Remember a time where during your senior year of college, people had big hopes of graduating and landing that cushy job even if it was entry level?  Remember how companies threw themselves at the top upper echelon (grade wise) on campus? Ah, those were the days.  You barely had to do anything during your four years but go to class and get good grades.  And if you went to an ivy league or high profile school, you had it made in the shade. Not so much today.

I think our younger ladies are a little bit more aware than we were years ago.  The economy and job market are clearly evident.  Recruiting budgets have tightened, companies have collapsed, people have flooded the job market.  Upcoming grads are worried about finding any kind of job when they leave the comfort of college.  OK before you think this is another gloom and doom post, it really isn’t.  I’m here to tell you that you can make it.  You just have to get on the offensive and not wait for things to work themselves out.

I usually tell young people to focus on their studies during their first year without any thought to working if they can. I still stand by that, even as my own child approaches college. But by year two, you better start on your game plan. Hopefully by your sophomore year you have a pretty clear idea of what it is you want to do.  You may even have a part time job to tide you over.  But what you should be working on is internship. Internships (while mostly available for juniors and seniors) are an excellent way for you to get exposure in the industry you’re interested in. Take this time to investigate the types of internships out there, the companies offering them and the criteria for landing them. Talk to people who have interned to get an idea of what it entails.  Whether paid or free, you stand to gain some valuable experience and contacts if you play your cards right.  And remember, internships and volunteer work counts on your resume.  Don’t let anyone tell you any different just because it was an unpaid gig.

By Junior year, you should already have your internship research together and have submitted (and hopefully offered) for internships.  Here’s where you really learn stuff you can’t learn in the classroom. If you haven’t learned how to network yet, get to it.  The contacts you make now can serve you well in the long run.  Classmates, dorm mates, associates at internships all make great contacts. Get to know them and keep detailed notes on your meetings, any commonalities, and favors they’ve done for you.  Remember, it’s about building relationships and relationships are two way streets. Get out and meet the key players in your industry.  Ask for introductions as necessary. This is your time to get to know people and tell them about you.  Hold on, this isn’t meant to be a brag fest.  You are still a newbie to them. And this isn’t time meant for you to pester anyone for a job.  You are on a fact finding mission. Your objective is to learn as much as you can from the best.  You might even get a mentor or two out of it.

While we’re on mentors, get one (or three). This is the best time for you to ask for a mentor relationship.  You are still green and people love to be able to pass their wisdom along to up and coming talent. Don’t let you young ego get in the way. You must remember you don’t know everything (and in some cases, anything).  Show your mentor that you are serious about learning and that you are willing to do the work it takes to be successful.  Don’t waste your mentor’s time.  When you meet with them, have questions ready and research available on issues you still need clarity on.  Make sure you make the meetings worthwhile.  Mentors have busy schedules and a lot to do.  Mentoring you is a small microcosm of their world. There is business to be done and deals to be made. So be respectful of their time.  Do more listening than talking. No further explanation needed. Learn what they like (golf, tennis, etc) and then learn it yourself. Trust me on this. It’ll come in handy.

By senior year, you should have the mentoring, networking and internship thing down.  And hopefully you’ve taken most of the classes you need so your schedule shouldn’t be as tight.  The beginning of senior year should be the time you start researching the job market and getting to know recruiters and hiring managers.  Pay attention to the market and the type of jobs out there.  Reach out to recruiters to get an idea of how they can help you.  Don’t waste their time either.  Remember, they are there to fill jobs with the best candidates, not find you a job.  Ask for tips on getting your resume noticed.  Share with them your professional goals and any past experiences (internships, volunteer work, etc).  Attend open houses and career fairs.  Typically I don’t like job fairs, but you can learn a lot from them and get names of recruiters you can reach out to directly after the events.  Turn to your college career office to seek some advice from counselors.  Use them to get an indication of what’s out there as well.  Have a professional resume done.  No, not a template you snatched off the internet.  Have a professional put together a solid resume that shows your accomplishments.  If you’re in a sorority, tap into that as well.  Your sorors can help you in many ways, especially if it’s a very active sorority.  

