Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Following Your Passion: Taking My Own Advice

As many of you know, the Flipping Burgers philosophy is to follow your passion – to invest your time in doing what you love to do. I have written many blog posts about this philosophy.

Now it’s time to take my own advice. My passion has always been books – reading books, writing books, buying books, studying how to market books.

And as I get more and more involved in internet marketing, I find myself stretched in too many directions with trying to keep up with this blog and my other interests.

True, I also love giving advice to high school students and young people about college applications, internships, jobs and careers. I just don’t love this as much as I love giving advice about book writing and book marketing.

Regrettably I have decided to take the step of no longer adding new posts to this blog, although I will, of course, leave this blog up. After all, many of the blog posts I wrote remain useful. For example, advice on interviewing techniques and proper interview attire is the same whether posted now, a year from now, or several years from now.

Use this blog as a resource archive for when you need to review advice on such topics or to recommend this advice to others.

You can also keep in touch with my activities by checking out my Miller Mosaic LLC company websites and And email me with questions or comments at

Wishing you much success as you follow your own passion through life.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Networking Events: The Early Bird Has a Good Chance of Catching the Worm

The October 30th Wall Street Journal article “As Layoffs Rise, Jobless Throng Career Fairs” by Dana Mattioli had a concluding paragraph that caught my eye:
Nicholas Schulz, a 23-year-old from Woodbridge, N.J., looking at jobs in the marketing field, has developed his own trick for making the most of his time. He arrives early to reach recruiters before they get burnt out. “If you get there later on, you can see it in their faces that you’re the thousandth person they’ve spoken to,” he says.
This advice is particularly important for all “networking” activities. If you get to an event early and you recognize a speaker or panelist, that’s a very good time to go up to the person and politely introduce yourself. No, you shouldn’t pitch yourself then. You should focus on spending a few quality moments just talking to the person. Before you turn away, you could ask for the person’s card.

Then after the speech or panel when everyone else is storming the barricades trying to get to the speaker or panelists, you can smile to yourself and go home. You can be secure in the knowledge that you can send a follow-up email expressing gratitude for the public presentation and adding a comment about the pleasure of speaking to the person before the formal presentation began.

You can add in that email an appropriate request that follows from the brief chat you had before the presentation. This might be something such as: I enjoyed talking with you about companies offering internships for marketing personnel. Would you have any recommendations of companies that might be interested now in marketing interns?

Obviously, if the person thinks his/her company would be interested, he/she will say so. Yet you’ve given the person an out – permission to say he/she doesn’t know of any companies at this time. Because you haven’t backed the person into a corner by expressing asking about his/her company, the lines of communication are still open for a future email from you.

While I can’t promise you that the early bird always catches the worm, I can promise that you often have a better chance of catching the worm if you arrive early – and use that time to your advantage.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Elevator Speech Revisited: Be Prepared for Opportunity

Last night I was at the event Penn in Pictures – a sometimes annual event sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Club of LA to strengthen ties with the LA entertainment community.

The event, as usual, had a panel of Penn alums in the entertainment industry talk about their paths to their current positions. Then there was a question and answer session.

This question and answer session could be someone’s opportunity. Not only is the panel made up of Penn alums, but almost everyone in the audience is also a Penn alum. And many people are partial to hiring or helping alums of their own college.

Up shoots the hand of one recent college grad, and she asks how someone might get help in finding a job in the entertainment industry. Naturally enough, a panel member says: What are you looking for?

And did this recent grad have a succinct, specific reply? She did not. She blew her chance of positive exposure by mumbling some insignificant response.

Do not let this happen to you! If you go to such an event AND you raise your hand to ask a question about help getting a job, be prepared with a one-sentence or two-sentence response.

State your goal (I’m hoping to become a television drama writer) and what you’re doing now (I’m currently working at an internet company and taking television drama writing classes). And, if you’re lucky, someone will offer to help you.

Be prepared for opportunity to strike!

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

How to Avoid Your Own Career “Credit” Crisis – Part II

Here is the second of a two-part series by E. Chandlee Bryan, a certified professional resume writer and career counselor at She specializes in providing services and career advisement to emerging professionals, and she has worked in career services offices at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University and served as director of career services at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. She has also worked "on the other side of the desk" as a recruiter.

3. Ignore the conventional wisdom that the “best school you can go into” is the right school for you

Select the program that best fits your interests, career, and financial goals. Even at Ivy League institutions only an average of 30% of the graduating class begins a career with an employer met on campus. There are multiple reasons for this:

• Even in strong economic times, there are a finite number of available opportunities.

• The application process can be extremely competitive.

• Jobs aren’t always aligned with student interests—they are based on employer need.

4. Evaluate your options

There are many paths to achieve your personal and professional goals—playing the fugitive isn’t one of them. Here are two unconventional paths:

Start at a community college and blow away expectations. Over the years I’ve met several successful Ivy League students who transferred in from community colleges. Many states offer in-state students great programs that can help you with financial planning and assistance towards your education.

Take a break from your loans and get a credit towards your educational expenses. Two popular community service programs -- City Year and AmeriCorps -- offer eligible program participants the opportunity to apply for loan forbearance (i.e. deferment of loan payments during program participation) and service credits of up to $4,725 for one year of service, which can be applied towards past or future educational expenses.

