of people like yourself—that is very powerful.

What advice would you give to a student looking for their next job or career at the expo?
The first question I would have to ask is, “What is your vision? What do you want?” Because what has to be talked about is within the context of what their desires are. Once I understand that, I’ll be looking at the 170 companies on the career floor that can provide opportunities to meet their needs. Sometimes we find that students will be thinking about their major, but not all the companies they can work for are based on their degree. They may have their sights set on a particular industry, like a marketing company. A student may say, “I’m in marketing, I want to work for Coca-Cola, or I want to work for Pepsi.” But when you broaden their vision to understand that there’s marketing in everything, all of a sudden, companies out of the 170 that they weren’t considering, they [now] realize they can interview there. I would then ask them, “Is there an entrepreneurial opportunity for you here? If your vision is to own your own company, then think about what’s the best company to work for, that will allow you to learn while you’re there so you’re able to start your own without starting from scratch.”

To learn about the National Black MBA Association, visit nbmbaa.org

The Key Job Search Skill You Never Knew You Needed

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Professional Black Man Standing Outside the Office

As a job seeker, you need to develop an important set of new skills. Job search requires self-promotion! You must learn how to think like a marketer and learn the basics of selling!

Why? Because you are selling… you.

By Hannah Morgan

It is going to take a lot more to separate yourself from the other candidates looking for the same job you are. And because hiring managers need to be able to justify every expense and see a return on their investment.

Hiring a new employee is one of the greater risks employers take. Make it easy for your future hiring manager. Explain how they will benefit financially from hiring you.

Self-promotion skills pros have mastered: People with a background in sales understand basic sales principles and know how to build a sales funnel. They understand lead generation. Job seekers are sales professionals and should understand what the job duties are in their new role. Self-promotion is merely applying those principles to one’s self.

The responsibilities of a sales professional closely mirror those of a job seeker:

  • Develop new and manage existing relationships
  • Perform prospecting on the phone and in person
  • Strategically manage online and offline brand promotion
  • Increase contact volume and enhance awareness in the community
  • Plan and implement a marketing strategy/campaign
  • Write strong technical and marketing materials
  • Monitor activities and performance

Identify leads. Just as sales professionals must identify the companies who need their product or service, you must identify companies who could use your services.

Sales professionals develop a large pipeline of potential customers, not just those who have an immediate need. Their prospective customer is anyone who could potentially use their product. The million-dollar question is: How?

They find new ways to identify customers. One way is by identifying similar products they may use. In your case, look at companies who already employ people who do what you do. Search LinkedIn for job titles and see which companies have your job. Or you could look at what companies are doing. Are they growing? Did they win a new contract? You can identify companies that will for the problem your services solve.

Once you have identified these targets, create a sales pitch for each individual company based on what they would gain by using your service.

Brand promotion. As you know, you have a personal brand or personal reputation. Self-promotion means strategically managing this and promoting it within the community. Salesmen go to trade shows, industry events, and local events. Likewise, you should seek opportunities to attend and perhaps even speak at events in your area of expertise. Get out of the house! And don’t forget to build a reputation online.

Strong communication skills. Every email, pitch, and proposal a salesperson sends and every conversation determines whether they will close the sale or not. Learn how to write and speak clearly and concisely. Write your message so that a prospective employer can see your value. In other words, explain the benefits of hiring you, not just your features (skills and abilities).

Have a strategy you can measure. A self-promotion strategy is more than applying to every job that looks interesting. Purposely focus on companies and people who you know could use your services. We call this target marketing and it happens in advance of a job posting. Are you measuring these activities?

  • How many people did you reach out to this week?
  • How many jobs did you apply to?
  • Did you have any interviews this week?
  • How many hours did it take you to do all this?

Have you ever seen a sales professional’s weekly progress report? These are the kinds of metrics they are asked to track. You should, too.

Thick skin. The one attribute salespeople have, which will serve you well, is the ability to deal with rejection. It is part of their job, and you will experience it, too.

Salespeople realize that not every opportunity becomes a sale. As a job seeker, not every lead or every interview will translate into a job offer. Be prepared for this. Learn how to cope with the fact you may never know the real reason you weren’t selected for a job.

Just keep moving forward, adapting your self-promotion strategies to favor those that are successful.

Source: Careersherpa.net

Make Your Resume Stand Out with This One Skill

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professional woman at work

Most applicants don’t know that businesses are looking to fill positions with individuals who are leaders—people who aren’t afraid to take charge, organize, and grow with the company.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that administrative assistant positions will grow at a slower-than-average rate of just 3 percent between the years 2014 and 2024. For a position whose prospects could stagnate over time, it’s more important than ever for applicants to set themselves apart, both in person and on their resumes. By including leadership skills and experience on your applications, you’ll indicate to employers that you’re someone who will exceed expectations and help their business thrive. Here are a few ways to demonstrate leadership on your resume and in your role.

