Monday, March 31, 2014

Associate Degrees--An educational option!

What is an Associate Degree?

An associate degree is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by community colleges, junior colleges, technical colleges, bachelor's degree-granting colleges, and universities upon completion of a course of study usually lasting two years. In the United States, and some areas of Canada, an
associate's degree is often equivalent to the first two years of a four-year college or university degree.

An alternative to an Undergraduate Degree

Associate degrees can be a great alternative to attending university for four years and can still lead to financially stable jobs! Check out the infographic below for more information.

Associate Degrees

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Keep Your Academic Network Up-to-Date

The end of the term is just around the corner! And, for some of our Badgers, this also means the completion of your undergraduate degree. Congratulations on surviving to the end of March - only a couple weeks left until (pseudo)freedom is here!

As you may have already realized, one of the greatest resources you will gain during your degree is the relationship you build with your professors. These individuals are some of your best contacts for getting jobs after graduation. Not only do they work in the field that you are interested in, but they have friends that do too! Its important that you don't let these contacts fizzle away.

March is the perfect time to send some emails out to professors you have enjoyed working with, as well as old employers that you've had, and letting them know where you are headed after you graduate. If you have any outstanding professors or TAs to add to your LinkedIn, consider doing that today. Your professors will have hundreds of students after you so you want to ensure that they remember who you are!

If you are returning as a student next year and are planning on attending graduate school in 2015, start considering which professors you are interested in using as references for your applications. If you aren't taking any classes with your ideal references next year you should be asking them to be your reference now while you (and your work) are still fresh in their minds.

Good luck with your final assignments and exams! Summer break is just around the corner :). And continue keeping an eye on Career Zone ( for summer employment opportunities.

Ashley Paolozzi, Lead Career Assistant
4th Year History of Art (Honours)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Great Networking Opportunities with 'Ten Thousand Coffees'

A new networking focused website called Ten Thousand Coffees has been brought to our attention and we want Brock University's students to be aware and take advantage of this fantastic opportunity! Ten Thousand Coffees targets individuals with all types of interests and career goals with networking opportunities available to students from all academic backgrounds.

As stated on the 'About Us' section of their website:
"We’re a team of young people who believe that the next generation has incredible potential just waiting to be unlocked. The problem? There’s a gap between the leaders of today and the social generation. We built Ten Thousand Coffees to be the solution: to bridge that gap and help people connect in a way that’s never been done before. Business leaders go for coffee all the time, but they’re restricted to their personal networks of friends and family. Ten Thousand Coffees is democratizing the coffee experience by opening it up to youth all over Canada.
Ten Thousand Coffees is the first youth movement of its kind in the world, created by young people for young people. It’s more than just a chat over coffee. It’s a new way for young people to unlock opportunities and share their ideas and for industry leaders to share their experience. We’re connecting students, recent grads, and young professionals with leaders and industry professionals to share insights and spark ideas that will plant the seeds of future opportunities over a cup of coffee."
Create a profile today and gain access to experts in over 21 industries and fields! This website has a ton to offer undergraduate students and new grads who are looking for an opportunity to network with professional, making these industry experts more accessible than they ever had before. 

Stay up to date and find out more information through Ten Thousand Coffees' various social media pages:
Good luck networking! I hope you find this website as interesting as I have!

Ashley Paolozzi, Lead Career Assistant
4th Year History of Art (Honours)  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Etiquette at Networking Events

It cannot be stressed enough how important networking is to job search and career progression nowadays. Networking is a key factor in landing meaningful employment after you graduate and can be crucial to upward mobility in the workforce or within a company. In addition, networking is one of the main ways to tap into the hidden job market where approximately 80% of the jobs actually are!

In order to build and maintain your network you should keep in contact with those you meet and attend networking events whenever possible, whether they are offered through your department at school, through Career Services, by your current employer, or by professional associations in your field.

