Stepping Up to Make a Difference for Veterans and Their Spouses

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Warren, a Walden Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology student, has strong family ties to the military; his son is in the US Army, one grandfather served in the US Army, the other grandfather in the US Marines, and his uncle and cousins served in the US Air Force. To honor their service and the service of all veterans, Warren, and his wife Jennifer, also a Walden student, wanted “to give back, to do something to make sure that every veteran has an opportunity for gainful employment.”

After witnessing the challenge veterans have in translating their military skills and experience to the civilian workforce, they decided they could use their extensive recruiting and human resources background to make a difference. They agreed to reinvest profits from their human resources consulting business to create “SymbianceHR Free Services for US Military Veterans” where veterans and their spouses can sign up for a free 45-minute in-depth telephone coaching session. The session focuses on strengthening interviewing skills and providing information about the recruiting and hiring process. Warren said, “Even though there are initiatives to hire veterans and their spouses, businesses want to hire the best-qualified candidate; we help veterans and their spouses make the case for why they are the best-qualified candidates for the job.”

Warren shared some insights into the interview process. He said, “A great deal of the interview depends on how well an applicant can articulate their experience in a concise and informative manner.  We explore the experience of the applicant and coach them on effective methods of expressing their experience while responding to inquiries posed by the interviewer.”  He went on to explain, “Applicants must learn to control as much of the interview as possible, understand the purpose of the interview, and key strategies before, during and after the interview with special attention to closing the interview.” “We want the veteran to get the offer, not just the interview.”

Warren and his wife, Jennifer, are looking for additional volunteers. If you are a Certified Human Resource Professional and would like to volunteer with SymbianceHR to offer free interview preparation consultations for veterans and their spouses, please contact Warren at:

The Career Services Center thanks Warren for sharing the story about how he and his wife are using their skills and commitment to make a positive change for veterans and their spouses!

We also send a special thank you to all of the veterans, active duty, reservists, and National Guard members for their service!

For more information on job search strategies for veterans, explore the Walden Career Services Resources for Veterans and view our archived webinar, Job Search Strategies for Veterans. 

Written by Career Services Advisor, Denise Pranke

Landing an International Volunteer Position with the United Nations

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Lekwalo is a PhD in Public Policy and Administration ̶ Health Policy student with an extensive background in public health, nursing, and midwifery.  For several years, she has been living in the U.S. and traveling to her native country of Botswana to serve families, women, and children as an HIV/AIDs educator, researcher, lecturer, health prevention officer, nurse, and midwife.  Lekwalo is pursuing her Walden degree to expand her global impact and influence lasting change in developing countries.  Her dream came true when she landed a 12-month International Volunteer assignment with the United Nations.  In her challenging new role, she will deliver HIV/AIDS education, training, and consultation to over 1,000 peacekeeping troops from different countries who have sent troops to the Republic of South Sudan.  She will also train civilians who are working for the United Nations.  Her responsibilities will include providing pre-in service training; training peer educators, change agents, and HIV/AIDS counselors; and producing Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) materials.

How did Lekwalo land this highly selective position?

Building a Global Brand

After several years of applying to global health organizations with no results, Lekwalo was losing hope in her search.  During a PhD academic residency, she connected with Career Services through individual advising.  A career advisor provided feedback on how she could enhance her resume to emphasize her global brand and extensive experience, and coached her on proactive job search strategies.  Lekwalo strengthened her resume and submitted a profile to the United Nations website.

Shining Through the Interview

Within two months of submitting her application, Lekwalo was selected to interview for two positions, including her current position in South Sudan.  What made a difference in her interview?  Lekwalo applied strategies she gained through career advising to research challenges in South Sudan.  She asked educated questions that showcased her vast knowledge of HIV/AIDS prevention.  She also shared her achievements and offered potential solutions.  What was the result?  From thousands of applicants, Lekwalo was one of only two chosen for an assignment!

Looking Toward the Future:

When Lekwalo interviewed for this story, she was preparing to take a plane the next day to start her journey.  She overcame many personal challenges in recent years, but they did not deter her from leaving her footprint in the lives of others.  With support from PPA faculty and lecturers, academic advisors, and Career Services, she received the encouragement to follow her dreams.  Her ultimate goal is to combine her knowledge of HIV/AIDS, women’s health, and childbirth to train native and international caregivers in HIV/AIDS prevention and reduce mortality rates.

