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Tips From Our Career Coach

Check out these quick and timely tips from GAA Career Coach Catherine Tuttle.


Sept. 2020 – Treat the Job Search like a Job

Create a schedule: When you have a job, you are expected to show up every day. Take this approach when looking for a job and commit to a certain number of hours per week. Then block them on your calendar. A few hours a day four or five days a week is a great start. Set your alarm, get up at a designated time, get in a workout, and then get to ‘work’. If you’re looking while employed, try blocking out an hour or so two or three days a week either in the evenings or over lunch.

Assign yourself tasks: If you’re a recent graduate, make sure you’re monitoring postings on Handshake. If you’re more seasoned, set up job alerts and search on LinkedIn. Either way, for online postings, make sure you’re tailoring your resume for each position ensuring key words are included and easy to find. For more on that process and maximizing your chances when applying online, I suggest watching our virtual coffee chat recording from August.

Make yourself visible: Visibility within and outside your organization is incredibly important when it comes to building your skillset and building your brand. The more people that know who you are and what you’re capable of, the more opportunities come your way. This concept holds true when you’re looking for your first job as well. In my experience, almost every college graduate gets their first job through a human connection. That could be a recruiter at a (virtual) job fair, a family friend, or another UNC alum. Don’t just rely on job boards and online applications; you’ll be relying on technology and technology doesn’t always work.

Push yourself outside of your comfort zone: We don’t grow staying inside our comfort zone. Submitting online applications is safe, but it’s also passive. Putting yourself out there and becoming more than an online application is scary. Believe me, I’ve been there, but I promise it gets easier. UNC has one of the most incredible alumni networks I’ve seen over the past 15 years. If asking for information or advice from someone you don’t know is intimidating, start with the Tar Heel Advising Network, an online platform where alumni can volunteer to be a resource for other alumni in transition.

Build in rewards: The job search typically takes between three to six months and that timeline can be extended in times of economic uncertainty. It is a marathon, not a sprint so treat it as such. Celebrate the milestones to keep yourself motivated. That could be dinner with a friend, a day off, or an ice-cream treat for dessert. Acknowledge your hard work and celebrate your wins whether it’s securing an interview, connecting with an alum in a company of interest, or simply showing up every day!

Utilize your resources: In these uncertain times, the GAA has extended career coaching for members. We can help with everything from resume updates to job search strategy, networking and more. Included in your GAA membership is a complimentary career coaching session once every 12 months (a $150 value). For an extended time, we are offering additional coaching sessions complimentary to GAA members. Learn more, or email us at alumnicareers@unc.edu to schedule your appointment today.

July 2020 – Maintain Visibility While Working Remotely

During the COVID-19 pandemic, working remotely became our new normal. However, during the last five years, the U.S. has seen a 44 percent growth in remote work and this upward trend is expected to continue – perhaps a bit quicker than expected, due to current circumstances. In fact, a recent report by Upwork, an organization that connects professionals to businesses seeking specialized talent, predicts that 73 percent of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.

Here are some key strategies below to help you maintain visibility while working remotely, temporarily or longer term:

Communicate Face-to-Face

While it may be tempting to turn the camera off during Zoom calls or Google meetings, consider leaving it on. So much of our communication relies on non-verbal cues, allowing us to connect with people on a deeper level. While it may not be the same as an in-person meeting, video is the next-best thing. And with screen sharing and other capabilities, it almost feels like traditional inter-office brainstorming sessions and collaborations.

Schedule Coffee Chats and Lunches

Rather than delete upcoming coffee meetings or happy hours, take them online. Invite your team to a virtual coffee break or teammates to chat over lunch. Just because there’s no common area to gather doesn’t mean you have to limit communication to email and conference calls. The success of business today relies on the ability to collaborate, share ideas and trust one another. It’s important to continue and build upon personal connections with your professional colleagues.

Speak Up and Ask for High-Visibility Projects

Just because we’re not physically in the office doesn’t mean companies aren’t moving forward with strategic initiatives outlined prior, or in response, to the global pandemic. If you are hoping to build your skill set or grow within an organization, it’s important your visibility extend beyond your immediate team. Take this opportunity to raise your hand for projects that allow you to build your brand across functions and levels. Don’t wait for someone to ask; volunteer your involvement upfront when you first hear about them.

Coordinate Reviews of Key Projects

Celebrating accomplishments and acknowledging everyone’s hard work on a project is important. However, it’s also important to take time to assess outcomes and identify opportunities for improvement going forward. In doing so, you’re addressing one of the biggest challenges of remote work: communication across teams and departments. Allowing everyone to share their experience and documenting these insights allows the team to see how their individual contributions are connected to and influence the actions of others.

May 2020 - Staying Connected from Home

As we settle into our new normal of social distancing, it’s important to stay connected personally and professionally. I find myself picking up the phone and calling a friend instead of texting them, and accepting every Zoom meeting, coffee chat or virtual happy hour that comes my way. Why not take advantage of this common desire to connect and the flexibility in our schedules to reach out and re-engage our network.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of your efforts, I suggest being strategic in your approach and applying a mix of tactics to keep your networking meaningful and productive. Start by determining your goals. Are you looking to secure a new role, build a new skillset, transition to a new industry or simply re-connect with former colleagues? Be clear about what you hope to accomplish and let that guide your outreach.

