It’s after midnight and you just put the finishing touches on your resume. Your heart races as you upload your resume for your dream job application.  You click the submit button….and then – “what the *&#@! Now I have to fill out an essay question?!  I thought I was finished with the application…”

Searching for a job is an emotional roller coaster:  Frustration as you struggle to find the perfect words to describe your experience in your resume; uncertainty as you submit your application; elation when you nail an interview; excitement when the hiring manager says you are a perfect fit, and outright anger when you never hear back.

It can be difficult to maintain momentum and stay motivated as you go through this job search roller coaster ride. But, persistence is what will ultimately land you a job.  Here are some tips to keep you on the right track!

  • Don’t cut out activities that you enjoy!  To make time for your job search, especially when you are still working.  It’s easy to push aside hobbies, exercise or other activities that give you energy.  In the end, you are just hurting yourself. Make sure you allot time for the activities that are important to you.   It will help you reenergize and stay focused during your job search.
  • Set goals. Short-, medium-, and long-term goals help you maintain focus and momentum. Although goals will vary from person to person, everyone’s goals should be SMART: Specific, Measureable, Adaptable, Realistic, and Trackable.  Hold yourself accountable and track your progress.  If you did not achieve your goals, ask yourself:  What did I say I was going to accomplish? What did I actually accomplish? Then readjust your goals and routines accordingly. Remember to set goals for fun activities too!

Examples of Goals:

# resumes sent out per week/month

# times I practice my elevator pitch per week

# times I role play an interview per month

# networking events and career fairs per quarter

# minutes spent researching jobs a week/day

Less effective goal: Talk to people in human resources careers.

More effective goal: Talk to 3 people this week who work or worked in human resources.

Less effective goal: Exercise more.

More effective goal: Bike for 30 minutes, twice a week.

 

  • Manage your expectations.  It’s important to realize that things won’t always go as planned. How will you respond when they don’t? You may need to apply to 100 jobs before you find the right fit.  The job search process is more like a marathon (well, half- marathon) than a sprint.  Mentally preparing for the transition can help keep your frustration in check through the highs and lows.
  • Celebrate the small victories.  Know your challenges and weaknesses, and if you overcome them – celebrate!  For example, celebrate if you are now able to feel more confident when speaking to hiring managers or if you secured an interview with a company.  Whatever your goals are, reward yourself when you achieve an important one or overcome a challenge.  Treat yourself to a concert, hang out with friends, sleep in, etc.  There is a lot of negativity in the job search process, but maintaining a positive attitude and confidence are what will help you achieve success.  Inject some positive energy and excitement into your job search!
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Posted by: Dan | July 17, 2012

LinkedIn Part 2 – Accelerate Your Job Search

In Part 1, you learned the basics about LinkedIn.  You have a profile and contacts, but if the car stays in the garage you’ll never know what it’s capable of. 

It’s time to take LinkedIn for a spin to accelerate your job search…

Note – There isn’t an easy way to find a job.  Attend job fairs, search through online job search databases, network at events, and use LinkedIn to its fullest potential.

You’re Looking for Companies.  

You can connect to companies in two ways:

1) Recon from afar.  On the top menu on LinkedIn, click “Companies”. Search for the companies that interest you.  Your search results will display that company first, and then a lot of other companies in the industry. Click “Follow Company”.

  • This is one helpful way to learn about the company and the industry, since these companies will post updates throughout the day.
  • Added bonus: many companies will post their current job openings, and you can click the link to see what positions are available.

2) Network to the front lines.  As you build your network, you’ll learn that some of your contacts either worked at companies that you’re interested in, work there now, or are connected to people who work there.

Here’s a strategy for each scenario:

  • One of your contacts worked there.  Call or email them and ask to learn more about the company.  You may not learn why they left, and you shouldn’t ask.  BUT… you should ask them to put you in contact with current employees. 
  • One of your contacts currently works there.  Your contact may tell you a lot of helpful info, but you should still ask to be put in contact with other employees so you can learn more perspectives.
  • One of your contacts is connected to a current employee.  Call or email your contact and ask if they can make the connection.  Do you have anything in common with these 2nd degree connections?  You may have gone to the same college or enjoy the same hobbies.  Your contact (1st degree connection) is something you have in common, but it would be helpful to find other commonalities as well.

