Networking: Taking Steps to Becoming a Professional

Posted by Ne[x]t on 01.28.14

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a job in two years or today; networking (especially in the current competitive job market) is perhaps the most important asset to your employment search. Of course, with networking becoming widely known as the key component for professional success, everyone’s looking for an edge. There’s a good way and a tactless way to go about networking, and i[x] is here to help you distinguish between the two.

Start Early:
As with most everything in life, the easiest advantage to gain is the one obtained by starting ahead of everyone else. Summer internships, job fairs, your college’s career center, these all seem like things for upperclassmen, but they’re all useful networking tools that can be utilized before the last 12 months of your undergraduate tenure. Also, you can apply your social networking skills to LinkedIn, creating a professional online presence that will be very handy in keeping up with connections you make in person.

Be Prepared:
To show your professionalism, you need to be able to make a good impression quickly. A couple of tools that can help you are a business card and an elevator pitch. Business cards are a great way to provide your contact information in a tangible form, and are helpful for exchange purposes. Getting the other person’s business card is actually more important than giving out yours. If you have their contact information, you have the opportunity to reach out to them instead of hoping they’ll go out of their way to contact you. An elevator pitch is a brief (30 seconds or less) synopsis of your skills, accolades, and aspirations. Having a prepared elevator pitch allows you to present yourself positively and succinctly and shows you’re serious about the process.

Keep in Contact:
If you only contact people when you need something, they’ll categorize your emails, phone calls, etc. as unpleasant occurrences, leading to a negative professional relationship. Even though you’re (likely) younger and less experienced, you can still contribute by keeping your networking contacts informed about your recent significant accomplishments, and asking if they’ve had any updates in their professional lives. Creating a steady, symbiotic correspondence is key in creating a successful professional network.

Say Thank-You:
Seems simple and obvious, but makes a huge difference either way. Remembering to acknowledge and show gratitude leaves a polite, positive impression. Failure to do so may not offend or insult your contact, but it won’t help you stand out as a person worth going out of your way for. As renowned author Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Making your contacts feel appreciated can lead to good will that’ll benefit you down the road.

You never know what twists and turns your professional career path might take, and no contact is too small or insignificant to ignore. Be courteous and generous as you build your network and the ensuing relationships could be tremendously advantageous at some point down the road.

How to Write (Right!)

Posted by Ne[x]t on 09.30.13

The Harry Potter series, fantasy football advice columns, text messages, this article: there are few things in modern life as pervasive as the written word. Chances are, you may have to utilize the elusive craft of writing some time in the near future to further your academic or professional goals. Whether you’re constructing the foreboding college essay, an overwhelming term paper, or an imperative cover letter, i[x] is here to offer you tips from a variety of experts.

College Essay
Thought of by many to be a source of tremendous stress, the college application essay can actually be a fun, introspective exercise in personal analysis. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, it’s more important to avoid a “common” essay than a poor one. Writing to impress a stranger often leads to stale, overdone content. In order to create a unique, engaging piece, you need to find subject matter that is specific to your life’s experience. Have you overcome a significant obstacle in you life? Has your perspective evolved during your years as a high school student? Do you have a specific goal in mind that the college to which you’re applying can help you accomplish? Remember, the more unique and true the topic is to you personally, the more likely it is to stand out to an admissions officer.

According to the Professors’ Guide (, another key component to a good essay is likability: “Colleges see themselves as communities, where people have to get along with others, in dorms, classes, etc. Are you someone they would like to have dinner with, hang out with, have in a discussion section?” This is not to say your essay has to be an exercise in sycophancy. Simply incorporate tact and civility into your prose.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, seek an editor, preferably a teacher, advisor, or counselor. Remember, even professional writers (journalists, novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, etc.) have editors – either as their boss or as someone they pay to improve their work. So if people who write for a living receive second opinions, you probably should too.

Term Paper
Hopefully you’re reading this article in October rather than December, because, Professors’ Guide, and all insist that the key to a good term paper is starting well ahead of the deadline. If you begin your work two months (as opposed to two weeks, or heaven forbid, two days) before the due date, you give yourself ample opportunity to gain advantages that would not be available had you waited until the last minute. For instance, you may know your topic well in advance, but only in a general way. After only a little research, you can easily come up with a thesis (an argument that encompasses your literature review, analysis, etc.) for your paper and present it to your professor (or at least your Teaching Assistant). Getting your thesis approved can keep you from wasting time on a paper doomed from its inception. Also, a solid thesis can narrow your subject material, helping you research more effectively and efficiently.