There are certain things to keep in mind while at networking events so I will offer you my 2 cents on some important tips …

Communication Etiquette:

  • Use good body language: Maintain good posture, eye contact, and use a strong handshake

  • Let your voice convey energy, enthusiasm and interest as you speak
  • Make sure to read the person’s business card before putting it away

  • Engage in a few minutes of non-business related small-talk

  • Stand when being approached

  • Listen attentively

Dress Etiquette:

  • Always dress appropriately and professionally. Here are a few tips:
Wear comfortable shoes and hosiery to complement your outfit
Always wear an undershirt
Keep hair and nails clean and neat
Keep hair and nails clean and neat
Wear natural looking makeup and keep it to a minimum
Don’t wear ankle socks or light coloured socks with a dark coloured suit (or vice versa)
Don’t overpower your appearance with heavy scents (also, keep in mind that many places are becoming ‘scent-free’ and do not permit the use of perfumes)
Don’t overpower your appearance with heavy scents (also, keep in mind that many places are becoming ‘scent-free’ and do not permit the use of colognes)
Wear appropriate jewellery
Wear appropriate jewellery
Don’t wear tank tops with thin straps
Show a clean cuff: don’t wear a short sleeved shirt with your suit

Dining Etiquette:

Certain behaviour is deemed appropriate in different cultural, social and/or professional situations. Your ability to behave appropriately in various situations will demonstrate a sense of competence, and will likely create credibility. Here are some basic dining etiquette tips to follow if your networking event involves a sit down meal:

  • Eat to your left, drink to your right

  • Start with utensils furthest away from you and work your way in

  • Pass food from left to right

  • Taste food before you season it

  • Try a little of everything on your plate

  • Your napkin rests on your lap until the end of the meal

  • Wait until you are all served before beginning to eat

  • Your idle hand should sit on your lap

  • Chew with your mouth closed

  • Thank your host(s)

Here is an example of formal dining table set-up that you might find at a networking event in which dinner is served (refer to above tips for how to approach this set-up): 

Here are some additional tips for networking events in general...
The Elevator Pitch:

Prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ prior to the networking event so that you always have something to start a conversation with. This is a short (about 30 seconds) speech about who you are, what you do, and what your future plans are. This is a great way to break the ice with other professionals at the event and can usually turns into a more in-depth conversation. You may find you have something in common with the person you are speaking with and right there you have most likely added someone to your network! Here is a great article by Forbes magazine that summarizes how to prepare an effective elevator pitch.

After the event:

Maintain the network that you have worked hard to build by keeping a database or file so you can keep track of everyone you meet. Write a few notes on the back of the person’s business card so that you will remember what you talked about. Keep in contact with your network so they don’t forget about you. You might offer to take them out to coffee to catch up every 6 months or so. Even if you just send them a quick/short email once in a while (or a link to an article you think they would be interested in – again, keep it professional!)…you never know what opportunities might come across their desk that they think you would be interested in.

Here is a great article by about networking etiquette that you might find helpful as well!

Happy networking :) 

Jami Coughler, Senior Career Assistant
4th Year Public Health [Honours] '14
BA: Sociology, Criminology Concentration [Honours] '11 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Personal Branding: Creating your personal brand

 Personal branding is a new concept that involves identifying what you can bring to an employer that is specific and individual to you. A personal brand is  a short statement of your individual mix of skills, qualities, interests and/or emotions that are constant no matter where you go. It is a broadcast message about your character and performance. A personal brand can be very useful if applied consistently through  in person, and online communications (think e mail signature, linkedin, work related twitter, networking cards).  The use of a personal brand helps you attract people that are like minded which will benefit you when you enter their work environment. It gives you top of mind status, credibility, and is associated with perceived value. More importantly, it can help set you apart from other job seekers! Let people know who you are and what you can do for them without a 30 second elevator speech.  Having a living personal brand is all about you. Its not about how long you have been building your skills and experiences but how well you have been doing them.

Here are some questions to help you build your brand:

  • How do I make people feel?
  • How do people benefit by working with me?
  • What are the words I would use to describe my work?
  • What do I do ( or have) that makes me stand out from other people?

Keep your brand statement short and sweet to capture the essence of who you are and what you have to offer.

Search online for some different examples, but keep in mind that everyone does it a little differently.
If you have any questions you are more than welcome to come in to the Career Resource Centre to talk to any of our Career Assistants!

 - Becky W.
3rd year Tourism and Environment

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Portfolio Development

What is a career portfolio?
  • A career portfolio is a collection of documents used to help individuals market their skills and experiences to potential employers. It is used to give proof to the strengths and abilities that the employer is looking for in potential candidates, and it is typically used during a job interview.
  • A portfolio is both a product and a process because it helps employers assess your suitability for a particular job, and it can continue being developed to highlight your most recent achievements. 

