Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Preparing for the "world" of work!

Last week, I asked Peggy Perry from Dot Foods about the top skills her company looks for in an employee. I also asked her to explain how students can prepare for their future careers after graduation. Here are her thoughts!     

The top two or three skills we look for in a potential employee… I don’t know if I can limit it to just two or three!  The number one skill we look for is communication skills.  That’s the whole communications package, professional and positive verbal and written communication skills.  It may start with a firm handshake and looking someone in the eye when speaking with them, but it doesn’t end there.  It’s the ability to express yourself clearly, comfortably and confidently in speech and written communication.  It includes being able to discuss ideas, processes, strategies and to create and/ or present information in different formats.  And it includes, most decidedly, knowing when to listen and learn. Active listening is a huge but often overlooked piece of the communication skills package.

Another skill on our top two or three preferred skillset list is the ability to work professionally, comfortably and confidently within a group…also known as teamwork.  If you’re a team player, you’re in it together, you’re going to build positive working relationships that help everyone achieve goals and meet business objectives.   Set your ego aside a little bit and work together for the common good of the business.

I’m going to lump a couple of items together on this third skill, critical thinking (using logic and reasoning to identify strengths and weaknesses of solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems), problem-solving (identifying problems, then reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions) and judgment or decision-making (considering the relative costs and benefits of different actions to choose the most appropriate ones).  

In addition to the skills listed above, we also look for business or commercial awareness (knowing/ understanding the business, what affects it, what the business wants to achieve through its products or services and how it competes), an interest/ effort in lifelong learning, computer skills, investigative and analytical skills, flexibility, time management, and self-awareness. 

Preparing for the ‘real world’ of work – so much advice is available on this topic and some of it bears repeating again and again and again.  Network, get involved in some activities that interest you, reach out for internships, network some more, get an internship or two during college, network some more, listen more than you talk, then network some more.  How do you network?  Put down your phone, computer, tablet, etc, take off your headset and talk to some of the people around you.  Talking is where you can polish your communication skills, figure out whose style you appreciate, incorporate some of that into your own style and polish some more.  Talking to some of the people around you is how you can learn about others, find out about opportunities, share your thoughts, ideas, questions.  Some of that talking might lead to an internship opportunity and that can open up even more opportunities.  Understand that you can always learn something from the people around you, no matter the age, gender, race, background, religion, job, etc.  Understanding and embracing that mindset will serve you well in the years to come.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Meet Jeffry Cape, Business Development Expert at Groupon and WIU Alum!

My name is Jeffry Cape and I attended WIU Fall 2007-Spring 2012.  In my time at Western, I completed a Masters of Arts in the college of Communication.  I was very involved on campus with various clubs; Greek life, student employment, community service, philanthropy, and different networking events within the College of Communication Studies.  All of these experiences exposed to networking for the future.  I was able to use those skills while searching for a career, which launched me into the current role I have with Groupon.  

I am currently a business development expert for Groupon's Arizona market.  I work with businesses in all product and service industries.  In my role, I plan the operational and financial strategic plan behind the Groupon.  I have been in this role for 6 months, and I used my networking skills from WIU and social media to get a interview.  From there, the magic happened. 

 If it wasn't for the staff and faculty at WIU I wouldn't have wanted to get involved in campus life.  That motivation, education and experience has cultivated me a successful business person.  If anyone is interested in interviewing for any position at Groupon, email me your resume (jcape@groupon.com) and I will help you get a interview.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Meet Chanel Greenleaf- WIU Alum of Supply Chain Management

What is your current job title and job location? Please give a brief description of what you do at your job.
Sr. Transportation Analyst – Medical Devices & Diagnostics at Johnson & Johnson-Skillman, NJ
Serves as a liaison between J&J’s Regional Transportation Organization and supported Operating Companies. Manages the Operating Company’s transportation network to ensure optimal service to both shipper and receiver coordinating such services as inbound freight management, outbound freight management, strategic transportation analysis, compliance, claims, freight payment, import/export services, deviations, etc.

