Category Archives: Career Tips

5 Things They Don’t Teach You About Work in College

Originally posted on Campus To Career:


Getting a first job is something that’s a milestone for every person. Whether you’re a college graduate or started working after high school, a first job is something that is nerve-wracking and unforgettable at the same time. Not only that, this is your first experience into a world that’s totally different from school. Your assignments and exams will be replaced with tasks and deadlines, bosses are the counterparts of your school teachers, and your peers will be equivalent to people of different ages and work status. It’s a change of scenery from the campus scene that you’ve gotten used to over the past years.

High grades and great student performance are equally important. But then, school doesn’t teach you everything you need to know about life after graduation. Here are 5 examples of things they didn’t teach you in college about “the real world”.

1. How to handle your salary

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How To Win At Professional Networking Every Time

Originally posted on the leadership focus:

Some interesting ideas here. The author states that even though with networking “80% is showing up”, it’s the other 20% that counts. What do you think? And, what have you found works best for you?u3people

How To Win At Professional Networking Every Time.

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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Job Interviews

Readers often find The Proactive Professional by doing internet searches regarding questions they have about the job interview process.  I have compiled a list of these Frequently Asked (and Searched) Questions and answered them here:

  1. Can you wear heels higher than two inches for a job interview?
    1. You *can* but that probably doesn’t mean you should.  I suggest wearing 2-21/2 inch heels—three inches at the most—for job interviews.  I’ve participated in plenty of interviews where the candidate didn’t realize how much walking would be involved and was practically tripping in her shoes.
  2. Are capri pants professional enough for a job interview?
    1. It depends.  If you’re applying for a job in the service industry or an artistic field, capris should be fine—provided you wear them with a nice blouse and dress shoes.  If you’re applying for a position in business or a more conservative office, wear a pencil skirt or lightweight dress pants.
  3. Is it okay to wear a sleeveless dress to an interview?
    1. I suggest pairing a sleeveless dress with a nice cardigan or blazer for a job interview.  I suggest this for a couple of reasons—one, offices are often unreasonably air conditioned during the summer and you don’t want to be uncomfortable, and two, as with capri pants, more conservative/traditional fields may not approve of sleeveless clothing.  (My job interview motto is always “Better safe than sorry!”)
  4. What do I do if the interviewer says dress “comfortably, but professionally”?
    1. I suggest wearing clothing that allows you to move freely—i.e., clothing that allows you to comfortably sit, stand, bend, climb stairs, etc.—but isn’t casual.  A sleeveless dress that comes to the knees with a nice cardigan, a pencil skirt with a long sleeve blouse, dress pants with a short sleeve blouse, etc.
  5. What is the worst thing to wear to a job interview?
    1. Anything that calls attention to you in a negative way.  I am a major proponent of being who you are and celebrating yourself, but the job interview is a time to showcase your skills and experiences as a professional.  It is not the right time to highlight your clubbing make up or your fashionista wardrobe.  These are a few things I would make “non grata” for a job interview:

Halter tops, strappy sandals, heels above three inches, see through clothing, leggings worn as pants, visible bra straps, major smokey eye, bright red lipstick, more than a very light spraying of perfume, patterned tights, more than 2-3 pieces of jewelry—especially long, dangly jewelry, shorts, skirts more than an inch above the knee, blue jeans.

Let me make this clear: these rules do NOT apply to every job.  When I was 20, I applied for a position at a convenience store in a nice pair of dark blue jeans and a dressy top.  As a candidate for a graduate assistant position at a university LGBT center, I wore gray slacks and a short sleeve blouse.  For my first professional position after graduate school, I wore a navy blue Anne Klein skirt suit with nude pumps and a cream colored camisole.  These aren’t hard and fast rules for every position at every stage of your life, but they are a good foundation for dressing for job interview success.


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Personality Types of Orange is the New Black Characters

With the recent premiere of season two of Orange is the New Black (Netflix), I’ve had requests for the MBTI types of the OITNB characters. created a great diagram detailing the MBTI types of the characters.  I’m not quite sure I agree with some of the MBTI types listed for certain characters (example: Is Alex really “Judging” which implies that she prefers things to be planned and orderly? I’m not so sure…) but it is a good reference.  Enjoy!




