Thursday, August 14, 2014
If you tell me “No”, point me in the direction of someone who can tell me “Yes”. This was a line that stuck with me the most while using the career office at Western Illinois University as a resource in my job hunt. I worked closely with the staff to do mock interviews to prepare me for what was to come.
In comparison to a mock interview I did with a professional global company outside of WIU, the team in the career office tailored my mock interview towards the jobs I would be seeking in my field. They followed up with detailed feedback of what I could do and an email that I still use as a tool of reference a year later. If you want to be influential during your interview process with a company, ask them their thoughts during the interview on how they think you did? What are areas they feel you could work on just by first impression? If they were to tell you "No", then ask for them to provide you with a list of 5 names that are leads to a yes.
Reality is… the first job you interview for, you may not get. Be encouraged, the initial “no” if you play your cards right, is a lead to 5 more potential “yes” answers. The staff within the department brought that idea to life! My first interview, I didn’t by any means ask them to provide me with names to other companies that could possibly say yes. However, that also put more work on me. I thought to myself, If the company is willing to tell you “No”, they should be willing to tell you what would make you a better candidate.
Take control of your job search. Remember, you’re competing with thousands of other students from an array of Universities. What statement are you going to make? If someone tells you “No”; be bold enough to ask why, bold enough to request leads to other companies, and bold enough to accept the constructive criticism and say thank you for it. The career office prepared me for more than just an interview, the staff equipped me on how to play defense with the current job market.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
When I started searching for summer internships just a few months ago, I remember telling myself that New York was one of the last places that I would want to go… but here I am, a few months later, totally loving my time in Ithaca. Before I came to here, I definitely had images in my mind about what this city would be like. Growing up in a small town and never having been to the Northeast, I thought what (I believe) most people think when they think of New York: big city, large crowds, tall buildings… and traffic. But I was lucky to find that Ithaca didn’t fit that mold… at least not perfectly. It’s a city, but not too big. There are people, but it doesn’t feel crowded. And I haven’t ran into any terrible traffic since I first got here two months ago.
For me, New York is very far away from home – it’s far away from family, from friends, from school, and all of the things and people I know and love. I find myself getting homesick quite often, but I also find that I don’t have to feed into that homesickness and that I don’t have to let it jade my experience with the things and people that I can get to know and learn to love here. It’s all about keeping an open mind, and making the experience a positive one for yourself. No matter how much I want to be home sometimes, the reality is that I’m here…and for as long as I’ve been here, keeping an open mind has really helped me to make the most of my time. I’ve not only been able to have enjoy really great experiences (getting sunburned… maybe not one of them), but I’ve also been able to make some really great friends and create some really great memories that I’ll take home with me when I leave.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Meet Katie Gassmann, WIU Fashion Merchandising Student! Katie is currently in Wisconsin completing her summer internship.
Now that I am more than halfway through my merchandising internship (and consequently, more than halfway to starting my last year of college), I’ve gathered a few thoughts about the whole process. Before leaving home and setting off for the seven hour drive to Dodgeville, WI, I had all sorts of preconceived notions about fashion internships — The Devil Wears Prada, anyone? Let me stop you there and say that most of that isn’t true. In fact, not once did I get yelled at, humiliated, or publicly ridiculed. I didn’t get anyone coffee, I didn’t have to clean up my boss’ dog’s poop, and most importantly — I got paid.
Of course, it wasn’t exactly a dream position either. Making friends was extremely difficult. I was the only intern who opted not to live in Madison, a healthy 50 minute one-way commute. Cheaper rent and less money spent on gas seemed like the easy choice, but it also meant being in an apartment with no air conditioning all summer (a detail the owner neglected to share before move-in day).
So while every rose has its thorns, I know for a fact that few people are as lucky as I am to have this kind of opportunity to learn that DOESN’T involve breaking down my inner psyche. I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything, and I could write an entire book about what it’s taught me. For the sake of your time and mine, however, I’ve narrowed it down to the most basic.
Spend most of your time listening.
