Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Have You Networked Today?

According to the dictionary (or, networking in the career-sense is:

" cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position. Example: His business lunches were taken up with networking."

Sounds easy, right? Finding people who can help you in your career and who may even help you find a job. Well, for some of you, that may seem like a daunting and scary task. Never fear! Eva McSpartan in here! This week I'm going to tell you how to network, resources you can use to become a better networker, and maybe even give you clues on where to find people to network with.

The Importance of Networking

Before we talk about how to actually network, let's talk about why networking is an important part of your career journey. In fact, communication, in general, is probably one of the most important assets to your career. Being able to successfully present your ideas to a broad audience and communicate day-to-day tasks to anyone from a floor operator to the CEO of the company will keep you at the top of your game in the workplace. On top of being able to communicate in the workplace, maintaining a professional network inside and outside of the workplace will allow you to find mentors and identify key co-workers with exemplary skill sets.

Not-So-Nice Networking

On the flip side of networking, there's also some not-so-nice networking you can do to prevent yourself from forming a positive professional network. The fastest and easiest way to negatively impact your online network is by posting lots of inappropriate photos and comments on Facebook. Believe or not, employers use Facebook as a tool to find out well...whether or not you are a tool. Another way to avoid discrediting your online resume is to change your privacy settings on your Facebook. Avoid accepting friends with just anyone who comes along and set it so that people cannot view all your information without being friends with you. The same ideas apply for other sites like MySpace. If someone can Google you name and find pictures from your drunken Spring Break vacation in 2003, you should probably make a few modifications for your own sake.

Networking 101

Now let's start talking about how to network. Networking is a popular buzzword that is defined by the professional relationships you make to positively impact anything from your day-to-day career to your long-term career goals. You can literally network with just about anyone...people in your classes, the people you work with, someone you meet on the street, etc. The first part of networking is starting a conversation with someone and finding a common interest or belief. If you talk to a recruiter who is into deep sea fishing and you are a total deep sea fishing fanatic, you've just started your network! Don't be afraid to talk to anyone and everyone. Being shy just is not a good excuse not to talk to people. You'd be surprised who you can strike up conversation with if you try. For example, I've struck up conversations with recruiters while at work that I ended up interviewing with or just plain being friends with. Many of them are still in my network. Now here's the big secret about's just talking. If you can strike up a can network.

For extra resources with networking, please reference these past entries:
How to Use LinkedIn:

Maintaining Your Network:

Hopefully all this helps! Now get out there and network!

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This Week's Assignment: Gripe to Me!

Dear Viewers, Followers, and Blog Creepers:

Your assignment this week is to send me your questions, comments, and gripes! What do you want to know more about? What are you struggling with? Do you think I'm just a big 'ol bag of hot air who should shut down her blog?

I want your feedback!!

Eva McSpartan

Being More Than Just Another PDF File in a Big 'Ol Database

Over the last few years, it seems like applying for jobs have moved into a realm of endless online forms, impersonal candidate reference numbers, and dead silence after submitting anywhere from a handful to a boat load of resumes. If you've been to a career fair in the last five years, there is a solid chance that you've been told "I cannot take your resume now, but please go to our website to apply online." Where do all of these online resumes go anyway? Down a virtual toilet? Sometimes it definitely feels like all your typing, pointing, and clicking can be a total waste of time. Today I'd like to focus on why companies are asking you to apply online and how you can stand out in a sea of electronic documents.

Are you completely sick of hearing "apply online" or "I cannot take your paper resume, please go to www.blahblahblah..."? The truth behind all this online application hooey is that companies are legally bound to having candidates apply online to prevent any age, race, or gender discrimination. For some companies, if you have not applied online, they are legally unable to offer you a position or hire you. I know it can be frustrating sending your resume out into cyberspace, but there are things you can do to stand out and alternative methods of pursuing jobs that can supplement your online job search.

First, let's look at what you can do to stand out with an online application. The essential documents you need to compile for an online application include a custom cover letter for the company you are applying to (avoid general cover letters or accidentally switching up two company's cover letters -- Company X does not want to hear about how you want to work for Company Y), a custom resume for the company and position you are applying for, and an unofficial transcript of your coursework if you are a recent graduate applying for an entry level job or a current student applying for a co-op or internship. Once you have all these documents together, you should be ready to rock the online application. If you read this little task list and thought to yourself, "Eva McSpartan is a total jerk. I have to all of this for each company?!", then what I have to say in response is "Tough Noogies!" If you are too busy, too proud, or too stubborn to put in the work to complete these documents, then have fun being just another PDF file in a sea of resumes.

The last component of the online application process is checking your work a second time to ensure that all of your information is accurate and up-to-date. It is very easy to transpose numbers or letters incorrectly after going through a blur of online applications. Check your work to make sure that all of your information is 100% correct. Taking the time to do so now will be of significant benefit for you overall. A wrong e-mail address or phone number could be the difference between you being contacted by an Human Resources representative or hearing crickets.