Note: Read about the company before you connect with these contacts, so that you know what areas of the company interest you, and what’s been written about the company in the news.  Discuss job openings with these contacts. 

Note:  Review the LinkedIn profiles of people who work at the companies you’re interested in. 

  • What tasks have they had in their roles at the company? 
  • How long have they been in their current position/title?  This can tell you how frequently an employee could promote at the company.
  • What has their career progression been at the company?  This can help you learn how to get to a desired position even if you can’t start there.

Companies are Looking for You.  

Guess what? Headhunters, recruiters, and human resources personnel are looking for you as well.  They search for key words describing the skill sets and experience that they need for particular roles.  So, make sure your profile is complete, including the Experience and Skills & Expertise sections.

Direct Job Search. 

On the top menu bar, click “Jobs”.  You may not know what you’re looking for, so click “Advanced” for more options. You can filter by desired salary, the date the job was posted, and job functions/experience/industries.

Note – If you’re in college or a recent graduate, hover the mouse over Jobs on the top menu bar of the main page, and then click “Students and Recent Grads”.  It’s a quick way to find student internships and entry level jobs.

Top Secret LinkedIn Info. 

  • Profile? Check.
  • Expanded network? Check.
  • Following companies and looking into their job openings? Check.
  • Strategically making contacts at the companies that interest you? Check.
  • What else can you do…?

You can do “More”… 

On the top menu bar, click “More”, then click “Answers”.   You’ll see a list of questions and submitted answers.  On the right side, you can even choose categories of questions.  How does this help the job search process?

  • Submit questions, and others will help you out. Then, connect with them and expand your network!
  • Submit answers to existing questions.  This increases your visibility to contacts and employers.

Did you successfully use LinkedIn to find a job? Switch wants to hear from you!

Please send any questions and comments to switchstarter@gmail.com.

© 2012 SwitchStarter, LLC

Posted by: Switch | July 11, 2012

New Feature – Career Videos

Have you noticed the newest feature on our site?

We added a tab on the top menu called “Explore Careers“.  On the page, you’ll find links to 15 different videos. Thank you to Candid Careers for providing the videos!

What’s in the videos?

1. Job Descriptions.

Learn about different jobs to help you determine what you’re interested in.

2. Loves and Challenges.

Learn about what employees in different jobs love about their role, as well as what challenges they experience.

3. Additional features.

For a few of the videos, you’ll be able to see additional features, including:

– How to prepare for that particular job.

– The employee’s personal story.

– The employee’s final advice for you.

Please let us know what you think about the videos.

– What else would you like to see?

– What careers would you like to learn more about?

– Do you find these videos helpful?

Please send any questions and comments to switchstarter@gmail.com

When interviewing for jobs and for grad school, I faced the same challenge every service member or veteran faces: how to make a civilian understand your military experience.  When I interviewed with defense contracting firms it was easy. Many of the individuals conducting the interviews were veterans, and in several instances we had common acquaintances from our time in the military.  With ease I articulated (in military speak) the numerous roles and responsibilities I held as a junior officer. Too easy… or so I thought.

Grad school interviews were much more difficult for me because now I was speaking to individuals with little to no understanding of the military.  When chatting with prospective students before the interviews, I often received a fascinated expression when I explained that I am a veteran. Inevitably the student asked me what I did in the military, and when I delved into my experiences, the fascinated expression often turned into a blank stare, followed by a sincere, “Thank you for your service. I couldn’t have deployed to Afghanistan.”  They didn’t understand my experience, but wanted to show support nonetheless.

Then I figured it out.  I needed to anchor my experience to a context or situation which my audience would understand while avoiding military jargon or acronyms.  The most effective method I found was to use pop culture references.  During my Wharton interview when I described my responsibilities as a threat weapons and tactics instructor for a Navy squadron, I pulled out a reference the interviewer could understand:  Top Gun.  Admittedly, when I blurted out this reference I was somewhat embarrassed, but instantly I could see the interviewer connect the dots.  She could visualize my role and better understand what I was describing. Yeah, I know it seems corny, but it works! People need a way to relate.

