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Using RSS Feeds to Stay Current in Your Field

14 Jan

RSSfeedIf you’ve worked in a professional setting, or received any type of post-secondary education, the concept of staying professionally current is something you’re familiar with. However, for many budding professionals, staying current is an abstract concept that few people take the time to define or operationalize. Though there are many ways for you to remain updated on trends and news in your industry, I’ve chosen to focus on one that will bring content directly to your inbox (or favorite app).

One of the best ways to get the latest insight into an industry trend is to read blogs – tons and tons of blogs. It seems as though “experts” and “gurus” are as ubiquitous as the smartphones, tablets, and multimedia devices they use to create their content, leaving no shortage of free information to keep you current. After blog hunting for some time, you will have undoubtedly found so many great sources that you may find yourself jumping from site to site, only to realize that you’ve forfeited valuable time that could have been used getting things done. Thankfully, there is a way to synthesize your favorite blogs into one location without having your inbox flooded with new subscriptions.

RSS feeds, or Really Simple Syndication feeds, allow the content of multiple blogs to be automatically updated and aggregated into a central location. Instead of receiving separate email digests from the seven different blogs that you follow, you can visit your RSS stream to view them all in one place. A quick internet search will yield countless results for RSS readers and ways to keep track of your feeds. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll focus on the tool that I’m most familiar with.

As with seemingly most things around the World Wide Web, Google provides a free and simple solution, already accessible to anyone with a Google account. Simply go to www.google.com/reader to begin searching for and adding blogs to your feed. FingerReaderYou will see new articles automatically begin to populate as you add more blogs, bringing the most up-to-date content in your industry directly to your fingertips. Additionally, there are dozens of free (and paid) RSS reader apps for every smartphone/tablet platform, allowing you to catch up on the latest news on the go. So if you’re using blogs to keep tabs on your field, setting up an RSS feed is definitely worth your time. Your to-do list will thank you for it.

Share some of your favorite blogs with us in the comments section.

The Hunger Games and Your Career

8 May

College can be compared to the training period before The Hunger Games, as referenced in the novel. The contestants were well aware of what they were facing. They were given a brief, specific amount of time to select their strategy and to be intentional about gaining as many relevant skills as possible. At the end of the day, no single strategy could guarantee victory. They could only be diligent in seeking out as many skills and experiences as possible, to best position themselves for victory. Sounds a lot like life, right?

If life is like The Hunger Games, then college is the training ground where the choices you make, or don’t make, weigh heavily on your performance on the field. It is important to note that you have entered into a very open-ended training field, where you can find out what you need to learn, and then train to develop the necessary skills to increase the likelihood of your future success. Or, you can choose to view college as an extended vacation and a postponement of responsibility, only to experience a rude awakening upon graduation.

Working in a University setting, I’ve noticed that a staggering amount of students are expecting a collegiate diploma to be a cheat sheet to life. The reality of the situation is that 2.5 million people will graduate with Bachelors’ Degrees this year alone. Anyone living in our current economy would probably, and accurately assume that there will not be 2.5 million entry-level jobs opening alongside this year’s graduates.

Additionally, study after study lends evidence to the idea that, in the long run, a college degree typically ends up being worth the financial sacrifice incurred. Not to mention that the majority of jobs and careers that pay decently, provide a moderate level of security and satisfaction, and allow for responsibility and growth require at least an Associate’s degree. So, if degrees are beneficial, why are so many employers echoing the complaint of having job openings but being unable to fill them in the midst of a struggling economy? They are citing a lack of skilled applicants. In other words, employers do not have the time, resources, or personnel to train completely new, unskilled applicants. Hence, they are looking for individuals with the academic training and the practical experience to back it up.

Here are 6 things that you can do throughout your time in college to ensure that you are taking advantage of your education:

1. Visit the Career Center. In the Career Center, you’ll find free Career Counseling, resume and cover letter assistance, and mock interviewing, in addition to other career related resources and events. Come early, and come often.

2. Volunteer. Not many employers, agencies, and organizations are going to turn down free labor. Volunteering connects you to professionals in your field, gives you practical experience that you can include in your resume, and allows you to develop the skills that employers are looking for.