When is a Portfolio used? And what is it used for?

  • During a job interview to highlight professional skills
  • When applying to graduate schools or professional programs
  • To track professional development and career growth
  • During performance evaluations to provide evidence of your work

Why develop a career portfolio?

  • Assists you in presenting your skills which gives you an advantage over other job seekers
  • It increases your credibility – by providing documentation that backs up your resume
  • Draws parallels from what you have done to what will be desired on the job

Who should have one?

Portfolio Myth: Only very experienced, senior job-seekers should have a career portfolio.

Portfolio Fact: In the interview, your job is to support the information that is on your resume (the reason you got an interview in the first place!) Therefore every job seeker has the ability to develop and use their career portfolio in an interview.

A well-prepared Portfolio should:

  • Showcase your achievements
  • Document the scope and quality of your experience
  • Show your skills and abilities

What do I include in my Portfolio?

There are many sections that you can choose to include in your portfolio. Remember that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to develop your portfolio – a portfolio is meant to showcase your achievements, so highlight skills and experiences that you think are most applicable to the job you are applying for.

Sections to Consider for your Portfolio:

  • Education                                          
  • Experience
  • Community Involvement
  • Professional Development
  • Characteristics/Attributes/Skills
  • Extra-Curricular Activities

What to Include: Education Section

Post-Secondary education teaches you the theories, methods, and practical skills required for a particular field or industry. By including academic documents, you can demonstrate to potential employers that you have participated in developmental exercises and have received recognition for it.[1] You may choose to include the following in your education section:  
  • Academic certificates, diplomas, degrees, and awards
  • Transcripts
  • Lab reports or term papers
  • Syllabi or course descriptions
  • Licenses
  • On the job training or company training courses
  • Workshops or seminars

For Grad Students

The education section is important for students who wish to either apply to graduate school or who want to get into research positions. By targeting your portfolio to specific schools or programs (by including applicable assignments, transcripts, letters of recommendation from professors or TAs, etc.), you will demonstrate to the hiring committee that you have the necessary experience - along with documents to give evidence to your success. (Should we include anything else here? I thought it would be an important section)

What to Include: Experience

What kind of experiential documents should you be including in your portfolio? According to The Career Portfolio Workbook, employers rank personal characteristics as one of the most important features when hiring new applicants. This means that along with your transcripts and other academic documents, you should consider including letters of recommendation or commendations you have received outside of school. Your portfolio allows you to give evidence of your initiative so it may be a good idea to include all or part of the following sections:

Personal Characteristics. An example of this document would be something that indicates a desired trait, such as a perfect attendance record or award.  

Experiences. This section can highlight some of the experiences that may be relevant to the position that you are applying to. An example of this may be a marketing plan that demonstrates your extensive experience for a marketing position.

Accomplishments.  You can include documents that highlight your ability to do outstanding work in this section. Examples include awards that you may have received along with a brief summary of the award, or a picture of you receiving the award.

Knowledge. It may be a good idea to include a document that demonstrates useful knowledge that would help you excel in the job that you’re being interviewed for. Include documents that would help you stand out from the competition. 

Skills. This section includes documents that highlight what you can do rather than what you know. Examples include language certificates, computer skills, etc.

Your Skills

Knowing and understanding your skills is an important part of deciding the organization and content of your career portfolio. Completing a skills assessment can be a useful way to focus and select your main skills to include in your portfolio. You can begin a self-assessment on the Career Services website and clicking on Students and Alumni, Careers for Me, and Self Assessments.

In today’s competitive job market employers are interested in seeing proof of your skills. Documents that can be used include performance evaluations that highlight your skills and accomplishments, self-assessments or interest summaries, or your Experience Plus transcript. 

Experience Plus

Experience Plus is a variety of skill development programs that provides students with an opportunity to showcase all extra-curricular achievements on an official Brock University transcript. You can use your own Experience Plus Transcript to highlight on-campus jobs, volunteer positions, internships, workshops, awards, certificates, professional development opportunities, and skills. Login to your Brock portal to order your own Experience Plus Transcript. , or stop by Career Services to ask any questions.

