Sunday, November 29, 2009

For Anyone Who Has Been Referred to as "That Person with the iPhone"

Today I'd like to cover a topic that is currently affecting and may significantly influence our generation's workforce. With the introduction of products like the iPhone and Blackberry along with other smart phones, a new race of people has started to crop up. I've seen them all over campus and in the workplace. These beings have a left or right hand constantly occupied by a cell phone or may have an ear that lights up blue as they mysteriously talk at people without making any eye contact or carrying on a logical conversation. While technology is super cool to play with, and I can't criticize too much because I'm an avid text-aholic, there's a point where we need to put down our cell phones, start connecting with people personally, and well...get a life!

Step Away from the Impersonal Communication Methods

While some companies encourage their employees to use a Blackberry or commit 8+ hours of their day to sitting at a desk within hands reach of their phone and e-mail, doing so isn't necessarily the best method for encouraging positive relationships inside and outside of company doors. While working with several companies, I've noticed that company culture has a strong influence on communication methods. Last summer while working at an oil refinery in the South, the best form of communication in many cases was to make sure to meet someone in person before ever commencing communications with them because your e-mails or phone calls would probably be ignored otherwise. In contrast, at another company I worked with where it was necessary to communicate with multiple locations around the world, calling someone and speaking with them before commencing any e-mail communications was the best way to be productive.

Given that many recent college graduates have grown up in the age of e-mail, cell phones, and Facebook, it may come to a surprise to them when their e-mails go unanswered or calls go unreturned for days or weeks at a time. What these graduates do not realize is that they way they have been communicating with their friends while growing up is not necessarily appropriate for their work environment. is your hint! It is time to ditch the impersonal communication methods and get your networking skills shaped up. Especially when starting a new job at a company, it is important to actually meet people in person whenever possible or call them personally to introduce yourself. Believe it or not, this will significantly increase your ability to effectively communicate with individuals with various backgrounds and experience levels. If a person is able to associate your name with a face or voice, they are far more likely to help you out.

I know the thought of having to introduce yourself to new people can be a little scary, but I can assure you that it's not so bad once you try it out a few times. The shyness will pass as you see the benefits of your work. For example, last summer I had to compile a large amount of information to validate the existence of a certain kind of machinery throughout a plant. Since there was no way I could possibly identify each piece of equipment in three months, I had to network with individuals to help me figure out what was in service, rotting on a block, or had been torn out years before. At first I was very hesitant to introduce myself to anyone since I was the new kid on the block. Luckily, my mentor identified this, told me get over it, and made a point to introduce me to anyone and everyone he could to get me going. After a few weeks, I had this whole introduction thing down and was able to gather all the information I needed to get my project done within the time frame proposed. A few individuals even made a point of going out of their way to help me and back me up in any difficult situations that arose!

When it comes down to it, making a point to go out of your way to listen to someone or introduce yourself to them is a great way to network. I've always thought of it as your door into a special communication club. Once you have given the password (an introduction and initial point of contact), you are officially in the club! You may not have free reign of the club, but you have the opportunity to build a positive relationship with a co-worker and promote productive communication.

The moral of the story is that it is important for you to get away from your e-mail sometimes and go talk to people in person. Just because you sent ten e-mails to someone doesn't mean they are going to listen to what you have to say. Plus, you might be surprised by what you may have in common with your co-workers or it might turn you that you are both struggling with different aspects of a problem and may hold each other's answers.

That's all for now. Your work assignment for today is to put down your iPhone/Blackberry/Smart Phone for a few minutes and go talk to someone instead of e-mailing or texting them!

If you have any additional questions on this week's topic or any career-related topic, feel free to e-mail me at or comment on this or any entry.

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to be a Top Dog...Without Drooling on Everyone

When it comes to working in industry, you will learn over time that there is a delicate line between being at the top of your game and being at the top of your game while keeping the peace with co-workers. While it is advisable for you to apply yourself at work and take care of your responsibilities, it is important to keep several details in mind. When you first start at a job, it is important for you to jump into the learning curve with both feet. Ask questions, seek answers, and find out who has the information you need. Always say "thank you" and try not to inconvenience people to the point of annoyance. The first few weeks on a new job are some of the most important. This can also be the time that you ask the questions that no one has thought of before or that defy the "rules" set by co-workers who have been staring at a problem so long that simple solutions may have been ruled out years ago for no good reason. A fresh perspective can be a HUGE asset!