Bottom Line: Think about how you can relate your military experience in an analogy or pop culture reference that your audience will understand. Don’t be afraid that doing so is too informal. It may actually help you to better connect you with your audience!

Please send any questions and comments to switchstarter@gmail.com

While looking for a job, there’s a free resource that may be even more helpful than the online search engines and career fairs called LinkedIn.

What’s LinkedIn?  If you took Facebook, put it in professional attire, took away the party photos from last Friday night, and gave it a resume, you’d have LinkedIn. Basically, it’s a very powerful tool to network and show off your experience.

Follow these steps to get setup on LinkedIn and start networking yourself to a new career:

1. Build Your Profile.  Completing your profile will help new contacts learn about you.

Photo.  Use a clear photo where you’re dressed professionally. Your profile will describe your military service… Your photo should not. You look really sharp in your dress uniform, but this isn’t the place for it. Show that you’re ready for your next steps as a civilian.

Experience.  Your experience should briefly capture the major highlights of each of your commands and deployments, and it should follow our resume guidance to describe your military experience in civilian terms.

Education.  If you have an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or another degree or certification, include it here. If you’re currently in an academic program, include it and indicate your expected graduation date.

Certifications.  List any certifications you completed through the military and on your own.

2. Public Profile:  We just outlined the basics to setup your profile. However, there are technically two profiles. There’s one that all of your contacts see, and there’s one that the public (people who aren’t your contacts) can see.

– Why setup the public profile?  It’s likely one of the top links people will see when they Google you.  Edit your profile to control what the public can see.

– How do you set it up? Click “Profile” from the top menu bar. Then, you’ll see a box on the left side that contains a place for your photo, and basic information about your “Current” job position, “Past” job position, and more.

– Click the link next to “Public Profile” to see your public profile.

– To make changes, click “Edit” on the “Public Profile” line. You can check or uncheck boxes to control what profile sections the public can see.

– To change the name of the link, click “Customize your public profile URL” near the top right of the screen. Enter your name without spaces. This makes the link shorter and easier to remember.

3. Recommendations:  Getting recommendations adds credibility to your profile, because someone else describes the great work you’ve done.

– How do you get a recommendation?  Click “Ask For Recommendations” and send the request to people you worked with or who worked with you.

– Be selective.  You only need a few recommendations, and they should come from people who can effectively describe one or two key things you’ve done. For example, you don’t want a recommendation like “Mark is a great guy to have on your team.” What are a couple things that Mark has done that make him stand out?

4. Expand Your Network:  The more people you’re connected to, the more you can learn about new companies and opportunities.

– Enter the names of people you know.  Some of your friends may already be on LinkedIn.

– If your military friends and other contacts are not already on LinkedIn, invite them.

Note: Don’t invite people you don’t know.  Only send requests to people you know.  If you would like to connect to someone who is connected to one of your contacts, ask your contact to make the introduction.

5. Join Groups:  There are many veteran organizations to join.  What’s the benefit to joining?

–       First, you can connect with many more people beyond your network.

–       Second, you can see what others are posting and commenting on.

–       Third, many employers post opportunities on group walls.

–       Last, it’s free to join groups. 

Switch has a LinkedIn group – Join us by clicking here!

6. Email Signature:  You can create an email signature on LinkedIn that brings people to your page.

Note – this only works on certain versions of Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird.

–       On LinkedIn’s home page, click “Tools” from the bottom panel.

–       Then, click “Try it Now” in the Email Signature section.

–       Next, click “View Gallery” and choose a design.

–       Edit any section.

–       Click “Click Here for Instructions”.

–       Choose your email client and follow the instructions.

7. Create Website Buttons:  If you have a website or a blog, you could bring visitors to your LinkedIn page by adding a button.

–       Follow the steps from #2, and look for the box labeled “Profile Badges”.