Three Categories of Skills  

1. Self-Management Skills 
  • These can be called “personal qualities”
  • These can be subjective (based on your personal feelings or opinions)
  • Examples: Hardworking, loyal, caring, patient, tactful
2. Transferable Skills
  • The majority of our skills are transferable skills
  • These are skills that are developed in one setting (or job) that are transferable to another setting (or job)
  • Are best described by using action verbs
  • Examples: Planning, researching, coordinating, communicating
3. Content Skills
  • Content skills refer to a specific subject matter that may require specific technical or procedural knowledge

Tips for Developing Your Portfolio

  • Have a clear focus
  • Ensure that it is attractive and that the visual presentation reflects your professional standards
  • Design each section so it is easy to scan (using sufficient white space, consistent font, style and spacing)
  • Sequence the contents (in order of importance to your audience)
  • Ensure it is grammatically correct and error free
  • Use clear sheet protectors to protect the quality of your documents
  • Remove materials as they lose their relevance and replace with more current materials
  • Remember to keep a backup copy (in case anything is misplaced)

Choosing a Format

  • It is important to choose a format that best reflects your skills and experiences. The three main formats to choose from are:

1. Chronological

2. Functional

3. Thematic

A portfolio that utilizes the chronological format will display information in reverse chronological order. This type of portfolio demonstrates ongoing growth and development of skills and accomplishments over time. Sections in this kind of format usually include Work Experience, Education, Awards and Certificates, Special Skills, and Accomplishments.

A functional portfolio organizes information into categories or skill sets. This allows you to highlight accomplishments in specific areas. This format is a good choice for those who have extensive experience in a particular area. Sections in a functional portfolio typically include Research, Organization and Planning, Communication, Problem Solving, Leadership and Teamwork.

If your intent is to display information based on abstract themes or showing how a project has developed from start to finish, then a thematic format may be best. When creating a thematic portfolio, it may be a good idea to subdivide larger topics into subsections in order to reflect the progression of the project. Sections in a thematic portfolio include Workshop Design, Program Planning, Mentorship, Entrepreneurship, and Event Planning. 

Bring your Portfolio into the Career Services Resource Centre for a review any time Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm! You can also complete our Portfolio Development workshop online to help further enhance your skills!

Here is a great complementary article about Portfolio Development written by our friends at Cosmic Coaching Centre:

Career portfolios have long been popular in the education and advertising fields, but they are also now becoming more and more significant to job searchers who aim to be marketable in the job market. In comparison to a resume where your relevant work experience is briefly summarized, your career portfolio contains all the necessary documentation in relation to your qualifications, experience, and achievements. In short, a career portfolio can be compared to a unique business card that lets potential employers how your work experience, skills, and education can benefit their companies or organization.
If you don’t have a career portfolio yet, here are some tips to help you create an effective one:

Letter of Introduction
The letter of introduction is a very important element of your portfolio  because this is where potential employers can get an idea or first impression of you as well as what you can do for them. What you should do on this part is to give a brief outline of your relevant skills, reasons you are applying for the job, your career plans or goals, and good reasons they should hire you. Keep the tone personal yet informative. Be sure also to emphasize your best achievements.

Biographical Information
Your resume should be in the first section of your portfolio. By including your resume, employers will have an easier access to the basic information about you, like your employment dates and contact information. Don’t forget to include at least six references as well, which may include your former employers, teachers, and even coaches.

Work Samples
The main section of your portfolio will be the second part where you should have a one-page letter that summarizes all the huge projects you’ve handled and whatever accomplishments you’ve had in your career. It is essential that you show how your abilities and skills will be relevant to the job you are applying for.

Latest Accomplishments
In the final section of your career portfolio, make sure that it reflects how you and your work are valued by other people. You should include in the last section of your portfolio all the letters of praise you received from the various organizations you have volunteered or worked for. Do not hesitate to include also your awards or honors you have received. If possible, you would also want a former professor of yours to write a letter about you. Take note, however, that whoever this person is, he or she should not belong to your references who may be contacted by employers.

After you have prepared your supporting documents, you can now think about how you should present them. There should be a table of contents, captions, and tabs that will make it easier for interviewers to find specific information or materials in your portfolio. Finally, you would want to include an essay that will outline the main purpose or objective of your portfolio. Also mention how the materials to be found inside actually relate to your career goals and career pathways.

Jami Coughler, Senior Career Assistant
4th Year Public Health [Honours] '14
BA: Sociology, Criminology Concentration [Honours] '11

[1] The Career Portfolio Workbook, Frank Satterthwaite and Gary D’Orsi (2003)