Hone Skills Employers Want Over the Holidays

We understand that your top priorities when thinking about the winter break involve sleep, family, friends, and fun outings. Yet, with almost a month of unstructured time available, it’s a great time to jump online and learn some new tools or increase your skill level on others.

Search YouTube and Google for free training resources for these 4 suggestions:

  • Excel – there’s always something more to learn
  • Trello – popular project management tool used by 4 million users and counting
  • Photoshop, iMovie & others – photo and video editing
  • Tableau – transforming data to visually appealing dashboards

For additional ideas, check out this article that highlights 38 skills employers want.


Just think about all the skills you can add to your resume and LinkedIn after winter break to stand out from the crowd!

Networking – Top Priority in the Job Search Process

Growing up, my dad often communicated three valuable pieces of career advice:

  • Be curious – ask professionals what they do and why they enjoy their work
  • Ask for help and help others when asked
  • Treat people the way you want to be treated – one day they may work for you or you may work for them

Needles to say, decades later, this advice rings true.

What my father was saying is that the job search process should be social and communal, not isolating. This recent study affirms the social approach as it found that 85% of all jobs were acquired through networking.


As highlighted in the article, the key is not the quantity of the interactions but the quality. Every informational interview should have a clear purpose and a goal to move you forward. With access to 400 million professionals at your fingertips on LinkedIn, I encourage you to reach out!

Invest in Yourself

Invest 30 minutes in yourself and find out what your strengths are with Strength Finders 2.0. Plus, it’s a top 5 business book and employers may ask about your results. Take the online assessment here and get immediate results or order the book online here to get your access code! Then go celebrate as you learned something significant about yourself!

5 Career Fair Tips for College Students – Planning and Practice are Keys to Success

Yes, we know, it’s hard to get excited about Career Fairs. They are stressful, overwhelming, you may be competing against your classmate or good friend for face time with the recruiter, and it’s impossible to talk to all the companies that attend and be memorable. There are just too many people and not enough time.

We understand. That’s why we want you to forget about your past experiences and biases and try something new this year.

Have a plan

Review the list of companies that are coming ahead of time and rank the companies, prioritizing the ones you are most interested in first.

Get business cards
Many schools offer this service to students so check with the career center first. If not, head to www.vistaprint.com for the best value in business cards. It’s impressive to the recruiter as it shows you planned ahead, plus you’re more likely to get a card from the recruiter if you present one first. It’s also much easier to follow-up with each contact after the career fair too.

Prepare a pitch
Your pitch needs to be focused, short (60 seconds or less) and memorable and should have 4 key parts:

  • Introduction: Introduce yourself, offer a firm hand shake, a resume and a business card
  • Objective: Tell the employer why you are there and what sort of job/internship you seek
  • Summary: Briefly summarize your education, experience, strengths, highlight something unique or memorable
  • Closing: Reiterate your interest and thank the employer, tell them you’ll stay in touch

Review your checklist

  • Pen and Notebook
  • 12+ resumes
  • Business cards (can be stapled to resumes if preferred)
  • Copies of your unofficial transcript (optional)
  • Copies of list of references (optional)
  • Appropriate clothing – check the career center guidelines
  • Small breath mints—no gum!
  • A positive attitude

Practice first

Before going to talk with your favorite company, practice your pitch and engage with 1-2 other employers first. Think of this as your warm-up. Afterward, go out in the hall, reflect, and jot down notes on how it went. Makes small adjustments if needed, then go confidently to talk with your favorite companies.

Can’t wait to hear how your career fair went!



3 New Life Skills for this Summer

Summer is the perfect time to take on side projects that will look good on your resume and make you a better you! Here are 3 ideas with free resources to help you get started!


  1. Learn a language

Being fluent in another language is almost invaluable. It makes you more of an asset to a company, makes you more cultured, and can be fun! With Duolingo, you can learn an entire new language and open up hundreds of doors in your future, all for free!


  1. Invest in stocks

If you are fortunate enough to have some extra money lying around, it is time to put it to good use! Instead of buying that video game, or purse you wanted, invest that extra cash. By learning how stocks work, you will understand more about the financial world, and could even make some cash! (Just make sure you don’t blow your life savings) Investopedia has great resources to get you started.