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Repairing Your Professional Reputation

 Years ago I started working for a major company that was going through a major scandal. All new hires were required to go through a rigorous training program that not only taught us the fundamentals of the job, but worked to sell us on the idea that this was a great company. I was about twenty and I didn’t have a solid grasp on what the fuss was all about. I knew that some important people in the company had made big mistakes, but I thought it would blow over after they were fired. It was when I began my full time customer service job that I realized just how pissed off the customers were. Customers who were locked into contracts demanded out–threatening to sue everyone in the company, from the VPs to the custodians (and usually me). Loyal customers wanted reassurances that they were in the right hands. So what was the big deal? The company’s reputation was in shreds.

Two years later, my own professional reputation was in jeopardy. I was a waitress and had a romantic entanglement with a co-worker (this is probably one of the reasons I’m against dating colleagues). It didn’t end well and all of our co-workers knew the story. Why? Because I analyzed everything that happened in conversations with them and was sad over the situation for months. I began to have a reputation for focusing too much on my personal life and not taking my job seriously. After a few months I gave notice, deciding to stay with a friend in Montreal for a while to clear my mind.

Once I had a goal I did everything possible to complete it. I requested extra shifts and worked to earn good tips. I came in early, stayed late, and paid little attention to my former love interest. I wanted a clean start in Montreal and getting over this disastrous relationship was imperative to my new beginning. Slowly, people at work began treating me differently. I was tasked with more responsibility and praised for my work. Without realizing it, I had begun to repair my damaged reputation.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the effect a bad reputation has on one’s career. “He goofs off all day” or “She’s a gossip” sound fairly harmless, but they can be a death knell for your career. So, how did I overcome a bad reputation?

1. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.

Acknowledge the things you’ve done that have contributed to damaging your reputation–then apologize. I went to a couple of my managers and told them I’d been going through a tough time, but cared about my job and the restaurant and was committed to being better. If you’re aware that you’re work rep is less than stellar but don’t know why, ask a trusted colleague or supervisor to give you honest feedback regarding how you’re perceived in the workplace.

2. Change your policies.

Now you must actually change the things you’ve been doing wrong. Gossiping too much? Create a tight-lipped policy. Have you been coming in late? Switch up your morning routine so that you can get to work ten minutes early. Treat your career as a company you’re responsible for and create policies to improve the not-so-great areas.

3. Develop patience–and a thick skin.

For a while, not so nice co-workers would bait me, asking questions about my ex or divulging information. I learned that just because I had decided to change didn’t mean that everyone else had done a 180. It took time for people to believe that I was different and all I could do was be patient.

4. If all else fails, maybe it’s time to move on.

It sounds a bit defeatist, but sometimes you have to accept that you did the best you could in repairing your reputation and cut your losses. Though you may have the best of intentions and are committed to changing, some people may not be able to move on from the past.

After I came back from Montreal, I visited my old workplace to try and get my job back. Completely over my ex and missing the restaurant, I was ready and willing to be a great employee. Unfortunately, one manager was unwilling or unable to forget my bad reputation. I had sensed this before I left, but tried to accept that I couldn’t change her mind. Unfortunately, she’d been promoted to hiring manager and informed me that I would not be considered for my old position. I was disappointed in myself for letting it happen in the first place, but I resolved to do better in my next position and not let the Ghost of Reputation’s Past prevent me from doing better in the future.

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10 Life Lessons for 20-Somethings

10. Know that there is NO magic number.

Like most people, I thought of 30 as pretty grown up (read: old) when I was a kid.  After all, my mom was 30 when I was like 12 and she seemed pretty darn grown up to me.  I’ve since learned, however, that there is no magic number or event or epiphany that suddenly turns one from a normal (sometimes immature, not always right) human being into a GROWN UP.  I’m still afraid of scary movies sometimes and I never turn down playing at the park with my nephews and nieces–things my ten year old self didn’t think grown up 30 year olds would do.  We all seem to grow up and mature at our own speed (and some of us never do!) so it’s a little naive to think that a graduation, a job, a baby, an age, or anything else will make us a grown up overnight.  It’s a process and we have to be okay with that.