I think a lot of interns think that they need to come into a company ready to take on the world and revolutionize the way situations are handled. That, or they come in expecting to be completely mistreated and that the only knowledge to be gained is memorization of coffee orders and a pretty recommendation on a resume. Neither of those things have to be (or should be) true. If the company knows what it’s doing, interns are there to learn and potentially become actual employees. That means it is YOUR job to absorb as much as possible in the short few weeks at your position. Take more notes than any class you’ve ever sat through, and pay attention to the details. If you’re not on information overload by the end of the day, then you’re not trying hard enough.
Another thing that I think interns are afraid of is sounding stupid by asking questions. If you ask me, fear is the only stupid thing about asking a question. It’s not your job to have all the answers, and you’re going to look even more stupid by trying to form an uninformed opinion or doing a project completely wrong. The people above you aren’t going to fault you for asking a well thought out question.
Classes can only teach you so much.
I went in with a huge arsenal of math formulas, textile techniques, and understanding of customer behavior only to realize those things were just a scratch on the surface for any competent merchant. Everything I thought I knew that would make me successful turned into common vocabulary overnight. There was so much more to learn that couldn’t be taught in a classroom. What professors teach you is extremely valuable for laying the foundation, but actually getting inside a career is the only way to know how things really work. The way a job transfers from book to life is sometimes radically different from what we expect.
Enjoy college while you can.
If this summer taught me anything about life outside of fashion, it is that college is a world completely its own. There is no other place in the world that you can be so free. Our entire responsibilities lie in learning, growing, and exploring ourselves. At what other point in our lives are we adult enough to enjoy everything but still young enough to have that flexibility? Embrace it. Enjoy it.
Experience prepares you like nothing else. I would recommend internships to anyone and everyone, regardless of your career path. It provides complete immersion into the world you’ll be living in just a few short months. It will either spur your motivation forward to finish strong or clue you in that maybe things aren’t quite what you thought. The earlier you can find that out, the better, and it will save you a lot of time and money and could keep you from transferring twice like I did. Take just a couple hours out of your week to comb through the Internet, and don’t underestimate the opinion of your professors. They could have resources you aren’t yet aware of.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
This week, Stephanie Zimmerman is giving advice on starting your own business, based on her own experience starting up her photography business in Colchester, IL. Stephanie is a graduate of the School of Agriculture and currently works at WIU, too!
1. When did you decide to start your own business? How did you make this decision for yourself?
I decided to start my photography business after about 4 years of practicing my skill set and learning about photography through a lot of reading and taking classes. I believe that photography is not just taking a picture, its an art that takes time to develop. Even with everything that I have done, I'm still growing and know that I have a lot to learn. I knew that this was something that I wanted to do, but I wanted to make sure that I had the skills and knowledge to support it, which takes time and practice.
As a kid, I really enjoyed taking pictures and went through more film than I'm willing to admit, but I didn't truly start learning the art of photography until I was in college. The first class I took was on film photography. I fell in love with the challenges of understanding light, especially with night photography. From there I was hooked. I saved over the next few years to purchase a digital camera body, quality lenses, then another camera body, photography software, back-up equipment, lighting equipment, a new computer, marketing material, etc. I didn't want to be someone that jumped right in after getting a camera that had little skill and not enough supporting equipment, so I took my time to develop. With the equipment I have now, I know that there is room to improve but I can also confidently run my business. We all start somewhere, I just wanted to have more experience before I actually started my business. I practiced photographing family and friends and was a second shooter for some weddings, and then when I felt comfortable in doing it on my own, I started my business the Fall of 2013.
I've been in business officially for about 9 months now and its a never ending learning process, but I really enjoy the challenge. There's always more to learn about the business side and I'm constantly gaining knowledge and experience with my photography. I feel like I've learned so much, but I have even more to learn!
2. What did you do to start your business? Did you take out any loans? Did you create a business or marketing plan?
To start my business, I did a great amount of research and I also spoke with someone at the Illinois Small Business Development Center in town. They were very helpful in affirming the information that I had found and also gave me a few tips along the way. I took out the proper business license, filed my information with the state, started bank accounts, filed more paperwork, developed my accounting information, learned about sales tax, got contracts, etc. There's a great amount to learn and do to make sure that everything is legal and legitimate.
I did not take out any loans, I save and purchase equipment as I am able to. I saved to get the equipment I needed to start and now I'm updating and improving my equipment along the way. I felt like this was the right decision to start off with for me and my business financially. Booking clients in the beginning had been inconsistent and with them being unpredictable, I didn't want extra payments to start off with. I still created a business plan for myself, just to help me set goals and set the direction that I want to take my business.
