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You've got skills. You've had jobs and spent a lot of time in classrooms. Each day you're gaining what prospective employers call transferable skills: ones that you already possess that transfer from one position to another.

Don't discount the importance of your previous experience when writing your professional documents. You should be able to concisely articulate your qualifications to an employer. These include skills that would transfer into your next position. It doesn't matter that you may have gained them this summer because you were the manager of Doughnut Emporium or because you cleaned the cages at Pet Palace. You will bring these skills with you, and employers care because it means less time spent training you.

Many of these transferable skills fall into the following categories: communication, intellectual, interpersonal, organizational, physical, personal, and creative skills.

There are many. Here are some examples.

Public speaking
Written expression
Foreign languages
Global and humanistic perspective
Persuasive (sales & fundraising)

Information gathering
Interpreting data
Synthesizing and summarizing information
Critical reading and thinking
Identifying patterns and integrating complex information
Math and statistics
Logical reasoning
Content specific (mining, geography, etc.)
Computer software programs

Conflict resolution
Delegating with respect
Team player
Problem solving
Rapport with various audiences

Time management
Detail oriented
Financial (record keeping, auditing, budgeting)
Event planning
Coordinating among groups
Implementation of strategic plans


Building and construction
Operating machinery and tools
Eye-hand coordination
Equipment maintenance and repair
Heavy lifting

Respectful of diversity
Quick learner
Strong work ethic
Works well independently

Visual representation of concepts

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It's here! New this fall is another opportunity to win cold cash. Plus you'll gain important skills for your future academic and professional careers. You can enter even if you're not conducting research in a lab. Experiential learning, creative activity, and educational experience relevant to the study of EMS may serve as the subject of your poster.

Want to know more? Check out the guidelines and deadlines on our EMS website.

heat track resume 1.jpgThe article, "What Recruiters Look at During the 6 Seconds They Spend on Your Resume," from LinkedIn's Business Insider writer, Vivian Giang (4/9/12)reports on a fascinating study. Eye tracking, which examines eye movements to analyze the time someone spends on the text, was used to understand what recruiters look at when they quickly review resumes.

Click here to see in greater detail the heat map indicating how they spent their time and read more about how you can tweak your resume to gain the coveted interview!

Hoovers1.jpgIn last week's blog, I promised to give you more information about two of my favorite sources of information for job search preparation: the Occupational Outlook Handbook and Hoover's Online. Both of these reliable sources are available through the Penn State University Libraries.

You can easily find them by going to the Business Library online and clicking "Career Information." The "Career Resources" page will be displayed. Under the category, "General Career Guide for all Majors," click the first link (Explore Careers & Internships). Here you will find the links to many valuable career information websites. When you enter these sites through the PSU Libraries, you are making use of your tuition dollars! (Abridged versions of some of these sites are available with a Google search.)

The third link on this page is the Occupational Outlook Handbook. The Handbook is compiled by the Bureau of Labor of our federal government. It contains information about types of jobs, educational and training requirements, advancement opportunities, job growth, career descriptions and more.  It also has salary information collected from a large sample of businesses and individuals; this can be an excellent source of information, particularly when negotiating your salary.

Scroll down the page farther to find another wonderful source of information--Hoover's. Dun & Bradstreet, a business research company, uses an in-house staff to compile information and sells it as a subscription to businesses and individuals. You'll find information about companies, industries, and people. One of the best features is the contact information, including phone numbers and mailing addresses, of personnel at specific companies you may be interested in exploring.

Here's how it worked for one student. He came to my office this week and wanted to find out what companies might employ him. He's a petroleum and natural gas major, and although he's only a freshman, he was curious who were some prospective employers. He knew about Exxon Mobil and Chevron, but when I showed him how to select the industry tab at the top of the page  and search "oil and gas exploration," he learned Anadarko Petroleum, Apache Corporation, Devon Energy, ConocoPhillips, and Marathon Oil might be good matches too. In addition, he could search under each of these individual companies and become better informed and get contact information for each.

I love watching your reactions as you discover how valuable this information is, but amazingly only a few students use these tools. Aren't you tired of paying for something you never use? Begin today by using your PSU Libraries in your job search, and you'll be making those tuition dollars pay off. 

"I only use the phone to order take out and call my mom," the job seeking student responded to me when I asked her if she had called the potential employer to get answers to questions she had about the advertised position. Her response isn't surprising.

According to a report from the Pew Research Center, "Teens, Smartphones & Texting," (March 19, 2012), texting is the way most of you communicate. Voice calling using a cell phone is down too.  When I probed further to understand why my job seeking student didn't call, she said, "I can't believe I didn't even think about picking up the phone and calling. It just never occurred to me!"