Another detail that needs to be considered when you're a high achiever at work (I'm avoiding the term over-achiever) is to consider how your big successes affect other people. While coming up with the greatest new project is fantastic, you need to consider how it plays into the lives of everyone else. If you were given assistance on your project by anyone, it is important to acknowledge their involvement. Contrary to some thoughts, going it alone is not always best. If you have asked the appropriate sources for extra information and assistance and acknowledge that, it shows that you are not trying to hog the spot light and that you have done your research. Also, when you propose a project you need to consider the project scope from multiple roles. You should look at the project from an operations stand point, financial perspective, and give it a thorough technical review. Is your project going to benefit the company long term? Will this be a source of financial gain for the company? Is this project going to put your manufacturing floor at risk? What do you need to do to prevent health, environmental and safety accidents from happening? As many of my co-workers at a certain oil refinery said, if something is dangerous, you need to engineer the safety into it. This means reinforcing structures to add more support, adding in secure rails to tie off a harness to and clearly marking all safety and health risks.

The last detail to cover is something I've mentioned several times in the past. In many and almost all cases, respect leads to respect. If you respect someone's opinions, etc. (this doesn't mean you have to agree with them), there is a solid chance they will respect you in return or at least feel obliged to act respectfully towards you. Keep this in mind while working on projects that put you at risk of stepping all over people's toes. If you are informative and take responsibility for your successes and failures, you will hopefully succeed in winning over their approval. While there are always going to be people who don't want to have anything to do with you or your new project, in many cases, utilizing these tips will help you succeed.

That's about all for now. I'll be back next week for more fun with Eva McSpartan. If you have any questions please send them to or comment on an entry.

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!
...and GOBBLE GOBBLE! Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Exams Exams Everywhere & All I Want To Do is Nap!

Even though there's still a month left until Final Exams, I'd like to take a bit of time to cover a few other exams you should consider taking. I've divided the exams up by what kind of employment track you would be looking into.

Technical Track

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) (Link to GRE Site)

GRE® General Test Overview (from ETS Site)

What Is It?
The GRE® General Test measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills that are not related to any specific field of study.

Verbal Reasoning — The skills measured include the test taker's ability to:

  • analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it
  • analyze relationships among component parts of sentences
  • recognize relationships between words and concepts

Quantitative Reasoning — The skills measured include the test taker's ability to:

  • understand basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis
  • reason quantitatively
  • solve problems in a quantitative setting

Analytical Writing — The skills measured include the test taker's ability to:

  • articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively
  • examine claims and accompanying evidence
  • support ideas with relevant reasons and examples
  • sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion
  • control the elements of standard written English

Who Takes It and Why?

Prospective graduate applicants take the General Test. GRE test scores are used by admissions or fellowship panels to supplement undergraduate records and other qualifications for graduate study. The scores provide common measures for comparing the qualifications of applicants and aid in evaluating grades and recommendations.

Where Do People Take It?

The General Test is offered year-round at computer-based test centers in the United States, Canada and many other countries. It is offered at paper-based test centers in areas of the world where computer-based testing is not available. See which format is available in your area.

Who Accepts It?

Any graduate or professional school, any department or division within a school, or any fellowship granting organization may require or recommend that its applicants take the General Test, a Subject Test, or both.

Fundamentals of Engineering/Professional Engineer (FE/EIT/PE): (Link to NCEES Site)
(Description from NCEES Site)

Why take a Fundamentals (FE/FS) exam?
To pursue a professional license, you must pass one of the Fundamentals (FE/FS) examinations:
  • Engineering licensure candidates: take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.
  • Surveying licensure candidates: take the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam.

Exam waiver: The Fundamentals exam may be waived for an engineer or surveyor who has earned an advanced academic degree and/or acquired many years of work experience. Guidelines vary greatly for each jurisdiction.

Who is eligible to take a Fundamentals exam?
Rules vary greatly for each jurisdiction, go to for details.

What material is covered in the exams?
  • The FE exam covers subject matter taught in a typical EAC/ABET-accredited baccalaureate engineering program. It appropriately covers a comprehensive range of subjects in engineering.
  • The FS exam covers subject matter taught in a typical ASAC/ABET-accredited baccalaureate surveying program. It appropriately covers a comprehensive range of subjects in surveying.Go to Study Materials for reference books and sample exam questions.

What is the format of the Fundamentals exams?