–       Click “Create a Profile Badge”.

–       Select a button design, and copy the code next to it.

–       Paste the code into your website or blog in HTML mode.

Stay tuned for LinkedIn Part II, where we’ll show you how to improve your job search using LinkedIn.

Please send any questions and comments to switchstarter@gmail.com.

© 2012 SwitchStarter, LLC

Posted by: Switch | July 3, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

A Fourth of July fireworks display at the Wash...

A Fourth of July fireworks display at the Washington Monument. Location: WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (DC) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enjoy the 4th of July Holiday!

We’ll return soon…

Posted by: Dan | July 2, 2012

Say Goodbye to Student Loan Grace Period

Note: If you’re using the GI Bill, and it covers 100% of your school’s tuition because you’re attending a public school as an in-state resident, please ignore this post and read another blog post from our site.

The good news

Congress passed legislation last week to keep the Stafford loan rate at 3.4% for the next year.

The bad news

1)   The Stafford loan rate is set to increase to 6.8% (double the current rate), unless Congress votes to continue the lower rate before it expires at the end of next year.

2)   No more grace period. The grace period is the delay after graduation before loan interest starts. Historically, the grace period lasted for 6 months after graduation, which meant that your loan interest didn’t start until 6 months after you graduated.

3)   If you’re a graduate student, your loan will accumulate interest immediately while you’re in school. It won’t wait until you graduate.

If you need student loans to help pay for school, you have a few options:

1)   Attend a public school in the state where you established residence.  Confirm with the school financial aid office that the GI Bill will cover your entire tuition.

2)   Attend a Community College.  These tend to be much less expensive than a public college or university.  You may be able to transfer to a public college or university after you earn an Associate’s Degree.

3)   Apply for student aid to decrease the size of the loan you need.

4)   Consider working part-time while you’re in school so that you can save money to help pay for your loan.

5)   Carefully consider your major.  Will the major lead to a career that pays enough to help you get out of debt?

Please send any questions and comments to switchstarter@gmail.com

© 2012 SwitchStarter, LLC

Posted by: Dan | June 29, 2012

Stay Aware of Your Academic Program’s Policies

If you’re a veteran participating in one of the educational programs provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, stay aware of your program’s policies.  They may change over time. Here are two examples:

First Example

Two weeks ago, many community colleges couldn’t participate in the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP).  Some vets who enrolled assuming that their school could participate were left with the bill.

It turns out that four-year colleges aren’t eligible, but a week ago, the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the Department of Veterans Affairs pushed to approve eligibility for community colleges listed in the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Educational Statistics College Navigator.

The VRAP program offers 12 months of training assistance for unemployed veterans.  Click here for the criteria and application info. An additional 20,000 vets can still register.

Second Example

In August 2011, there were two major changes to the 9/11 GI Bill.  First, during summer or winter break, the GI Bill payments stopped until the vet started the next semester.  Second, vets who had in-state residence and attended a public school received full tuition.  However, vets from out of state (or who maintained another state’s residence throughout their service), or vets attending a private university received a maximum of $17,500 per year towards tuition and fees.

This change left some vets stuck paying the difference.  There may be lawsuits in North Carolina related to these tuition changes.  Click here for an article about the North Carolina case.  Continue to check with your state representatives to learn about your state’s veteran education policies.

Bottom Line: You can’t trust that your finances are automatically taken care of because of your GI Bill entitlement.  You must take responsibility and verify that the GI Bill payments are the amount you expected. Stay informed of any policy changes to the GI Bill. Check with your school’s financial aid office and the VA’s GI Bill website.

How can you learn about new changes to VA programs? How can you share your opinions about these programs and get helpful feedback from employees of the VA? Visit the VA’s blog site, Vantage Point, and submit comments.

We will continue to stay up on the latest developments, so check in with Switch to stay informed!

Please send any questions and comments to switchstarter@gmail.com

Posted by: Dan | June 27, 2012

PTSD – There’s an app for that!

In honor of PTSD Awareness Day, we’re posting about a new app called PTSD Coach to help veterans and service members learn about and manage PTSD.