Now, I’m going to deviate just a little bit to sound like a “girl”.  You know how they say image is everything? Well it is.  No doubt, for the last few years you’ve been throwing your hair into a ponytail or wearing a hat to cover up and I will venture to guess you haven’t been shopping for professional wear.  Well now is the time.  I know you’re thinking in this economy, how could I possibly preach about shopping and pampering yourself?  Don’t panic. There’s a method to my madness.  Find that fashionista friend and ask for some input.  Of course you can’t afford to get an image consultant as a student (unless you’re loaded).  So this is the next best thing.  Have this friend go to the mall and boutiques with you to try different professional styles.  Ask the sales reps for opinions and see if they offer up any suggestions. Learn what colors, fits and styles work best on you.  Take magazines with you as guides.  Here’s the creative part.  While you’re looking at the prices and clothing at these malls and boutiques, make notes.  Then go to the best consignment shops and get these items (or similar) for dramatically less money. I once picked up a Chanel suit, that looked brand new, for $5.  So don’t laugh!  Pick up key classic pieces that can be mixed and matched.  And by all means, get appropriately fitting underwear, tasteful accessories, 1 or 2 pairs of good shoes and a classy handbag.  Save the patchwork Coach and multi colored LV for weekends.  I’d even throw in a classic briefcase (depending on what field you’re going in).

Use online social networks responsibly. I know you like to be free to post what you feel and what you want on Myspace, Facebook and a host of other sites.  I caution you to think before you post.  If you are going to have a page on social sites, keep them separate from your professional identity. Recruiters and hiring managers do use these sites to source candidates.  And yes, what they find can make or break their decision to reach out to you.  Always keep a sense of dignity and decorum about yourself and never post anything distasteful on your pages.  Linked In is great for a professional profile, as is Viadeo if you want to do some international networking.  Don’t create a resume page, rather, an overview of what you’ve accomplished and your professional objectives. Don’t over do it.  Leave readers wanting to contact you for more details. If you’re going to be blogging, I beg you to please keep it clean and sane.  The last thing you want is recruiters to find you arguing with some moron on the internet over an inconsequential topic. Watch what you say and when in doubt, read three times before hitting send, and even then, ask someone else to read it.  Your online image weighs heavily on your real life image.

Finally, I would say that you should make it a point to join groups in your industry.  Make it a point to attend the various meetings, which are often monthly.  You can make key contacts and learn some valuable intel that can help you with your search.  Get to know the people and don’t be afraid to volunteer.  Remember, you want to get your face and name out there.  Become a part of the conversations by keeping up on your research and sharing what you learn.  This is also a great time to ask for clarity about things you’re unsure of, and you’ll get it straight from people in the know.

So if you’re a student in college, don’t wait until senior year to try to make things happen.  Your career is an ongoing process. You have to cultivate it and do your part to make it come to fruition. Nobody is going to prepare you, so you must prepare yourself. Start your game plan as soon as possible and while I cannot guarantee total success, you’ll be ahead of the curve and ahead of many of your classmates.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

Black Business WomanAll of us have a similar common goal….to be empowered and have control over our professional destiny.  To have true empowerment, you must take responsibility for who you are, what you do, and what course you chart for yourself. It would be nice to have someone do it all for you.  I would have loved to have someone give me a road map to plotting my professional life.  But alas, it doesn’t work that way in the real world. At best, you can surround yourself with mentors and associates who will guide you along your journey. But in the end, it’s up to you to make the decisions and changes that need to be made to reach empowerment.

Here are a few steps you can take to True Empowerment:

1. Let go of past baggage. We have a tendency of holding on to what does us no good. Remembering a fight, worrying about bills, being upset about how someone else lives their life, holding a grudge because someone else took credit for a project we worked hard on. All of this is negative energy that takes up space in your world of positivity.  In order for positive blessings to come your way, you must get rid of the old negative feelings and thoughts.  Let go and let them fuel you to push even harder to achieve your goals. Come to new situations with a free and clear mind and heart.  Baggage keeps you from bringing your “A” game and from experiencing true success.

2. Get educated. Now I don’t just mean go to school. Education comes in many forms.  Yes, a college education is a good foundation, but continuing to learn well after you’ve earned your degree comes back to you ten-fold.  You can take continuing education courses.  Find topics that interest you and can help boost your career.  You’ll even get credit units for taking them.  Attend seminars, workshops and conferences.  Some organizations give you continuing education credits by simply attending.  Take advantage of events to leverage new relationships and show off what you know (and what you learn).  Read a book or three.  Trade journals, magazines, newspapers, online content and of course books help to continue the flow of knowledge.  Create a binder of important articles that are beneficial to your career or industry.  The internet is right at your fingertips.  Do your research and reading.

