Nailing The Letter Of Recommendation: Professional Reference
The Real World |  Source: wild0wild (edited)

Nailing The Letter Of Recommendation: Professional Reference

I'm 'bout to be professional, Homie, I'm professional.

Unless you plan on winning Survivor (because that's still a thing) becoming a real life grown up requires a job. And applying for said job most likely depends upon a reference. While the reference may just require jotting down a name and number, it is likely the referral will need to be in the form of a letter. Yes, I'm talking about the mythic letter of recommendation.

One of these references will probably be an academic one, and another required reference will probably be a professional one. Most students assume this professional experience recommendation should come from an internship.

Although this is the perfect opportunity to utilize for a letter, you can also get a recommendation letter from a part-time or summer job, or a volunteer position you held over an extended period of time. So, if you never had an internship, don't panic. Or, if you think your boss from the restaurant you worked at can speak on your behalf better, go for that. After all, it's better to have a good letter that really speaks about you personally than a generic one from an internship supervisor who doesn't really know you.

However, if a professional letter of recommendation from an internship is something you're seeking, there are tricks to procuring it successfully. Take these steps, and, just like Lil Dicky, you can sing, "I'm bout to be professional, Homie, I'm professional."

Take the role seriously.
It may be an internship, but you should treat it like a real full-time job. Even if you're working for a cool start-up or get happy hour drinks with your colleagues, you should always be on your game at work. Arrive on time, work hard during the day, don't abuse your lunch hour (by making it a three-hour break), and get your work done.

Be attentive.
Don't just do your work, do it really well. Listen carefully to directions, and ask smart questions and remember the answers. If you are not given regular feedback, ask for it.

Work to implement the feedback you are given, and follow-up to see if your work has improved. This will be a good way to form a relationship with your boss. Also, this shows you are keen on doing work the right way and aren't afraid of criticism, both very mature markers of an individual.

Get to know your colleagues.
It is important to get to know other people in the office, not just other interns. Learn the names of people you interact with or pass in the hall, wish them a good morning/afternoon/evening, and make small talk.

If your superiors take notice, it will show you're a team player. Forming relationships with colleagues might also be a way to get recommended for a special project or full-time position, finding a professional mentor, or creating a nice connection for future professional networking.

Try to get to know your boss personally.
Try your best to meaningfully interact with your superiors. If you have more than one boss (i.e. your boss has a boss) try to get to know as many of these bosses up the ladder as you can. Ease into a personal connection by learning about your boss and their office behavior.

What do they do outside of work? How do they like to work? Acknowledge these interests and preferences and try your best to accommodate them or make a connection through it.

For example, in one of my internships, I printed a report every morning for my boss, stapling the 10 page report together. I started noticing my boss would always eventually remove the staple and paper clip the stack. I then began doing the same, and he very gratefully noticed. It's the little things.

Bosses will get to know people who are personal and on-top of their position. While this is valuable for procuring a letter, it is also a good move to forming a relationship, like a mentor-mentee one.

If you can, do extra work.
If an opportunity presents itself where you can take on more responsibility (and it isn't following a pattern of your time being abused by a boss), go for it. Come in a little early, later, or on weekends, or double down and take on additional tasks during the workday. However, if you cannot feasibly take on extra work, don't worry, this isn't expected.

Ask for a letter before you leave.
Typically, internships will end with an exit interview. If there is not one, schedule one to debrief with your boss on the experience and ask for feedback. This meeting might be an opportunity to talk about a full-time position after graduation. If not, it is a good time to ask for a letter of recommendation.

Ask while you have your boss' attention and they can clearly recall you and your work. It is not advisable to wait until you need the letter to ask, as time may have passed, new interns may have taken your place, and their memory of you may fade.

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The Real World | 

Things to Remember When You Don't Get the Internship

If it's meant to be, it will happen.

I've been there. You spend two weeks obsessively refreshing your email only to get a "sorry blah blah blah" denial email or on the more unprofessional side, no email at all about the internship you applied or interviewed for.