  1. Complete a Good Cause Project

Maybe it’s a recycling program at a local school, a canned food collection in your neighborhood, or a fun run to raise money for a charity. As long as it is something that is meaningful to you, you cannot go wrong with a good cause project. Not only will your organization skills show through on your resume, but contributing to a good cause is something that you can be proud of! Here is a list of some great non-profits that you can get involved with.

Making The Most Of Summer – Volunteering

A great way to build new skills over the summer is through volunteering. It’s important to first find an organization that you are passionate about, but it’s even more important to make sure you are gaining skills that you will use in the future. We recommend that you make a list of tasks you would like to perform and present them to whichever organization you choose to volunteer for.

One of our previous Career Onward interns, Amy, is currently volunteering for an organization in Houston, Texas. She worked with our founder, Lori, to create a list of jobs she would like to do for this organization that would benefit her work in the future. She presented her list to the organization and they were more than happy to cater to the type of work she was interested in doing. In fact, they needed help in all of the areas she listed. Amy’s story showed me that there is most definitely power in asking specifically to do certain work. It will pay off in the long run and will make the experience very enjoyable.

You may already have an organization or nonprofit that you are passionate about, but if not friends, family, Google and people around your community are great resources to help you find one.

Which organizations are you passionate about volunteering for? Comment below or tag @careeronward in a picture on Instagram with #summervolunteer

Making The Most Of Summer – Build Skills

Throughout the school year I found myself creating a list of important skills I needed to build before graduation. I wanted to become an expert at Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. Overtime I noticed that I had put building these skills on the back burner due to class, studying, group projects, work, etc. As my spring semester came to a close I decided that I needed to dedicate time each week throughout the summer to reach my goals and build these important skills. I know summer can be chaotic between going abroad, having an internship and taking summer school, but I encourage you to make a list of skills that are important to you and work towards perfecting them during your free time.

Our founder, Lori MacNeill, has suggested three websites that aid in skill building. Use them this summer to help work towards building your ideal list of skills. I know I will!

1. www.lynda.com
2. www.skillshare.com
3. www.coursera.org 

What are some skills you’ve always wanted to learn? Comment below or tag @careeronward on instagram with #buildingskills

Making The Most Of Summer – Must Read Books

Summer is the perfect time to read books that you consider must-reads. Whether you want to dive into a fictional book for entertainment or a self-help book to gain skills, there are a number of reasons reading is worth your time. Check out this link to find out some of those reasons as well as a list of suggested books that are essential for college students.


Our founder, Lori MacNeill, has compiled a list of a few great books that she believes are worth your attention.

1. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Overview: “In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.”

2. StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath
Overview: “In StrengthsFinder 2.0, Gallup unveils the new and improved version of its popular online assessment. With hundreds of strategies for applying your strengths, StrengthsFinder 2.0 will change the way you look at yourself — and the world — forever.”

3. Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant
Overview: “For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But today, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. It turns out that at work, most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return. Using his own pioneering research as Wharton’s youngest tenured professor, Grant shows that these styles have a surprising impact on success.”

4. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Overview: “The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice.”

What are some books on your must-read list? Let us know in the comments below or tag @careeronward on instagram with #mustread

Making The Most Of Summer – Bucket Lists

Generally when people think of a “bucket list,” their thoughts jump to expensive vacations or adventures they can’t currently afford such as foreign travel, skydiving, swimming with sharks, or maybe even climbing Mount Everest. When creating a bucket list, it is important to have large goals that will take years to accomplish mixed with items that are inexpensive or even free and easy to attain. Identifying and then experiencing new things often allows you to fully live life now, instead of waiting 10-20 years to accomplish your goals.

Not only is it important to develop a list, it is just as critical to write each item down. Studies show people achieve more when goals are documented – whether in a journal, a phone, or in a bucket list app.

I have decided to start my own personal bucket list and can’t wait to make progress over the next year. I hope you enjoy my list below and take some time to create your own, even if it means taking a study break from all those finals!