To help you as you build your virtual networking strategy, I’ve included some additional tips below:

  • Think about converting all of your upcoming in-person meetings to virtual ones. Did you have coffee scheduled with an industry partner or dinner with your two best friends? Don’t cancel, simply suggest you chat over Zoom or Google Hangouts. From there, build time into your calendar for proactive outreach and anticipated conversation.
  • Use this time to network within your own organization. Visibility and engagement creates a path for advancement.  Reach out to colleagues across functions. Check in, ask how they’re doing and what their challenges are. Perhaps you may be able to lend a hand.
  • Are you thinking about transitioning to a new industry or function? If so, reach out to connections in your area of interest. Ask for time to talk over the phone or Zoom so you can learn more about their career path and the skills necessary to succeed short- and long-term.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity when it comes to relationships. Try to avoid one off conversations and instead, aim to check in periodically. A great way to do this is to follow-up on any ‘to do’ items from your first conversation. Did your contact recommend a certain book to read or someone else to reach out to? If so, loop back and provide an update once your ‘homework’ is complete.

While there is still much uncertainty surrounding this global pandemic, I remain certain that meaningful connections are essential to our well-being.  Research shows that social connection can lower anxiety, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem, and actually improve our immune systems. With all the possibilities technology provides, make sure you continue to connect virtually until we can meet again.

March 2020 - Optimizing your LinkedIn profile

Are you thinking about launching a job search in 2020?  If so, optimizing your presence on LinkedIn (which now has over 575 million users) should be a key part of your job search strategy. With 20 million companies listed on the site and 14 million open jobs, it’s no surprise that 90% of recruiters regularly use the site to recruit talent.

I’ve included some tips and tricks below to get you started.

  • Members with profile photos get up to 21 times more profile views. Think of your photo as the first step to building your personal brand.  You want to communicate that you are friendly and trustworthy.
  • Your headline is the second thing people will look at when viewing your profile. Describe yourself and express your value proposition in a unique way. Your default headline will be your current job title but depending on what you hope to do in the future, that may not be the way you want to be remembered.
  • Maximize your summary.  To improve your search rank, include keywords that highlight your top skills (use job descriptions to identify what employers are looking for). To keep the reader’s attention, write like you speak.  Make your summary more of a cover letter by talking about what you do, but also why you do it and what makes you tick.
  • Ask for a recommendation (or two)! Recruiters are looking for a combination of technical skills specific to certain roles (experience with certain databases, SEO, social media expertise, etc.) but also soft skills (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, etc.). Everyone is going to say that they work well on a team and enjoy creative problem solving, but when someone takes the time to reiterate these skills on your behalf, you gain credibility.
  • You can learn even more by watching our webinar on LinkedIn.

Jan. 2020 - Making a New Year's Transition

As a career coach, I typically see a surge of interest in January. It’s a time of year where we reflect on the past and set goals for the future. Whether you’re thinking about changing functions or industries, positioning yourself for a promotion, or re-entering the paid workforce, I’ve included some tips below to get you started.

• Build time into your calendar. Transitioning takes time. By treating your transition as a project and breaking it down into manageable pieces, it will become less overwhelming and you’ll be more likely to stay the course.

• Be ready to do some self-assessment. You will need about half as much information about the job market as you think you need and about twice as much about yourself. Start by reviewing performance appraisals and getting feedback from friends and mentors. What are you good at? What are you recognized for? And of those things, what do you most enjoy?

• Think outside of your professional identity. Are you involved in organizations outside of work, perhaps as a volunteer or a board member? If so, consider your experience there as well. These activities may show your pride in your accomplishment, maybe even more than your day to day tasks.

• Be ready to network – especially for big transitions. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there. You don’t have to have a specific job title or company in mind, but you do need to be able to articulate your value add for a new industry. From there you can start to reach out to people working in industries, functions or companies of interest.

• Start with informational interviewing. When reaching out to connections, focus on information and advice. People are more likely to respond and you’ll get more candid information than you would if you were focusing on a specific opportunity.

Dec. 2019 - Networking Over the Heelidays

With the holidays in full swing, it’s tempting to put your job search aside, opting instead to focus on holiday cards, presents or travel. But, if you’re in a job search or thinking about making a change come January, it’s important to build/maintain momentum. Here are a few tips to get you going:

• Set goals for yourself. It’s easy to get distracted this time of year so build time into your calendar and hold yourself accountable.

• Prioritize proactive outreach. Connect with contacts in companies of interest and reach out to recruiters. While postings may die down in December, they’ll pick back up in January and those associated with hiring are building their pipelines.

• Take advantage of office events. Rather than sit next to your work BFF, sit next to someone you want to work more closely with. Or maybe this is a good time to introduce yourself to senior leadership, or a member of the board. If so, make sure you’re armed with talking points and good questions to keep the conversation going.

• Introduce yourself to at least two people you don’t know at every holiday party you attend. To start the conversation ask how they know the host, where they are from or what they’re doing for the holidays. Take time to build a personal connection.

• Quality over quantity. Your goal is not to meet everyone at every event. Your goal should be to establish a few solid connections that provide context for future contact.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season, and I look forward to working with many of you in the New Year.

Nov. 2019 - Jump Start Your Networking

Do you feel like your personal networking has hit a road block? Here are a few tips to get it started again:

1. Make a list of companies you’re interested in and reach out to connections. When your outreach is geared toward information and advice vs. a specific job, people may be more likely to respond.

2. Move beyond your immediate network. Studies show we tend to find jobs through second- and third-degree connections vs. first-degree connections. You can always start with people you know, but the last question I would always ask is: is there anyone else you think I should talk to?

3. When searching for contacts, try to find people at a similar level. If you are a director or at the executive level, then you want to find someone with a similar role. If you are a recent grad, ideally you want to look for someone who is no more than five or six years out of school. By networking with people at your age and stage, you are building relationships with those who are connected to the people and processes hiring talent at your level.

4. Keep your outreach short and sweet. People will likely be reading on their phone and won’t want to scroll endlessly through a list of questions. Request a time to chat briefly in person or over the phone. Be clear that you’re simply looking for 20-30 minutes to learn more about their career path, company or role. You can also use this sample email.