It's definitely a kick in the balls and a shot to your confidence. But realistically, we all get rejected at one time or another, and this just means it's your time. So here's a little reassurance for those of you feeling like your professional life has come to a screeching halt.

1. You don't make every shot you take.
Yes, this is so cheesy, I know. I don't even remember who said this but I think it's some basketball player or some shit. Anyways, it's so, so true. I'll admit that I've had a pretty solid professional streak and have only recently experienced my first no. I'll also admit that I was pretty upset about it. But then I realized that not everything is going to be handed to you and being told no is a healthy part of life. You have to learn to take it.

2. It doesn't mean you aren't qualified, it just means someone is more qualified.
Just because you didn't get the position doesn't mean that you aren't qualified. That's important to keep in mind. You may have a great resume, but someone else may have that one extra thing that makes them a better fit. Keep building your own skills and experience and eventually you'll be the person with the one extra thing.

3. Someone else may have had connections.
You never know who else has applied for the internship. For all you know it's a family friend or someone's niece. Nepotism is a thing and sometimes the less qualified person will get the position because someone owes someone a favor or wants to give someone they know a chance. As unfair as it is, sometimes it's just the way the world works.

4. You're in college, you don't need to land your dream job now.
The biggest part of this can be feeling like the company you want to be a part of so badly doesn't want you in return. Listen to what I'm about to tell you because it is the most important part of this all: You have so much time left in your professional life. It doesn't all fall into place right when you want it to. You're going to have to put in a lot of bitch work before you land the big gig and you're definitely going to get told no many times along the way.

5. Maybe it just wasn't a good fit.
You also have to understand that the employer knows the company and you don't. They're able to make the calls they think will be best and sometimes it's just a matter of fit.

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The Real World | 

Ways to Kill Your In-Person Interview

It is possible to be too professional.

If you think interviewing is super fucking scary, you're not alone. It's nerve-racking to sit in front of someone knowing his or her sole purpose is to judge the shit out of you. With these few helpful tips, you'll be slaying an interview and even welcoming them with open arms.

1.Practice by recording yourself. I'll warn you ahead of time, there isn't really anything worse than watching a video of yourself. It's awkward and uncomfortable, but probably one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. First, find out what kind of interview yours will be, a case interview, behavioral, etc. Look up the questions that you'll most likely be asked, get on your laptop and record yourself answering them. Note your posture, eye contact, speed of talk, and other details. Take notes and perfect what you need to work on for the real thing.

2.Show personality. Now, I know that maintaining a certain level of professionalism is a no brainer in an interview, but it is possible to be too professional. Also note that this probably does depend on the company and their culture, but showing a little personality with the interviewer can really help you connect and that's something that can't be overlooked. Yes, they want to find a candidate they feel would do a great job in the position, but they also want to work with someone they will like. Don't be afraid to be more personable, no one wants to hire a robot.

3.Eye contact. I'm going to keep this one short and sweet because it shouldn't take much explanation. Look your interviewer in the eyes, the whole time. I know that staring at someone for all that time can be awkward, but I promise you they will remember you better. They'll remember the confident, poised, and assured person that would be a kick ass employee.

4.Handshake. Start by standing up when they come in the room or whenever you first meet them. Do not stay seated to shake their hand. Then make your eye contact and give them a firm handshake. Keep a paper towel in your pocket if you have sweaty palms. Don't give them a limp hand, it makes a very sad first impression.

5.Dress for the role. This one sounds pretty obvious, but let me elaborate a little bit. Most people assume that business professional to business casual is ALWAYS the route to take, but that is very very wrong. This actually applies to more creative jobs, and even more specifically jobs within the fashion industry. While yes, you may want to lean towards professional for a corporate or buying interview, someone applying to a magazine or design team would take a completely different route. I wore a leather jacket and black jeans to my interview for a fashion company in NYC and the first thing my interviewer did was compliment my outfit (ours were almost identical). Understand that some jobs can get by and even welcome an interviewer in a leather jacket in sneakers, while some require you got your outfit in the professional section. Keep that in mind before picking out what to wear.