While this may seem old-fashioned, all the aforementioned websites recommend researching your topic in your school library. Anyone with a keyboard and an Internet connection can post something online. Publishing companies are far more discriminant, subsequently anything you find in a book, anthology, newspaper or magazine is going to have a much higher standard of accuracy and an elevated degree of intelligence. Also, books cite other books, which yields lots of easy, diverse research as opposed to a search engine that results in ten webpages making the same simple point.

Finally, the burden of term papers typically is their length. In order to maintain an intelligible, succinct flow throughout the entirety of your work, it is important to both outline and proofread. Outlining helps you organize your approach to your paper beforehand, cutting down on off-tangent ramblings and clunky segues. Proofreading, in addition to catching typos, can also identify segments that are awkward, verbose or unnecessary. After doing your own proofreading, take advantage of your school’s writing center if they have one. Again, starting early will give you flexibility to get on the writing center’s schedule instead of being at the mercy of chance at the end of the semester when everyone is seeking help.

Cover Letter
You’ve worked for years to earn enough experience and accolades to compile a decent resume only to discover this: your resume is not enough. A huge component to getting hired at a position of any level is your cover letter- a short, but significant piece that both addresses your potential employer and sheds additional light on you as a potential employee.

The First thing you need to do is identify who your potential employer is. By using either the computer or the phone, find out who is the company’s human resources rep or hiring manager. Address your cover letter accordingly.

Additional research will need to be conducted so you can adequately speak to what aspects of the company appeal to you and how you could coincide with their goals and business approach.

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to begin composing the actual text of the letter. Forbes recommends including the name of a mutual contact (if you have one) in the first sentence. This way you’re immediately distinguished from your competition by establishing a relationship with your potential employer.

Don’t repeat your resume. The HR rep/hiring manager you’re dealing with is a professional who gets paid to peruse cover letters and resumes. Don’t waste their time by being redundant. Instead, utilize information obtained in your research of the company as well as positive aspects about yourself that fit specifically to the position you’re applying for that aren’t explicitly enumerated in your resume.

Again, you’re trying to make yourself stand out amongst your competition, so be specific in your prose and avoid banal phrases (i.e. “My name is _____ and I’m applying for ____.”). Finally, save your cover letter (and resume) as either a “doc” or a “pdf” to avoid complications that can arise with other formats resulting in your submissions becoming compromised or unreadable.

Hopefully, with some hard work, several drafts, and these tips from i[x], no matter what you’re next writing project is, you’ll be proud of your final product. Good luck, and check out the i[x] blog ( for more helpful information regarding your academic and professional endeavors.

Inside the Interview

Posted by Ne[x]t on 01.07.13

Tips from headhunting experts on how to stand out from your competition.

A new year means new goals and new opportunities. Perhaps one of your new opportunities is a part-time or summer internship, or maybe you’re on the search for that elusive first job after graduation. Well, with the help of some of Georgia’s Own Credit Union’s exceptional human resources and head-hunting employees, i[x] has compiled some useful resume and interview tips to help you stand out from your competition.

By the very nature of job-seeking, there are always more candidates than openings, so potential employers will look for ways to rule you out. Avoiding careless mistakes can help you get past the first rounds of elimination and increase your chances of landing a position. This means ridding your social media of any unflattering pictures, tweets, or postings. In the context of resumes, this means proofreading to ensure there are no typos or grammatical errors.

If you’re sending your resumes out electronically, make sure that your email address is professionally presentable; “pinkponies1259” or “laxbro2015” might have been passable for your friends and family, but they don’t give a great impression to working adults. Bear in mind that for each opening, employers receive a tremendous surplus of resumes, so make your resume as readable as possible. This means listing skills relevant to the position at the top of the page, and highlighting your accomplishments with bold font and eye-catching formatting (bullet points, separate sections, indents, etc.). Keep cover letters concise and pertinent. You’re not going to win the job by writing something extravagant, you’re just trying to avoid elimination at this stage; there will be plenty of time to impress during the interview.

