Sunday, June 28, 2009

Maintaining Your Network

While it isn't always easy, one integral part of your success is the ability to communicate with more than just your peers, co-workers, and supervisors. Especially for students doing internships for multiple companies, it is important to maintain your network beyond the time that you spend within a company. This also applies to connections you may have with professors, mentors, and other professional connections. In the same way that you call a good friend every now and then to check up on them, you should also considering checking in on your professional connections. Sending an e-mail wishing them well and updating them on a major landmarks going on in your life is a great way to keep up. For example, if you recently finished a lab class that you were profoundly interseted in, shoot one of your contacts who works in that area an e-mail to tell them about your interest in that material.

What can maintaining your network do in the long run? In addition to keeping your name on a person's mind when they may be in a position to help you find programs, jobs, or areas of study that may interest you, managing a network is also good business. Keeping a positive connection of communication at any opportunity will strengthen your reputation and could also to be to your advantage in the long run. You never know when you will work with someone again or when you will be connected to someone by a degree of separation or two. When it comes down to it, showing respect, being positive, and maintaining communication with other professionals is and will be a significant part of your career. Keep this is mind every time you meet someone new or consider shooting a quick e-mail to a friend at an old job or from an organization you have worked with.

If you have any questions or suggestions of material to cover in the future, please send me an e-mail at

As usual,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Alphabet Strategy

Since I'll be gone this weekend visiting friends from State a state over, here is your weekly fix of Eva McSpartan a few days early. This entry is inspired by our economy and how it has affected industry.

Unless you've been under a pretty decent sized rock for the last few years, you know that our economy has taken some blows and it hasn't been pretty. Yes, we realize this, now what do we do to deal with it?

Here's an idea for everyone...the Alphabet Strategy. This is a play on the idea of having a "Plan B". Given that our economy has been pretty unsteady, industries have become a bit unsteady as well. Prices have fluctuated dramatically on stocks, products, and materials which has led companies to make dramatic changes in their structure, products, and overall management. As a result, companies that may have been stable a few years ago are making cuts in people, products, and their benefits packages.

The hard truth of this is that these changes are affecting everyone from the CEO's of major companies to the interns who are on the bottom of the totem pole. Here's how you are going to get through this's time for you to accept that change is going to be the norm. Figuring out what you want, what you can compromise with, and how to be open minded are going to be important parts of surviving this rough patch. You can have control of what seems to be a complete mish-mash of craziness. Seriously.

Let's start thinking about how to use the Alphabet Strategy in connection with these thoughts. The Alphabet Strategy is the idea that you need to have more than one back-up plan because your life is never going to follow one path. A visual example of this is with the tree chart from last week. The point of this strategy is to give yourself an expanse of overall goals that you want to accomplish so that when you are faced with a road block, you can continue on a different path and still be successful. If you start asking around, you may find that some of the most successful people were the ones who looked at a bad situation, readjusted, and continued on to accomplish their goals in a different fashion. Not everyone can have that "perfect" path that we see in the movies. Life just doesn't work like that (and that's why it's so much fun!)

Now that we've discussed this theory, let's start custom building it to fit our lives. The first step of this is to write down 5-10 goals that you have for the next 5-10 years. These can vary from goals that you have professionally and personally. Here's a few goals that I have:
  1. Graduate from college in December 2009 with a job offer in my pocket.
  2. Complete a masters degree. It could be an MBA or Masters in Engineering Management. It could even be a masters in physical therapy.
  3. Pass the FE Exam so that I have the option of consulting someday if I'd like to take that path. Depending on graduate school info, I may add the GMAT or GRE to this list.
  4. Move out of my parent's house (sorry ma) by the time the summer of 2010 rolls around.
  5. Save as much money as possible my first couple of years at work for a cushion fund to spend on grad school, a house, a car, or to just save for later.
Those right there are a start. There are definitely quite a few more goals on that list, but for now that gives me something to work with.

My next step for these goals is to formulate stategies on how to accomplish them. I'll look at number 5 to demonstrate this point. One thing that many new graduates don't realize is that getting your financial act together when you're first starting out in industry can help you a lot! When you are first starting out, being frugal like you're still in college can be to your advantage. Avoid making huge purchases right away if you can. Using tools like can help you as well. This website helps you track your spending so that you can see where all your money is going. Even the most money conscious people may be surprised by what all is going on in their bank accounts. In addition to helping you for the future, taking steps now to raise your financial IQ will be to your benefit later. If you can handle your accounts like a champ now, when your life becomes more complicated later you'll be able to deal with it.

