Not Having a Personal Website Is Hurting You. Here’s Why…

Creating a personal, branded website is incredibly easy to do. You can produce your own site without having ever set your eyes on html code. Granted, if you have a coding and/or design background, those skills will certainly allow you to create a more dynamic site, but by no means are they a requirement. A basic landing page can be created for free with tools like about.me. Sites such as SquareSpace, Wix and WordPress allow you to utilize templates for greater ease.

So, we can establish it’s not hard to build your own website. But is it a requirement? How is it actually useful? I’m so glad you asked!

1. Share Your Skills

The most obvious reason to have a personal website is to show off work you have created. A personally branded site gives you a place to host design or writing samples. A resume simply states what you’ve done, an online portfolio shows it.

Even if you aren’t pursuing a technical, design, or writing opportunity, there may be ways to creatively use your personal website to show off your skills. For example, if there is a piece of software that you’ve mastered, consider creating a YouTube video that shows what you can do. A regularly updated blog can show that you think and care passionately about your chosen field.

2. Take Ownership of Your Brand

A personalized website allows you to get creative with how you market yourself. Don’t like the format that LinkedIn uses? With your own website, you can control the layout and formatting of everything. Let your personality shine through. From your website, link to your other social media profiles.

Potential employers are going to Google you. A personal website allows you to control what those employers see first. Rather than a recruiter stumbling across your Facebook profile, give them the opportunity to find your personal website that links to the social media accounts you want to highlight.

3. It’s a Living Document

Unlike a resume, which is static, an online portfolio is something you can continue to develop and refine. It allows you to upload a new project or blog post immediately. You can have an ever-growing and evolving body of work that can show a clear progression of skill. What better way to show your aptitude for something than to show how you’ve gotten stronger at it as time went on?

4. Most People Don’t Have One

Most job seekers and students don’t have a personal website. That means the simple act of putting one together already makes you stand out. Having your own site shows that you’ve taken the time to learn something new, not because you had to, but because you wanted to.

Check out Brand Yourself’s list of personal website examples to get a better sense of some of the many creative things you can do with your own site.

It’s Okay to Say “No” in Your Workplace

Saying “no” is something that doesn’t come easy for many people. This is especially true in the workplace and even more so if you’re a new employee. We generally want to be seen as team players, and we don’t want feelings of guilt or anxiety from turning down a request made by a boss or coworker. But agreeing to help out on too many projects can have an adverse effect on the quality of work produced and can lead to unneeded stress. Learning when and how to say no in the workplace is vital, not only to one’s own career, but to the success of an organization.

Think First

Before saying “no,” take a good look at exactly why you’re saying it. Do you have a valid reason to turn down a project? Will it overburden you? Is it not aligning with your goals or values? Once you’re able to identify why you need to turn an assignment down, you can identify a strategy that will allow you to say “no” in the most effective manner possible.

Context is Key

When turning down an assignment, make sure that you’re providing context for your decision. Explain that you’re turning this down for a practical reason. If you feel that a new project will overburden you, explain what else you currently have on your plate. Say something like, “I’d love to help, but with everything I currently have going on, I feel the quality of my work may suffer.” This will let the person know that you’re not only thinking about how this will affect you but how it will affect the organization.

Provide Alternatives

It also helps to provide alternatives to the person making the request. Below are a few examples. Just make sure that whatever you tell someone is true for you.

  • Offer to help in other ways: “I can’t currently take on the full scope of what you’re asking me, but I’d love to be your sounding board to bounce ideas off of.”
  • Provide an alternative timeframe: “Can we revisit this in January when I can give this project more attention?”
  • Recommend someone for the assignment who may have more time or interest in the project: “Jane had told me that she was looking for an assignment like this. You might want to set up a meeting with her to discuss.” (Make sure that whoever you recommend is someone you’ve chatted with first.)

Be Clear

No matter how you choose to say no, remember that it’s most important to be clear in your answer. Don’t give the false impression that you might be able to help if that isn’t true. Setting up false expectations will just create ill will in the future. Don’t act tentative because you’re afraid you’ll hurt a colleague’s feelings. If you’re unambiguous with your answer, your colleague may not initially like it but they will understand.

Be Strategic

Remember to be strategic about when to say no. Turning down too many projects might lead people to stop asking you to do things. Don’t say no until you’re absolutely positive that you need to. If you don’t feel like you have enough information to evaluate if this is a project you can currently take on, never be afraid to ask your manager or coworker to provide more details. Find out exactly what will be required so that you can better evaluate the breadth of what’s being asked of you.

There’s no one right way to say no in the workplace, and it often isn’t easy. With these tips you can start thinking about what might be the best way to say no for your particular situation.

If you still have lingering questions, make sure you set up an appointment with your Career Advisor today!

Career Fairs are Going Virtual. Are You Ready?

As technology continues to advance, more employers use virtual career fairs as a way to connect with a wider pool of candidates. They aren’t bound by geography; they are able to instantly meet with prospective candidates from all over the globe. So, what does that mean for virtual job fair attendees?