5. Engage in on-going discussion on your career and finances and enlist a few advocates

Regardless of where you choose to go to school or what you choose to do, there are professional advisors who can help you at minimal cost. If you are currently in school or are an alumnus of an institution, you can frequently receive free career and financial planning assistance from school administrators.

If you are not, search online for potential resources and strive to connect with at least three individuals who are willing to invest time in getting to know you and whom you can turn to when you need it.

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How to Avoid Your Own Career “Credit” Crisis – Part I

Here is the first of a two-part series by E. Chandlee Bryan, a certified professional resume writer and career counselor at She specializes in providing services and career advisement to emerging professionals, and she has worked in career services offices at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University and served as director of career services at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. She has also worked "on the other side of the desk" as a recruiter.

Recently, the headlines on showcased “student loan fugitives” — or individuals who’ve fled overseas to escape student loan repayments. The subtitle reads like a worst case scenario: “When faced with monthly payments and relentless creditors, some see leaving the country as their only way out.”

As a career coach, I don’t recommend the asylum or escape approach to student loans. If you’ve chosen to move your career overseas, it should be because you want to go.

Prior to starting my own private practice, I spent over a decade connecting students with career opportunities. I worked in career services at three Ivy League schools (Dartmouth, Penn, and Columbia) and two liberal arts colleges (Colby-Sawyer and the University of Richmond).

In the process, I’ve gotten to talk to employers from all industry sectors — from investment banks and engineering firms to new media companies and non-profits. I’ve surveyed students and employers on starting salaries — and voraciously read up on national trends. Here are five recommendations with respect to financial aid:

1. Transparency, transparency, transparency

Don’t hide your debt statements under the mattress. Talk to a financial aid counselor — and get help of an external financial planner. What you pay or don’t pay down will affect your discretionary income as well as your ability to get credit. Know what you will owe.

2. Consider an outcomes-focused approach to education and your career

There are some career paths that have larger financial compensation then others. This should never be the determining factor in what you choose to do, but know that your salary may affect your lifestyle. Gauge starting salaries in fields of interest before you enroll. Sources of information include:

• Salary reports from the National Association of Colleges and Employers

• Statistics on on-campus recruiting and accepted offers (frequently available through career services offices on campus)

• Salary calculators from and general job search boards such as

Once you have an idea of what you can expect to earn, you can compare financial aid packages, earnings estimates, and school tuition fees. As you start out, you can establish a budget to maintain long-term debt avoidance —and make choices that help you accomplish your goals.

To be continued.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

New Experiences: Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

I’ve written before about having an open mind (and recommended the book MINDSET by Carol Dweck). As it’s such an important topic, I wanted to revisit it again.

Most of us probably have a standard response to things we don’t want to do – NO (if we can get away without doing those things). Yet if you’re in high school, college or your first job – you might want to consider saying yes to things you don’t want to do because of what you may learn or who you may get to meet.

A long time ago my husband and I were asked to take with us to Israel two very bulky sweaters Israelis visiting the U.S. hadn’t been able to take back with them. At the time my inclination was to say no, but I was prevailed upon to say yes as we were taking half-empty suitcases so we could bring gifts home.

The irony is that neither my husband nor I had relatives or friends in Israel at that time. We delivered the sweaters to the head of Israel radio and his wife, and suddenly we had the opportunity to meet real Israelis! A totally unexpected outcome of taking two bulky sweaters in our suitcases.

If a teacher, mentor or boss asks you to help out with a project that at first sounds boring, do not automatically say no. First, get more information about the project. Second, take a few minutes to think about how you might learn something new or meet some interesting people if you do this project. And then, with an open mind, if at all possible say yes.

Being open to new experiences is a wonderful character trait that can lead you to all kinds of interesting things. Of course, we’re talking about LEGAL projects. While you might learn from an illegal activity, this is not something you want to say yes to.

Use good judgment about saying yes to new things – and do say yes when it is appropriate to do so.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Basic Work Etiquette:What Do Millennials Know?

The October 21st Wall Street Journal had an excerpt from Ron Alsop’s book “The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation is Shaking Up the Workplace.” (Alsop defines the millennial generation as born between 1980 and 2001.)

I’m not a huge fan of grouping an entire generation into one catch-all description, and the excerpt in the Journal didn’t do much to change my mind on this score. Yet this one part of the excerpt did catch my attention:

It may seem obvious that employees should show up on time, limit lunchtime to an hour and turn off cellphones during meetings. But those basics aren’t necessarily apparent to many millennials.

Why do I find this hard to believe? Because most millennials did have to show up on time for school or college classes or a babysitting job or a shift at Starbucks. And in high school there was a specified length of time for lunch and at Starbucks there was a specified break time. And believe it or not, high schools and places where teens get part-time employment do have rules about cellphones.

This is why I am always leery of anecdotal evidence. You can find anecdotes to prove whatever point you’re trying to make.

But in case I’m wrong, and you are a millennial who truly doesn’t know to show up for work on time, take only an hour for lunchtime and turn off your cellphones at work (and especially during meetings), please learn these work etiquette rules right now. And then go out and prove to the world that millennials do know these things.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Internships: What to Do With Conflicting Opportunities

A friend just told me about her college-age son and his dilemma with internships this past summer.

It seems that he was promised an internship for which he stayed in D.C. for. But the weeks dragged on with no word, and he got a call for a really good internship in New York. He wanted to accept this second internship, but he was worried that he had promised the first internship.

His parents explained to him that it was perfectly acceptable to take the bird in the hand rather than waiting for the bird in the bush.