3. Find mentors. Notice I didn’t say find “A” mentor.  Mentors are all around you.  They don’t have to be a specific age, gender, position title or even in the same industry.  Study people whom you admire.  What makes them tick?  What paths have they blazed in their industries?  Reach out to them and ask if they would be open to being your mentor.  Don’t limit yourself to just one.  There’s a lot to be learned out there.  Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with people.  More often than not, they are willing to share their knowledge.  But be careful not to monopolize their time, and definitely make it a value added relationship for both of you. I’m sure there is a way you can give back to your mentors.

4. Polish your image. You’ve got to look the part.  There was an article I read about dressing like a CEO.  I believe that no matter what level you are in your career, you absolutely must dress to impress.  Don’t go out to buy the Georgio Armani suit so quickly.  Buy classic tailored pieces that are timeless.  Have a couple of good staples in your wardrobe that you can mix and match with the Target wear.  Be sure to bring your own flair to your image.  But follow the tone set by those who are where you want to be.  Even law firms are slightly relaxing their corporate attire…but not too much.  Everything from your hairstyle to your accessories say something about you.  Are you portraying the appropriate image?  Invest in some classic shoes, handbags, jewelry and scarves.  Depending on what field you are in, a stunning briefcase can add value to your look.  And most importantly, buy a dress coat that is professional and classic. You must always be cognizant of your outward appearance. Confidence attracts confidence (and opportunity).

5. Build a solid network and use it. There are so many people who tell me “I can’t network. I don’t know what to say to people.” Well I usually tell them to get over it.  You cannot succeed in the business world without interacting with people.  You don’t necessarily have to become best friends forever. But you must have the ability to strike up conversations and the timing skills to know when to strike or move on.  As much as I hate to admit it, there is still an unspoken truth that it’s all in who you know, not what you know.  Learn how to network online, but don’t let that be your end all be all.  Use it as a starting point to building relationships.  The internet is a wonderful thing and I am grateful that I have it to make my job a little easier.  But it can make you lazy.  You must cultivate your business relationships that you form online.  Let’s say you meet someone on Linked In or Viadeo, or any other online professional networking tool.  Immediately suggest a phone conversation.  Take the time to introduce yourself and let the person know how you see them networking with you.  And then continue the dialog.  You don’t have to speak every week, or every month for that matter.  But you do want them to keep you in the forefront of their minds.  Don’t approach your relationships with a “set it and forget it” mentality.  It takes real work.

True empowerment is there within your reach.  Whether you are a college student, entrepreneur, or corporate riser, these principles will work for you.  Education + Action = TRUE EMPOWERMENT(tm).

Til next time.
Adrienne Graham

Someone sent me an email this morning with this long drawn out explanation of how we, Black folks, don’t apply for scholarships.   Rather than posting that long note, I figured I’d just cut to the chase and bring you the links to apply.  Remember, education is vitally important to your career success.  Even if you can’t use  this information, you probably know someone who could.  Happy hunting!

1) BELL LABS FELLOWSHIPS FOR UNDER REPRESENTED MINORITIES
http://www.bell-labs.com/fellowships/CRFP/info.html

2) Student Inventors Scholarships
>> http://www.invent.org/collegiate
>> http://www.invent.org/collegiate/
>> 3) Student Video Scholarships
>> http://www.christophers.org/vidcon2k.html
>> 4) Coca-Cola Two Year College Scholarships
>> http://www.coca-colascholars.org/programs.html
>> 5) Holocaust Remembrance Scholarships
>>http://holocaust.hklaw.com/
>> 6) Ayn Rand Essay Scholarships

http://www.aynrand.org/contests/

>> 7) Brand Essay Competition
>>http://www.instituteforbrandleadership.org/IBLEssayContest-2002Rules.htm
>> 8) Gates Millennium Scholarships (major)
>> http://www.gmsp.org/nominationmaterials/read.dbm?ID=3D12
>> 9) Xerox Scholarships for Students
>>http://www2.xerox.com/go/xrx/about_xerox/about_xerox_detail.jsp
>> 10) Sports Scholarships and Internships
>>
http://www.ncaa.org/about/scholarships.html