Virtual job fairs can take on several different formats. You may be navigating an elaborate virtual environment made up to look like a real-world job fair or you may simply have a list of employers with links to their job postings. Some will have virtual chat rooms that allow you to interact with recruiters while others may offer live video chat. It’s important to research the format in advance so you know how you will be interacting with employers.

It’s important to research the format in advance so you know how you will be interacting with employers.

If video chat is being used to interact with employers, ensure that your webcam is set up properly. Dress like you would when interacting with employers face-to-face and be cognizant of what the webcam can see behind and around you. Yes, this might mean that you’ll have to clean your room. Throw away those empty pizza boxes!

If employer interaction takes place in a chat session, make sure that you’re using professional language at all times. Sometimes people can mistake a chat room for casual conversation, but always remember that you aren’t talking to your friends. Avoid using slang and emoticons. Consider having prepared answers to stock questions (ex: “What is your greatest strength?”). That way, you can cut-and-paste to save some time on having to type out the same answer several times over.

A great advantage that you’ll have in a virtual job fair is that you can keep notes right in front of you. You can have talking points prepared as well as info on the company and the position. If you know the name of the person you’ll be speaking with beforehand, you can even have notes on his or her background. Along with your pre-prepared notes, be sure to take copious notes during your interactions with employers. Make sure that you know what steps you need to take next and jot down contact info of all company representatives you interact with.

If you still have questions, make sure you schedule an appointment with your career advisor! Your advisor can help you navigate a virtual or in-person career fair as well as assist you with fine-tuning your elevator pitch, resume and networking approach.

Key Characteristics, Skills a Social Media Professional Needs

Social media has become an integral part of practically every company’s marketing strategy. In an ever-evolving field, companies rely on cutting edge professionals to manage their social media platforms, engage with consumers, and build their brand. If you ever thought that working in social media sounded intriguing, but were unsure how to get started, then you are in the right place.

In order to find a job in social media, it’s important to first understand exactly what a social media coordinator does. Will you be getting paid to hang out on Facebook and Twitter all day? Well…yes, but there is definitely more to it than that. You’ll be managing a company’s social media presence across multiple platforms, most commonly Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and LinkedIn. You’ll be responsible for creating and writing interesting and original content on a daily basis, researching audience metrics, and possibly developing other non-written content, including video and audio clips. You’ll also be directly engaging with your audience and looking for ways to expand your brand’s following. You may be asked to find creative ways to build that brand through promotions, contests, or whatever else you can come up with.

Now that you know what working in social media actually means, let’s take a look at some key characteristics or skills you’ll need to get noticed by an employer.

Social media buff and content creator:

If you want to be a company’s social media coordinator, you need to have an impressive social media profile. The first thing an employer will do after receiving your application is review your social media accounts. If your personal social media platforms are stagnant, poorly written or unprofessional, then why would a company trust you to manage their own social media presence? You need to show that you can write original content, engage with your followers, and stay updated on trends in social media.

Tech-savvy trendsetter with a killer instinct for community engagement:

There are a lot of great ways to use social media to your advantage, but for breaking into the field of social media marketing specifically, you should focus on writing original posts, following influencers and actively engaging with those already working in the field. Retweet and reply to posts and articles written by social media professionals in order to start building relationships with people. Make sure you stay well informed on new social media platforms, and know how to use new features that get rolled out on existing services. Remember to use a variety of platforms rather than just one or two. Employers want to see that you are a tech-savvy trendsetter who is eager to learn about and use the latest and greatest tools that are out there.

Guided by analytics, metrics and KPIs:

Consider familiarizing yourself with data utilization software and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Free services like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Twitter Analytics provide detailed breakdowns of your audience and how they are engaging with the social media platforms you run. Make sure you understand not just how they work, but what they actually measure – such as post engagement, impressions, reach, demographics and follower growth.

Designer and blogger:

Market yourself as a jack-of-all-trades; become adept at photo and video editing, some basic html coding, and WordPress. The more you’re capable of doing, the more trust and responsibility you’ll ultimately be given.

Most importantly, you should constantly be writing. If you don’t already have a blog, consider starting one. The more you write, the sharper your writing will become. And, in a field where your primary function is to write clearly and concisely, a large stockpile of writing samples will be your ultimate key to success.

These tips provide a great way to kickstart your career goals, but there is always more to learn. If you have any lingering questions or you’ve done all of the above and want to know what to do next, make an appointment with your DePaul career advisor today!

Building a Demo Reel for Animation

If you’re pursuing a career in animation, the demo reel is the single most important element of your job application. Without examples to show what you’re capable of creating, you’ll have very little success getting your foot in the door for an interview.

Knowing this, you may be asking yourself: how do I decide what work to include? How should I arrange my reel? What site should I use to host my work? Consider these guidelines as you navigate these questions and start building your reel.