  • Each exam is 8 hours long, with one 4-hour session in the morning and another in the afternoon. Examinees must participate in both sessions on the same day. Both exams are closed book, and reference material is supplied. All questions are multiple choice.
  • The FE exam consists of 180 multiple-choice questions. During the morning session, all examinees take a general exam common to all disciplines. During the afternoon session, examinees can opt to take a general exam or a discipline-specific (chemical, civil, electrical, environmental, industrial, or mechanical) exam.
  • The FS exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. Examinees take a general exam in both the morning and afternoon sessions.
  • FE examinees will be furnished a copy of the FE Supplied-Reference Handbook at the exam site. This is the only reference material you will use during the exam.
  • FS examinees will be furnished a copy of the FS reference formulas at the exam site. This is the only reference material you will use during the exam.

After I pass a Fundamentals exam, what's next?

Passing a Fundamentals exam is the first step toward licensure. To continue the licensure process, complete the following:

How do the Fundamentals exams differ from the Principles and Practice exams?

  • The Fundamentals (FE/FS) exams cover subject matter in a typical EAC/ABET-accredited baccalaureate engineering curriculum or ASAC/ABET-accredited baccalaureate surveying curriculum.
  • The Principles and Practice (PE/PS) exams go beyond testing academic knowledge and require knowledge gained in engineering or surveying practice.
  • Both exams are required for professional licensure.

Business Track

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT):
(Description from More Info at and

The GMAT exam is a standardized assessment, delivered in English, that helps business schools assess the qualifications of applicants for advanced study in business and management. By taking the GMAT exam, you have a better chance of being targeted by business schools that are a good match for you—and learning more about their programs and admissions processes. You can help them find you by creating an profile and opting in to being contacted by schools. Schools use the test as one predictor of academic performance in an MBA program or in other graduate management programs.

How much does it cost to take the GMAT® exam?
The cost to take the GMAT exam is US$250 globally.

Where can I take the GMAT® exam?
The GMAT exam is delivered in testing centers around the world.

What schools use GMAT® scores?
Over 1900 graduate business schools around the world use GMAT scores as a part of their admissions process.

How can I prepare to take the GMAT® exam?
The Graduate Management Admission Council® provides
free test preparation software and preparation materials to purchase as well as suggestions about how to prepare for the exam.

What does the GMAT® exam measure?
The GMAT exam measures basic verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills that you have developed in your education and work.

How long are GMAT® scores valid?
Your GMAT score is valid for five years, so you have the flexibility of “banking it”—choosing to start your graduate studies right after university or later on. Remember, if at first you don’t succeed, you can take the GMAT exam again. Remember, though, that all of your GMAT scores from the past 5 years will appear on your Official Score Report.

Professional Track

Law School Admission Test (LSAT):
(Description and More Info at

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day, standardized test administered four times each year at designated testing centers throughout the world. All American Bar Association-approved law schools, most Canadian law schools, and many other law schools require applicants to take the LSAT as part of their admission process.

In the US, Canada, the Caribbean, and some other countries, the LSAT is administered on a Saturday, except in June, when it is generally administered on a Monday. For Saturday Sabbath observers, the test is also administered on a weekday following Saturday administrations.

Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December for admission the following fall. However, taking the test earlier—in June or September—is often advised. Some schools place greater weight than others on the LSAT; most law schools do evaluate your full range of credentials.

Test Format
The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker’s score. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, typically is used to pretest new test questions or to preequate new test forms. The placement of this section will vary. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. LSAC does not score the writing sample, but copies of the writing sample are sent to all law schools to which you apply.

What the Test Measures
The LSAT is designed to measure skills that are considered essential for success in law school: the reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight; the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences from it; the ability to think critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others.

The three multiple-choice question types in the LSAT are:

Reading Comprehension Questions
These questions measure your ability to read, with understanding and insight, examples of lengthy and complex materials similar to those commonly encountered in law school work. The reading comprehension section contains four sets of reading questions, each consisting of a selection of reading material, followed by five to eight questions that test reading and reasoning abilities.

Analytical Reasoning Questions
These questions are designed to measure your ability to understand a structure of relationships and to draw logical conclusions about that structure. You are asked to make deductions from a set of statements, rules, or conditions that describe relationships among entities such as persons, places, things, or events. They simulate the kinds of detailed analyses of relationships that a law student must perform in solving legal problems.

