What to do during your gap year

Before you came to college, you might have considered whether you should take a gap year between high school and college. Gap years are not only for prospective freshmen, and a number of college students decide to take a year off following graduation or sometimes even during their undergraduate studies. You can use this time to develop yourself personally as well as to recharge and rejuvenate yourself after some intense studying and sleepless nights in college. Many people choose to do an internship but here are a few other things you can do during your gap year to make it an enriching and unforgettable experience in your life.

 

Satisfy your wanderlust.

Pack your bags and go on a journey you will never forget. When you are a working adult, you will most likely have limited annual leave, especially during the first few years of working. Why not take a year off and go on a TransAmerica cycling trip from Oregon to Virginia. Or if you have more money to spare, go on a backpacking trip in Europe. Even though you might think that travelling is expensive, you can save a lot of money through couchsurfing, using budget airlines and touring places on foot/bicycle.

 

Share your knowledge.

During a gap year, you will not only get a chance to learn more about yourself and the world, you will also be share what you know with others. Teaching English as a second language to non-native speakers is a great way to live abroad, interact with people from different cultures and explore a potential career in education. There is high demand for english teachers in Africa, Asia and South America. If you have other skills like yoga, baking or hairdressing, you can also organize workshops to make some extra bucks.

 

Give back to the community.

Volunteer for a course that you really care about, be it environmental conservation, human rights or education inequality. There is an overwhelming number of volunteer organizations with gap year programs all around the world such as Gapforce, Project Trust and Voluntary Services Overseas. Americorps has a huge collection of volunteer opportunities serving a wide range of causes. One of their most popular programs is called City Year, where you dedicate 11 months to support children in high poverty communities. Voluntary work is a great way to gain work experience especially if you are having trouble finding a paid internship opportunity. A number of service organizations are also willing to provide basic accommodation and food to their volunteers, which will make your gap year experience more pocket friendly.

 

Earn some money.

Freelancing is a good way to not only earn some money but also develop your skills while you’re on the road. If you have skills such as web design, programming and illustration, you will be able to find online freelance jobs on web sites like oDesk and Elance. Other jobs you can do include being a summer camp counselor, freelance photography, working at a ski resort and even fruit-picking in Australia.

 

If you are pondering over whether you should take a gap year or not, I hope this blog post helped you discover some cool things you can do during a gap year!

 

- Phyo Win, Martel PCA

I’m A Girl. What Should I Wear?

Dressing for business occasions is a lot harder for a girl than it is for a guy. Why? What girls wear to dances and on a date don’t translate to the business world. As girls we need a whole separate “business” wardrobe.

First things first, gather information. Know what kind of event you are going to and what kind of company is hosting. Are you going to a meet and greet? Is it an interview? Is the company in consulting, engineering, investment banking, or something else? Gathering information is the first crucial step in deciding what to wear. Ask around. Someone has probably interacted with this company before and can give you a heads up on what the company is expecting.

Rules Of Thumb

  1. If it’s an interview more conservative is almost always better. This is the time to bring out the pant suit or the long skirt and matching blazer. Unless it’s Microsoft a suit is almost always the best bet.
  2. Know your industry. If you want to go into investment banking the more conservative you dress the better. What does that mean? It means stick to black and grey female suits. However if you are a techie looking at google or apple a more casual look is appropriate.
  3. For business casual events like the meet and greet or lunch talk, slacks and a blouse are a safe bet. If you are unsure go more fancy rather than less.

I don’t own any business clothes! What do I do?

Luckily for you Rice village is right next to us and has both a Banana Republic and an Ann Taylor. Both are great places to get business clothes and you have a Rice discount. With just a blazer, a pair of slacks, and a blouse or two, you can meet almost all your business casual needs. However if you know you’re going to have a lot of interviews it will be worth it to invest in a suit.

- Marissa Levy, Hanszen PCA

 

Professional Dress

Appearances are very important in life. People form opinions about others based on their appearance. When networking and interacting with people for business, presenting a polished look boosts one’s stature. Professional dress provides many benefits. However, the most important reason to dress professionally is to avoid the consequences of not dressing up-to-par. Dressing inappropriately for a business environment leaves a significant, bad impression in the minds of others. The attire that employees wear has a reflection on the company. Also, unprofessional clothing at work shows poor judgment and immaturity: two qualities that employees don’t want to be known for.