  1. Try a new recipe each week
  2. Become an expert at InDesign and Photoshop
  3. Train for and run a half marathon by December 2015
  4. Spend 3 hours each week researching different companies, their missions, and available job openings
  5. Reach out to 1-2 companies each week to learn more
  6. Take a trip to Australia and experience the Great Barrier Reef
  7. Have brunch with friends in a new spot once every month
  8. Visit Austin’s graffiti park
  9. Go white water rafting
  10. Spend time reading the news online daily
  11. Float the river with friends
  12. Join an intramural team with girls in my sorority
  13. Overcome my fear of heights by bungee jumping
  14. Hand write a letter to a different person each week
  15. Walk at The University of Texas at Austin’s May 2016 graduation ceremony
  16. Have a job in line by the time I graduate
  17. Have 2 more internships and gain multiple skills before graduating
  18. Start a daily journal
  19. Go deep sea fishing (without getting sea sick)
  20. Read a new book for leisure every month

What are some of the items on your bucket list? We would love to hear them in the comments section below or by tagging @careeronward in a picture on Instagram with #bucketlist

Real Life: College to Career – Christian

Name: Christian Connellimage002
Age: 24
College: LSU, May 2013 graduate
Company: Transwestern
Place of residence: Houston, TX
Hobbies and interests: Tennis, golf, hunting, fishing, music, travel, and anything outdoors. I am currently training for a half marathon that will take place in late April.

Q: Did you start college with a clear idea of what you wanted your major to be? If so, what did that look like and how did that change during your time in college?

A: I knew that I wanted to study business, but I did not have a clear idea of my major at first. I took a couple of trial and error classes to figure out what I truly enjoyed. I selected finance because of all the potential and varied job opportunities this major provides, and I thought it was the least boring of the business majors.

Q: Can you walk me through the detailed step-by-step process that you went through to get your first job out of college?

A: Where do I begin? I just remembered my parents calling me my senior year and telling me that I better have a job when I graduated or I would be mowing lawns at our landscaping business until I found one. That lit a fire under me and I started the hunt immediately. First it was job fairs at school, applying online, applying online again, meeting with friends of friends, and parent’s friends. I had a couple of interviews at the beginning, then some face to face, which meant for me driving to Houston or Austin.

I interviewed with about four different companies, and one asked for a second interview, then a third, and then a lunch. Finally, an offer came and I was working one month after I graduated.

I was told that one of the reasons I was hired was my ability to follow through, which consisted of emailing immediately after interviews, sending personalized thank you notes, following up every other day and asking for the status of the interviewing process, and letting potential employers know how interested I was in the position.

Q: What aspect of that process was most challenging or stressful for you? Looking back, what advice would you give to college students to make this aspect less challenging?

A: Interviewing was the most challenging for me. Looking back, it would have been helpful to have gone to a couple of mock interviews at school. There were plenty of opportunities but I never took the time to do which was a big mistake.

Q: What was the biggest adjustment or adjustments for you going from college to full-time employment?

A: Everything is a complete 180 flip. You have responsibilities, you have a little bit more money, which is great, but you have to be a really good steward of the paycheck.

A year has felt like a day.

My sleep schedule has probably been the biggest change; there is no more going to bed at 2:00 A.M. I have found a good rhythm now and am in bed at an early hour which I thought would never happen.

Q: Do you have any advice for coping with these adjustments?

A: It just takes time getting used to everything, after a while it just starts to feel normal. Also, being surrounded by other young professionals in the workplace helps you adjust.

Q: What are some of your current short-term goals?

A: I am currently working a plan to pay off my student loan within two years. Also, I think it is important to become involved in the community in which you live and give back no matter how small it may seem at first. It is a great way to meet people and help others, a true win-win.

I have also written out some professional and financial goals. Being specific and writing your goals and setting deadlines will really help with your achieving those goals.

Q: Is there anything else about your college and career experience that you would like to add?

A: You are going to mess up and that is life. It is far better to make a mistake in the beginning than five years from now. Get as many mistakes out of the way while you can still say you are new. There will be no excuses when you are a Senior VP and make a million dollar mistake.

I am very fortunate in that I really enjoy my job at Transwestern and am very grateful that I have wonderful mentors who want me to be successful. Honestly, going to work is a joy for me and I thoroughly enjoy every aspect about it.

Which part of Christian’s interview resonated most with you? Let us know in the comments below!