9. Don’t compare yourself to others.

In the same vein, don’t compare your journey to someone else’s.  Maybe in your mind, someone your age should have a house, a career, a child, a sports car, or a stamped up passport.  So? I guarantee you, everyone your age does not have any of these things–and some of them don’t even want these things.  In our current Facebook/Twitter/Instagram inundated world, it can be difficult to not compare ourselves to our 400 or so “friends” who seem to constantly be on trips or getting promotions.  I started college at 22 and didn’t finish my Masters until I was 28.  I graduated and began my job search with classmates who were 23 and it was a little daunting at times.  But I know that I learned so much during my twenties–through mistakes, second chances, taking risks–and I wouldn’t trade those things for a Masters at 23.

8. Know what you’re working towards.

We work so hard to find a job and make money, and often, we have this sort of vague idea of what we want to accomplish by having a steady income.  But on days when you’re feeling a little burned out or annoyed by some work policy, it will be important to remember exactly what you’re working towards.  Maybe for you, it’s a house to live in with your partner, a baby by 32, or early retirement so you can travel the world.  Knowing what you want outside of the office can make the world of work much more enjoyable.

7. Figure out your priorities.

It’s funny–at twenty, it can be easy to blow off class or be distracted during a test because you’re thinking about a crush, a breakup, or a great first date.  At 30, it can be just as easy to come home to your partner late everyday for a week because you’re so engrossed in work.  Life will always be about balancing your needs and goals with the needs and goals of those around you–especially those you care about.  The ending of a three month relationship at 21 can seem devastating, but man, there are more important things–like that math test.

6. Figure out why you work.

For money.  That’s the most obvious answer, right? Personally, I understood at an early age that getting an education and a job I cared about would mean freedom for me.  Freedom to do the things I enjoy.  Freedom to make decisions based on my happiness and not because I’m struggling financially.  Free to be with someone, not because I’m dependent upon them financially but because I love them.

Why do you work?

5. Learn where to get the help you need.

Whether it’s financial, career, or relationship counseling, find resources and use them.  Figure out which supermarket offers the best value for your money.  Figure out which mentor to go to with an issue.  Figure out an alternate route to and from work in case a random tornado comes (hey, it happens–trust me).


4. Don’t be afraid to learn new things.

Last year, I knew very little about social media marketing or website design.  But I really wanted to start this blog–so I figured it out.  I’m not super technical, but I know that I have to be willing to learn new things to continue growing.

3. Learn the art of patience.

There were times in my twenties when I felt like college would never end.  Working for minimum wage would never end.  Bad dates would never, EVER end.  But, you know, they did.  They ended sooner than I thought and taught me more than I’d planned.  So be thankful for the times that feel like they’re never ending-maybe they’re leading to something else entirely.

2. Don’t feel guilty for your success.

It can be hard to feel happy or proud of our accomplishments when other people we know are hurting or in a bad place.  But remember, you earned this.  You worked hard, you set goals, you figured out your priorities, and you were patient.  Everyone has moments of greatness–celebrate yours.

1. Know that this list might just be a bunch of crap.

Steve Jobs once said something along the lines of, “This thing we call life–these rules and ways of being that we think we have to adhere to–were made up by human beings just like us.  So don’t live someone else’s idea of life–go live your own.”

These were my lessons and I am happy to have shared them.  Now, stop reading my little list and go live your life.  :)



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10 Powerful Quotes From Maya Angelou To Build Your Life On

Candace Lamb:

Remembering one of my greatest inspirations, Maya Angelou.

Originally posted on Black America Web:

Maya Angelou was a great woman. She died this morning leaving a spiritual chasm of an elder gone on to prepare a room for us.  She  inspired a nation. Her  life  should be one that celebrates the elegance of living and improving.

Today, allow me to introduce you to the powerful words of Maya Angelou. They are words that have helped me throughout the course of my life. And I think they can help you too, if you let them.“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
# 1  “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
#2 “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
# 3 “I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it…

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Legacy Remains

Originally posted on brieannab:

Legacy Remains

Maya Angelou ( April 4, 1928- May 28, 2014) American poet & author.

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How Social Media Can Advance Your Career

Job seekers are often told to safeguard their social media accounts to insure that they aren’t viewed during the job search.  While this can be wise advice, there is another side to the story:

Using social media to ADVANCE your job search (and your career).