In addition to applying online, it is important to utilize alternative methods to communicate with a company. Here are some ideas of things you can do to get your name on a company's interview roster:

  • After meeting a company recruiter at a career fair, ask for their business card or contact information so that you can send them a "Thank You" e-mail with an electronic copy of your resume and a few lines about why you are interested in working for their company or expand on a topic that you discussed with the recruiter.

  • Talk to you local career services center and see when that company may be interviewing on campus and how you could get on that roster.

  • Find out if any of your friends, fellow students, advisers, or professors have worked with the company. They may be able to give you an employee's contact information.

  • Check your campus' or a nearby campus' events calendar to see if the company is hosting any upcoming information sessions or networking events.

  • Check the company roster on upcoming career fairs in your area. If you are a member of a professional organization that hosts a career fair, also check those company rosters. Organizations like the Society of Women Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Engineering Society of Detroit (just to name a few) have annual career fairs.

Hopefully all this information will assist you in becoming a well-informed, uber-prepared online applicant! If you have any additional questions, please shoot me an e-mail at

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Making Your List (And Checking It Twice)

One of the first big steps to jumping into your job search is creating a master list of all of the companies that you would like to apply to. Since Santa will not be handing out job offers like candy this year, it is going to be VERY important that you start figuring out where to send resumes. Luckily for you, taking the time to make a top company list and starting research on each company will help you prepare for the Career Gallery this October and look like a super star because you will not be the kid asking "So what is it that you company does?" By the way, if you ask a company that question, it will be quite obvious that you did not do your research. Please do not ask that question. For my sake and for yours.

Here's a step-by-step tutorial on creating a company list:

STEP 1: Find a piece of paper and a pencil or pencil. (Whoo! Easy step, right??)

STEP 2: Start writing down industries that interest you, locations you'd like to work in, etc.

STEP 3: Start looking for companies that fit your criteria. The best ways to find companies is to search the web, or ask your peers/career counselors/your mom. I'd highly suggest searching through Fortune 500 Companies or companies that rank in searches like "100 Best Companies to Work For", "50 Best Companies for College Grads", etc.

STEP 4: Get as many plausible companies on your list as possible. It'd be a good idea to check things like the MSU Career Gallery company list from this year's career fair to see if any of your top companies have attended the CG.

STEP 5: Narrow down your list to about 5-10 companies. These are going to be your "1st Choice Options".

STEP 6: Start researching your top companies. Checking job listings, tracking financial reports for the company and looking for news related to the company are all great ways to get a better idea of what is going on with your top companies. This research will be a huge asset when it comes to perfecting your resume and ultimately applying for jobs!

STEP 6.5: Create company profiles for your top companies. Include the following information:
  • Company Name
  • URL of Company Website

  • Size of Company (Divisions, Numbers of Employees, Etc.)

  • Locations (Headquarters, Plant Locations, Regional Headquarters, Etc.)

  • Financial Profile (Annual Income, Trends over the last 5-10 years, Stock trends, etc.)

  • Recent News (Significant news relating to company over the last few years)

  • Products/Services (General list of products and services provided by the company)

  • Company Contacts (List any contacts you may know at the company)

  • Have you applied? What positions have you applied to? Did you receive a candidate number?

  • Do you have an interview date set? Who will you/did you interview with? Have you sent them a "Thank You" e-mail/card?

If you can get all this information together, you will definitely be a super star at your upcoming career fair or interview!

If you have any additional questions about any of the material I covered this week or any other questions, please send them to

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cover Letters: Use It or Lose It

My fellow students frequently ask me what cover letters are or if they are actually necessary for applying to a job. To prevent myself from launching into an extensive narrative (yet) here is the answer:


Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let's talk about what a cover letter actually is. Cover letters are used as precursors to your resume when applying to a company. The overall purpose of a cover letter is to:
  1. Identify Yourself as an Interested Candidate
  2. State Your Intentions & Interests
  3. Briefly State Why YOU Should Be Hired
  4. Give Your Contact Information

Easy enough, right? Now make all that information fit into about 3-4 paragraphs. That is where things get tough and a lot of students get stuck.

First, let us examine the anatomy of a cover letter. The average cover letter should be comprised of the following material:

  • Contact Information of Person and/or Company You are Applying To
  • Date of Application
  • Appropriate Formal Greeting like "To Whom it May Concern", "Dear Mr.Smith", etc.
  • Introduction Paragraph: Introduce yourself, state what you're looking for (a full-time position in operations, etc.)
  • Skills/Experience Paragraph: Briefly state what skills or expeirences you have that will positively influence the company.
  • Interest Paragraph: State your interest in the company because of products they offer, processes they use, or something you have found about them that interests you. Be specific. If I really want to work for Company X because they have an impressive line of window cleaning products and that is my #1 interest, I need to say that.
  • Closing Paragraph: Thank the person for their time, tell them that if they would like to contact you with any questions then here is your contact information.
  • End the letter with a formal closing like "Sincerely" or "Regards" and if you are applying via a hard copy make sure to sign the letter.