Lekwalo states, “I want to bring [my accomplishments in South Sudan] back to Walden University and say, ‘This is what I did!’” Someday she sees herself working at the United Nations in Washington D.C. or New York because she believes in her abilities and her endless potential to make a difference.  Lekwalo would like to give special thanks to Greg Murphy, Dr. George R. (Dick) Larkin, Dr. Anne Fetter, Dr. Linda Day, Dr. Raj Singh and many more who contributed to her success; and Career Services staff for their continuous support and motivation through her academic program and career.

Seeking to become a social change agent?  Expand your possibilities by watching Social Change Series webinars.

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

Preparation and a LinkedIn Connection Led to a Successful Job Search

Marianna, a Master of Public Health alumna, is convinced that both connections and preparation make the difference in a job search.

Building Connections

During her search for her practicum, she connected with the local Director of Emergency Management through LinkedIn. After communicating online, they met offline at a local coffee shop to further discuss her education and career goals. With his guidance and mentorship, she obtained a practicum at the Department of State Health Services.

After completing her master’s degree, Marianna started to apply for jobs in her field.  She “went over the job description with a fine tooth comb.”  She highlighted all of the qualifications and then matched them with her skills. Daily, she checked the job postings at her state’s Department of Health Services (her target organization and where she completed her practicum), but her applications didn’t result in an interview. While reflecting on what she could do differently, she realized that she needed to reach out to the connections she built through her practicum.

She reconnected with the Director of Emergency Management and with the Department of State Health Services internship coordinator whom she met during her practicum.  They both stepped in to help. She applied for a position as a Training Specialist III for the Cancer Registry Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch of the Department of State Health Services. This time, she got an interview!


Preparation was crucial during the interview. The interview involved a written test of 20 questions about the Cancer Registry, including questions about training methodology for adult learners. Following the written test, she was asked to verbally answer the same questions.  Next, they gave her the Cancer Registry manual and one hour to create a PowerPoint presentation and a flyer on the steps to record medical information and how to use the medical records software.  Marianna remained focused. She put her extensive preparation and her Walden education to work.  She reminded herself that she had created so many presentations during her master’s program that she could do this. She impressed the interview panel with her presentation and flyer.  A month and a half later she received the offer and accepted. She has an exciting job in her field!

Marianna shared the following advice:

  • Preparation is key, thoroughly research the organization
  • Google any unknown terms in the job description
  • Make sure that you meet the majority of the qualifications
  • Prepare to give examples of how you meet the required qualifications
  • Last, but not least, forge online and offline relationships in your field

We thank Marianna for sharing her story!

For more information on job search strategies, view the Career Services Job Search Support series in the Job Search/Career Management archived webinars.

Written by Career Advisor, Denise Pranke

External Reviewers Commend Career Services Center as Ranking “in the Top 1% of Career Services Operations of its Size and Type”

In support of our mission of social change, the Career Services team volunteered at a non-profit bakery employing urban youth.

In support of our mission of social change, the Career Services team volunteered at a non-profit bakery employing urban youth.

Have you ever wondered what kind of impact our Career Services Center has on Walden students and alumni?

In 2014, our staff of five had more than 112,000 touchpoints, including website visitors, social media community members, OptimalResume account holders, webinar attendees, and one-on-one advising appointments. How did we achieve that?

For the past three years, we’ve been studying our mission, vision, processes and metrics under a new process called a co-curricular review. The goal of a co-curricular review is continuous improvement. We wrote a 75-page in-depth self-study including 50 pages of detailed metrics. In August, we met with two external reviewers who visited us in Minneapolis to discuss our report and interview our Career Services Center team, students, alumni, faculty and staff to evaluate what is going well and ways we might improve our services and resources. It was a very exciting opportunity for our Career Services team to gain an infusion of new insight and ideas.

Through detailed analysis of various university metrics regarding students’ career goals and usage of our services, we have implemented various improvements the past three years of our co-curricular review. We have reached more students and alumni through strengthening our website, launching new social media channels, developing our Google-search type Quick Answers, and developing more topical Skills Cafes.

Our improvement efforts have resulted in our expanding our reach with students and alumni from 102,495 touchpoints in 2013 to 112,117 touchpoints in 2014. This is an increase of 9%.

Following their visit to Minneapolis, our reviewers collaborated to write a report of strategic recommendations for our continuous improvement. Looking at our progress in reaching more students and alumni the past three years, our external reviews wrote in their report:

“We commend the Senior Director and the whole Career Services team for the excellent work that they are already doing and for their continued interest in and commitment to further improving their services to Walden’s students. The reviewers were very impressed with Walden University’s Career Services operation and in our opinion, thinks it ranks in the top 1% of career services operations of its size and type.”