She also admitted to feeling somewhat uneasy about using the phone to call her potential employer because she didn't know what to say. Many of you have told me "it feels weird" to call someone you don't know because you don't do it very often. You'll feel more confident if you prepare first.

In other words, research the company, so you don't ask questions that are easily obtained by reading its website. There are also many useful links to career and job search preparation. I'll tell you more about my favorite two sources of job preparation information next week! Before you call, make sure to be well informed about your audience.

Step two is to refresh your memory about what makes you unique and what you have to offer this employer. Think in terms of the company's specific job description. If the employer wants a candidate with strong analytical skills, consider how you've demonstrated these from both your experiences and education. In other words, know your elevator speech. I've written before about "Getting the Perfect Tone for Your 30 Second Pitch." Don't forget to rehearse it!

Now conquer that inertia and shyness and pick up the phone. You might say the following:

Hello. I'm <name>, a student at Penn State University in my <year> studying <major>. I recently saw the <name of position> you advertised on <where you found the position>, and I'm interested in applying. I do have a few questions, and I was wondering if you could tell me to whom I should direct these.

From here, the person may say, "Let me connect you to <name>. He/She is handling this vacancy." If this happens, you could be lucky and actually get to speak with one of the decision-makers. Always make sure to get the correct spelling and name of the people with whom you speak. You may need them for follow-up communications.  Once the call has been transferred, start with the first two sentences above again. This time add some of your 30-second pitch. Be concise and don't ramble.

If the person who answers the phone says he/she will try to answer your questions, this is fine too, although it's less likely you're speaking to one of the decision makers. It's always important to be respectful and polite to everyone you meet. It may be that the person with whom you're speaking will be the one tasked with weeding through the stack of résumés for the first pass.

Most importantly, remember the phone can be a cool tool. Use it to get a pizza and a job!

This week, meteorology students are attending the American Meteorological Society's annual conference in New Orleans. Many of them will be presenting scientific posters that took them a lot of time to design. A crucial step in creating a poster is to consider the layout that will be easy for the audience to understand and to grasp while casually walking by.

To design an effective poster, it's usually best to arrange the components using columns instead of rows. Often a three-column format is used because this allows more readers at one time.

By following general reading and viewing patterns, generally from left to right, and top to bottom, readers' expectations will work to allow your poster to be predictable in a good way. In other words, they'll find the movement from one section to another without having to think much about how to navigate among the sections.

Lead with the most important information.

For example, place the information that sets up the overall content in positions 1 and 2. This could be the introduction and the objectives of the research. Use the middle positions (3 and 4) for results, usually conveyed with large graphics (e.g., tables, illustrations, photos, graphs).  Think of them as your centerpiece; use them to pull in viewers.

Positions 5 and 6 are well suited for the discussion and conclusions. The references and acknowledgements are usually at the bottom of the poster, but can be left, centered, or right depending on the overall layout. If necessary, numbers or arrows may be used to lead the reader through the poster too.

Of course, many layouts are possible. This is just one example. It's important to remember that designing the layout of your poster is key to clarity and ease with readability. To keep your audience reading, you'll need to consider content and design as thoroughly as you ponder the question "Am I a man or a Muppet?"

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Dear Del,
I am scheduled for an interview in the coming weeks. I have already been given an internship offer, but I still want to feel out any other possible offers. Is there an appropriate way to bring up this fact without coming off negatively? I really just want them to realize that I have other offers, and they should make a decision quickly.
Or do I not say anything and just wait it out?

Antsy for an Answer

Dear Antsy,
You're too antsy for your pants. Of course, honesty is always best. You mention having an internship already. Does this mean you've already told this employer that you're coming this summer? If so, it makes this situation more complicated.

For example, if you're still juggling interviews and offers, but you haven't accepted a position yet, you can request additional time to make a decision if one of the offers comes through but there are some others that you're hoping come through. It's reasonable for a potential employer to give you at least a week for you to make a decision. You can say, "Thank you for this offer. I'm really pleased. May I give you my answer in a week or so?" You don't have to explain why. It's reasonable that you'd have arrangements and budgets to consider before giving your answer.

After buying some time, it's acceptable to contact those with whom you've interviewed but who have not extended an offer to you to see if an offer is in the pipeline. Be direct and say, "I've received another job offer. They need an answer in a week. I'm really very interested in working for you. Would you be able to get back to me with a decision before this deadline?"

But it sounds like you've already told one employer you'll be there this summer, yet you want to continue the job search as if you aren't committed. This is a more volatile situation because of the dishonesty.

Keep in mind if you come to a first interview and mention that you've already accepted another offer, most companies will say, "Why did you meet with us? We're going to make an offer to someone who hasn't accepted another offer."