He went to New York and had a great unpaid internship. Only, near the end of that internship, he got a call to work (paid this time) for the Obama campaign, although he would have to leave his New York internship early.

Again he was conflicted. Until his parents pointed out that this was a paid internship (as opposed to the NY unpaid internship) and was also a unique opportunity to work for a Presidential campaign. He took this unique opportunity.

Why have I recounted this one college student’s internship experience? Because I think there’s an important lesson here.

Yes, you want to be true to your word. But when someone keeps you hanging for weeks without making a decision, you have the perfect right to accept an internship that is ready right now. And when a paid internship for the whole fall semester presents itself, you have the right to leave your unpaid summer internship a week or two early. After all, it isn’t as if you’re leaving early to spend two weeks lying in the sun at a beach. You’re leaving two weeks early for a paid fall semester internship.

The moral of this story? While I think that your integrity is very important, you do have to do what is right for you. If someone keeps you dangling for weeks, you have the right to take an internship that is being offered right now. And if someone offers to pay you for the entire fall semester, you have the right to leave an unpaid internship a couple of weeks early.

Bottom line? Your integrity has to be combined with what makes good sense for you as you find your own path through high school, college and life.

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Volunteering: Using Your Passion to Find Unique Opportunities

Volunteering is one of those things that college admission officers are supposedly keen on seeing on applications. Yet I suspect these admission officers are rather good at spotting the less-than-wholehearted volunteering that many high school students do.

What do I mean by this? I mean the routine volunteering that obviously was done as part of a group (no initiative on the student’s part) or volunteering that is the same-old as everyone else, such as collecting food items for a food pantry. Yes, a food drive is a good thing to do, but it probably doesn’t count as much of a volunteer activity in the eyes of college admission officers.

What should you do to show wholehearted volunteering? Take your passion and see if you can use this interest as a basis for volunteering.

Here are some ideas:

You love playing the piano, but you take piano lessons like thousands of other high school students. To distinguish yourself from the pack, you volunteer every Saturday morning to perform show tunes at the retirement home near where you live. The retirement home residents are thrilled by the entertainment, and you’re thrilled to do a volunteer activity of something you love

Or you love knitting scarves and hats for your friends. You find out that a women’s group has a project of knitting scarves and hats for a local homeless shelter. You volunteer to attend the weekly “knitting meetings” where you knit these items and learn from the women in the group.

Or you spend all your free time with a basketball and a net. But your mother says you better find some volunteer activity. You go to the local youth center and volunteer to coach young children on basketball skills.

What ideas do you have for combining your passion and volunteering into a project that you initiate and that differentiates you from the pack in the eyes of college admission officers?

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Elevator Speech: Have a 30-Second Speech for Whoever You Are or Whatever You’re Looking For

The expression “elevator speech” doesn’t mean a speech in favor of taking an elevator rather than the stairs or vice versa. It refers to a “speech” you could make in a 30-second elevator ride to tell someone who you are or what you’re looking for.

And whether you’re in high school, college or beyond, you should have at least one of these speeches down cold (and maybe more if you have different interests). And by down cold I mean: you know the speech so well you can say it as if it’s spontaneous rather than memorized.

Maybe you’ve noticed an adult asking a teen what she is doing and the teen says “applying to college.” What’s an example of what the answer should be when asked this question by an adult? “I’m applying to top Eastern colleges and I’m particularly hoping to be accepted by the University of Pennsylvania.” Now the adult has enough information to say, for example: “My sister is an alum. Would you like to be introduced to her?”

See the difference? The teen hasn’t asked for help, but she’s provided enough information for someone to offer to help. And if she were in an elevator and had only said “applying to college,” there wouldn’t be enough time for the adult to ask questions to elicit the same information and offer the same help.

At whatever point you are in your life, be prepared with this 30-second speech.

Someone on Facebook just wrote me that her 19-old-son is publishing a book and looking for information on book marketing. But she should have said: “My 19-year-old son is publishing a book on ………...” Although I did respond with advice for book marketing, I might have been more helpful if she’d mention fiction or non-fiction, the title of the book, and when it is coming out.

And if you’ve got different interests, have an elevator speech for each interest so that you’re prepared for any opportunity that comes your way.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Tutoring Help for a Student: When Is It Time?

I answered a publicity query concerning when is it time to get a tutor for a student. After I responded to all the questions in the publicity query, I decided to share my responses here:

Several different ways a parent can know whether it's time for a tutor:

1. If the student asks for one.
2. If the student struggles with the material and doesn't seem to "get" it.
3. If the teacher tells the parent the student doesn't seem to "get" the material.

The age has no bearing on this. I've known students who needed a tutor in first grade to learn how to read because the student's learning style was different than the teaching method.

Teachers are usually NOT the best person to decide because a parent can see up close and personal when a student is struggling. On the other hand, when a teacher tells a parent that a child needs a tutor, the parent should listen and not shrug off the suggestion.

The best time of year is as soon as a student needs help (see above).

It would be better if the child is on board (and this can often be achieved in the way the tutor is presented to the student), but not necessary. Students should not be allowed to fail because they are afraid to admit they need help.

Definitely not wait until a student gets a F. (Sometimes short-term tutoring does the trick if the problem is caught soon enough.)

If regular tutoring doesn't seem to help and there are some underlying hints of learning disabilities, testing should be carried out as soon as possible and extensively as possible with a trained educational consultant.