Having started our Career Services Center back in January 2007, I’ve watched our Center develop and grow to our staff of five. Our team is very dedicated to supporting Walden students and alumni in meeting their career goals. It was invaluable for us to gain the fresh insights of external experts in the career development field and we appreciate the university’s support of this process. We look forward to implementing new strategies to support our students and alumni in meeting their career goals!

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Director of Career Services

Writing Dynamic Cover Letters

Female hands typing on laptop keyboard

As I read a recent Writing Center blog post by Amber Cook about engaging your audience through “reading the room,” I thought about making the shift from writing academic papers to writing a one-page cover letter that engages your audience ― the hiring manager.
Start by putting yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager

Your goal as the hiring manager is to find the strongest candidate with the best skills, abilities, talent, and personality to solve specific problems. To fill an open position, you have about 50 applications to go through. With only about 15 seconds to glance at each resume and cover letter, you quickly search for key qualifications. It is a process of elimination.

From the 50 applications, you determine that 25 are qualified, but you are only going to invite six candidates for an interview. How do you narrow your pool down to six?

You are tired of seeing generic cover letters with over-used phrases such as “hard worker,” “proven ability,” “team player,”  “excellent communication skills,” and “track record of success” with no evidence of why these statements are true, so you eliminate those applications. You are also tired of reading unorganized paragraphs and seeing spelling and grammatical errors, so applications with those are out.

You are finally down to six candidates to invite for an interview. How did these six candidates craft their cover letters to get your attention?

Successful candidates followed these strategies:

  1.   Construct the cover letter as a marketing document tailored to the job description and qualifications. If the qualifications include excellent communication skills, give an example of your excellent communication skills such as, “I rewrote the safety procedures manual and included a hands-on training component for all new hires. The improvements led to a 30% reduction in accidents over a six-month period.”
  1.  Showcase unique skills, abilities, enthusiasm, and education. Don’t only say, “I am a motivated professional.” Almost everyone can say that. Instead, describe what motivates and excites you–for example, “My experience working with individuals with HIV motivated me to pursue my degree in public health so I can contribute to the prevention of HIV.”
  1.   Paint a picture; tell a concise story with examples about who you are as a professional and your accomplishments. Use strong results-oriented language.  For example, “In my current role as an administrative assistant, I led a team to streamline the process for tracking employee hours. The new process reduced the tracking time from 40 hours per month to 30 hours. Our results inspired other departments to make similar changes.”
  1.   Organize your one-page letter with an introduction, a body, and a closing.
  1.   Use the language of your profession and maintain a professional tone.

First impressions are important. A well-written cover letter will showcase your communication skills, professionalism, and accomplishments and will open doors to valuable career opportunities.

For more information on writing cover letters, check out the Career Services Center video and resources below:

Video: Marketing Your Qualifications Through Resumes and Cover Letters–Presentation slides, handout, and transcript

Optimal Resume system sample cover letters and templates

Tips on tailoring your cover letter

Writing Center resources:
WriteCast podcast episode on “How Academic Writing Helps You Beyond Academia” and Amber Cook’s post on reading the room.
A version of this post also appeared on the Writing Center Blog.

Denise Pranke, Career Services Advisor
Webinar setup photo Denise

Paying It Forward as a Social Change Agent

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This blog story is the first in a series we will be featuring on social change agents.

Taiquan is a Master in Public Administration (MPA) student with specializations in Nonprofit Management & Leadership and Homeland Security Policy & Coordination. He is a mentor and youth leader with a relentless commitment to underserved communities. Mentors made a difference in Taiquan’s life as a teenager.  They exposed him to the importance of higher education, time management, and leadership skills. In the same spirit, Taiquan became committed to mentoring, supporting, and leading youth in his community.

While pursuing his bachelor’s degree in political science at North Carolina Central University, Taiquan assumed multiple leadership roles as an empowerment coach, mentor, and peer counselor.  After enrolling in the MPA program at Walden, he embarked on a new job search to continue building his expertise in the nonprofit sector.  He researched and applied for nonprofit and government positions, and he was selected for an interview with AmeriCorps, a government agency committed to preparing youth for the workforce.

How did Taiquan stand out during the interview?