Men

The attire that men should wear at work depends on the company’s culture. Dressing like other men at the office is a safe and smart decision to make.

Men’s business professional attire should be worn during important situations at work such as presentations and meetings. Business professional attire involves a suit, dress shirt, a tie, dress socks, and dress shoes. Different companies have different dress norms. If one does not know what to wear at a company on his first day, one should play it safe by dressing in complete business professional attire. For men, taking off a tie or jacket is easy to do, and is a much better situation then having not dressed up enough.

During every-day situations at work, men often dress in business casual attire. At some companies, the everyday dress code could mean one doesn’t wear a coat and tie. In this instance, a collared shirt along with dress pants and shoes is acceptable.

 

Women

The attire that women should wear at work also depends on the company’s culture. Dressing similarly to other women at the office is a safe and smart decision to make.

For business professional, skirt suits are recommended, and pants suits are acceptable too. Classic colors are a safe bet when choosing the color of one’s outfit for work. Blouses that are professional are also needed for women to wear.

It is advisable for women to not wear low-cut clothing at the office. Women should want to avoid risqué attire and instead convey the appearance of professionalism.

For business casual, many styles are available for women. However, in all cases concerning dress, judgment is involved to make sure that the attire conveys seriousness that is appropriate for business.

If one does not know what to wear at a company on her first day, one should play it safe by dressing in business professional attire. It does not hurt to play it safe.

 

- George Randt, McMurtry PCA

Don’t Have Experience? Volunteer!

Be like Katniss

When I was trying to get a job as a freshman, I received many rejections because of my lack of experience. I had applied to be an exhibit assistant, lab safety assistant, and various other lab assistant jobs. I wrote many applications and cover letters and brought them to be reviewed by the experts at the Center for Career Development. I still received no reply however. I was even rejected by some student organizations. Then I started to think it over and I looked more closely at my resume. Most of them were extracurricular activities during high school. I decided to change my direction and started to do some volunteer work instead. I couldn’t just do nothing and keep waiting for chances.  I chose to be proactive instead.

 

I realized that before becoming an event coordinator or being paid for my work, I should be a volunteer first – starting by doing the most basic things.  Volunteering was a rewarding experience through which I helped others and also myself. It was a perfect way for me to accumulate necessary experience. I spent nearly the rest of my freshman year doing volunteer work. I have served as a greeter, info booth assistant, cashier, flyer distributor, and deliverer for a variety of events from an art show and car exhibition to college career fairs and the festival of science and engineering. These experiences really helped me when I applied to be an officer of some engineering clubs and contributed to my being selected later in my sophomore year. Similarly when I started to do research, I was volunteering as a research assistant—-no credit and no payment. After one semester of careful learning and accumulating experience, I began to get paid and was selected to be a research fellow in a very competitive summer nuclear engineering program.

 

If you could get everything you ever wanted when you first enter college, that will be great. However, it is never something to complain about if you cannot achieve everything in one try. You can do something about it! Doing volunteer work was just my way to build up my background and achieve success. Don’t rush and realize your goals step-by-step, you will soon find success to be in sight.

 

-Jackie Yang, McMurtry Peer Career Advisor

Have You Been Going to A LOT of Information Sessions?

That’s great! Did you find what you wanted? Like a company that completely embodies your career goals and personal values and can’t wait to hire you? If so, awesome sauce. The job search can be challenging not because they aren’t any opportunities (we’ve had tons of information sessions on campus) but because these opportunities may not be what you’re looking for. The important thing to remember is that the information sessions are just one of the valuable resources offered at the CCD.

So now that you have some time in-between interviews and before your next golden opportunity, try exploring these 3 handy resources that can help you find what you’re looking for:

1) CCD Guides to EVERYTHING

Is the “everything” an exaggeration? No. I am going to give you a list and you need to try at least looking at one of them: phone interviewing guide, resume writing guide, interviewing basics guide, getting started with RICElink guide, getting started with the VAULT guide (more on this later), International Students and the job search guide, Applying to Grad School guide, Professional Dress Guide, Internship guides, you name it! I am out of breath. Here’s the link to these fabulous guides and presentations: http://ccd.rice.edu/guides/

2) The Vault Career Insider

This is not insider information. The Vault has tons of career guides provided free of charge by Rice University. Never heard of the Vault? You are missing out. Are you interested in a career in anything? Go to the Vault and create an account (it’s free): https://careerinsider.vault.com/career-insider-login.aspx?parrefer=7387

3) Internships in…. New York? Is that possible?