3. Intern. Internships give you practical experience in your field, allow you to learn and develop new skills, build your resume, and expand your connections. It doesn’t hurt that nearly 40% of employers hire directly from their internship programs.

4. Start stuff. Are you surprised or frustrated to see that there’s no student club for (insert your interests here)? Who’s stopping you from starting one? You’ll gain skills in leadership, organization, teamwork, branding, promotions and more.

5. Lead. If you’re involved in a club or organization, step it up and become a leader. In addition to leadership skills, you’ll gain additional skills as they pertain to your position.

6. Social media and blogging. Are you familiar with the term “SEO?” Have you ever developed a systematic social media strategy? What do you use to schedule tweets and track analytics for hits on your organization’s Facebook page? If any of that sounded like another language to you, it would be to your benefit to gain some skills in this area if you’re interested in working with Social Media or in a Communications related field. Additionally, blogging hones your writing skills and establishes you as a voice in your field.

Consider this your heads up. Imagine if the participants in the Hunger Games squandered their time of training, only to find themselves unprepared for the harsh realities which they would eventually face. College is not a vacation from responsibility. How you spend your time here will greatly influence what your life looks like when you enter “the real world.” The world is open ended. It becomes a lot less intimidating when you equip yourself with the necessary tools. We in the Career Center would love to help you along your journey.

Personal Branding 101

12 May

Excerpt (with some additions) from Dan Schawbel’s
Personal Branding 101: How to Discover and Create Your Brand”

1. Business card: It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student, CEO, or a consultant, everyone should have their own business card. The card should contain your picture, your personal brand statement (such as Boston Financial Expert), as well as your *preferred* contact information and corporate logo if necessary.

You can create your own business card and share it through your mobile phone using www.cardcloud.com.

2. Resume/cover letter/references document: These are typical documents that you need for applying for jobs and when you go on interviews (something over 2 million job seekers will be doing as we speak). Be sure to prioritize each document with information custom to the target position. Take your resume online and add social features to it to make the ultimate social media resume, promoting your personal brand to the world and making it shareable.

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Don’t Waste Your Summer

10 May

College students look forward to the summer for many reasons. Freedom and relaxation often top this list, and with good reason. Who wouldn’t enjoy three months of sleeping in late, spending time with friends, taking random road trips and living in an all around cornucopia of fun?  Although the summer is a break from school, it is not meant to be a break from your education. Too often, students view their summer as a vacation from responsibility, and in effect, waste their summer. Here are some ways that you can ensure that you are not wasting your summer:

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Too Many Choices – Part 2

4 Apr

** This post is a continuation of Too Many Choices Pt.1**

We’ve grown up hearing about being created with a purpose, finding our calling, and making sure that our decisions are in God’s will, in addition to probably never having heard the Jeremiah 29:11 passage in its proper context. Given this track record, it makes sense that we have certain expectations of how focused our lives should be, and expectations of how clearly God should communicate with us. Unfortunately, our natural propensity to lean towards the “easy way out” manifests itself in these teachings. The “easy way out” says that there is one sole vocational purpose that we were created for, one sole, life-guiding calling to walk in, and that God’s “good and perfect will” is somehow the sum of these two things. It’s “easy” because according to this line of thinking, there is only one right answer for your life, ad Jeremiah 29:11 tells you that God wants to let you in on it. God chose it for you, God chose you for it, God wants you to do it, and He wants to work everything out for your good. How could life get any simpler?

We believe that if we fit all of the pieces of this equation together and follow the formula perfectly, the result will be a stable, and relatively comfortable, life. However, none of this sounds like a life evidenced in the scriptures. If anything, we’re often warned of the fleeting, unstable nature of our world, and the fact that our only hope for consistency lies in the immutable nature of our God. The whole deal is really quite ironic, because we find ourselves shrouded in stress of ecclesiastical proportions, trying to decipher this perfect formula for our individual lives. The spiritual implications include loosing trust in God when He’s seemingly unclear on what you should do, and the practical implications include being frustrated with having no idea what to do with your life. With the exceptions of pastors and other forms of “Christian celebrities,” it seems as though this traditional line of thinking just leaves the “average” Christian stuck. So where does that leave us? How then do we decide? -Keep Reading→>