Before you land an interview in-person, you’ll likely have to undergo a telephone interview. Again, this is a technique implemented to help employers eliminate more than evaluate, so avoid making any glaring mistakes. If you’ve sent out resumes, you should be expecting phone calls from prospective employers, so don’t get caught off guard. Answer numbers you don’t recognize professionally in a room free of distracting background noise. “Yo!” or “’Sup?” is not the first word you want your interviewer to hear. Also, in case you can’t answer the phone at the time, ensure that your voicemail is passable for a working professional. Your Christopher Walken impression won’t impress someone looking for a reliable employee. Standing up during a phone interview will help you project better and give a more confident and impressive tone. Also, be sure to have your resume and all your notes on the company handy so you can access them easily and use the information to your advantage. Don’t be panicked by silence, remember your interviewer is likely taking notes or sorting through information on paper or the computer, so just be patient. Making a good impression during your phone interview can greatly help your chances of landing an invite to an in-person interview.

Nailing the in-person interview has as much (if not more) to do with what you’ve done before you arrive as it does with the interview itself. Make sure you’ve done your homework on the position and the company itself. Be aware of the company’s primary function, their biggest competitors, and what your position does to contribute to the company’s objectives. Memorize the layout and contents of your resume so if you’re asked any questions about it you can answer them without needing to break eye-contact or waste time scanning for the information. Make a trip to the interview location so you’re aware of things like traffic, parking, and construction that could potentially make you tardy on the day of the interview.

After completing your prep work, it’s time to impress. This means arriving slightly early, well dressed (always dress up a little nicer than the company’s dress code for the interview), and with your phone turned off. Receptionists are often asked their opinions of candidates’ demeanor, so be sure to use your best manners when you check in, and wait with patience in a professional posture. When you greet your interviewer, shake hands and establish eye-contact. In order to present yourself positively without sounding boastful, provide examples of accomplishments instead of mere adjectives like “smart” or “diligent.”

While most people have the ability to say something good about themselves, what can set you apart is your ability to effectively answer the inevitable question, “What is your greatest weakness?” No one is perfect, so do not feel shy about answering the question honestly, and don’t try to be too cute: “Sometimes I work too hard” is not a response that’s going to do you any favors. Instead, provide an example of how you are working on improving on that weakness, or how you have done something extra to compensate for a particular shortcoming.

Remember, you will be working for this company, so the ability to demonstrate servitude is important. At the same time, you will be dedicating a significant portion of your time to this position, so be sure to ask some questions that pertain to your curiosities about the company. Remain tactful, and avoid uncomfortable questions like salary or vacation. Instead, inquire about the culture of the workplace. Conveying an honest portrayal of your personality is just as important to an interviewer as the skills you have. Many aspects of your position are likely things you will be trained for after you are hired. Regardless of qualification, companies don’t want to hire a poor fit for their current work environment, nor do you want to commit to a position that will make you miserable. Being prepared, honest, and respectful will put you in the best position for consideration. Following up with brief and sincere thank-you letters adds a nice final touch. Keeping your resume up to date and staying in contact with your professional network is the best way to obtain the most quality employment opportunities. If you consistently give an exceptional impression through your paperwork and interviews, it’s only a matter of time before an opportunity pans out and becomes an offer. Job Seeking Statistics:
90% of Recruiting Firms do a Google search of prospective candidates. 45% of Hiring Managers screen social networking websites of applicants. Only 36% of interviewees regularly send Thank You notes, 75% of companies expect or at least appreciate such letters. Over 90% of employers seek their assistant’s opinion of interviewees, 70% of employers eliminate candidates based on what they find online about them, only 7% of surveyed applicants were concerned about their online reputation.

Be Your Own Boss!

Posted by Ne[x]t on 11.16.12

Having discussed earlier some of the best college part time jobs, it’s important to note we left one major option off the list: student entrepreneurship. While certainly riskier and more challenging than conventional employment, becoming an entrepreneur not only gives you the opportunity to pick your own field and be your own boss, it provides some invaluable lessons you can’t learn anywhere else.

While most student businesses won’t turn out to be billion dollar conglomerates like Facebook or Under Armor, there are still hefty profits to be had. According to, a number of Stanford students sold their group “app” projects developed in a software writing class, some for as much as six figures. One of these students, Joachim De Lombaert, earned around $1 million in advertising revenue.