It can be very valuable to have internship experience in a different city, another state, maybe it will be your future home! Or even maybe you just want to go back home (outside of Texas) but it’s hard to do so when you’re living in Texas currently. Internship Series are here to save the day! Want an internship in New York? Want to do research at Yale? Internship Series is able to provide you with internships from partnering top universities and it’s all found in one, singular place! Visit today: http://cei-internship.squarespace.com/student-login/

 

- Alice Chen, Duncan Peer Career Advisor

Business Etiquette

Business etiquette applies to many situations, such as when you are meeting new people at networking events, when you are having lunch with a representative from a company that you are interested in, or even when you are connecting with your business contacts by email or on social media. In this blog post, I will focus on business etiquette which is more applicable to us, college students. Here are some prescribed rules you should follow in a business setting.

 

Present yourself professionally. Making a positive impression is crucial in building relationships. Dress well. Arrive early. Sit/stand straight. Make eye contact. Shake hands firmly. Turn your body towards the person who is speaking. And most importantly, give people a sincere smile.

 

Remember names. A lot of us think that we are good at remembering faces but terrible at remembering names. A common tip (which actually works) is to use the person’s name as frequently as possible during the conversation. At some company information sessions I have been to, I have seen people writing down the names of the people from the company after they introduced themselves. I thought it was not necessary as they all had name tags on, but it is actually very useful after the event when you want to remember to whom you have spoken.

 

Don’t be distracted. It is disrespectful to be not paying full attention when you are listening to someone speak. Even though many of us put our phone in silent mode these days, it is still difficult to resist the urge to check your phone if it is vibrating every minute. Before an interview or an important meeting, make sure to set your phone to not vibrate in silent mode, and put it away somewhere you can’t see.

 

Send a thank-you note. It is important to express appreciation for a person’s time, usually within 24 hours after an interview or a meeting. People have different opinions on whether you should send a physical card or a thank-you message through email or LinkedIn. This is, of course, at your own discretion but personally, I think that sending a card would differentiate yourself more because so much communication takes place electronically these days.

 

Respond promptly. It is important to return phone calls and reply to emails within 24 hours. Even if you cannot provide the information right now, it is good to reply saying that you would send it at a later date. Also, make sure to check over your message for grammatical and spelling errors, especially if you are sending it from a mobile device, so that you don’t become an unfortunate victim of autocorrect.

 

Business etiquette is a very broad topic and this blog post definitely does not cover all of it. If you would like to know more about how you should behave in a business setting that includes a meal, sign up for the Business Etiquette Luncheon on Saturday, October 25th! The workshop is held over lunch and registration can done through RICElink.

 

-Phyo Shwe Yee Win, Peer Career Advisor

Martel ‘17

 

Thoughts to Prepare for a Conference

Do you want to meet people who are interested in the same things as you? Do you want to learn more about a specific industry? Going to a conference may be for you. I went to the Society of Women Engineers Regional Conference in downtown Houston. It was a nerve-wracking experience getting out of the hedges for a conference with complete strangers from other schools, not to mention a career fair in the middle of the schedule… so to prepare, here are some tips I have from my experience at my first conference:

 

Before the conference:

1)   DON’T FORGET YOUR RESUME. I sat next to a couple of students from another university who didn’t know to bring their resume to the career fair. DON’T BE LIKE THEM! It’s easy to forget when the career fair is wedged between workshops, speakers, etc, but remember to print many copies of your resume before you get to the conference. Print a little more than you expect. I printed about 9, and had to limit myself as to who I would give my resume to because I underestimated my interests in different companies.

 

2)   Bring a folder to hold not just your resume, but also the mountain of the brochures/flyers the recruiters give you. I like bringing a nice Rice folder.

 

3)   Dress in the proper attire. For the SWE Regional Conference, it was business casual. If you’re unsure, contact the Rice officers (in my case, the Rice SWE officers) who are organizing/publicizing the event.

 

During the conference:

4)   If there’s an option to go to the career fair at an earlier time, do it. Recruiters get very tired in the afternoon and some companies may even leave early. By going to the earlier session, you get the recruiters at their most energetic.