What did you study at WIU? How did WIU prepare you for this career?
Supply Chain Management:
WIU provided great academic and career support through their Career Services department, faculty, career fairs, and outstanding network of companies. Within the Supply Chain network, many extracurricular activities were offered, such as Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) field trips. The WIU faculty encouraged the idea of expanding our knowledge past the classroom.

Why did you choose this field of study?
I was interested in Business, but I did not like the idea of being focused on one specific task for the rest of my career. With Supply Chain, there are so many different opportunities; distribution, transportations, logistics, procurement, etc. I really liked the idea of building a broad range of knowledge throughout the many different functions of Supply Chain.

 What is your favorite aspect of your job? What keeps you motivated at work?
Overall, I really enjoy working for Johnson & Johnson. Many people do not realize that J&J is made of three sectors: consumer, medical and pharmaceutical. Because our products are so diverse, it makes it feel as though J&J is many small companies within one, and this creates countless opportunities.  Within the two years of being with J&J, I have had the opportunity to work cross-sector in logistics and transportation, on very small customers and suppliers to our largest consumer customer; Wal-Mart. I have really enjoyed the wide variety of functions. J&J has a very strong set of credo values that guide our decision making, and I have witnessed numerous instances of where the Credo has been applied and has touched lives. J&J is focused on diversity, innovation, employee development but more importantly, the well-being of our customers and community. Our products help to improve and save lives every day. Knowing this is enough to keep me motivated.

How do you balance work and your personal life?
Work and personal life balance has not been an issue. I feel fortunate to work for a wonderful company that supports their employees and values the separation of work and personal life.

What advice do you have for current WIU students?
Find a major that you have a passion for. No matter what career path you choose, look for companies that have similar values as you. Take advantage of internships, networking events and other career opportunities. Doing so will really help to prepare you for your career.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Meet Lori Kay....WIU Theatre Alum

1. What is your current job title and job location? 

At the moment, I am both a Steward at the Off-Broadway production SLEEP NO MORE and a theatrical brand ambassador for TheatreMAMA, as well as a Founding Company Member with New York City Artists. At SLEEP NO MORE I am a member of the production staff, where I protect and maintain the integrity of the show for both our guests and our cast; at TheatreMAMA I assist in marketing Broadway shows in Times Square and for special events. With NYCA I am assisting with the administrative and creative development of a blossoming New York City theatre company, as well as performing (I'll be appearing in our premiere Off-Off Broadway production of MEDEA this summer at Manhattan Repertory Theatre).

2. What did you study at WIU? How did WIU prepare you for this career? How did the Career Development Center help?

At Western, I studied Theatre-Acting with a minor in Music Business. The theatre program at WIU helped not only introduce me to people that I am actively networking with as contacts in the professional world, but it also taught me how to manage a steady production load, how to develop my own performance work, how to develop my audition and marketing materials, and how to determine what kinds of projects I wished to develop.

Career Services was actually very helpful with my initial job search. When you first move to a place like New York City, you have to find a job...and quickly. In addition, the competition is FIERCE, and I had heard many unnerving stories of it taking weeks and even months for people to secure employment here - which could mean a plane ticket home. With the skills that Career Services helped me develop in terms of my resume preparation, my approach on how to search for positions and develop leads, how to market my skills to the professional community and how to confidently approach an interview, I was offered three positions within the first two weeks of my search.

3. Why did you choose this field of study?

Entertainment and performance - that's my passion. I've been working professionally as an actress for quite some time now, and I knew when I returned to college that my aim was to give myself the best tools possible to continue my career and reach my potential as an artist. WIU's theatre program offers a diverse array of theatrical classes that informed my knowledge of many aspects of this industry - both backstage and on the boards.

4. What is your favorite aspect of your job? What keeps you motivated at work?

One of my favorite aspects of my work is creating unique and lasting experiences for people - watching them approach a moment and knowing that this will be a memory they will carry with them for years. Whether they are first stepping foot in The McKittrick Hotel (the set for SLEEP NO MORE) or posing for a photo with their family next to a costumed actress, or even reacting to a Greek tragedy for the first time OR in a new way...you know you're affecting people. Also, telling stories and challenging people to think outside of their normal experiences...it's one of the most rewarding things you can ever have the privilege of being responsible for.

