Do I need to go to graduate school?

Over time, hiring trends have swung the answer to this question from a hard “no” to a “often, yes,” and in 2017, the best answer is a very confusing, “it depends.”

Meeting Business Corporate Business Connection Concept

With a smaller variety of schools to choose from and fewer professional tracks, prior generations had a very different choice to make than today’s college grads. In the modern era, graduate school needs can vary: it may be the only path to a specific profession and a great way of increasing your earnings – or – a largely wasteful endeavor that puts you in major debt without furthering along your career or salary. Here are some guidelines to help you decide whether grad school is the right choice for you:

What is your professional goal?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10? 20? Plotting some points along your professional path, even tentatively, will go a long way towards making smart decisions about your education. If, for example, you have a specific professional goal that requires advanced degrees, it’s time to get started. Want to be a veterinarian? An attorney? An engineer? Consider grad school now rather than later, and price out your options. Although there are some career paths that allow (and sometimes even encourage, as is oftentimes the case for law school and business school) gaps between degrees, there is something to be said for tackling your schooling before you have significant additional responsibilities to attend to (like a house or a family).

Be smart about cost

If you’re in a position to charge your significant graduate school tuition to an employer and further your education, don’t think twice. The United States military also offers options that can allay the cost of graduate school. Private companies often match tuition or offer fixed amounts contingent on time of service. If you’re employed by a University, you may have a free tuition option. Never leave these options on the table! Money for school is worth taking advantage of if you want to pursue a graduate level degree.

But if you are going to need to take on a large debt load in order to fund graduate school, you will want to be particularly thoughtful about your choice and determine if it is really a wise move in relation to what the payoff will be. Research what your salary will be without a graduate degree, and see how a graduate degree will change that. Will you be able to afford your loan payments with the degree you earn? Return on investment is always worth considering when your choice involves debt.

Push back your employment start date

Using grad school to simply put off starting a career will usually result in a graduate degree that doesn’t do you much good. It can be a useful tactic, however, if you’re battling a rough economy or a competitive job sector, or if you’re sure that a graduate degree will give you a significant advantage when you do enter the workforce.

Work and study

If possible, work while you complete a graduate degree. It will help to minimize debt, but it’s also an important way to show future employers that you’re goal-oriented. Many degree programs are designed with working students in mind, so you may be able to wrangle a part or even full-time job as you complete your course of study. If that simply isn’t possible (medical students and law students will be completely unable to work, at least at the beginning of your program) then make sure to talk to your school’s administrators about grants and other funding options for graduate students.

Grad school isn’t for everyone, but for many college grads it’s an important option. Weigh your options carefully and choose a path that will pay the highest long-term dividends!

In the meantime, if you aren’t sure grad school is right for you, try out a career path or two by getting an internship. Start your search at www.bridge.jobs.

Working for non-profit vs. working for-profit

Kicking around terms like “non-profit” and “for-profit” requires some sweeping generalizations. It’s easy to get caught up in the overarching distinctions between the two – things like non-profit work pays less, or for-profit jobs mean ethical compromises.

Value of idea. Concept of brain and money

Really, neither of those items are true – at least, not always. But in order to explain the primary differences that most workers can expect to perceive between the two, so that you can think about which avenue might be the best fit for you, we’ll generalize away!

For-profit sector jobs

“For profit” refers to the principal mission of making money.

  • Income potential will be greater. While the top echelon of non-profit organizations take home very nice salaries, the reality is that corporate bosses usually earn much, much more. For entry-level employees, the disparity won’t be as wide, but it will remain. Whether you’re a coder, a lawyer, a project manager, or a painter, you can typically earn more in the for-profit sector.
  • Competition is tough, and employees are commodities. You may have an awesome supervisor who genuinely cares about you as a human being. But when the purse strings tighten, salaries and even employment can become unpredictable and unstable.

Non-Profit sector jobs

“Non-profit” refers to tax status, but the term is usually used to describe an organization’s mission, which will encompass something more than mere profits. Money earned is put back into the organization, be it a charity, foundation, or school.