With the majority of professionals (and people in general) on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. these days, being “unsearchable” via social media may be more trouble than it is worth.  When I can’t find someone through social media, I sometimes wonder why–are they making all accounts super private because of something inappropriate? What’s going on?

While it is a great idea to “clean up” your Facebook or Twitter accounts so that potential employers don’t get a negative impression, you can also use social media to your advantage.  I use my Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts to post (publicly–so that “everyone” can see) any major accomplishments, such as receiving a promotion or presenting at a conference.  I also post information about events that my office organizes or articles relevant to my field.

I work in a field that offers great work/life balance but also a good integration of professional and personal life.  Many of my colleagues are Facebook “friends” so I post appropriate personal information as well, like recently buying a home, becoming engaged last year, and birthdays of my nephews and nieces.

I’ve had many Proactive Professional readers find me on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  I’ve also received emails from professionals who Googled me and found my website and Facebook page.  When this occurs, I am grateful that my public Facebook reflects positive things in my life, an interest in my field, and the work I’m doing in career counseling.

Consider going beyond protecting your Facebook from colleagues, supervisors, or potential employers.  Instead, use social media to your advantage by creating a “brand” for yourself online.  Using social media proactively may convince potential employers or current supervisors that you’d be a great fit within their company–or are ready for a promotion.

Make sure that how you're viewed on social media is in alignment with who you are and how you want others to see you.

Make sure that how you’re viewed on social media is in alignment with who you are and how you want others to see you.


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Are You Making this MAJOR Job Search Mistake?

I work with a lot of great applicants who constantly submit resumes online, but are not getting interviews.  When this happens, I often ask, “Do you know what ATS is? Are you submitting ATS friendly resumes?”

Do you know what an ATS is? If the answer is yes, then congratulations! When you apply for a position online, your resume and application materials are probably getting through to a hiring manager.

If the answer is no, there’s still hope! This post will explain what an ATS is and why it’s SO important during your job search.

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System.  It is computer software that helps hiring managers, recruiters, and other Human Resources personnel sort through job candidates to find the best fit for their company.  Unfortunately, job seekers who are unfamiliar with ATS often submit their standard resumes online–often resulting in them being tossed out of the candidate pool.

So, how do you make YOUR resume ATS friendly? With these quick tips:

1. Do not create your resume using a template! Using a template you found on Microsoft Word may get your resume thrown out before any of the other tips can be utilized.  Though unseen by us, templates are often filled with characters that don’t jive well with ATS software.

2. Use keywords.  Go over the job description with a fine tooth comb and insert keywords from the description anywhere you can (and anywhere that makes sense!).  If the hiring managers are looking for candidates who have Java coding experience, are team players, and have 3 years’ experience, make sure to put your Java coding experience under a header such as “Skills” and create an objective statement in which you write something like “I am a team player with five years experience in the computer programming industry.”  Keywords are the language used in the job description and will be what an ATS is looking for when searching resumes.

3. Watch your formatting.  Often, I tell my students to create more “grown up” resumes by using terms like “Professional Experience” and “Community Involvement” instead of “Employment History” and “Volunteer Work.”  I believe this advice still holds up when handing out resumes at career fairs or job interviews.  For ATS purposes, however, use simple headings such as “Work Experience” and “Education.”  ATS software is designed to seek out keywords that are important to the position and look for simpler headings.  When submitting resumes online, use simple formatting with standard fonts such as Times New Roman.  Also, avoid using tables, charts, graphs or anything other than standard bullet points.

4. Always assume your resume is being reviewed by ATS software.  How will you know if a human being is going through resumes instead of ATS software? You won’t.  If you are submitting your resume online, it is always best to assume that your resume has to make it through ATS software before being seen by an actual person.

5. Simplify, simplify, simplify.  Make your resume as easy to find as possible by saving it under a name such as “FirstName_LastName_JobTitle” instead of “Jill’s Res.”  Additionally, save your resume as a .doc instead of a .pdf.  .Docs are easily read by ATS software, whereas .pdf’s are often more difficult.


A few easy resume tweaks may mean the difference between getting an interview or having your resume tossed in the (cyber) trash.



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