Parents should also read the book MINDSET by Carol Dweck to help ensure that the student is not refusing to try because of a closed mindset. (I feature this book on my Flipping Burgers blog.)

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Resumes Revisited: Do You Put Your Twitter Username on Your Resume?

Resumes usually take a rather standard form when it comes to including your name, address, phone number, email, and maybe cell number and fax number.

Here's an interesting question to consider: Should you include your Twitter username, your Facebook profile page URL, your LinkedIn public profile URL or any other social media information on your resume?

Okay, obviously the answer is yes if you're applying for a job in social media. And obviously the answer is no if you've posted inappropriate information about yourself on MySpace or Facebook.

It's the middle ground that leads me to ask the question: Do you want to indicate by, for example, including your Twitter username that you are knowledgeable in one of the popular microblogging platforms? Or are you worried that a prospective employer might think you'll spend too much time on Twitter if the employer knows you're on that social media platform?

I'm not sure there's an easy answer for everyone. Anyone want to weigh in with an opinion?

Related Posts:

Resume 2.0? The question is, when do you think document that we know now will replaced as the "king of resumes"? I don't think they'll ever completely go away, but there is a time in the not so distant future where we will be asking candidates for ...

Six steps to Resume 2.0 Can you think of other ways to start tweaking your resume for Web 2.0? Employers, human resources pros and recruiters - would any of this be helpful for you? Are you using social networks for recruitment purposes? ...

The Social Media Resume: Making Your Mark in a Web 2.0 World The idea of this kind of resume may not be as widespread as its traditional counterpart, but it’s something that web workers might want to consider if they want to take advantage of what Web 2.0 has to offer. ...

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Friday, October 10, 2008

U.S. Economic Situation: Good Time for Internships?

Internships may actually be more available during this economic time. That’s because companies are being forced to lay off employees and this may cause those companies to be short-handed. If you offer yourself as an unpaid intern, you may be snapped up to fill in the gap.

And when a company is short-handed, there’s usually more of a chance for an intern to get to do real work tasks rather than just making coffee and delivering the in-house company mail.

What does this mean for you? If you’ve been wanting an internship to try out a specific career field or get credentials on your resume for a future job, now is the time to do this.

Brainstorm with friends or family about the companies in your area that may need the kind of intern you want to be. Read your local newspaper to see who is laying off large numbers of employees. Then contact those companies if they appear to be the kind of company at which you’d like to intern.

The company’s HR person may not be the best person to contact. He or she is dealing with layoffs and might not take kindly to an intern request when that intern might do the job of a previously paid employee. But a department manager, desperate for more helping hands, might be very open to meeting with you.

Therefore, chose carefully who you will approach. If you want a marketing internship, choose someone in the marketing department. If you want an accounting internship, choose someone in the accounting department.

If you’re good at pitching yourself in writing, then do so for the first approach. If you’re better pitching yourself in a phone call, do that for the first approach.

Remember that with all the issues on the minds of managers today, your request may get buried even though you could really be useful to the company. If you don’t get a response within a few days, do approach the person again. Just be sure to make your approaches in good taste and do not appear to be a nudge.

Be prepared to explain how you can help the manager/company. Then, if you get the internship, do a terrific job of helping out. This could even be your opportunity for a paying job at this company when the economy picks up, or at the very least the opportunity to get a terrific recommendation.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

On the Job: Share Praise With Those Who Help You

In keeping with my post today on my blog PZ the Do-Gooder Scrooge (see, I wanted to talk about the important skill of giving and sharing praise.

Frequently in a work situation your boss might praise you for a project you did. Unless you literally did every single part by yourself with absolutely no help from anyone else, you should remind the boss who helped you. For example, “I couldn’t have gotten this done in such a short amount of time if Mary hadn’t crunched the numbers for me and John hadn’t made the charts.”

In most cases, sharing the praise actually earns you higher esteem than if you hadn’t acknowledged Mary and John’s roles. By including your co-workers in the praise, you’ve shown you’re a team player and someone who doesn’t hog all the credit. People like to work with such generous-minded people.

And, of course, you yourself should praise people when they do a good job or go the extra mile, for example, on a project for which you were responsible. For example, “Nancy, I really appreciate that you turned in your numbers a day before the deadline and that the numbers were very accurate. I’m glad you’re on my team.”

Start practicing this skill when you are young and it should be automatic by the time you’re starting out on your career path.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Taking Responsibility for Your Actions

In spite of all our modern conveniences or maybe because of all our modern conveniences, we still make mistakes such as missing a dentist appointment because we thought it was the next day or turning up late for a birthday party because we thought it started later than it did.

One sign of maturity – whether in a high school student, college student, or young adult – is the ability to say: “I made a mistake and I’m sorry.” In other words, not try to weasel out of responsibility by saying such things as: “Your receptionist must have told me the wrong day” or “I couldn’t understand the voice message you left.”

If you messed up, admit it, apologize and move on. And, of course, try not to repeat the same mistake a second time. But don’t get a reputation as someone who always tries to blame others for what he/she did.

For those of you who will be in synagogue for the Kol Nidre service of Yom Kippur, you will publicly be taking responsibility for your actions of the past year. And you can use this opportunity to consider how you will do things differently in the coming year.