  • Non-profit employees typically earn less than their for-profit counterparts.
  • The work is noble, and the causes are oftentimes deeply admirable. Sure, some organizations make few measurable improvements. But there are also amazing opportunities: Help developing nations source clean water, or run community centers that teach inner-city kids job skills, or raising money to cure diseases. The list is absolutely endless.
  • There are some hidden benefits. Non-profit employees may be eligible for loan forgiveness, so don’t forget to add that variable into your equation as you weigh options!

Be careful not to draw too deep of a line in the sand, as there are enormous benefits on both sides of the employment world. Whatever your priorities, you can find employment that is deeply satisfying and furthers your long-term goals.

Start off your career by interning at a for-profit or non-profit organization. Begin your search at www.bridge.jobs.

Best places and times to post open positions at your company [Employers]

Finding the best employee for the job is equal parts science and magic. It takes a little luck to land a top-notch worker, so do yourself a favor and make sure you’ve got your logistical bases covered to give yourself the best possible options.

job search concept

1. Broadcast the opportunity across all channels

One of the biggest mistakes employers make is relying on a single source to publish an open position. The web offers expansive, infinite opportunities to advertise, so take advantage. Check out Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor. Craigslist is free, so although you should expect lots of junk responses that will take time and energy to sort through, it’s still an excellent resource.

2. Targeting college students and new grads

If you’re hiring an intern or an entry-level employee, bridge.jobs will give you access to tons of college student and recent grads looking for opportunities in RI. Make sure to contact the career services offices of nearby colleges and universities. They will happily add your opportunity to their list of local hiring needs for new grads.

3. Timing is everything

If you can afford to wait, it may be wise to align your hiring timeline with the end of the Spring semester in order to target graduating seniors or underclassmen looking for summer opportunities. The spring works too, but a position posted in the fall or winter will often go largely unnoticed by students. If you do post a position in the “off” season, it may be worth holding out for better candidates later in the year if you find that you’re having trouble finding qualified applicants. Sometimes, timing is everything and we have learned that from personal experience!

Hire smart, and you’ll hire far less frequently! Give candidates every opportunity to learn about your hiring needs by providing an expansive search that taps into the markets that will serve you best.

 

Perfecting your LinkedIn profile

Social media isn’t just an opportunity for your mom to leave weird comments on your selfies. LinkedIn gives potential employers and recruiters real insight into your professional skill set, personality, and background. That is, if you use it correctly.

Businesswoman in glasses with PERFECT SMILE

Your profile photo

This is not the time to re-use your Instagram or Facebook profile photo. Your profile shot should be professional. Do a little digging around on LinkedIn and you’ll quickly notice the difference between professional headshots and fuzzy social media re-dos. Want to take your own headshot? It’s not as hard as you think!

  • If you have access to a good camera, use it. If not, your cellphone’s camera is adequate, but you’ll need to use the main lens, not the interior (selfie) lens.
  • Find a white or off-white background wall with lots of good, indirect sunlight, and take your shots on a bright day. You don’t want the sun glaring on your face, but the room should be bright.
  • Your head shot should be either waist or sternum height and up. Look directly at the camera, but angle your face slightly away. Then (this is going to feel a little weird, but it’s worth it!) smile and talk while you have a friend snap away. Working solo? Take a video and pull stills. Just remember that you’ll need lots of shots, so plan on taking a few dozen and picking your favorite.

Your headline

Think of it this way: if you could summarize everything you want a potential employer to know in the space of a sentence, how would you do it? If you want people to read further, pull them in with verbs and an interesting, accurate description. You’re a recent college grad with a retail job? “Target employee” isn’t going to have recruiters knocking down your door. Try “New grad with excellent internship experience seeking that first open door.”

Send the right signal

Make sure your email address and other applicable contact info is up to date, and signal potential contacts that you’re interested in opportunities. Check “contact me for employment opportunities” and make sure that it’s clear you’re looking for work. When possible, be sure to discuss the types of jobs that interest you, and be specific!