 

5)   Approach the companies that aren’t the top of your list first. This is a good way to get your nerves out of your system and practice your introduction. A good introduction is never: “What does your company do?” Try making a 2-sentence intro with your name, your interests, and how your interests brought you to their booth.

 

6)   If you have experience in the field you are interested in, mention it! For example, I always started out with how I was interested in the oil industry because it’s surprising that only 40% of the oil in a reservoir could be recovered using conventional methods; the challenge of extracting the rest interested me to pursue oil recovery research in a lab at Rice, and now I want to get more hands-on experience of the oil industry in company “X”. Many Rice professors have big names in certain industries; one recruiter was impressed with the professor of the lab I was working in, and quickly wrote that down on my resume. Explaining your interest with proof (ex: I joined a lab based on my interest) really makes you stand out from other people.

 

 

7)   Don’t hog the recruiter; get your information, get contact info and move on! Many people are in line for their time with the recruiter, so once your major questions are answered, ask for their contact information or how to learn more about the company. Don’t be offended if the recruiter does not give out their email— sometimes it’s company policy, or they don’t want to have thousands of emails when they are done with the fair. Once you get their name, you can find them on LinkedIn and connect with them. You can also use their name in the future to introduce yourself to others in that company.

 

8)   Learn from the workshops and other events going on! A conference is a great time to meet other people with the same interests as you, and share ideas on the industry you want to go into. I hope all of you take advantage of a conference as it not only helps with job-finding, but it’s a great way to learn about topics you are interested in.

 

- Lisa Chiba, Wiess Peer Career Advisor

4 Common Interview Questions to Answer and 7 Good Questions You Can Ask

There are four questions that are in almost every behavioral interview. I’m here today to guide you how to approach them and how to showcase your best experiences and skills.

 

  1. “Tell me about yourself.”

a)       You are a leader – Provide a specific leadership example, either in your academic career or any past internships and experiences.

b)       You are a hard worker – Share your goals and acomplishments.

c)       You are passionate about the role – express your enthusiasm about the job.

 

  1. “What personal traits make you stand out for this role?”

a)       Discuss stories that reveal a track record of success.

b)       Use this as an opportunity to highlight strong leadership capabilities.

 

  1. “Why should we higher you for this position?”

a)       Explain why the position interests you.

b)       Describe what you will bring to the role.

c)       Offer insight that shows you understand something unique about the company.

 

  1. How would your friends describe you?”

a)       Understand the firm’s corporate culture.

b)       Provide examples explaining that your friends describe you in ways that match the company’s values.

c)       Conclude with a personal observation about the company and style that you would be a good fit at the firm.

 

While there are many other questions an interviewer can ask, focus on creating conversation by describing your experiences relevant to the question.

 

You should also be sure to ask the interviewer questions to demonstrate your interest and to also obtain more information about how the company is a good fit for you. This video gives you great ideas for questions and what you gain from them:

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/job-interview-follow-up-questions-2014-6

 

Ellen Hoang, Peer Career Advisor

McMurtry ‘16

How to Write a Cover Letter Recruiters Will Read

Does your cover letter look like this?

Have no fear! This post is dedicated to guiding your cover letter construction. First of all, a cover letter is essential to landing that interview – it shows the company how interested you are in them and how well you are suited for the position. Below is a general guideline to help you format and organize your thoughts:

Contact info:

  • Put your best contact information at the top, and be sure it’s correct
  • Address the letter to a specific person if possible (ex. hiring manager’s name, interviewer)
  • Avoid vague statements such as “To whom it may concern.”

Opening Paragraph:

  • Start with a statement that explains your purpose for writing; mention the position you are seeking and how you became aware of the opening or organization.
  • Include the name of a mutual contact if you have one.
  • Hiring managers prefer a powerful first sentence that summarizes the top skills and experiences that you bring.

Middle Paragraph: (this is where you show your knowledge of the position and company and what you have to offer)

  • Give the reader a clear sense of what makes you a strong candidate
  • Be specific when describing your qualifications and avoid generic phrases.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the organization

Closing Paragraph:

  • Request a personal interview
  • Be specific regarding your plan for follow-up and how the reader can contact you - this is really important since this puts you in more control.
  • Say thank you!

Remember, your friendly PCAs are always around to help you review your cover letter and make it the best it can possibly be. Don’t be afraid to reach out to us!

Best of luck on landing the interview!

Ellen Hoang, Peer Career Advisor

McMurtry ’16