It’s not just for veterans – family and friends of service members should also use the app to learn more about PTSD and the resources available. Family and friends can also setup a support network within the app.  Stay tuned for a specific app for family and friends, called PTSD Family Coach.

Cost:  Free

Where to download:  iTunes or Android Marketplace

Available for iPhone, iPad, Android devices

What can you do with the app?

  • Conduct a self-assessment.  It’s anonymous, and you’ll get feedback that’s specific to you. You can also track changes in your symptoms over time.
  • Manage symptoms.  Learn coping skills, including relaxation and self-help techniques.
  • Find support now.  The app provides phone numbers you can contact for immediate support.  It also has links to treatment programs.  In an emergency, users can directly link to the Veteran Crisis Line.

Why use the app?

  • Vets may not want to admit they need help.  This is a way to seek help anonymously.
  • Many people don’t understand PTSD, or know how to help.  This app is an incredible resource to educate to better understand what you can do to help yourself, your battle buddy, or your friend or family member.
English: signs and symptoms ptsd

English: signs and symptoms ptsd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Please send any questions and comments to switchstarter@gmail.com

© 2012 SwitchStarter, LLC

Posted by: Lisa | June 26, 2012

San Diego’s War on Vets: A PTSD Controversy

Switch publishes critical education and career information to help veterans transition, and we are constantly searching for new programs and resources to highlight for veterans.  Through our research, no story has been as shocking as the debate unfolding in San Diego over a veteran transition center. 

San Diego is a military town with one of the largest post-9/11 veteran populations in the country.  The San Diego Healthcare System was awarded $30 million to establish the Aspire Center – San Diego’s first in-patient treatment center providing a full suite of services from occupational therapy to vocational rehabilitation.  This center is equipped to treat up to 40 patients at a time with services lasting from 30 to 120 days, and will provide much-needed specialized services to help transition vets suffering from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress to a successful civilian life.

The Aspire Center has a leased facility, staff members, and administrations, but one factor is preventing it from opening its doors to veterans in need: a conditional use permit.

Administrators and parents associated with Old Town Academy, a K-8 charter school across from Aspire’s facility, are protesting the treatment facility out of concern for the students’ safety and security considering its close proximity to the school.  According to the San Diego Reader, Old Town Academy parents signed a petition threatening to disenroll their children if the Aspire Center opened, potentially forcing the school to close.  Old Town Academy is not the only dissenter.  Mission Hills Town Council, Five Points/Middletown Business Association, and Old Town Chamber of Commerce reportedly opposed the center at an April community meeting.

In response to concerns from the community, the VA in San Diego agreed to provide 24-hour security, darken the windows and create a smoking area away from the school.  But, the debate continues.

As post-9/11 veterans,we find this myopic, “not in my backyard,”view a slap in the face to veterans who put their lives in danger to preserve the freedom of that community.  The Aspire Center controversy is an unfortunate example of the widespread misperception of veterans; an example that may potentially prevent thousands of service members from receiving treatment essential to starting their civilian life off on the right path.

There are roughly 2.4 million American men and women who are post 9/11 veterans.  A recent survey sponsored by The Mission Continues shows that Americans view Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans as “valuable assets to the country” just behind firefighters and nurses.

But, at the same time, Americans have a misperception, believing that the majority of returning vets are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress (UNTRUE), have lower levels of education than non-veteran counterparts (UNTRUE), and are more likely to suffer from drug addiction/alcohol than non-veterans (UNTRUE).

It is easy to voice support for veterans; it’s more difficult to act in support of them.  The San Diego City Council will vote on the Conditional Use Permit for the Aspire Center on June 26th (today), ironically during National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month.  Show your support for San Diego’s wounded warriors by contacting the City Council and encouraging them to vote in support of those who served our country, not in support of misguided fears.

 

UPDATE: The San Diego Council voted for a continuance until July 24th.  The charter school and the VA will continue negotiations.  Click here for a video of the meeting.  The transition center vote is the last clip, and meeting minutes will be posted as  well.

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