While I could go on for pages and pages about all the things you could do to make potential plans for yourself, what is going to help you the most now is to try this out! All you need is a piece of paper, a pen or pencil, and a few minutes. Write down your goals, start making up strategies and maybe even put together a simple tree chart. Confused? E-mail me at

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tree Charts & You...A Visual Approach to Planning for the Future

(Click on picture for better view.)

Confused on what your next step is? Lost in a sea of options and decisions? Here's a strategy for getting yourself organized. Shown above is what I like to refer to as a tree chart (I honestly just made that up, but bear with me). This little guy (or gal) is a great way to visualize different options for your near future.

The first step for making a tree chart is to figure out your goals. Some of your main goals may be to graduate by May 2010, attend graduate school, work for Company X, and travel. Your next step is to start your diagram with what is going on right now. This coming semester will you be studying abroad, doing a co-op, or taking classes? From there you can start branching off your options.

The last step of this diagram is to go through and make notes on important factors that may influence your decisions one way or the other. Make a small pros and cons list under each bubble that details things like how each decision will affect your financial situation, overall happiness, and how valuable you feel the experience will be for you.

It may seen a little silly, but charts like these can really clarify things. It's easy to get caught up in an idea of what you think you should do when it may just be easier to take a different route to that same goal. An example of how I applied this to my own tree chart is when I was deciding whether or not to study abroad this summer. Since I had already studied abroad in the past, but knew I still wanted to go overseas again in the near future, I weighed how studying abroad versus traveling after graduation would affect my overall plan. When I really thought about it, I didn't necessarily want to study abroad again and would be in a much better position to afford a trip overseas after doing an internship for the summer before my graduation. Also, the study abroad I was looking at was based on research in a lab. Since doing research is far from my area of interest, I had one more reason that using a study abroad program to go overseas would have been the wrong choice for me because it didn't fit my area of interest.In addition to this, it would have been a big commitment of money and time.

This chart is only a start to ones that you could make for yourself. Really feeling nerdy? Try making a weighted system for your pros and cons list. Tools like charts and just writing down your goals or thoughts can make a huge difference! While doing this may not give you the answers to your life right away, it will help you figure out what is feasible for your future.

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Helpful Advice for Job Seekers (Part 2 of 2)

Now that all of you are well-versed in "making it your own," I'd like to focus on my second piece of adivce...

"Respect leads to respect."

We've all heard the phrase "respect your elders" about a zillion times, but for a minute let's contemplate how valid that statement is. There are almost always going to be people in this world who have experienced what we are experiencing now and they might just have some helpful insights that are applicable to our own lives. Currently in industry, many companies are facing an issue where there is a huge gap in their age demographic. Because of heavy layoffs in the 1980's, most large companies have a demographic that is rich in people who are in their early 20's to early 30's and then from their early 40's to retirement age. That leaves a gap of almost a decade in age. Think I'm lying? Check it out for yourself. It's actually true. While there are exceptions to the rule and variations among companies, this is actually a big deal in many large companies. Especially since a lot of the older demographic will be retiring in the next 5-15 years. Now where does that put the younger folk? As a result of this demographic, younger employees are being prepared to take over substantial leadership positions in large companies. This is good and bad. It is good because younger employees are being given more responsibility faster. This is bad because when the older generations in the work force retire, a vast expanse of knowledge is going to be lost in industry.

Now how does this affect how respect leads to respect?

The phrase "respect leads to respect" represents the notion that if you respect an individual, they will respect you in return. While this isn't always true, approaching relationships in this manner can be incredibly valuable. Being able to reflect on your relationships with other people in the work place or outside of work and having a goal of respecting the people around you can lead to some fantastically positive results.

For example, when I was getting ready to study abroad in Ireland, we were told that there was a significant chance that initially we would be stereotyped as greedy, pushy Americans. The way we needed to crush that stereotype was by respecting the communities we were living in and showing a genuine interest in our new cultures. By taking this approach, our program participants were able to kick bad stereotypes to the curb and also embrace our host culture. If we hadn't been able to step back and respect our new cultures, we may have had much less positive experiences.

Now let's look at how we apply this principle to working in industry. Like I said before, much of America's work force has a substantial age gap. One way of closing this gap is by respecting seasoned co-workers who have a great deal of knowledge to share. I'm not saying you have to suck up to everyone, but if you are sincere about your interest to learn and willing to listen, there's a solid chance that someone will be happy to help you out.

Now that you have learned Eva McSpartan's top two lessons for life, hopefully you can apply these ideas to your own lives. Think I forgot something? Leave comments on guiding principles you believe vastly improve your quality of life inside and oustide of work.

That's all for now. Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!