Give details about your skill set that will draw recruiters and employers to your page.

  • Don’t just list your degree, list specific coursework that separates you from the pack. If you earned excellent grades a series of upper-level courses, note that! Dean’s list? Honors? Awards? Student organizations? Recommendations from Professors? All relevant, and all should be included in your LinkedIn Profile.
  • Include volunteer experience and professional affiliations. If you don’t have much, join the LinkedIn groups relevant to your degree or interests. They’re good for networking and job postings, and they help to demonstrate your professional intentions. Involve yourself in discussions in these groups, always maintaining a professional tone.
  • Make sure to utilize the primary function of the site – connecting! Link up with professors, classmates, former co-workers, and mentors. The more connections you have, the more likely you are to come across opportunities. Interact with your connections to get the most out of them.

Your network is the single best way to find professional opportunities, and LinkedIn is a key resource. Put some time and energy into your professional web presence and give yourself the best possible shot at a career breakthrough!

Tools to finding your dream job

It’s time to approach the job search scientifically. There’s no magic to finding a new position – it’s all hard work, strategy, and technique. Here’s the outline.

Dream Job This Way

1. Make your wish list

Include every characteristic you want in a new job, and make it absolutely perfect.

2. Learn to utilize your resources

Your professors, family, and friends are the contacts that can help you to meet industry professionals, and they can provide you with valuable references. In addition to personal contacts, this is the time to go to your school’s Career Services Office to let them do what they’re trained to do. Namely:

  • Career services offices maintain lists of open positions and internships, and at the local level this is immensely valuable.
  • Even if you graduated years ago, your school will willingly respond to a request for help!
  • Did you do an internship? Use your contacts from your workplace to network or if you loved working there, speak up about your interest in a full-time opportunity.
  • Never written a professional resume or cover letter? Career services staff can help. Even if you’re sure yours is excellent, run it by somebody who does this for a living!
  • Interview prep and mock interviews can feel awkward, but practice is essential. Let your school’s expert staff provide you with some questions, and be open to their feedback!

3. Research

Before you’re ever in the running for a phone screening or interview, you should know everything there is to know about the organization, its employees, and the position for which you’re competing. Do some digging online and if possible, talk to people in similar positions.

4. Put the web to work

  • Bridge.jobs is a great place to find internships. Data shows as much as 60% of internships turn into full-time opportunities.
  • LinkedIn is an incredibly valuable resource, so use it wisely. Complete a carefully detailed profile and be sure to indicate that you’re looking for work.
  • Next, Glassdoor provides interesting and useful data on pay, employee satisfaction, and hiring practices. Sign up for an account and integrate the site into your research.
  • Indeed.com is one of the most comprehensive listings of hiring needs anywhere, so make sure you’ve uploaded a resume and completed a profile. Set up alerts to keep apprised of current opportunities in your field.

One of the biggest mistakes made by job hunters is taking a casual approach to what should be a disciplined, structured search. Create an action plan and stick to it!

Nailing your first professional interview

So you’ve landed an interview – congratulations are in order! You’ll endure plenty of interviews over the course of your career, and while sitting down to sell yourself to a potential employer can be nerve-wracking and intimidating, it’s also awesome practice. You’ll get better every time, and interviewing is an art form in itself!

How to Stand Out During Your Internship Interview

Here’s the best approach.

1. Know your audience

Get serious about knowing the details about the position, the team, and the interviewer. Find ways to discuss the company’s history, mission statement, or current projects. The organization wants to know that you care about them as much as they care about you.

2. Rehearse some answers

You need to sound natural. But there are some questions that you should be prepared to answer.

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What sets you apart from other candidates?

And of course, the all-important:

  • Tell us a bit about yourself!

Have these answers prepped and ready to go, because these questions are coming your way.

3. Dress for success

It doesn’t matter if the position is likely to require business casual attire, you’re dressing for an interview. Dress up. No candidate has ever, in the history of interviews, been denied a job for dressing too professionally.