Prior to the interview:  Taiquan used his networking connections to conduct an informational meeting with an AmeriCorps employee. He researched the organization and position to gain a better understanding of potential leadership opportunities. They communicated through email and phone, and Taiquan gained insider knowledge of the organization, their needs, and expectations.  He then used the many resources and techniques he learned during career advising to gear up for his formal interview and build his confidence.

During the interview:  Taiquan asked in-depth questions, engaged the interviewer in conversation, and provided specific examples of his prior successes.  He shared accomplishments from his summer internship with the Children’s Defense Fund where he volunteers as a servant leader and facilitates groups for third and fourth graders through a six-week enrichment program. Taiquan’s interviewer commented that his was “one of the best interviews they ever had.”  Taiquan was offered a position with AmeriCorp where he continues to help students build academic skills, improve self-esteem, and overcome socio-economic barriers.

Taiquan’s long-term goal is to start his own nonprofit providing at-risk teenage males living in urban communities the opportunity to travel overseas.  Training youth to become servant leaders and encouraging them to embrace global perspectives uphold Walden University’s social change mission.  To bring his dream to fruition, Taiquan continues to build his experience and develop his brand as a social change agent.  We are confident that he will make a difference in many lives going forward.

Interested in starting a nonprofit?  Watch the webinar, Building Blocks of Starting a Nonprofit Organization

Targeting nonprofit or government positions?  Browse resources by sector

Seeking to make an impact in your community?  Watch the webinar, Developing Social Entrepreneurs

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

Book Review: Moving the Needle: Get Clear, Get Free, and Get Going in Your Career, Business and Life by Joe Sweeney

You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you‘re going because you might not get there.  – Yogi Berra

It is an old story: you feel stuck in your life, and you know that you need to make a change but are unsure where to begin. In fact, you are not even sure you know exactly what you want. Sound familiar?  Joe Sweeney, author of the celebrated business book Networking Is a Contact Sport, addresses all of these issues in his latest book, Moving the Needle. Sweeney breaks the book into three parts: getting clear about what it is that you want, taking responsibility for the things that happen in your life, and taking measurable steps toward your aspirations. Using this framework, Sweeney acts as a coach, driving the reader toward success.

According to Sweeney, “If you can create a big enough why, the how will take care of itself.” A large portion of the book is dedicated to “getting clear.” In order to do this, Sweeney provides tools for everything from finding your purpose in life to mapping your ideal day, month, year and life. He promotes a series of self-reflection tools to get clear on what change we want and need in our lives. One of these tools, his “Life Decision Wheel” challenges you to write specific actions steps for various areas of your life. The spokes of the wheel include:

  • Career & Job
  • Financial
  • Relationships
  • Health and Fitness
  • Contribution to Community
  • Personal Growth
  • Spiritual Growth
  • Recreation

Taking time for this activity will determine where to devote your energy and efforts.

Networking and interpersonal communication are clearly Sweeney’s strengths. His philosophy of “touch before technology” is highlighted in the “get going” section of the book. Moving the Needle is filled with ideas of how to build a personal support system to support your efforts and keep you accountable. While some of his techniques may seem old-fashioned in the age of digital marketing, it is hard to deny the personal touch, effectiveness and “wow factor” of his communication strategies. For example, Sweeney’s 5/10/15 is an especially effective tool for job seekers. The rule breaks down as follows:

  • Sweeney states that if you have at least 5 meetings and personal encounters per day, it will bring you closer to your goal. These could be job interviews, informational meetings or even speaking to recruiters at a job fair.
  • In addition to meetings, you should strive to send out 10 letters or emails each day. It may include resumes as well as thank you notes and emails to check in with members of your network.
  • Finally, it is optimal to make at least 15 phone calls per day. In the age of online job seeking, people often forget the importance of voice-to-voice contact. Following up job applications with a phone call and reaching out to people in your network are important parts of being a successful networker. According to Sweeney, the most effective thing to say at the end of a phone call is to ask whether there is anything that you can do for the other person.

Moving the Needle is compact and organized into succinct chapters filled with graphs, tools and examples. Joe Sweeney has built his reputation as a specialist in business with a passion for sports. The anecdotes and quotes that are featured in the book highlight wisdom from figureheads in both of these areas. However, Moving the Needle is not just a business book. Sweeney emphasizes the need to view your life holistically – toting the importance of family and health as a key component to overall success. If you are looking to make a change and would like an encouraging book which is easy to read, I highly suggest that you pick it up.

Additional Resources: Explore your strengths, skills, interests, values, and personality using the  “self-knowledge” tools  on the Career Services website.

Written by Senior Career Advisor Angie Lira