11) National Assoc. of Black Journalists Scholarships (NABJ)
>> http://www.nabj.org/html/studentsvcs.html
>> 12) Saul T. Wilson Scholarships (Veterinary)
>> http://www.aphis.usda.gov/mb/mrphr/jobs/stw.html
>> 13) Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund

http://www.thurgoodmarshallfund.org/home/home.php

>> 14) FinAid: The Smart Students Guide to Financial Aid
 http://www.finaid.org/
>> 15) Presidential Freedom Scholarships
>> http://www.nationalservice.org/scholarships/
>> 16) Microsoft Scholarship Program
>> http://www.microsoft.com/college/scholarships/minority.asp
>> 17) Wired Scholar Free Scholarship Search
>>http://www.wiredscholar.com/paying/scholarship_search/pay_scholarship
>> 18) Hope Scholarships &Lifetime Credits
>> http://www.ed.gov/inits/hope/
>> 19) William Randolph Hearst Endowed Scholarship for Minority Students http://www.apsanet.org/PS/grants/aspen3.cfm
>> 20) Multiple List of Minority Scholarships
>>http://gehon.ir.miami.edu/financial-assistance/Scholarship/black.html
>> 21) Guaranteed Scholarships

http://www.guaranteed-scholarships.com/

>> 22) BOEING scholarships (some HBCU connects)
>>http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/educationrelations/scholarships
>> 23) Easley National Scholarship Program
>> http://www.naas.org/senior.htm
>> 24) Maryland Artists Scholarships

 http://www.maef.org/
>> 26) JackiTuckfield Memorial Graduate Business Scholarship (for AA students in South Florida)
>>http://www.jackituckfield.org/
>> 27) Historically Black College & University Scholarships
>> http://www.iesabroad.org/info/hbcu.htm
>> 28) Actuarial Scholarships for Minority Students
>> http://www.beanactuary.org/minority/scholarships.htm
>> 29) International Students Scholarships & Aid Help
>> http://www.iefa.org/
>> 30) College Board Scholarship Search

http://apps.collegeboard.com/cbsearch_ss/welcome.jsp

>> 31) Burger King Scholarship Program
>> http://www.bkscholars.csfa.org/
>> 32) Siemens Westinghouse Competition
>> http://www.siemens-foundationorg/

>> 33) GE and LuLac Scholarship Funds
>> http://www.lulac.org/Programs/Scholar.html
>> 34) College Net ‘ s Scholarship Database
>> http://mach25.collegenet.com/cgi-bin/M25/index
>> 35) Union Sponsored Scholarships and Aid
>> http://www.aflcioorg/scholarships/scholar.htm
>> 36) Federal Scholarships &Aid Gateways 25 Scholarship Gateways
>> from Black Excel http://www.blackexcel.org/25scholarships.htm
>> 37) Scholarship &Financial Aid Help

 http://www.blackexcel.org/fin-sch.htm
>> 38) Scholarship Links (Ed Finance Group)
>> http://www.efg.net/link_scholarship.htm
>> 39) FAFSA On The Web (Your Key Aid Form &Info)
>> http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/
>> 40) Aid &Resources For Re-Entry Students
>> http://www.back2college.com/
>> 41) Scholarships and Fellowships
>> http://www.osc.cuny.edu/sep/links.html
>> 42) Scholarships for Study in Paralegal Studies
>> http://www.paralegals.org/Choice/2000west.htm
>> 43) HBCU Packard Sit Abroad Scholarships (for study around the world)
>>http://www.sit.edu/studyabroad/packard_nomination.html
>> 44) Scholarship and Fellowship Opportunities
>> http://ccmi.uchicago.edu/schl1.html
>> 45) INROADS internships

http://www.inroads.org/
>> 46) ACT-SO BEUROE Olympics of the Mind ‘A Scholarships
http://www.naacp.org/work/actso/act-so.shtml

>> 47) Black Alliance for Educational Options Scholarships
http://www.baeo.org/options/privatelyfinanced.jsp

>> 48) Science Net Scholarship Listing
>> http://www.sciencenet.emory.edu/undergrad/scholarships.html

>> 49) Graduate Fellowships For Minorities Nationwide
>>
http://cuinfo.cornell.edu/

 >> 50) RHODES SCHOLARSHIPS AT OXFORD
>> http://www.rhodesscholar.org/info.html

>> 51) The Roothbert Scholarship Fund
>> http://www.roothbertfund.org/school


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