If you want to take a gamble and go in a different direction, go to the interview, and make sure to ask when they'll be making a decision before you leave. Then call back after a reasonable amount of time and ask if they are willing to let you know because you have other offers. Know that you may be burning a future bridge, and you may be paying a higher price for this option in the long term. For example, will you be interacting with these people at association meetings and conferences? How close-knit is the industry?

I do know of a situation that worked out well for a student, but her situation was a bit different. She had accepted one offer, and on the day she accepted, she got another one that she liked more. She called the first-offer employer the very next day and was honest.

She said exactly what had happened and why she thought the second place was a better fit. The employer thanked her for her quick notification and said he understood, and if she ever wanted to come work for them, he'd find a position for her.

In the end, it goes back to being honest and treating others how you'd like to be treated. Not really surprising, is it?

After you've identified the main points, it's time to sketch a basic layout factoring in the conference's guidelines on size and the procedure for how your poster will be viewed. You'll also need to consider your budget constraints.

Select an appropriate size. The sizes of posters vary according to the guidelines specified by the organization sponsoring the event. Follow these requirements. If the guidelines state the poster should be no bigger than 48" by 48," and you arrive with one that is larger, it's likely you'll overlap on another presenter's poster making you either unable to show your poster, or at the very least, very unpopular with a peer. Here are some common poster sizes. 

Some Common Poster Sizes

48" X 36" 48" X 48" 48" X 72" 48" X 96"
42" X 36" 42" X 42" 42" X 48" 42" X 52"

The three most common sizes are 48" X 48" (or X "72  or X"96). There is, however, a great deal of variety in size restrictions because it often depends on the size of the venue. You may also be required to have a border around your poster because printers don't print to the edge of the page. You'll need to be precise in your measurements. After you've determined the size of your poster, hand draw a basic sketch to get a general idea of your layout. Make choices based on what you've decided to highlight.

Know the location and the exact size of the assigned space you will have. Consider if it is free standing, attached to a wall, or on a cork-board. What materials will the hosts provide? What are the set-up and dismantle times? Practicing good citizenship with respect to the rules of the organization is not just nice, it's also important to your professional reputation.

You may also need to consider your budget in this preliminary stage. Poster printing can run from $50 to $500! For example, the Engineering Copy Center offers large format printing based on the square foot. Occasionally there are funds that are available to support scholarship, travel and other related expenses. You may want to check with your adviser or department head to find out.

Also consider how you will transport your poster to the meeting. The easiest and most common method is to print it, laminate it, roll it up, place it in a protective tube, and hand-carry it to your location to ensure its arrival. Horror stories about the loss of an important poster during air travel exist!

After you've hand-sketched your poster, the next step is to decide what software you'd like to use. There are many free templates for scientific posters. By far the most common is PowerPoint. PowerPoint templates are easy to use, but they are relatively inflexible and less creative. Other programs that cost more, are more difficult to use, but give you more creative control, are Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Canvas, Publish-it, Corel Draw, and LaTeX.

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Today's topic focuses on what you need to do before you start building your poster: plan!

Planning your message for your specific audience and purpose are key concepts for any communication, and especially for effective posters. Begin by asking two questions: what is my purpose, and to whom do I need to direct this message?

You may consider that your overall purpose is to communicate your key findings to a scientific audience. You also want to gain recognition and knowledge through your interactions with your colleagues. Your science must be credible and your poster must be concise and organized to accomplish these objectives. What additional specific objectives do you have?

Also, analyze your audience with respect to their previous knowledge, expectations, and preferences. Keep in mind the most common problem in poster design is including too much information. Ask yourself, "is this absolutely essential to this audience's understanding?" and if it's not, cut it. Make "less is more" your mantra, particularly with respect to the text. A good rule of thumb is to select approximately four to six main points. Don't try to convey too much; you will have to make choices about what's most important.

Image flickr by hooverine

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Conference planners provide instructions for the exhibits. Read these thoroughly. The general set up is that you're given a small display area in which to hang your poster. Often the conference will arrange a time you're on call, usually for an hour or so, and this is when you're expected to be available to discuss your poster with attendees. Keep in mind that your poster needs to be self-explanatory because when you're not on call, you may still have viewers. Also,the way in which a poster is viewed is different from a paper or presentation.

The audience is likely to be interested but distracted because most posters are displayed in an exhibit hall or hallway. Often there is a social component to the interaction including the serving of food and beverages. Your audience will stop and chat only if your poster quickly conveys the main points, is aesthetically interesting, and you look friendly. A few may have decided in advance which posters to view, but many more decide where to stop based on what catches their attention during their casual stroll through the exhibit. Therefore, it is important to carefully create your poster to catch viewers and ensure you're not standing alone talking to yourself.

Here are some poster guidelines:
Association of American Geographers

American Meteorological Society

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