5. How do you balance work and your personal life?

At times this has proved as a challenge, since money is a nervewracking thing when you first move to a city like this. You feel the need to constantly work - particularly in such a competitive industry. The key is to find people that are striving for similar goals of a similar quality as yourself so that you can develop a solid support system - it's important to have people that you can talk to who make you remember why you're doing what you're doing and that you're not the only person dealing with the experiences and struggles that you encounter. Also, taking the time to take care of yourself and getting away from work life are important...you need an opportunity to recharge so you can keep your instrument in good shape. My friends and I enjoy planning group trips to the beach or to the park or really any activity that we can do together so that we ensure we're ALL getting some fun in from time to time (not that the work we do isn't fun to begin with - but the constant stress, competition and rejection of being a performer can certainly take it's toll if you don't nurture your soul).

6. What advice do you have for current WIU students?

Follow your bliss. Try new things. Face your fears. Don't live the life that others believe is right for you. You only have one short time on this Earth and it is completely your own to live the way you see fit. If you do what you love, the money will follow. That passion that you feel for your craft - whatever that may be - will drive you to be the best you can be, and that's how innovators are created. Be the exception...not the rule.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Alumni Spotlight-John DiMonte

John DiMonte1. What is your current job title and job location? Please give a brief description of what you do at your job.
Project Engineer-Walsh Construction-Chicago IL
Working at the Jardine Water Purification Plant in Chicago IL on the roof renovation of the East Filter Building
Responsible Processing of Submittals, letters, work area closures and RFIs, Material Orders, attending meetings with owner, working on estimating other jobs, dealing with subcontractors, monthly pay applications, and general tracking of progress, etc etc.

2. What did you study at WIU? How did WIU prepare you for this career?
Construction Management. Better learned how to communicate in a professional setting and general understanding for what it takes to succeed in the business world.

3. Why did you choose this field of study?
I grew up around the construction industry (father was an iron worker). I wanted to work in a field that is constantly progressing and changing.

4. What is your favorite aspect of your job? What keeps you motivated at work?
Seeing progress. I love keeping the job moving and knowing I contributed to forward progress. I also see progress in myself and want to keep moving forward to be the best I can be.

5. How do you balance work and your personal life?
I work alot and have about a 100 mile roundtrip commute daily, but I still try to get to the gym nightly and enjoy any freetime I have. I play co-rec kickball and softball in the city with co-workers and men's league roller hockey with friends at home. I try to fill my weekends with as much as I can and try to make time for my hobbies like motocross and jetskiing.

6. What advice do you have for current WIU students?
Become the most confident and professional version of yourself that you can! Get involved! College is a great opportunity to learn to deal with all kinds of people and situations. Push yourself constantly and set goals, but never settle for anything less than achieving them.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Suzie Farner, 2nd Year Grad, Western Illinois CSP Program: How did I prepare for job/grad school interviews?

Job or grad school searching can be really overwhelming especially if you were like me and you had no idea where to start. How do I figure out what schools/companies to talk to? What is the best way to contact them? What is a mission statement?  - Any time I have entered any type of search the hardest part always seems getting started. It takes a lot mentally to just sit down and commit to trying to find the answer to all the questions. If you are anything like me you can spend days just avoiding getting started anticipating that it is going to be “really hard”. Well, you are in luck because as I am approaching my seventh major job/school search I have found some steps to help you get your search engine started and make the “really hard” process a little more manageable. 

Step 1:  Set sometime aside to figure out what you don’t want from your experience: I sometimes get stumped by the question “what do I want?” but I can easily list what I don’t want. I attribute this to the fact that as humans we are taught to focus on the negative. So, why not use the negative to find the positive. Before I even decide what type of job or program I want to look for I make a list of the jobs or programs I know for a fact I do not want. Once you have finished these list- Congratulations you have officially started to filter your search!