Logical Reasoning Questions
These questions are designed to evaluate your ability to understand, analyze, criticize, and complete a variety of arguments. Each logical reasoning question requires you to read and comprehend a short passage, then answer a question about it. The questions test a variety of abilities involved in reasoning logically and thinking critically.

The registration fee for the LSAT is $123. If you meet certain criteria, you may qualify for an LSAC fee waiver. Late registrants must pay an additional $62.

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT):
(Description and More Info at

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee's problem solving, critical thinking, writing skills, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine. Scores are reported in Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences. Medical colleges consider MCAT exam scores as part of their admission process.
Almost all U.S. medical schools require applicants to submit MCAT exam scores. Many schools do not accept MCAT exam scores that are more than three years old.

Preparing for the Exam
Order practice tests, review content descriptions for each section of the exam, see a sample study plan.

Reserving a Seat

Locate an available test center, reserve a seat, apply for accommodations, and check the registration deadlines.

Taking the Exam

Understand admission requirements and other test day policies and procedures, and submit a test center concern.

Releasing Your Scores
Check the score release schedule, view your scores, and send your scores to schools.

Okay, so hopefully that gives you a good idea of what exams may need to be in your future depending on what kind of track you are looking at. Since a lot of this information is directly cited from exam websites if you'd like additional information the best thing to do is check out some of the sites provided.

If you have any questions about other career-related topics, please feel free to e-mail me at

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One Month Left of Eva McSpartan!

Hello Boys & Girls!

This is a friendly reminder that there are only 4 weeks left of classes and 1 week of final exams here at Michigan State University. That being said, please note that there are only FOUR MORE WEEKS LEFT of the Eva McSpartan blog as we know it! I will be graduating and moving on to new adventures in industry and retiring my weekly blog.

For anyone with questions, comments, or suggestions for entries, speak now or forever hold your peace! I has been a pleasure writing to the blog-o-verse the last few months. I hope I have helped at least a few people on their search for employment and their journey towards becoming happy, high-achieving employees.

Please refer any questions to or comment on any entries!

Many Thanks,
Eva McSpartan

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Are YOU Financially Savvy??

Believe or not, there is a day in every graduated student's life where you finally find that job you've been looking for and end up (gasp) making money instead of pouring it into rent, textbooks, and tuition!! When that day comes, it is important that you be prepared to invest your money wisely and learn to budget what you are making in order to save up the rest. You may ask, "Why do I have to save my money? I've been scraping by on a student's budget for years and I'll spend the same way I do now!" With the exception of a few people, there's a solid chance that once you start getting a big 'ol paycheck in the mail every month, you're going to be inclined to spend it. You won't want to live in crappy campus apartments anymore where your room may or may not be a closet and eat cups of noodles and free pizza from student organization meetings every night. Eventually, you are going to start watching your paycheck get put into mortgage payments, car payments, new toys, cell phone bills, and who knows what else (depending on your hobbies). Speaking from experience, when I started doing co-ops and realizing that I could make a decent amount of money every week, my trips to the mall definitely increased. I was in a better position to travel more and had a bigger cushion fund for buying the things I wanted instead of just the things I needed.

When it comes down to it, there are thousands of students graduating every year and even adults, too, who have very little knowledge about managing their money. Having poor money management skills now can lead to a world of hurt in the future because you may not be able to live within your means. How is a company supposed to trust you with their money if you can't even stay within your own budget??

Let's start with a quick review of money management for any beginners. The most basic Money 101 tip that I can give anyone is that if you look at your bank account, the money you make every month should be greater than the money you spend. In other words, if you make $2,000 a month, but spend $5,000 a month because you love to buy used fishing poles off of eBay in the wee hours of the night, you need to seriously reconsider your spending habits. If you feel like you do not properly monitor your spending habits, I'd highly recommend using a site like Some banks even provide a free service as part of their membership that involves a very similar process. If you are an MS Excel pro, you can even make your own spreadsheet to track your spending each month. It may seem silly and even a little scary, but keeping an eye on your budget is actually a fantastic way of getting your act together. You'll start to see the trends in what you spend the most money on and can alter your budget accordingly. These kinds of resources are especially great as a student since we all know that most students have to work with very tight budgets.