6.Show knowledge of the company. Research facts on topics you may be asked about the company, as well as facts you can drop into the interview to show you did your research. They'll be excited to see you did you research and take this job seriously. Use this knowledge to for a couple follow up questions (which should always be asked). It'll just let them know one more time, you did your research.

7.Send a thank you letter afterwards. I swear this is a lost art; while it's fine to send a quick thank you right after the interview, make sure a real handwritten note gets sent in the mail ASAP. I know, crazy right? You can actually sit down, write a note, put it in the mail, and it will get to the person you need it to get to. It's just one more reminder that you'd be a bomb employee.

Quick reminders: Don't bring a coffee. Turn off your phone. Don't wear cologne or perfume.

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The Real World |  Source: N. Leeper, Shutterstock

First Day Jitters

Nailing day one of your dream job.

So, today is the day! Yes, it's finally here. The first day of that job you have been waiting for.

I have had a handful of first days of new jobs, and I can say this day is probably the most stressful day for me too. I, as many people do, fear I could get fired before the day is over. Don't fret, though, most employers aren't THAT cruel.

Now, here's what to do to ensure you have a smooth first day of work:

1. Dress your best.
You don't want to have any reason to not be confident on your first day. Most people you meet today are going to base their first impression of you on your outfit more than the things you do or say. Jobs can be learned with time, but how to dress for the occasion is kind of a mandatory skill if you consider this your "dream job."

If you have questions about the dress code, just ask - it's not uncommon.

2. Show up on time.
No one, especially me, enjoys that scary "look at the clock and traffic at the same time" thing when you know you are totally running late. It makes you extra stressed, and this can be seen on your face as soon as you walk in the front door. It also puts you on the spot to come up with a intriguing excuse as to why you are late.
3. Ask questions (the right questions).
The best thing you can do on your first day is continuously express interest in what you are doing and not seem bored. Ask questions about strategies and tools the company uses to be successful.
Take advantage of first day question freebies.
4. Allow yourself to mess up a few times.
This comes with every new thing you do. Unless you are that "superstar at everything you do type," then you probably aren't going to be great at your job on day one. That's OK. Seriously.
5. Do your research.
Read up on the job description, read up on who your working with, etc. Read blogs (like this one) to hear from other professionals on their experiences in a similar workplace. This is where Glassdoor.com comes in handy.
6. Stay positive.
Don't get inside your head too much. You'll be nervous, and this will only make it worse if you are unhappy with how the day is going.
Remember, HAVE FUN and CONGRATS ON THAT JOB.
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The Real World |  Source: news.central.edu

City Hacks: How to Network as an Intern

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there!

So, you've scored a summer internship, congrats! Now that you have that taken care of, the next step is to learn from this new experience and hopefully build on it by forming a professional network. I know that seems like a daunting task, but it can be fun! Here are some steps to getting yourself out there and expanding on your network!

1. Believe it or not, getting the job is the easiest part about internships. The next few months will require a lot of time, hard work and people skills. I've found that a lot of interns find it difficult to switch gears from their school person to their professional person.

In other words, they're not sure where the boundaries lay in an office dynamic. This can become especially difficult when you're trying to create a mentor-student relationship with a co-worker.

To be honest, there are no set boundaries; in fact, each office environment will have its own dynamic. So, it is important to remember that you are there to learn from your co-workers. Following your boss's lead is sometimes the safest way for an intern to be sure they have not misspoken.

2. Additionally, the change of course from school to work can be jarring for interns because for the first time, your superiors aren't there to watch your every move or to tell you what to do every second of the day- hell, they have their own work to do!