3. How did you get customers? How did you expand your business?
Marketing is an ongoing process and I use face-to-face interactions along with an online presence to reach clients. I utilize my website www.stephzimmermanphotography.com and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram) to create an online presence to communicate with current and future clients. I'm studying and attempting to improve my SEO so that when potential clients search for photographers in the Macomb and Colchester area, I'll be listed in the first part of their search responses.
Along side an online presence, a great marketing tool for any business is when clients share your information by word of mouth (it maybe an even better way in a small community). I've loved working with all of my clients and do my best to create a great experience for them during their session. I've had many of my clients tell me that they've shared my business cards or information with friends and family that want a session in the future. That always makes me happy because that means that they had a great experience and find value in my work. I also find a lot of value in face-to-face interactions with potential clients. I've done a few vendor fairs this year, which have been great opportunities to meet new clients. With just starting up officially last fall, this was a great way to get my name out and interact with those in the community.
I'm also helping to expand my business through donations and working with local organizations. This is a great way to not only give back to the community or support someone at a benefit, but its a good way to get your name out in the community as well. For example, a big event that's going on this fall is the West Prairie After Prom Family Session Fundraiser. I'm teaming up with the West Prairie After Prom Committee to do family sessions this fall and I'll be donating a portion of every family session completed in September to help them raise money for their after prom events and senior class trip. I am so excited to do this because I'm not originally from the area and this will give me a better chance to get to know those in my community.
4. What words of wisdom do you have for someone interested in starting their own full or part-time business?
My advice to those wanting to start a business is to be confident in the decisions you're making. If this is something that you really want to do, don't doubt yourself along the way because it will hold you back. Take your time to learn more about the area of business you're going into and take time to study and learn about the different aspects of being a business owner. Advice for the area of photography specifically, take time to learn the about the art. I remember how excited I was to get my first DSLR, I wanted to jump in right away but decided not to. I'm glad that I didn't. By taking time to learn more about photography and practice, I think that I've learned many valuable lessons.
Also, be open to criticism, especially constructive criticism. Allow someone to be brutally honest with you. Friends and family are usually supportive and don't want to rain on your parade, so find someone outside of that support group that you respect that has more experience than you so you can ask questions and listen to what they have to say. Someone out there is going to have more experience than you and even if you have a lot of experience, there's always room for improvement. Never stop learning and always continue to grow.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Written by recent 2014 WIU School of Agriculture Graduate, Daniel Mitchell
It seems like I no more than started my college career, and then it was over. Graduation came and went as I was getting ready to pack up and move out for my first full-time job. Looking back, the past four years are already beginning to blur in my memory, especially the past few months. I quickly went from being a full-time college student to a full-time Case Construction Product Support Manager Trainee at CNH Industrial in Racine, WI.
The first week of work was really quite what I had expected for working for a large company. There are several people to meet and names to memorize. I was busy with training, orientation, filling out paperwork, and getting a company phone, computer, and credit card. I was able to select the benefits I wanted to utilize as well.
Fortunately, I had an internship with CNH last summer in the same area where I’m working today. If it wasn’t for that, this past week would have been much more stressful. I was able to come into this position knowing about the town, the company, the position I am in, my coworkers, and even how to get around the building. This “new place” didn’t seem so new to me. It felt comfortable, welcoming, and most of all, like I was meant to be here. If it wasn’t for the internship, I would be nervous, stressing out, second guessing my decision, and trying to find my way around town. I never realized until now how vital to my success my internship could be.
I also had an internship with another company. I would encourage everyone to take at least two different internships. Not only did I have a better understanding of what I wanted to do, but I gained valuable experiences from both internships, was able to see how two competing companies were managed, and, possibly more important, I knew what I didn’t want to do.
So what can someone learn from my experience? Get involved, stay involved, and go to the opportunities…don’t wait for them to come to you. Also, be prepared for anything and everything. It is never too early for an internship. A nice looking, full resume (along with your skills) will go very far in attaining an internship after your first or second year of college!
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Meet Stephanie Nelson- WIU Alum of the School of Agriculture- "Be Yourself, everyone else is taken!"
