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

Social Change for blog smaller

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

Overcoming Barriers to Emerge as a Special Education Teacher

Legrand is a Walden Master of Arts in Teaching alumnus and PhD Education─ Special Education student who sought a full-time position as a special education teacher.  For years, Legrand worked as a substitute teacher at several schools.  Despite his proven success record and experience, he struggled to find full-time employment.  Legrand believed that his physical disability impeded his career success.

When Legrand met with Career Services at the National Harbor Residency, he was directed to specialized career resources to help him address misperceptions of his disability and jump-start his job search.  After the residency, he watched multiple career webinars and videos including Disabilities to Abilities and Interview Strategies.  He scheduled career advising appointments and received individualized coaching on how to communicate his many strengths and abilities to potential employers.

Legrand also prepared for an upcoming K-12 career fair by improving his resume, utilizing program-specific resources on the Career Services Center website, and practicing interviewing skills using OptimalResume’s Interview Prep.  His diligence led to two interviews for full-time special education positions and a job offer!   The following factors contributed to his success:

  • Prior to the interview, Legrand designed sample lesson plans and hosted them on YouTube. During the interview, he launched the video to share samples of his work on the spot and impressed the interviewer.
  • When the interviewer asked Legrand how he would “get up the stairs” since the school did not have an elevator, he briefly addressed the challenge and redirected the conversation back to how he can add value to the school. He stayed positive and focused on his many strengths and commitment to students in special education.
  • He spent substantial time researching the district, school, staff, and student population to formulate in-depth questions for the interview. By asking meaningful questions, he engaged the interviewer and showcased his extensive knowledge of special education.

Legrand stood out from other applicants due to his preparation, knowledge and positive attitude.  He said, “I struggled for three years to find a job.  I watched the [Career Services] webinars over and over again and practiced my skills.  I had determination, and I never gave up.”  He now has a great teaching position one block away from his home and is looking forward to new opportunities ahead.

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

Landing a Dream Job with the Center for Disease Control

Recently at the Atlanta residency, we met Dania Thomas, a passionate PhD in Public Health – Epidemiology student and a busy single mother of children ages 1 (son) and 5 (daughter). She has an Associate’s Degree in Chemistry and Sociology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology.  She is currently 1.5 years into her doctoral program.

When asked about her current career status, Dania was excited to report she just landed a dream fellowship at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta!  She persisted through a long process in which she submitted at least 50 applications for positions with the CDC over the span of 3 years.  So she was so pleased when she was contacted for a phone interview with two CDC scientists for a position to do microbiology testing for sexually transmitted diseases.  One was the head scientist for the position and the other was a colleague (another head scientist) helping to choose the best candidate.

The lead scientist asked her questions about her qualifications and experience for the position.  Before  ending the interview, out of curiosity, the second interviewer asked about Dania’s doctoral program at Walden and her main research interests.  Dania gave an overview of Walden and how it offers a global perspective. In addition, she briefly shared her passion for public health and how conducting HIV/AIDS research will allow her to understand and address different health disparities in certain populations. She is originally from Jamaica where AIDS is a huge public health problem and as a result, she developed a keen interest in the issue.

The second interviewer stated he was impressed with her knowledge and passion for public health and the statistics she shared. Dania attributes such knowledge and education to the many scholarly papers and books she has written and read over the 1.5 years since starting the program at Walden University.

Unfortunately, Dania received an email that she was not selected for the STD microbiology testing position.  Following the rejection, the head scientist stressed how impressed they were with the way Dania answered the public health questions and the passion she portrayed while interviewing.  A month later, the head scientist who initially interviewed Dania, contacted her to offer her a fellowship requiring epidemiology data analysis for STDs. Dania stated along with getting the offer, another exciting part of the hiring process was filling out many forms given during the hiring process, and noticing the colleague (the second head scientist) who was just helping the head scientist, is the one who personally requested her to work alongside them. Dania is excited to start her new fellowship this month and is very grateful for the opportunity!

Dania’s advice: “Always put your best foot forward regardless of the situation and NEVER EVER give up – what is for you is for you!”

Thanks to Dania for sharing her story with us and we wish her the best of luck in her new role with the CDC!

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Director of Career Services

Guest Blog Post: How to Clean Out Your Email In-Box

Recently we posted an article on our Career Services Center LinkedIn group on how to empty out your email in-box.  Fred Sahakian, a Walden doctoral student in Public Policy and Administration, commented that he does this on a regular basis.  I asked him to share his tips and he was open to our posting it on our blog.

Fred Sahakian suggested cleaning out your email in-box as follows:

So first, make this a project that needs to get done with a deadline. It can take weeks to get control of your inbox again, at least from my experience.

1. Go through your email and really delete what you don’t need, this is time consuming but well worth it at the end.

2. As you are cleaning up, start to notice the categories you might want to make for your emails. I have several including Dissertation, ImportantKeep, Read Later, Recipes, Receipts, etc.

3. As you delete, you can start putting things in your different categories. Each email program is different, so whatever you do, test out your program to make sure you can search through all your email later easily. Also, really consider unsubscribing from groups/newsletters that you don’t need.

4. Start to auto filter your email. I send my newsletters to a Newsletter folder, my forums (like LinkedIn and Facebook) to another folder. These keep my inbox super clean.

5. I used to keep email, just because I could, I now just delete it right away. I try not to use my email as a To Do List reminder, this can be tough to do, I use ToodleDo ( http://tinyurl.com/jwwdpnu ) as at To Do List, there are free and paid versions.

6. Once you have “tamed” your inbox, it gets easier.

7. Now, this sort of feels like cheating, but, as email comes in, it should be from people and issues that require your immediate attention, you can filter everything else, maybe call the folder “Needs Reply Soon”. The idea is to focus on the present and most important. You “park” the other items so they don’t nag you or are on your mind. Just make sure to set aside time each day to get to these “Parked” emails.

After a while, it will get annoying when your inbox gets full, and you just spend the time to clean it up, but at least you’ve been sorting things already and deleting things you don’t need. It’s like cleaning off the coffee table in your house instead of having to clean the entire house!

Thanks to Fred for sharing his tips with us!

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Career Services Director