Three semesters down, one to go

6 01 2015

Tomorrow marks the first day of my last semester in graduate school. How did this happen so fast? Life. You’re passing before my eyes already.

Today, the School of Government held their Assessment Center–a day of mock interviews and group exercises for students. I don’t know why more second years don’t take advantage of this. It’s a safe way to get critical feedback on your interviewing skills. I’m planning to take the Foreign Service Officer Test, which for those who are successful, includes a group exercise interview, so I’m happy to get all the feedback I can.

My individual interview experience was helpful. Roger Stancil from the Town of Chapel Hill (who coincidentally managed Fayetteville for 20 years and raised his children there) and Libby Hodges in Planning in Alamance County were my interviewers. Good feedback. Nuts I gathered from this experience:

  • Focus on the resume. The cover letter is an afterthought, if your resume merits a second look.
  • Also, and I knew this, I need to work on putting a bow on my responses. Re: STAR responses, I can speak to situation, my task in the situation, my actions, and the results, but the zinger is to tie those responses back to the job you’re interviewing for. Duh.
  • Last, take my time. Take a moment to think about the question and form a story in my mind that has a beginning and an end.

All in all, a good use of time. The group experience as well was beneficial. I learned, or was reminded, of the importance of framing. Before jumping into solutions, start with answering who are we, who’s our audience, what’s our message? My group got this wrong this afternoon. We jumped right into solving the technical problems without first weighing if there were any adaptive challenges to tackle. Again, very good experience and will be helpful if, knock on wood, I am EVER successful at getting past the FSOT written test, personal narrative, and finally to the in-person interview.

I applied for two jobs this week–one at Durham Technical Community College and another today at the North Carolina Community College System. Whether I get called back or not for these jobs, it’s good to get into the practice of applying, and I need to be actively looking for a job, as the Foreign Service is a Plan B or even Plan C, long-term path.

Another highlight of the day that I want to mentally celebrate is that our Program Director Bill Rivenbark asked if I’d speak about my internship at an upcoming conference. He’d asked our PWE (Professional Learning Experience) professor Margaret Henderson for a recommendation, and she said I had a good paper. Now, it could be that Margaret had my name top of mind, since I sent her a thank you note at the end of the semester (once grades were in, I’m not a kiss@$$), but I’ll take it, since I’ve not had great confidence in my writing in grad school.

WTH, I’ll take this moment to celebrate also, since it’s only to myself, that I made all H’s this semester (save the one P I got in Mediation Skills. Thank you Professor John Stephens for giving out such high marks that my 18.5/20 on our lone assignment wasn’t enough to merit an H. I hate that grading on a curve.)! I haven’t cared for grades as long as I’ve made Ps (P = degree), so it was a wonderful surprise to see the grades appear one by one and have them be Hs. That means I got an H on my 20-page, bear of a paper for economic development seminar and an H in community development. That means a lot, because I was definitely the weakest link in my group with two very smart, planning students.

And that’s ok. I’ll celebrate it. (Shoot anything that flies. Claim anything that falls.)


Workforce Development Dollars — Has your community cashed in?

American Thanksgiving, pass it on

24 11 2012

‎Karl Rectanus suggested sharing American Thanksgiving. “it’s a tradition that travels well.” So my hashing, traveling friend Ate Ball said, “Happy Thanksgiving” to it turns out, the only other American in our Osaka hostel.

Here’s 18-yr-old Hector on his first backpacking trip before he heads back to Maryland next month to continue his electrical engineering studies.

This is the changing face of America–young, brown and international.
Hector 2032.

“I will do my best.”

26 09 2012

Today, I made a student cry.
I had to backpedal and bestow praise, before she tuned me out completely.

Last week and this, I’ve been working at Hongik University and a few others around Seoul giving mock interviews to college students. This is my first uni experience in Korea. Kids here seem like students back home in that some are impressively focused, while many are motivated by money without a solid career plan.

Today, I witnessed a textbook example of what not to do in an interview. Poor girl had no clue. She gave such self-centered responses, I told her if we were in a real interview, I would have ended the interview after 10 minutes and sent her home.

For our mock interview for a marketing job @Samsung, consider—

I continued the interview through gritted teeth, so I could give KeeJeong feedback at the end. Maybe I should have stopped her and reframed the conversation earlier. I don’t think she once considered a POV outside her own, let’s just say during this interview, and not be obnoxious and say her entire life.

Many of my other students had lower English proficiency but greater substance and were able to explain how their experiences prepared them for a position and why they were personally drawn to a career.

KeeJeong, bless her heart, had nothing more to say about marketing than you should be social to do a good job. She seemed genuinely shocked to receive critical feedback.

So to reel her in from tuning me out, I said, “your answers sucked not you.”
We talked about how the company’s needs > hers, and then I asked her to brainstorm some of her experiences, so she could practice connecting them with the company’s needs.

Self-promotion and networking ought to be taught to every high school and university student. “I will do my best” is no substitute for how you’re going to get a job done.

The bigger issue is that KeeJeong graduates in five months and doesn’t know what she wants to do. I hope KeeJeong heard my suggestion to visit the career center.