And for those of you who won’t be participating in this public act of taking responsibility, you can still think about taking responsibility for your actions instead of trying to push off the “blame” onto someone else.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Meeting Etiquette: Don’t Allow a Time Hog to Steal the Show

I listened to a teleseminar that was billed as a panel about authors using social media to promote their books. Instead, one caller hogged the time asking question after question about how to get on Twitter, how to follow someone on Twitter, how to reply to someone on Twitter, etc.

The host of the teleseminar did not stop this caller from hogging the time nor did the panelists stop him. Indeed, they all continued to answer his questions.

What should have happened? The host or a panelist should have said: “We’ll have to continue this conversation offline as this isn’t the focus of the teleseminar.”

A half hour into the hour-long teleseminar I finally hung up. Why should I continue to listen to someone getting personal instructions on how to use Twitter?

If you’re in high school, college or on your first real job, what’s the moral of this story for you?

If you are a moderator or a panelist in a similar time hog situation, you should be prepared to politely end the time hog’s monopolizing and to return to the stated subject of the meeting or presentation.

And if you are the time hog, don’t be. In other words, learn to be considerate of the other people participating in a meeting or presentation. If you require detailed instructions on a subject that is off the spine of the meeting or presentation, do so outside of that meeting or presentation.

If you are worried that you might not have another chance to ask your questions, then you can politely ask for a suggestion as to where to get the additional info that you need.

Whatever you do, don’t get the reputation of a time hog or of someone who lets a time hog take over the show. Be considerate of the other participants and stick to the spine of the meeting or presentation.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

College Tutoring Services: Only One of Several Avenues for Getting Help

My September 22nd post was about how college tutoring is not a stigma and should be embraced as soon as a student feels he or she is falling behind. (See

The October 2nd Wall Street Journal Quick Fix column article “Keeping Up at College” by Beth Decarbo has some excellent advice for dealing with the problem of struggling with course material soon after the semester starts.

The solution, of course, includes utilizing college tutoring services. And there are additional avenues for getting help:

Harold Woodard, dean for student academic counseling at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says that students should visit their professors during office hours for extra help and to demonstrate that the students are trying to learn the material.

And, yes, this does seem obvious, but for some reason it isn’t. Students often think that a professor’s office hours are for some much more important reason than a student having trouble with the material. Wrong! A professor’s office hours are precisely to help students having trouble with the material.

Woodard also mentions forming study groups early in the semester, and that there are websites that offer tutoring services, although there are fees for these services.

Woodard also talks about getting online study guides (some for free), but he believes that students should not rely on guides. According to the Journal, Woodard prefers “that students improve their critical-reading, critical-thinking skills with the texts they’ve been assigned for a term.”

This is excellent advice for your long-term success goals. Critical-reading and critical-thinking skills can help you throughout your life. If you learn these skills in college (where there’s a safety net to help you learn), you’ll be in a much stronger position for whatever career path you follow after college.

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Social Media: Your Photo Needs to Look Like You Do

Here I am again with another "warning" about your photo on social media. First, let's be clear what your photo is there for on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. It's there to make you a real person, someone with whom people can relate, someone whom people can get to know, like and trust (the mantra of doing business on the web).

We've already discussed that this isn't possible if there's no photo. Only this morning I got three Twitter messages of people following me who had no photo with their bios. I did NOT follow these people. If they aren't willing to identify themselves by photo (or real name), why should I trust their advice?

And we've talked about photos with baseball caps that hide your eyes or photos of you on Facebook with two friends and which one is you. And never using a silly photo of you sticking out your tongue or wearing a clown wig.

But yesterday I came across another social media photo mistake -- a photo of a young man with a beard who I had just met clean-shaven in person. The photo looked nothing like the young man. If one purpose of social media is to make an online connection so that when you meet in person you recognize each other, using an old photo with a beard is not going to do this.

Moral of this post? When you dramatically change your appearance (grow a beard, shave off a mustache, change the color of your hair, drastically chop off long locks, get glasses), change your photo. If you want people to know, like and trust you on the web, then don't show a photo that "disguises" the current you.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wall Street Crisis: A Good Time to Help Others

Most of the time on this blog we talk about getting help for yourself. Yet now is a good time to practice helping others. Because of all the jobs being cut due to the Wall Street crisis, there will be large numbers of people looking for new jobs.

Maybe you have a friend who you think may be one of those people losing his/her job. Why not contact your friend and ask if there's anything you can do to help? This can range from offering to work on a resume if you're really good at this skill to practicing interview questions or brainstorming possible job leads with your friend.

And if you happen to hear of an open position, consider who you know that might be interested in that position and contact that person. If the tables were turned, you'd want your friends to do this for you.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Career Advice: Tap into Other People's Wisdom

Todd DeFren's PR Squared blog post of September 29th begins this way:

The older I get, the more I care about the young folks’ career development. This may stem from having teenage children; I worry about their preparation for Life, Careers, Happiness. Thus I happily offer college students and new graduates some hard-won (and so-called) wisdom, whenever they ask.

Here’s what a lot of today’s college graduates don’t understand: I am not alone. I am not the only company executive/business owner who’s eager to lend a hand, an ear, or an opinion. Yet, it’s pretty rare for a college graduate considering a PR career to reach out to me for some counsel, or just to grab a coffee.

Read the rest of this blog post at There's valuable advice regardless of what career path interests you.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Standardized Tests: Probably Not Anyone’s Idea of a Good Time

I was speaking to a mother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, today whose daughter took the standardized college admission test the ACT rather than the SAT. The mother spoke about the strategy for whether to guess on questions.