“Be yourself- everyone else is taken” A six word phrase which became the motto which I live upon every day. As the challenges we face with today’s big world and society, this is one of the MOST important things I feel one should remember.
My name is Stephanie Nelson formally of Good Hope, Illinois, Western Illinois University Alumni graduated in the Fall Of 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business and minor in Animal Science. Growing up just 12 miles north of Macomb, Illinois, Western Illinois University was second nature. Come fall you always knew when the college kids were back in town because the locals complained about going to Macomb for groceries and come May you knew it was graduation time because every student with a jam packed car headed north bound drove right through that small 400 population town of Good Hope.
Now I’m not saying this was a bad thing by any means, but I never made the move like these students did, lived on my own, or moved off to college. Instead, I lived at home with my parents, went to school full-time, worked for a veterinarian part time, and was home every night or between classes feeding cattle, growing what investment I had made to pay for my collegiate career with the goal in mind to have no student loans at all. Successfully I can say I made this goal a reality!
After graduating I struggled to find that “big kid job.” The one that paid big money, offered vacation time, bonuses, benefits, 8 to 5 job, every weekend off, and lots of vacation time. Where are these jobs really at? After graduating in December I continued at the veterinary office as a full time status, continued raising cattle, and searching every night for that ultimate “big kid job” to utilize this degree I spent thousands of dollars and four years of my life to gain. Building connections was one of the greatest pieces of advice someone gave me one time. With that, one of the clients at the veterinary clinic told me about a job in Nebraska related to my field of study and interest. Now was the time to step back and look into the future, how will this impact my life? Am I emotionally and physically ready to make this move away from home and everything I know? What did I have to loose, spending an hour completing an application, a little postage, and time? Well it truly paid off!
Today I currently reside in Kearney, Nebraska employed with the Nebraska Brand Committee as a brand inspector. As one feels comfortable in their home environment, relocation is one of the hardest things a person can do in relation to selecting a career. “You can justify anything in your own mind” a saying my dad has told me as a small child. At the time I felt he was just saying these words, however when it comes time to pack everything a person owns and move 525 miles west, these words come to life. Moving into an unfamiliar territory, having no connections, your only moral support is at the key pad of your mobile device to find those positive words of encouragement. It came time to become a grown up, remember all those things your parents had taught you about life, and utilize every day common sense. I constructed a mental list of what I wished to achieve, the things I was willing to change in my life and to grow as a person. Now ask yourself, are you going to take advantage of an opportunity when it came available or are you going to sit back and wait for the next? I can say from experience there are those opportunities available every day to everyone; it comes down to who is going to take it…you or someone else??
While at Western, I took advantage of a few opportunities which allowed me to strengthen my ability to perform in relation to preparation for interviews and public speaking as a whole. The availability of Career Services was more of a treasure than some wish to reveal. The factor of placing a phone call, making a half hour to hour appointment, discussing what alterations and final touches to a bullet proof resume, and one-on-one mock interviews was virtually priceless. As students spend thousands of dollars to gain an education, why aren’t more students taking advantage of such a wonderful opportunity? An education is an investment; not just that piece of paper with your whole name given by your parents which is printed and mated in a high dollar fancy frame. My biggest suggestion, utilize your opportunities upon the investment you have made to continue forward to gain an education. Let those people who surround you every day become positive influences in your life. If you stop and look around to see that your peers aren’t those individuals, strive to find those who are on the same page as you, strive for the same goals and aspirations, and have the goal in mind to continue to climb the ladder, except the challenge and endless opportunities.
Find a student organization on campus to become involved in. This isn’t for the factor of meetings every week to go to but more so, a resume builders. As much as a person thinks this is a waste of time, think again! One of the greatest organizations I found through the Agriculture Department at Western Illinois University was the Post-Secondary Agriculture Students (PAS) similar to a collegiate FFA. With this brought forth the opportunity to compete state wide with other collegiate students in interview competitions, public speaking, and sales presentations. I used this opportunity not only to be a resume builder, however to network with individuals whom were judges from big named companies. Who would have ever guessed going to some collegiate competition would ever gain career connections?