While it would take me hours to explain all the different ways to invest your money, I will talk about several options that you should do some research on. The following investment options are just a few of the many ways to intelligently save your money:
  • Create a cushion fund in addition to your budget that can help you through a fair amount of financial trauma. If you lose your job, have to deal with extensive fees, or your car takes a flying dump, it's important to have a cushion fund to help break your fall.
  • Look into investing into your 401K each month or a long term savings plan.
  • Look into ways of saving through your bank. Many banks allow you to create CDs that earn interest each month. There's usually a minimum balance of $500 or so. These are good and bad because you cannot withdraw funds from the CD before it rolls over unless you want to pay an early withdraw fee.
Unfortunately, I'm no finance major so a lot of the more complex investment methods are something I'm not enough of an expert about to really talk about here. Even so, I challenge you to research different investment methods to make your money work for you. When it comes down to it, money is not everything, but having some can help you feed yourself, live in a suitable home, and maybe even allow you to drop some cash on hobbies you enjoy.

That's all for now. If anyone can contribute any stellar tips or advice, please feel free to add them to this entry! Also, if anyone has any additional questions about any career related topics, please feel free to e-mail me at or add a comment to this post.

Like always,
Good Luck Job Seekers!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Signing Your One Way Ticket Out of Sleep Deprivation

This week I'd like to cover a few extra details about making your final decision for a full-time job (or internship/co-op). There are few things to consider before and while you sign on the dotted line of your acceptance forms.

First of all, when negotiating your final offer, you need to look at your salary, benefits, and start date/location. While salaries with most larger companies and development programs are usually mandated by a strict pay structure policy, some companies will be flexible with salary negotiations. While negotiating salary think about several things:
  • Unless a company says that a signing bonus will be a certain amount after taxes, assume that 30-40% of your signing bonus will be taken in taxes.
  • Check the cost of living and search a few apartments in the area you are planning on living. $50,000 a year in Lansing goes a lot further than $50,000 a year in New York City or Washington, DC.
  • A good set of benefits are worth big $$! Having low co-pays and great medical benefits will help in the long run, especially if you plan on staying with a company for many years. It may seen small now, but having good medical, dental, and vision insurance will literally save you thousands of dollars in the future.
  • Companies with solid investment and savings programs get an A+ because they help their employees made the most of their investment and savings strategies.

When it comes to your start date, it's always a good idea to discuss your options with your company of choice. Having a few weeks to recover from school and possibly travel may be the difference between you being a happy camper or being a burnt out camper after a few months on the job. Keep in mind that most companies only give you 10 days (2 weeks) vacation starting out so the odds of you being able to take 3-4 weeks off to travel around the world are slim to none for your first few years of work. If you are dead set on starting out at the your job right away, that is fine, but know that you may be missing out on an opportunity to relax, spend time with family/friends, and feel like a human being again before having to start work. Even though making money is a very good thing, if you can afford to take some time off it may be worth every penny you have to earn back to cover your expenses during that time.

When Things Go Bad

Given that the current economy is pretty sad, it is important to consider the worst case scenario. Several companies in the last few years have been forced to rescind job offers or make significant cuts to their younger work force. Just because you have a full-time offer doesn't mean it's going to be there forever. Make sure to work hard and get noticed at work, but also make sure to keep your resume updated and continue training to develop your skills.

On the other hand, there may be a point that you decide that you no longer wish to work for a company. If you decide this before starting your job, but after sending in your final acceptance, it is important that you understand something. If you decide to rescind your acceptance, you are burning a bridge with a company. There are NO take-backs. It is generally safe to assume that if you accepted a job then decide 2 months before you start that you want to back out, you have officially burned a bridge with that company. Do not expect them to go out of their way to get you back if you decide that you made the wrong decision. There's a big different between declining an offer right away and backing out at the last minute.

On the topic of burning bridges, it is very important that when accepting and/or declining offers, you be as polite and professional as possible. Throwing an offer in a company's face because it is "too low" or "not competitive enough" is a solid way to torch any relationship you had with that company. Behaving like that is immature and not one bit professional. Let's put it this way, treat a company giving you an offer like your grandmother trying to give you a cookie. You wouldn't tell your grandmother to shove the offered cookie where the sun doesn't shine. If you would, well, then you're just not a nice person. Keep this idea in mind when declining an offer from a company. Be polite and concise with your rejection. Tell them that you appreciate that they took time out of their busy day to help you and that you wish them all the best. Even though you may be closing the door on a company for now, it's a good idea to make sure that door is not bolted and boarded shut for the future when that company may be a good choice for you.

That's all I have for this week. Hopefully this is helpful to any of the seniors out there who are trying to decide on their future employers. If you have any additional questions, please send them to me at

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!