But you don’t have to be tech wiz to cash in on your ideas. At San Diego State university, 21-year-old Kevin Gelfand opened up a smoothie stand on campus to offer an alternative to the warm, chalky, mixing ball water bottle protein shakes he saw his fellow students consuming after workouts. Now, his company Shake Smart is opening its third location in the greater San Diego area, and is projected to earn nearly ¾ of a million dollars. At the University of Washington, Riley Goodman pulled in six figures of profit from his company Strideline. Selling crew socks featuring various city skylines and colorways, Goodman’s products are not only available in numerous Seattle retail stores, but also from the company webpage.

Profits aren’t the only thing to be gained from entrepreneurship. 20-year-old Georgetown student James Li founded REaction Strategy Group and consults non-profit organizations with the aim to improve their donor relations through digital and social media. After redesigning the webpage for Pathways Volunteer Hospice, Li has established himself and his company as professionally credible.

“I think there’s a strong case for the idea that you can learn more spending a summer working at your own start-up than you ever could at an internship,” says Li, who had to present a convincing pitch to his initially weary clients.

After being sold by Li’s proposal, “board members aren’t afraid to give out our web address,” says Pathways’ operations manager. “[It] was one of the [many] ways [Li] helped us.”

So whether your passion is computers, clothes, or helping others, there’s a way to translate your interests into a business idea that can lead to a rewarding experience, as well as a hard-earned paycheck. For more student entrepreneurial success stories, check these articles at Forbes and The Washington Post. For help getting your business idea off the ground, talk to your advisor or a faculty member of your school’s business department.

Best Jobs to Have as a College Student

Posted by Ne[x]t on 10.12.12

Between tuition, room and board and textbooks, the bare essentials of college can be prohibitively expensive.  With classes, homework, exercise, club meetings, and socializing, finding ample time to help pay for all those aforementioned expenses can be equally challenging.  Luckily, some college-student-friendly jobs do exist, and i[x] is here to help you seek out the best ones.

 USA Today and US News agree that the following three positions are ideal for any college student, not only for their fiscal benefits, but for their resume appeal as well: brand ambassador, social media consultant, and alumni event assistant.  Being a brand ambassador is not only accompanied by freed products and pay, but also the added social benefits that come with being a source for a coveted commodity.  Additionally, the ability to say you were in a marketing role for a major company is an excellent accomplishment for any resume.  Social networking positions not only capitalize on a skill which your are likely already proficient in, but also often present convenient working environments, as many tasks can be completed from your door room computer.  Finally, assisting with alumni events not only gives you a chance to exercise and develop your creative and organizational skills, it’s also an excellent avenue for networking for potential summer internship and jobs after graduation.  Other excellent on campus jobs include working for school publications, managing varsity sports teams, and providing guided campus tours.

In case you’re more interested in some off campus work, has compiled a list of some of the more exceptional part-time work most likely to accommodate a college student’s schedule.  Included on this list are bartending/table waiting, providing art/music lessons, and working as a barista.  While waiting tables and bartending isn’t the most glamorous job, it does improve interpersonal skills which not only translates well into the post-grad professional world, but can often lead to some generous tips as well.  If you’re an art or music major, providing lessons or instruction in your community is a great way to turn your passion into some handy pocket cash.  Finally, if you’re more of a morning person, Starbucks often provides benefits to its part-time employees, a rare perk amongst positions conducive to a full-time student’s class schedule.

So if you’re feeling the anxiety that accompanies student loan debt or if you’re just looking for a few extra dollars and a resume boost to boot, than hopefully this advice will be of some use to you.  Be sure not to overstrain yourself, and remember, college can be fun, and a few extra bucks a week can help with that too.          

Finding A Summer Job

Posted by Ne[x]t on 05.24.10

With the end of school nearing or having already ended for some, the summertime is a great time to find a job to earn a little cash.  A summer job is also a great way for students to get a foot in the door toward a real job.  With the job market very competitive and tough right now, you have to be able to stand out.  Here are a few tips you can follow to help you get that edge over the competition:

– Pursue a job that you are interested in.  If you are not sure what really interests you, ask yourself if you want the job for career experience or just for fun. 

– Network: As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Never pass up an opportunity to get your name out to professionals.  If you have yet to develop a solid network, don’t be afraid to talk with family and family friends.  They are a great place to start when trying to find available jobs.

-Don’t Give Up: If you are having a hard time finding open jobs, search on the internet.  There are thousands of jobs listed.  If there are certain companies that you know you would like to work for, give them a call about open positions-the worst they can say is “no”.