Winning at the state level in a mock job interview competition advanced that winner to the national level, the best of the best collegiate students all across the United States. I mean this wasn’t for just anyone, the heat was on! Today, I can successfully say I was the national winner of the Animal Health Mock Job Interview for the Post-Secondary Agriculture Students Organizations along with the national winner of the Agriculture Sales Presentation. All of this simply happened because I found something I knew, took my prior knowledge and constructed myself in a manner which not only gained me a couple of dust collecting plaques but cold hard cash. WOW!! Miss class, travel multiple states away, dress up for a few hours, give it all you have, win cash….a college students dream right?! Right then and there, I knew I had made the right choice on persuing my investment of a college degree.
Being an alumni from Western Illinois University and a regular student from the University of Hard Knocks; from all of this take these words of advice not as words of wisdom but experience- grow to know yourself, be willing to take a chance, move from your comfort zone, make the most of your collegiate investment, be willing to make a change in your life, know when to take an opportunity which best fits you, but most of all….be yourself, everyone else is taken.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
If we fast forward to my first spring semester at WIU, I was required to take a AGRI 320: Success Strategies in Agriculture course to further develop our skills with resume writing, interviewing, and professionalism. As a requirement for this class, we were to schedule two appointments with a Career Services staff member, one to have our resume/cover letter critiqued and the other to complete a mock interview. Now I am going to be VERY honest with you all......I did NOT want to take this class. In my opinion, I already knew how to write a resume. During my tenure at SRC, I had competed in state-wide job interviewing competitions and received first place each time. At the national level a few months before I graduated from SRC, I topped my state title by winning 3rd Place. It doesn't sound like I needed advice on how to interview or write an effective resume, does it?
I cannot emphasize this fact enough.... I WAS TOTALLY WRONG!! During my first visit with the graduate assistant to review my resume, I was shocked to learn that my format left too much "blank space" on the page, my bullet points were too short, I had too many awards listed, and needed more relevant work experience. WOW!! I am fairly sure I remember leaving that appointment feeling defeated and even more "unsure" of myself at this new place. Luckily the mock interview left me feeling more confident in my abilities once again, but there were still some areas that I needed to improve upon, such as giving unique answers instead of the "canned" responses I had been previously taught to recite.
These appointments started a chain reaction of events that led up to my passion for career development and Western. After taking the advice of the career services graduate assistants, I tried to get more experience through an internship (the lady NEVER called me back) and I tried to get more involved in student organizations (I never quite found my fit). I decided to contact one of the graduate assistants, Alycia McCullough, who had assisted me with my resume and mock interview. After having coffee with her at Adams Street and talking about her graduate program, I decided to venture off into the "unknown to me" career path of Student Affairs and Career Development.
Within the next few months in the spring of 2009, I interviewed for Graduate School, got accepted to Graduate School, got married (would not recommend marriage and graduate school matriculation during the same summer), and started my graduate program where I served as a Career Services Graduate Assistant for two years.....and where I was reunited with that "nice" guy who helped me pick out a WIU hoodie. I graduated from the College Student Personnel Program in May 2011 and applied for a full-time position in the office, where I have passionately served students and Western Illinois University since that time.
Two Morals of this Narrative:
1. STOP BY THE CAREER DEVELOPMENT CENTER- Our office is a free resource for all students who need help with career planning, development, and job search preparation. Even if you think you know everything about how to interview or build a resume, it is helpful to get multiple perspectives on your career preparation. I know that I learned ALOT from my two appointments as an undergraduate student! Don't be shy, just stop by Memorial Hall 125.
2. YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE LIFE WILL TAKE YOU...... BE NICE TO EVERYONE! You never know who you might meet in this world, and the impact those people could have on you. In the Fall of 2007, I never knew that in two years I would be working for Mr. Waters. In the Fall of 2007, I never knew that I would change my mind about pursuing agriculture as a career field. In the Fall of 2007, I never knew that I would eventually choose Student Affairs as a career because of the guidance of Alycia. For someone who likes to have their life planned out to the minute, I enjoy reflecting back to those years of uncertainty, to that time where I had no clue how those relationships would positively impact my life.
Thank you for reading about my experience with Career Services and how the office has truly changed my life. I have received many emails and notes from students telling me how our office has helped them improve their skills, change their minds about career paths, or encouraged them to work harder on their goals.
What are you waiting for? Make an appointment TODAY!