4. Make a good first impression

Walk in, smile, and shake hands firmly with everyone in the room. Arrive early. Thank everyone for their time. Sit up straight and don’t fidget. Make eye contact, and be polite to the receptionist!

5. Ask questions that show your interviewer you did your research.

Want to knock their socks off? Mention a specific interviewer’s background when asking one of your (carefully prepared) questions. “Can you tell me which elements of your Database Programming degree from XY University have served you best in your role at this company? I’d like to know what coursework is going to be the most relevant if I’m hired.” Have 3 or 4 questions prepared, and make them sincere – what do you want to know? Remember, this is not a time to ask about salary or benefits.

6. Follow up!

Make sure your contact info is readily available (bring a business card!), and follow up later the same day with a quick email thanking your interviewer for his or her time. Your courtesy will be noted.

There’s no perfect way to interview, but with practice you’ll learn to work the room like a pro and leave a lasting, positive impression!

 

How to stretch your dollar during college

There’s no better time to learn how to skimp and save! Chances are, you’re on a tight budget. We all know well the stress that comes with such restriction, so we’ve put together this handy list of ways to penny-pinch.

Stretched US dollar note

Use your student discount

You probably heard all about some of the local options when you first received your student ID, but remember to use it! Movie theaters, restaurants, and retail shops all offer deals and discounts for students. And there’s more!

  • Save money on shipping with Amazon student.
  • Significant discounts on streaming music services like Spotify.
  • Tech companies like Apple and Microsoft all provide significant student benefits, sometimes adding up to hundreds of dollars in savings on new products.
  • Experiences like museums, symphonies, amusement parks, and other cultural events typically offer student pricing. When in doubt, ask!

Avoid the bookstore

The on-campus bookstore will inevitably include markups that can easily be beat online. Always buy your textbooks used, and rent them when possible, unless you reasonably foresee a need to retain them for more than the current semester. If you’re in the market for college-branded clothing, make sure to shop around online before dropping money at the bookstore – chances are, somebody sells it cheaper. Slugbooks is a great tool for comparing prices on college textbooks.

Park the car

If you can walk or bike, do it. You’ll save a ton of money if you can ditch the car altogether, between insurance, maintenance, and fuel. But even an overall reduction in driving can help plenty, if you consider how much you’re likely spending on gas over the course of a year.

Put away your wallet

Think about what you need to buy, and buy only those things. This is a tough one, because we all enjoy life’s little luxuries. But if you can brew coffee in your dorm or pick it up in the cafeteria as part of your meal plan, you’ll save quite a bit over the cost of daily coffee at your favorite chain. (A $3 cup of coffee every day adds to up $1095 in a year!) Similarly, retail goods are usually the first place most of us waste money. Here’s a great trick for avoiding impulse buys – never buy an item the first time you see it. Try this: “If I still think I need it in two days, I’ll come back and get it if I can afford it” (i.e. not put it on your credit card if you can’t pay it off that month!). You’re likely to decide you don’t need those new shoes after all! Going to a gala? Borrow a dress from a friend rather than splurging on a gown you’ll only wear once. You get the idea…

Cook at home

If you are on meal plan, use it! If you can’t make it to the dining hall, even in the dorm, there are ways to make a decent meal with just a microwave and a mini fridge. But if you’re in more generous housing, use that kitchen! Get together with friends on a rotating basis and make communal dinners. Shop at the cheap grocery store and practice making recipes that can feed a crowd. Restaurants, even low-priced options, are considerably more expensive than anything you’ll make at home.

Get a job or internship!

Even a few hours a week will pad your pockets. Start with your school’s Career Services Office, where the staff will have compiled lists of both on and off-campus positions that might suit your needs. Also check out bridge.jobs for internship opportunities in Rhode Island. While at the career services office, get some help with that resume and brush up your interview skills. If you have experience as a babysitter, server, or retail employee, you’re more likely to land work in a similar vein. But remember that you can diversify if you like, and that new opportunities are always sprouting up.

Living on a shoestring budget is tough, but you’re tougher! Be smart and savvy, and you’ll always have a few dollars left to spend when you really need them.