Take initiative

The easiest way to demonstrate leadership as an administrative assistant is by showing initiative. For instance, if an old filing system isn’t the most productive method, don’t continue using it—take the initiative to create and implement your own improved version. Proposing solutions to your manager for problems they may not even be aware of is a great way to showcase your creative thinking, project management skills, and assertiveness; even if they don’t approve a project, they’ll remember the unprompted initiative you took when new problems arise.

Another example: if you’re put in charge of scheduling a meeting, take the initiative to see the smaller details through—finding space, ordering food, ensuring that all technology is working, etc. Think about how you can go above and beyond your standard duties to let employers know that you’re thoughtful and don’t always need to be told what to do; after all, the mark of a leader is leading!

Communicate

Good leaders are effective communicators. Since many of the tasks of administrative assistants involve working closely with other employees, having strong communication skills ensures that all interactions and transactions are clear. This includes having proper email etiquette—written communication is even more common than verbal for administrative assistants. Listen attentively, but don’t be afraid to ask clarification questions if something isn’t obvious; the last thing you want is to inadvertently cause trouble for your manager, team, or company. Effective communication across all methods can also help build an effective rapport between you and your supervisor, expediting tasks in the future.

Be adaptable

The best leaders don’t boss people around—they adapt to different people’s different personalities and working styles. As an administrative assistant, you’ll be interacting with a multitude of people on different teams, in different departments, and often at other companies, each with their own quirks. Good leaders are adaptable, and they’ll be able to recognize personality differences and work with them rather than against them, making sure everyone’s needs are met. Good communication skills (including being a good listener) are key to adaptability.

How to include leadership on your resume

When composing your administrative assistant application, you may not know how to convey leadership skills and experience, especially if you haven’t previously held a leadership position. As a workaround, think about times when you showed initiative, facilitated communication, or demonstrated adaptability, perhaps on previous projects or as part of other groups. What steps did you take to help a project come to fruition successfully? How did you mediate communication between two groups, or change tactics when it was clear one wasn’t working? Even in the absence of formal leadership positions, there are so many ways to show you’ve got what it takes to thrive as an administrative assistant.

Leadership is a multi-faceted skill comprised of a wide array of valuable personal qualities; putting them on your resume tells potential employers that you’ll be an asset to their company, and they’ll also help you advance into positions with more responsibility in the future.

Source: By CareerBuilder

This Factor Makes You 45% Less Likely to Land a Job Interview

LinkedIn
Women smiling with co-workers in the background

There are different reasons job candidates might struggle to land interviews.  Sometimes, it boils down to missing skills. But in other cases, your lack of interview requests could be a matter of a problem with your resume — namely, the fact that it shows a glaring gap in employment.

Resume gaps are fairly common. Parents who take time out of the workforce to raise children often reenter the job market with sizable resume gaps. The same holds true for those who take time off from their careers to travel. The problem, however, is that a gap on your resume could hurt your chances of moving forward in the job application process.

Resume-writing service ResumeGo conducted a field experiment over the course of five months earlier this year in which over 36,000 openings across popular job boards were applied to using fictitious applicants. The purpose of the experiment was to determine how badly a resume gap could hurt applicants’ chances of getting hired.

The result? Candidates with work history gaps had a 45% lower chance of getting called in for job interviews than those without gaps. And those with work gaps of three years or longer were less likely to be invited to interview for jobs than those with shorter gaps.

If you took time out of the workforce and therefore have a gap on your resume, you don’t have to let it destroy your chances of landing an interview, and subsequently getting hired. There are a few things you can do to overcome that obstacle.

Moving past your resume gap
First, let’s get one thing out of the way: Lying about your gap in work history is never a good idea. If you’re caught, it’ll ruin your chances of getting hired at the company that uncovers the truth, and at that point, you run the risk of different employers in your industry talking and blacklisting you on a long-term basis.

A better bet? Don’t cover up your resume gap. If anything, call it out in your cover letter and explain the reason for it. And if you’re not submitting a cover letter, you can explain yourself on the resume itself.

A better bet? Don’t cover up your resume gap. If anything, call it out in your cover letter and explain the reason for it. And if you’re not submitting a cover letter, you can explain yourself on the resume itself.

Imagine you took a five-year hiatus from the workforce to raise children. If that’s the case, you can summarize that period on your resume just as you’d sum up the two-year period you worked as a junior accountant for Company X, and then the three-year period you worked as a senior accountant for Company Y. In the experiment conducted above, job applicants who provided a reason for their work gap up front received close to 60% more interviews than those with gaps who offered no explanation — so be sure to include that information.

