Professional & Continuing Studies

Images of networking lines, dartboard, megaphone, checklist and talk bubbles

Tips for navigating any landscape


 
By Michelle Parnell and Trish Olson Moore

While much has changed in our state, region, country and world since March 2020, our University of Delaware Division of Professional and Continuing Studies (UD PCS) ACCESS Center team has remained steadfast in our commitment to provide free academic advisement, career exploration and counseling, and credit registration assistance to current Continuing Education Non-Degree (CEND) and Graduate College Non-Degree (GCND) students, prospective UD students, and members of the community. We do not know what the future holds in store locally or around the globe, but our experience has taught us a wealth of invaluable lessons that are applicable in any landscape. No matter where you are in your career, we have some tried and true tips – which are continually being modernized – to help you keep moving in the right direction.

1. Know yourself and set goals

Know who you are in terms of your interests, abilities and values so that you know what kinds of careers are a good fit for you and your personal definition of success. The ACCESS Center offers the Strong Interest Inventory and Myers Briggs Type Indicator assessment tools to help you with this self-exploration process.

Once you know what types of careers may appeal to you, conduct research to discover what you need to do to enter the appropriate fields. Use the Occupational Outlook Handbook and other online resources to find out about the necessary training. If you need to take courses for your chosen path, we can help you find the right program to align with your goals.

Conduct informational interviews with people doing the kinds of jobs you want to do. Along with providing you with valuable information, this will widen your professional network.

Developing mentor relationships with others who can provide feedback, guidance and support can be very beneficial in identifying your strengths and areas of challenge, and exploring what you need to do to achieve your aspirations.

2. Know your personal brand

With so many of our actions being conducted online, our written communication is conveying our brands more than ever. Pay attention to your social media; it can make or break you in a competitive job market. Be certain your LinkedIn and other accounts are conveying your brand in a positive light. You do not want to be knocked out of consideration for a job because of some inappropriate photos or posts. Rather than obstructing your career goals with social media, use it to your advantage by making connections and researching employers and job openings.

Your email communication should be professional. Make formal your normal: Never use texting shortcuts, always use subject lines and proofread, proofread, proofread! Spell check will not catch all errors.

Be sure your resume and cover letter convey your accomplishments, not just your job duties, and are tailored specifically for the jobs you are applying for.

3. Network, network, network

Networking is a relationship-building activity that allows people to tap into their innate desire to help one another. It is not an insincere sales activity, nor is it something that should just be done during professional events. Talk to people while you are waiting in line at the grocery store, working out at the gym or watching your children’s sporting events. Good things happen when you start talking to other people.

As mentioned previously, social media is a great way to network online. LinkedIn can help you make connections and find contacts for informational interviews as well as inform you about companies and job openings.

Meet other like-minded professionals by joining professional organizations and volunteering. You can do well by doing good.

4. Prepare your stories

Be ready to share your elevator pitch or 30-second commercial at professional events and interviews. Many employers have moved to behavioral interview questions during the interviewing process. Be prepared to share how you have shown leadership, handled conflict, worked as part of a team, had a particularly hard-fought success story or made a mistake.

Employers want to hear specific examples and appreciate if you follow the STAR method in your response. Explain the “Situation,” the “Task” you needed to accomplish, the “Action” you took and the “Result” of those actions. This helps them understand how you would handle similar scenarios as a member of their team. Keep a work diary to help you remember situations that will make great stories. This will also help you when your performance review rolls around!

5. Sharpen your skills

Make yourself a more marketable job candidate by adding valuable credentials to your resume. Take credit courses or pursue a degree; complete a noncredit professional development program; or take short courses. Take advantage of the wealth of online options currently available, many of which are free, such as webinars, workshops and conference presentations, to increase your exposure to relevant issues and information for your current field or field of interest.

Michelle Parnell, assistant director, student services, and Trish Olson Moore, academic advisor and instructor, are available to help you achieve your educational and career goals. To schedule an appointment or make any inquiries, please email access-advise@udel.edu.