ISU alumni offer advice to job seekers

March 26 2007

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- You've spent endless hours perfecting your resume and cover letter and are ready to be a mover and shaker in the job market. But there's more to finding a job than that. Three successful Indiana State University alumni, on campus recently in connection with Alumni Mentors Day, have some advice for job seekers.

Gone are the days where an employee stays 20 to 30 years with the same company. Today's employees are often what Andrea Moore calls "free agents" - contract employees, consultants or freelancers. Moore earned her bachelor's degree from ISU in 1997 and a master's degree in human resource development in 1999.

"The world of work has changed dramatically," said Moore, who is part of the new work force herself. She worked for London-based Premier Farnell for seven years before becoming a consultant for Flashpoint Human Resources in Indianapolis.

Wes Shelton, president of Manufacturing & Quality Services in Crawfordsville, is another "free agent." He worked in both technical and management roles in engineering, manufacturing and quality for such companies as Texas Instruments, Kimball International and Alcoa. Shelton graduated in 1976 from ISU's College of Technology. He stared his own consulting business nine years ago, offering training, gauging, tooling and software to business and industry.

While the Internet has revolutionized the job search, employers are changing the way they interview in order pick the right candidate for the position.

Moore said there is a movement toward behavioral-based interviewing, which asks you how you reacted in past situations. The interviewer can glean a lot of information by how the applicant answers.

"The best indicator of future performance is past experience," Moore said.

Rather than dreading that interview, go into the situation with a different mindset.

"If you go into it thinking that you are going to have a conversation about your past experiences, then chances are you'll have a successful interview," Moore said.

Adaptability or flexibility is another important trait in today's job market. The way a person reacts to the ever-changing business world can make or break you in the eyes of management.

"If there's someone flexible and willing to go with the flow, you'll stand out," Moore said.

Bob Shenberger, vice president of print production for Fry and Associates, knows all about the importance of adaptability - he was outsourced after 24 years with the same company.

"That is happening more often. Employees need to be able to adapt," he said.

But it also calls for employees to keep up with the times.

"You need to think about the job you have and the job you're going to get the future," he added.

An easy way to do that, according to Shenberger, is through continuing education.

"You've got to stay up on the technology, the business process and the lingo," he said.

Another way to continue learning is through certifications, Shelton added. Certifications can be obtained in a relatively short amount of time, usually six to nine months, and are an industry's third-party recognition of your skills.

"Certifications lend credibility because they reflect what the industry expects," he said.

Both Shelton and Moore hold several certifications.

Moore is a certified professional in learning and performance and is currently working toward a certified empowerment coach, in addition to skill certifications in DISC assessment, competency-based interviewing, career-development planning and workshop facilitation and leadership development.

Shelton, who earned a master's degree in human resource development in 2006, is a certified quality technician, certified quality auditor, a certified Six Sigma Green Belt and certified quality engineer.

Certifications are valid for a specific period of time before its time to repeat the process. That isn't a bad thing, according to Shelton.

"Recertification addresses an industry shift in skills," he said.

Regardless of whether its continuing education, or obtaining an advanced degree or certification, all three alums agree on the value of learning.

"Learning is a continual process. Never stop learning," Shelton said.

In addition to learning, good communication skills are at the top of every employer's list.

"Communication is at the heart of all relationships," Moore said. "It's not just verbal skills that are important. It’s being able to take information and put it in a form they will understand."

Shelton said that's the biggest challenge today.

"They (your clients) may not understand your technical terms, maybe they don't have the background that you do. They may not be in the same country as you," he said.

Other things to keep in mind from Moore:
* Have self-awareness
"Look back and see what you've enjoyed in the past. You enjoyed those activities for a reason," Moore added.

But that doesn't mean ignore what others are telling you.

"Take their advice, but listen to yourself," she added.

* Have an ideal of what your ideal job is
* Research the company/industry
* Know what your values are and align those with the company
* Don't be tied to a particular outcome or salary
"Everything happens as it should," she said.

Shelton's words of wisdom for job-seekers:
* The ability to think, and specifically critical thinking, is important
* Maintain your honesty and integrity
* Keep learning
* Know yourself, what you can do and let the company know how you can contribute to their business
* Engage in career planning so you can grow with the company
* Always be there - physically, mentally and emotionally

"You never know when an opportunity is going to present itself. You have to be alert and ready to act," Shelton added.

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Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, (812) 237-3783 or pmeyer4@isugw.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

You've spent endless hours perfecting your resume and cover letter and are ready to be a mover and shaker in the job market. But there's more to finding a job than that. Three successful Indiana State University alumni, on campus recently in connection with Alumni Mentors Day, have some advice for job seekers.

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