This is not my expertise, but it did remind me that it’s important to know the parameters of any standardized test you take for college admission or graduate school admission. In some tests, points are subtracted for wrong answers; in others, there are no points subtracted for wrong answers. You need to know which method is used in the test you will take so that you can better consider your options on questions for which you don’t know the answers.

If you are unable to take any preparation classes for standardized admission tests, try to at least read a current study guide for that test to help you know which strategies to use. Your local library as well as local bookstore should have books on standardized tests. Just be sure to check that you get the latest edition in order to have the most accurate information.

Of course, you may be able to find study help online. Just be sure it is legitimate help and, again, current information.

Perhaps the best additional advice – get a good night’s sleep before the test and eat a healthy breakfast. Make sure your brain has the energy to do what needs to be done.

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Business Schools Are Stepping Up to the Plate for Wall Street Alum

The September 23rd Wall Street Journal article “Business Schools Gird for Wall Street Woes” by Alina Dizik described various actions being taken by business schools to help alum hit by the Wall Street crisis as well as current students planning a career on Wall Street.

If you have been affected by the Wall Street crisis, check with the careers services office at your alma mater to see if special services have been added to help people in your situation.

In addition, according to the article:

Career office staff members are also trying to steer undergrads to alternative careers. Patricia Rose, director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania, deals with undergraduate business school students along with students in other majors. Typically, Wharton sends about 50% of its undergraduates into investment banking. Ms. Rose says she’s recommending Wharton students look into technology or public service jobs, which are more plentiful than coveted finance jobs.

In accordance with the FLIPPING BURGERS philosophy of following your passion – and being willing to find a new passion if the first passion doesn’t work out, I think the accompanying article in the September 23rd Journal is more helpful: “Weighing a New Industry for a New Job Outlook” by Chandlee Bryan.

The article recommends thoroughly researching a possible new field. Here’s some good advice on research:

The recent turmoil at financial firms underscores the need to go beyond research on compensation and industry trends. Educate yourself on how a company or industry runs and pending legislation that may affect the employment outlook in a field. Review analyst reports, scour RSS feeds, and set up Google News Alerts by keyword once you’ve narrowed a field of interest.

This is excellent advice, and it should be coupled with using your network of friends and family to get the inside story. A few years ago I was hired at a web design firm just as it moved to swanky new quarters in downtown LA. Because I was in charge of the content of two major projects, I soon realized that there wasn’t enough work to keep everyone busy. Sure enough, in about two months several people, including myself, were let go.

Even if we had had the same level of internet news access then that we have now, this news wouldn’t have been public. It was only because I had my “boots on the ground” – to use a military expression – that I could see what was happening.

Whether you’re in high school, college or grad school now, talk to people in different careers to learn all you can about the vulnerabilities as well as the opportunities in that field. Keep the information you learned in an organized fashion in order to make reasonable comparisons. And make sure you date the info so you know how “fresh” it is when you later make comparisons.

And remember that you can make your own opportunities if you identify a need that isn’t being fulfilled at a company or in an industry. The responsibility is on you to learn as much as you can and then use that knowledge for your own advantage.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chicago Tribune Checks in Locally About High School Students and Facebook

The Chicago Tribune published its own version of the story of college admissions officers looking at student profiles on Facebook by checking in with local colleges and local high school students. (See

While there were the usual warnings about college admissions officers seeing things you probably don't want them to see, I found the following paragraph very interesting (and perhaps more so because my niece and two nephews graduated from New Trier):

Ethan Goldsmith, a senior, said he, too, already was exercising caution because New Trier Township High School has suspended students from sports teams for brandishing a beer in photos online.

Now here's a new online warning that I haven't blogged about yet. Your own high school could take action based on an inappropriate online photo of you.

It would be a good idea to pay attention to all these warnings. And make it clear to your friends that you do NOT want them to post inappropriate photos of you online or put in their Facebook status, for example, "John is watching his friend Martin throw up after chugging 10 beers."

Protect your own reputation.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

High School Students Feeling Overwhelmed: Not an Unusual Feeling

Today I met a woman whose daughter is in 9th grade in a very academic private high school. Only a few weeks into the school year the daughter is feeling overwhelmed. This is not an unusual feeling for high-achieving students because the pressure today to do well and “beat the competition” is intense.

Yet, as I have written about before, the FLIPPING BURGERS philosophy is somewhat different than the “get the highest grades and highest test scores” philosophy for getting into top colleges.

The FLIPPING BURGERS philosophy says that you should follow your passion in high school. This means trying to arrange a challenging but not overwhelming school schedule so that you have time to follow your passion outside of school.

And the advantage of following your passion outside school is that you will have to pursue activities that are not handed to you on a silver platter (the school’s own activities). Why, for example, join the high school drama club when you can join a local theater group near your home? In this way you will demonstrate initiative to the colleges to which you apply and your experience may be richer for having to learn how to “work” (act) around adults of various ages.

If you are overwhelmed already and this is still September, consider whether you may be able to re-adjust your school schedule so that you have more time to pursue your passion and still take academically challenging (but not overwhelming) courses.

For example, this re-adjustment may mean saving physics until summer school where you can really focus on this subject and, in place of this course during the school year, take a less-strenuous one that will give you more free time after school.