What to Include

You want to present your very best work. Look at the pieces you have—do you have a project you’ve completed that you aren’t entirely in love with? If your mind is gravitating toward a yes, decide whether to continue to refine the project and get it demo-reel ready, or toss it. Never include subpar work. Rather, create new things. The more work you generate, the more high quality work you will have to show off.

One complaint employers often make is that applicants fail to make their inspirations and processes known in their demo reels. Consider including process pieces:

  • Include a base mesh along with your final sculpt.
  • Show your wireframes and textures.

This doesn’t need to be done for every piece, but a well-placed process piece can give an employer a lot of insight into your workflow.

Adding written breakdowns of every piece—including the tools you used to create it—is also a smart move. If you have pieces that were part of a group effort, make sure you let it be known what your part of the project was.

You may also want to try tailoring your reel to the employer. Again, the more work you have, the easier this will be to do. When putting together your reel, create a list of a few companies you’d like to work for. Look at the pieces you have and figure out which ones match with those companies’ styles. Gritty hyper-realism may not work for Pixar, but it might be a good fit for ILM. Always remember who your audience is.

How to Arrange

Include your best work first. Don’t save the best for last, because an impatient employer might have lost interest by that point. Your demo reel should be no more than three minutes. As a student, you may only have enough great work for 2 minutes, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, if you only have 30 seconds of amazing work, it’s better to just show that rather than add another 90 seconds of filler or subpar work.

Be careful with the inclusion of music. Consider these tips:

  • You don’t want music that will be distracting or take away from your work.
  • Avoid anything with vocals.
  • If you decide to use music, make it as unobtrusive as possible.

Overall, when it comes to arranging, present each shot or piece separately, make sure you are allowing each piece some room to breathe, and consider using a title card prior to each shot.

What Platform to Use

The final piece of the puzzle is figuring out what site you should use to host your demo reel. The two main contenders, Youtube and Vimeo, both have pros and cons. Youtube is more widely used and can offer a way to have your work seen by more people. The downside is that it’s plagued by pop-up ads and will have a lower streaming quality. Vimeo offers a cleaner presentation and higher video quality. It also offers more detailed analytics to give you greater insight into who is viewing your reel. However, Vimeo has far less traffic than Youtube, which means far fewer people will stumble across your work.

Vimeo is currently the more generally accepted platform for hosting demo reels. You’ll be giving up some potential views for the sake of a stronger presentation, but most industry professionals believe it’s worth the trade-off.

Remember, the key to a successful demo reel is tailoring your best work to fit the interests of your audience. If you need added guidance on demo reels, be sure to stop by the Career Center to chat!

How to Keep Track of Job Applications

When in job search mode, you may find yourself applying to 20+ jobs per week. After a short amount of time, it’s incredibly easy to lose track of who you applied with and when. When I ask students how they’re keeping track of their applications, the most typical response is that they have all of their sent emails saved. But that system can be incredibly unwieldy. It’s difficult to sort through and hard to extract relevant info quickly.

There are plenty of tools that you can use to keep track of your applications. JibberJobber allows you to keep track of network contacts, job applications and target companies all in one handy place. While it’s a nice, comprehensive tool, the downside is that it’s not free.

There are many free apps that will allow you to track your applications as well. Indeed’s app acts as an extension of its desktop platform so if you have already been using Indeed in your job search, it can be easier to navigate. Websites like Monster and CareerBuilder have their own internal tracking systems for all of your applications. DePaul’s own Handshake platform also has an easily managed application-tracking tool.

The problem with all of these systems is that you probably won’t be using just one website or app to apply to all of the available jobs out there. So, rather than having to constantly juggle between three or more application tracking systems, your best bet may be to just create your own.

The simplest way to do this is to make a spreadsheet using a tool like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. You can keep all of your application tracking in one place and modify it however you like. One potential way to set things up can be seen in the image below:

An organized spreadsheet will allow you to easily sort through jobs you’ve applied to and quickly extract whatever relevant info you may need. You can include columns for company name, position applied to, a link to the job post, date applied, contact name/phone/email, and date of follow up. You can include columns for notes, feedback received and status of the opening as well. You can even color code to demarcate things like which jobs you’re currently interviewing for, which jobs are closed, and which you are waiting to hear back from.

You’ll want to have something that’s easily sortable, because you don’t want to be scrambling to find out the details on a job when an employer contacts you. For example, if a company gave you a call to set up an interview two months after you initially applied to their position, you don’t want to have to muddle through old emails looking for your application. A sortable spreadsheet will also help you stay on top of when you need to follow up with a company and ensure that you aren’t applying to the same position or company multiple times. With a spreadsheet, you can quickly scan for the information you’re looking for, and develop a better plan of attack in your job search.


Sources:

Doyle, A. 7 Best Free Apps for Job Searching.

Doyle, A. 10 Easy Ways to Organize Your Job Search.

Hu, J. 7 Tips to Keep Your Job Applications Organized.