-Be Prepared for the Interview: Once you have your interviews set up, research and know everything there is to know about the company.  Potential employees love it when you come in looking like you belong.  Also, dress for success.  You can never be over dressed for an interview.  My dad always said “Dress for the job you want to have.”

So get out there and get you an awesome job for the summer.  Who knows, it may turn out to be your career!

Update: Found this article from the AJC that also gives some tips on summer work.

Learning & Earning

Posted by Ne[x]t on 12.04.09

The percentage of students working and going to school has risen among 16-24 year olds in the past several years. What’s more, is that with the current economic climate, many families are feeling the pinch of tougher times and need every able member of the family to work. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself trying your hand at this delicate balancing act.

A couple of things to lift your spirits for those of you who are, or who are thinking about, working while going to school:

First, a recent study published in USA Today stated that around 77% of undergraduate students are working; so you’re not alone-you’re in the majority. Second, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average male college graduate in 2007 earned 58% more than the average male who completed only high school. Among women, college grads earned 78% more than non-graduates. So, see? Apparently, money doesn’t grow on trees, but it can grow from Degrees. If working + going to school or not means the difference between attending THE college of your dreams or…well, not, then it may be in your best interest to put forth the effort and become an expert of this balancing act.

1. College town benefits. The good thing about looking for jobs in a “college town” is that employers are used to having students work for them and are more flexible when it comes to hours, work load and studies. Be honest with yourself and your employer as to what you’ll be able to handle, let them know what your school schedule is like and figure out how adjustable both of you can be.

2. Have a set schedule. If you know you work Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, it’s easier to plan ahead for big tests or assignments and avoid any potential conflicts.

3. Build good rapport with your co-workers. You never know when you may need someone to cover or switch shifts for you.

4. Consider your specific personality traits. If you find that you’re most productive in the mornings, then get a job where you can work evenings and save the a.m. for work on your school assignments.

5. Campus jobs. The pay is good and you’ll be in an environment where they really understand the complex situation of working and going to school.

Above all, keep in mind that school is the most important thing.  If you feel overwhelmed or your grades are suffering beyond repair, you may need to consider cutting back on hours or foregoing the job all together. You can always pick up extra cash and hours during the summer months to help you throughout the school year.

Also, speaking of a balancing act, it’s important to stay balanced yourself. School and work may be necessities, but so is making time for the things that you enjoy doing.

My Last Two Cents: At one particularly stressful point in my college career, I suddenly realized-I’m only 20, I’ve got my whole life to be stressed and overworked. It will take an active effort, but achieving equilibrium between work, school, and play will be well worth it.


Posted by Ne[x]t on 11.20.09

I bet you have a good read on the unemployment situation out there. It stinks. As bad as that is, if you are looking for part-time work to make extra cash the picture is worse. We’re not here to stress you out but let’s look at the facts and then do something about it!

How bad is it you ask? Try 27.6% bad. That is more than double the rate of our parents and it’s the highest rate that has EVER been recorded since they started keeping records in 1948. Yikes. Things might not get better for teens until this time next year which means if you do want to get a job you need to be creative and persistent.

So here, at absolutely no charge, are some job hunting ideas from your friends at i[x] and Georgia’s Own

Search Smarter: Have you visited Sure beats going door-to-door at the mall asking if they are hiring. There hundreds of part time jobs on this site so get clicking.

Make Something: Are you artistic, crafty or have a keen eye for sweet vintage gear? Head over to and set-up your own shop up in less than five clicks. Listings only cost $.20 and you can sell your works all over the world.

Go Local: Ever thought about doing work right in your neighborhood? With the downturn in full effect many families cut back on professional yard work, house cleaning, chores and even dog walking. Simply putting out some flyers could land you a new gig.

Get Some Guidance: It may not seem like the first place to look but have you talked to the guidance counselor at school? They are trained professionals and believe or not they really do care about you. It’s their job to be connected, so talk to them for advice on where to look locally.

Remember that every problem can be an opportunity. Turn this churn into a sweet job for yourself. You can do it!

So, now it’s your turn. Are you stressed out about finding a job? Are your parents worried about their jobs? Were you able to land a job and if so what sort of money are you making? Share! The i[x] team wants to know what is going on in your life so we can help you and others get ahead with your money.

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