For advice on planning the rest of your high school schedule, you can check out the report THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU SHOULD DO AND KNOW TO GET AHEAD OF THE GAME OF COLLEGE APPLICATIONS at

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Monday, September 22, 2008

College Tutoring Help: Not a Stigma to Take Advantage of This Free Service

A friend of mine gave good advice to her daughter starting graduate school in a difficult subject area:

“Your school has free tutoring on any subject. Don’t wait until you fall behind. After you’re done on the first day of classes, go over to the tutoring center and review the material with a tutor. THIS IS NOT A STIGMA!”

I’m not sure why most people believe that getting help implies weakness rather than indicating strength. It is actually a much better plan for life to recognize when free services can strengthen your position and to take advantage of this available opportunity.

Each person learns in a different way, yet repetition of new material can probably help everyone. And, if you’re going over new material with a tutor, you might discover that you misunderstood something that, if not corrected, could set you off in a major wrong direction. Thus, by reviewing new material with a tutor, you can quickly discover where you’re about to go off track.

If your school offers such services and these services could be of help to you, do not refuse to go because you’re afraid this would make you look dumb. Instead, getting help makes you look smart – smart to take advantage of any help you can in order to make sure you’re on the right track.

And this advice is equally good for high school students at high schools with tutoring centers and for students at colleges and graduate schools with tutoring centers. If there’s help to be had, grab it and make the most of it.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Beware of Facebook: The Wall Street Journal Agrees With Me

I know some of my regular readers of this blog are groaning because I’m about to talk about Facebook AGAIN. Go ahead and groan now – then read on, because there’s a dangerous sand trap that had never occurred to me.

The September 18th Wall Street Journal article “College Applicants, Beware: Your Facebook Page Is Showing” by John Hechinger reporteded:

A new survey of 500 top colleges found that 10% of admissions officers acknowledged looking at social-networking sites to evaluate applicants. Of those colleges making use of the online information, 38% said that what they say “negatively affected” their views of the applicant. Only a quarter of the schools checking the sites said their views were improved, according to the survey by education company Kaplan, a unit of Washington Post Co.” (Boldface mine.)

What I found particularly upsetting in the Journal article is that college admission officers sometimes receive anonymous tips to check out someone’s Facebook page. Apparently these tips may be from rival applicants.

After reading about this particular sand trap, I visualized a scenario where two top students from the same high school are applying to the same prestigious college. One student calls in a tip about the other student’s inappropriate Facebook page in order to get that student eliminated from consideration.

All I can say is that you can’t stop some people from being underhanded, so the only way you can assure that there’s no dirt for someone to find on you is to make sure there’s no dirt PERIOD.

If you have any questions as to what is appropriate on your Facebook page, check out past posts of mine under the category Facebook. And if you’d like a free copy of the “7 Mistakes to Avoid to Protect Your Image on Facebook,” go to

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Facebook and Other Social Media Platforms: Changing the Use of Email and Privacy Concerns

As those of you who are regular readers of this blog know, I often post about the need to be very careful of what you put on your Facebook profile page. I harp on this subject because Facebook is being used more and more for business purposes. And you never know who might see your profile on Facebook – for example, a college admissions officer of a college to which you plan to apply or a human resources recruiter at a company to which you plan to apply.

And today – because of a question sent out by the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) as part of a blog carnival (bloggers invited to write blogs on the topic and then submit their blog posts to MIMA) – I realized that all my harping about your Facebook profile isn’t enough.

Here’s the MIMA question: “Will Facebook, MySpace, and SMS marginalize the role of email in communication between friends, family, and people?” (According to Wikipedia, “Short Message Service – SMS – is a communications protocol allowing the interchange of short text messages between mobile telephone devices.”)

I absolutely believe that Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms will dramatically decrease the use of email. Already I’m much more likely to send a DM (direct message and therefore private) to someone on Twitter rather than email the same person. I know the person will very likely read the tweet before reading the email. Or I’ll send a public tweet telling the person I’ve just sent an email.

What’s the connection between my opinion on this MIMA topic and advice for college applications, internships, jobs and careers? The decrease of email accompanied by the increase of social media communication indicates an increased need to be very careful, for example, what comments you put on people’s walls on Facebook or what you post on a Facebook group discussion board.

Replacing email or text messaging with comments on Facebook and other social media platforms can come back to haunt you if you’re not always thinking with a third eye of the long-term effects of what you’re publicly writing rather than sending in a private email.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

College Application Planning Report Addresses Concerns of 9th Graders and Their Parents and Mentors

At an 80th birthday party I talked to the mother of a 9th-grade boy who I have known since his birth.

The mother was worried because she and her husband both came to the U.S. from different countries as adults. “I don’t know how the American college system works,” the mother said, “and my son is a really good student and interested in going to Harvard. A family friend said he should take the French horn but he’s not interested in playing a musical instrument.”

Although the boy is not interested in a musical instrument, the advice about the French horn probably comes from the philosophy of being a well-rounded student when applying to college. Yet the theory now is that colleges want a “well-rounded” freshman class – each individual student with his or her particular interests adds to an overall mix of diverse students.

In other words, colleges are looking for “well-lopsided” students whose passions can contribute to a dynamic college campus life. And this current philosophy fits in nicely with my FLIPPING BURGERS AND BEYOND philosophy of helping a high school student to follow his or her passion.

And this is why it is important to start planning a student’s time during high school before he or she starts high school. There are so many demands on a student’s time that it makes sense to plan ahead for fulfilling college entrance requirements and for following a passion.