Continue on to Yahoo News to read the complete article.

These are the 4 surprising lessons I learned when I started managing people for the first time

LinkedIn
woman manager leading a conversation at a conference table

By Rousseau Kazi

When I first moved into team management from product management, I quickly learned that managing people is very different than managing a product.

As it turns out, people are complicated.

I had the wrong expectations about what it would take to be a good manager, something I’m sure many people can relate to.

Becoming a manager for the first time requires a lot of trial and error, and no matter how diligently you prepare, mistakes are inevitable.

That being said, the following lessons have helped me navigate this transition, and I hope that they can help those who are undertaking their managerial journey for the first time.

Lesson one: Products don’t fail silently, people do

Mistaking silence for satisfaction is one of the most common mistakes new managers make. When you manage a product, there are alerts and other objective measures that notify you when something is wrong so you can fix it. People don’t come with warnings, and often, they’re suppressing their feelings.

As a new manager, it’s easy to assume that people will come to you when they have a problem, but chances are this won’t happen. Many find it intimidating to approach a new manager, so they avoid doing it altogether. The truth is, we’ve cultivated work environments where people are hesitant about speaking up. This might be because of fear stemming from a reaction. It might also be because they have been burned in the past.

Solution: Take the time to get to know your team

As a manager, you need to recognize that people will fail silently. It’s vital to make time to get to know your team so you can better sense when things may not be going well. Acknowledge that you’re probably bad at asking the right questions to really understand what’s going on, so make your intentions clear. Make it known that you don’t view “asking for help” as a weakness and all you want to do is help. Setting up simple processes/channels that enable your employees to reach out to you when they need your support is a great start.

Understanding that silence doesn’t mean success is in itself a step in the right direction. Next, get to know your team inside and out. Learn their habits, likes, dislikes, and pet peeves. As trust between you and your employees develops, they may start to be comfortable around you and may start to ask you directly for help and advice.

Lesson two: Products don’t have fear, people do

Something else that is disproportionately apparent in people versus products is emotion. To be even more specific, it’s fear. Fear drives so many things within us, and it’s common for many to relate negative emotions to something they’re afraid of. Work is no different—since so many people derive purpose from their role. Fear manifests in the workplace in many different ways. People don’t want to seem weak at work because they associate that with not excelling (even though we’re all afraid of something). As a result, fear commonly manifests as anger. When you’re angry, you can talk about what you’re scared of without seeming weak because you’re blaming it on something else. Products, on the other hand, don’t have this negative compounding effect built into them.

Solution: Remind yourself that everyone is afraid of something

Always keep in mind that everyone is likely afraid of some scenario. Try to understand what that is and then do whatever you can in your power to prevent it from happening. Get to know your team and what excites them. Aim to create safe spaces for them to open up so you can help prevent any future destructive behaviors.

Lesson three: Products don’t get lost in their emotions, people do

One thing that’s hard to come to terms with is understanding that as a manager, you have explicit power. Even if you understand that you have the privilege of helping facilitate people’s careers—it doesn’t stop you from being human. It doesn’t stop you from getting upset when someone on your team is upset with you, and it doesn’t stop you from having those same destructive tendencies that they have. The only difference is that when you do it, it’s worse. Your blast radius is so large that if you let yourself get lost in your emotions, you’ll never be the safety net that your team needs you to be.

Solution: Learn to let go of your ego

Keep in mind that if someone is upset, they’re probably just afraid of something. Every minute you waste defending your ego is a minute you’re not spending on getting to the root of their fear. The faster you get there, the quicker you can actually solve the problem.

Lesson four: Products don’t require you to earn their trust, people do

Just because you’re their manager doesn’t mean that people will respect or trust you. We’ve all had managers who we held to a very high standard. But the second you become one yourself, many of us forget that. Chances are, you have a lot more empathy with what managers go through now than what you did back then, and the longer you are in your role, the less you remember what it was like to not have explicit power.

Because of this, some people just assume that trust is implicit. They expect that their team will have their back and trust their decisions. As a result, they put in less thought when it comes to validating their choices, they don’t put in the extra effort to get to know their team, and they don’t go above and beyond to prove to their team that they are there to help. But respect doesn’t automatically come with a title change. It’s something that you need to earn. Your team, or report, will never reach their full potential if you don’t earn their trust first.

People are more complicated than products. Most managers know that in theory, yet are often in for a rude awakening when they start to encounter the realities of their new role. When a product fails, you can intellectualize it. When a person falls, the impact is significant and in many ways—it falls on you.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

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