Now that you know how a cover letter is setup, let's talk about why cover letters are so important. Many students do not realize that sending in a resume without a cover letter significantly decreases your chance of getting a position and if you send a general cover letter instead of a custom one, you may also be at a disadvantage. With the current market environment, let it be known that submitting customized cover letters for EVERY position you apply for is a MUST. It is not good enough anymore to avoid sending in a cover letter or to send in a general cover letter. That may have flown a few years ago, but today it will get you nowhere.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I have for students and professional who are in the process of writing cover letters is to do your research! The best cover letters reflect that you have looked at a company's mission, products, recent news, and/or financial portfolio. You will be able to show this research by demonstrating how your interests and passions match up with what the company may have to offer.

That's about it! If anyone has any questions or would like me to post examples of cover letters, please shoot me an e-mail at For more information, another great place to stop by is the Center for Spartan Engineering at 1340 Engineering Building on MSU's campus.

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Week #1: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Resumes

Hello everyone and welcome to the Fall 2009 Semester! For those of you who are new to the Spartan Job Seeker Blog, my name is Eva McSpartan and I will be writing new blog entries each week this semester to help you with your job search! I'm currently a senior in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University and have LOTS of information to share! For those of you who are old pro's and have been following my blog for a while...welcome back! : )

This week's topic is going to be resumes and everything you could ever want to know about them.This covers a whole range of skill levels with resumes so if you encounter things you already know then good for you! Please continue on reading just in case I've included things you may not know.

Anatomy of a Resume

This section covers putting together your first resume or formatting your current resumes. When advising students, we suggest that your resume has several different sections:
  • Name and Contact Information
  • Objective
  • Education
  • Work Experiences
  • Skills
  • Extracurricular Activities
Here's an example of what a resume should look like:

I have a few extra tips regarding resume format. The first is that you should keep your margins at 0.5" on top and bottom and 0.75" on left and right MINIMUM! There is a delicate line between too much and too little white space around your resume. Having too small of margins and way too much text in small font says "I can't be concise to save my life." Having too much white space says "I have no all." Neither of these impressions are favorable.

Resume Content Guidelines: Make Them Want to Hire You

The content of your resume is going to be the meat and potatoes of this document. It is going to tell companies WHY they should hire you. As a result, you should prepare your resume content in a manner that conveys your experiences in the best possible way. One great way of doing this is by giving magnitude to your resume content. Employers are looking for benchmarks in your resume like people, money, and time. For example, if I managed a project at Company X, it is not good enough just to say that I managed a project. I need to provide a magnitude to this project so that employers know how big of an impact this project had. Here's where it'd be a good idea to put that I managed a group of 10 mechanical engineers that was valued at $150,000 and took 6 months from brainstorming to completion. See how much that enhances my statement of managing a project?

Common Resume Mistakes

This section is devoted to common resume mistakes I've seen in the past few years that you need to make sure not to make! Even the smallest grammatical error on your resume will negatively affect how a recruiter sees you. Here are a few to watch out for:
  • Make sure that your contact information is 100% accurate. It's really easy to misspell your e-mail or mess up a letter in your phone number. Even being off by one letter or number can be the difference between getting a response from a recruiter and hearing crickets.
  • After you have earned your first GPA at college (usually by the beginning of your first spring semester), it is time to remove your High School accomplishments and GPA. You're a big kid now and your resume should reflect it. Scared that your resume will be too sparse? Start getting involved! You have no excuse not to get involved with student organizations. Saying "I'm too busy" is all relative. Speaking from experience, you can make time for a lot of things.
  • Make your bullet points for each description concise and give them magnitude by including people, time, and money specifications. Try highlighting one or two main projects instead of listing your daily tasks.
  • Avoid putting obvious things in your "Skills" section. Adding in things like "Personable" or "Open minded" are silly to include. Show these qualities in your bullet points and by your presense. Recruiters will figure out very quickly if you are personable or organized! You do not need to point it out.
  • Keep everything appropriate. This includes your e-mail address and voicemail message. Also, make sure your internet resume is clean! If any of these things include evidence that you are a party animal, irresponsible, or a wild child, you may want to start revising them now. If a recruiter calls you and gets, "Hello. You've reached Big Mama's Brothel...Haha...Just kidding. This is Eva. Leave me a message," they probably won't call you back EVER. Just be aware!

That should just about cover it all. Check back to these entries for more information on resumes:

If you have any specific questions that you would like me to answer or feedback on the Spartan Job Seeker Blog, please send these to

Like Always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!