I’ve just written a special college application planning report called THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW AND DO TO BE AHEAD OF THE GAME OF COLLEGE APPLICATIONS.

If you know of any 8th or 9th graders or their parents and mentors for whom this advice could be helpful, tell them about this report. You may earn their undying thanks if you save them major aggravation and hassles when the student is in 11th or 12th grade.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Email Deluge: How Helping Someone Get Out From Under Could Further Your Career

A friend of mine who is a medical doctor at a large university told me that she gets so many emails a day – close to 200 – that she can’t keep up with them. And that sometimes she misses deadlines for important grant projects because of the magnitude of keeping track of all the emails she does open.

I explained to her that many professionals are now using a VA (virtual assistant) to check their emails and keep track of such things as which emails needed responses and which didn’t need to be followed up. Then I realized that she couldn’t use just any VA. She needed to use someone who could understand the scientific and medical discussions in her emails.

And that’s when I got the idea for a way to help an undergraduate student at the large university and help my friend. If she got a student majoring in pre-med or science to be her VA for her emails, the student would be able to understand the content and also learn just be reading the emails. This would be great for the student to put on her/his resume and great for my friend.

Then I realized that there must be many, many professionals who are overwhelmed with their email inbox. And, therefore, an enterprising student with an interest in a specific area could approach professionals in that area about being a VA. Of course, the student would have to understand the need for confidentiality of everything he/she reads. But this is the same as for any VA.

If you’re looking for a way to demonstrate a passion of yours and, at the same time, learn more about that passion, look around for a professional whom you could help get out from under the email deluge. This could be a win-win for both of you.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Interview Techniques: The Words Out of Your Mouth Can Lose the Job for You

Yesterday I put a blog post on that began this way after the headline “Using Appropriate Language During a College Application Interview”:

The three words “like” and “you know” (along with the annoying “um” and “well”) used liberally throughout your conversations may not bother your friends. Yet be assured that a person interviewing you will note the immature and/or annoying language. Other words that bother interviewers include dude, hey, stuff, whatever. And, of course, you should use proper English and not street or slang or colloquial English.

In an email exchange with one of the CollegeFinder people this is what I received:

That post also applies well to interviews! You wouldn’t believe how many just out of college students we interview here who use the words or worse!

Okay, now you’ve heard this warning directly from the mouth of an employer (as opposed to my harping on this subject). And if you take these words to heart, you could have a giant advantage over other job candidates.

If you’re not aware of how you speak (whether you continually use the words “like” and “you know” and whether you use slang), record yourself practicing an interview with a friend. Then listen to the recording.

If the above warning applies to you, take two immediate steps to correct these problems. First, try consciously even when speaking to friends to use proper English and NOT to constantly use the words “like” and “you know.”

Second, practice answering interview questions with a friend over and over again until you eliminate the problems. Record each practice interview to check your own progress.

Any questions about what might or might not be appropriate to say? Leave questions in the comments section below.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Preparing for College Applications: Tips on High School Activities

· Do not undertake so much that your grades suffer. Colleges want to see good grades AND additional activities, which can include part-time jobs.

· Do not change activities as frequently as you change your socks. Colleges do want to see some consistency over your years of high school. Trying out a different school club each year (math club, government club, etc.) is probably not as good as sticking to one school club for the four years.

· Do not participate in the “activity marathon,” in which you compete with your classmates to see who can compile the longest list of extracurricular activities. The high school years are a time for you to pursue possible passions. To realistically evaluate the “trying on” of a possible passion, you must go deeper rather than wider in your overall activities.

· Do choose with your heart and soul. That is, truly select activities that both interest you and to which you can contribute in a meaningful way (not just by showing up and sleeping through a guest speaker).

To read the rest of this post, go to College Finder at

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Clearly Written Communication: Make Sure the Other Person Knows What You Mean

A college sophomore I know needed to replace all the cell phone numbers he had stored in his own cell phone. So he did what I think was rather clever. He created an event page on Facebook to request that his friends send him their cell phone numbers.

Only there was one tiny problem. He gave the event a weird name – something with letters and symbols that was way beyond my understanding – and didn’t clearly explain what the event was for. After he got several puzzled replies besides mine, he realized that he hadn’t clearly stated the purpose of his event.

I’m bringing this up here as an example of something we all do at one time or another: assume that another person can follow what we mean because it is so clear to us what is needed. What we all need to remember is that another person doesn’t necessarily have all the prior information that we have.

Whatever you write for other people to read must be clear. You need to put yourself in the other person’s place to figure out what he/she needs to know to understand what you’re talking about.

This is true whether you’re writing a college application essay or a memo to your boss about a topic the boss asked you to research or a query letter asking for an informational meeting.

When I was feature editor of the State News at Michigan State University, a reporter on my feature staff said to me, “Phyllis, you know what I mean in this news story.” And I replied, “Yes, I know. But the student who reads this article in tomorrow’s paper may not. You have to write this so that student who doesn’t know what I know can understand what you’re saying.”

The next time you write someone – or create an event on Facebook – make sure that what you’ve said is clear to anyone who does not know the background information that you do. Give the other person enough information so that he/she can follow what it is you’re saying.

If you always keep the point of view of the other person in mind when writing, you’ll be able to earn a reputation as someone who is a good writer and able to communicate well with others. This is a good reputation to have even in the age of IMing and Twitter.

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