I know it seems weird, but in the real world, no one really has the answers. You'll start to see that in order for you to succeed in your career, sometimes you have to take the initiative and approach your boss with an idea or solution. Sometimes inexperience is the most valuable asset an intern can bring to the boardroom table!

3. Be yourself. As an intern, you might find it easier to come into work and just do the assignments you have been given. Even though that shows great work ethic, it probably won't get you noticed or leave your employers with a lasting impression of you.

Next time you feel like hiding behind your cubicle divider and eating lunch by yourself, push yourself to go to the employee lunchroom and have lunch with a co-worker. Even if you ask one person a week, that's still one more person that will remember your face than before. Just get yourself out there, I promise it's not as scary as you think!

4. Once you have become acclimated to your new environment, the real networking can begin. Most offices have events you can attend or office activities you can participate in.

These events and opportunities are indispensable for interns because they allow you to meet people in other departments that you wouldn't run into on a daily basis. Moreover, they allow you to learn more about the career you are interested in and the types of people that inhabit that field.

5. The next step in building your network is to sign up for conferences in your area that appeal to you. One of the best pieces of advice I have received thus far, is to challenge yourself to meet at least three new contacts at these conferences. You can even make it a game to meet more people than you did at the previous conference or event that you attended.

6. Another great way to expand your professional network is to join organizations that interest you. For example, if you are interested in writing, joining a writing organization will allow you to meet in that industry in your area. Who knows, one of them could end up being your future mentor or boss!

7. As you begin to grow your network and meet people that impact you, it is important to enrich those relationships. It is not enough to just make that initial acquaintance, you have to foster each relationship as you would any other one. Reaching out to a contact to see what they are up to or let them know what you are doing is a great way to keep the lines of communication open.

8. Once your network begins to grow, you will start to notice that the contacts you meet will begin to introduce you to people they think you will have commonalities with. Or they may just introduce you because they think that relationship could help advance your career or help you learn something about the industry you are interested in that you may have not previously known.

Just like anything else worthwhile, building a professional network takes time and energy. Don't get frustrated if you do not receive the response you want while networking. Just like most things, networking is a trial and error activity. You'll start to learn what works for you personally which will make your #networkinggame that much stronger!

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The Real World |  Source: vinnikava

How to Make Small Talk Work Big for You

It's all about practice and confidence.

This might come as a surprise from a major network news anchor, but I hate to, well, network. I'm an introvert at heart, and the thought of putting myself out there in a room full of people I don't know makes me feel totally freaked out and out of control.

As dorky as it sounds, I like to plan ahead before I go, whether "there" is a room full of finance wonks or a one-on-one dinner with one of my she-ros (I have many!) Here are some of my favorite tips for crushing your next networking convo:

1. Use names. Use someone's first name when you address them. You look more engaged in what that person's opinion actually is instead of just asking a generic question. For example, "Hey, Anna, did you see any of the Oscars this weekend? Wowza did Angelina Jolie knock it out of the park again!"

2. Leave it open. Ask open ended questions. If you ask, "were you able to find parking?" It's a "yes" or "no" answer and then the conversation is over. Instead, say something like, "The parking lot is a mess. I'm thinking of taking the bus. Where are you commuting from and how do you get to work?"

3. Listen more than you talk. This concept applies to any part of your professional life. In this context, keep in mind that people like to talk about stuff they like (read: not the stuff you like). If you can tap into that, you'll have a talker. Then, it's up to you to pay attention; don't zone out or think about your next question and instead ask natural follow ups to keep the conversation going.

If you're still nervous about small talk like I was back in the day, practice by chit chatting with everyone you encounter throughout the day: your barista, your hairstylist, you mail carrier, whoever. When in doubt, gab it out!

Trust me, if we ever get the chance to hang out in real life, you'll see that I literally talk to everyone I meet. Keeping that energy going will fuel it in others, and you'll have a great conversation going in no time.

And the more you talk and get to know people, the more of a natural rapport you develop and the more you become invested in them and vice versa, which can pay dividends in unexpectedly great ways down the road.