Step 2: Never search alone- Use the buddy system:  It is easy to think that you have no idea what you are doing when you are new to something and do not have experience in it. I always try to find someone who I can talk to throughout the search process even if it is to just bounce my thoughts off of them. This is a great time to look for a professional mentor- who knows more about jobs than a professional? CAUTION: If you choose a search buddy that is looking for the same jobs or programs make sure you set some ground rules before. Receiving offers that the other person wanted or vice versa can test any relationship … so think ahead.

Step 3: How much time do you actually have? It is a good idea to figure out a rough timeline of when you should be applying for jobs. This means you start thinking about when you want to start the job or program, when do employers/schools usually start posting positions or applications, how much time do you need to avoid getting started to actually get started (after reading this your answer should be none) Even if you are not a “planner” it is an important mental step to create an abstract timeline.

Step 4: Stop thinking about all the stuff you have to do: Seriously, stop! I have spent more time thinking about all the stuff I have to do than actually doing it. It is so easy to make something seem overwhelming when you approach the search process as a whole and focus on all that you need to get done all at once to reach your end goal. There is a reason it is called an end goal… it comes at the end.  Try to break down all the “things” that need to get done, like puzzle pieces and focus on connecting them one at a time and before you know it.. BAM! You are submitting resumes left and right.
                Yes- Job/school searching can be hard- but are you making it harder on yourself? All four of these steps happen before you even start actually searching but for me they are the most important part of the search. You are your biggest enemy when it comes to getting your search started. The more time you spend telling yourself is hard or making lists upon lists of what needs to get done the more complex you are going to make it. This is about you- so pull that Band-Aid off and get started!
Are you telling yourself you “should probably get started”- Guess what you already have by reading this. WAY TO GO YOU!!!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Justin Wilson, 1st-Year Grad, Western Illinois CSP Program: Important Considerations when Applying to Graduate School

If you know you want to go to graduate school and have already begun the process of applying, good for you; you’re either a rock star or you’ve had some really awesome mentors in your lifetime. Chances are, though, you’re not that person. You know it’s a difficult process, and if you’re anything like I was last year, you avoid thinking about it as much as you can; there’s already so much going on in your life as a college senior, and you may not even be sure you want to go to grad school!
Here’s the thing: Applying to graduate school might be a little stressful, but it won’t kill you. So if you haven’t started applying yet, and you have even the smallest interest in continuing your education, start now! The sooner you do, the better position you will be in.  Here’s some advice and real life experience that might help you on your way.
My first step was to figure out what I wanted to study in grad school.  Notice I didn’t say I decided on a career and mapped out my life accordingly; I just knew my interests, and decided to look for a type of program that matched with those interests.  Next, I decided what kind of institution I wanted to attend; again, I didn’t decide where I wanted to go, just what kind of atmosphere I was looking for.  I asked myself whether I wanted my graduate school to be in a large/small, public/private, city/rural setting. Once you decide these factors, choosing where to apply will be so much easier.

The very last decision I had to make before applying was figuring out what kind of experience I wanted to have in graduate school. Did I want to complete a thesis? Did I want a school with a cohort program? What about required assistantships, practicums and internships? These are the hardest questions I faced in my search for grad schools, mostly because I didn’t know what I wanted, what the differences between certain distinctions were, and what it all meant in the end.  
The great thing about this step is that you don’t already have to know every component you want in your education. I made my decision by researching different programs, learning what all the terms meant from asking questions, and choosing the aspects I thought were the best for me according to my preferred learning style and personality type.
Then came applying. It’s a long, sometimes tedious process, so my suggestion is that you should pick a Saturday or Sunday, and sit at your computer for as long as it takes to apply online to every single school you have decided to seriously consider. Have your resume’, essays, cover letters, and letters of recommendation in reach (both hard and electronic copies) so you can submit and mail whatever information you need to. Take breaks often, and drink plenty of water, but try to get it all done at once; you’ll be glad you did.
After you apply, you might have an interview here and there, but the worst part is over, and you’ll find yourself packing up and heading off to grad school sooner than you think.