From Stress to Success in the City: Never Underestimate the Benefits of an Informational Interview

Informational interviews are one of the most important elements to starting on the path towards career success. When moving to Washington, D.C., a friend gave me this advice:

“Meeting with other professionals is crucial for growth because you have everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose.”

Informational interviews are key to unlocking your potential professional success.

Informational Interview

Setting up a meeting with someone takes opening up, being proactive, and attending social events. Social gatherings can be informal such as happy hours, intramural sports teams, or volunteer opportunities. They can also be formal such as company briefings and receptions.

Another way you can extend your meeting potential is through blind (informational) dates. Have a friend, co-worker, or someone in your alumni network set you up for coffee with someone they know in your career field. A friend would not set you up with another friend if the meeting wouldn’t go well.

Haley’s 3 Benefits of Informational Interviews

  1. Exposes You To Job Opportunities: Setting up an informational interview can link you to current and future job openings. Often before a job is posted formally to a website, employees put their own personal feelers out for potential people to hire. If you connect with professionals and build working relationships with them, YOU are who they will think of for the vacant position.
  2. Builds Your Web of Contacts:  Meeting with other professionals, even just for 20 minutes, help you build a network of people that know you and your interests. You won’t be best friends but try to develop the relationship and build trust. If someone that you met through an interview refers you for a vacant position, the employers are more likely to interview you than a random resume submitted online. Employers can put a face to the credentials which gives you an advantage.
  3. Maturing Professional Social Skills: The more you meet with professionals, the more comfortable and confident you will become. Talking with people higher up the food chain can be intimidating. But just like anything else, practice makes perfect.

Make sure to come to events prepared with business cards and questions. Talking to professionals without preparing beforehand can potentially make you look sloppy and careless.

Informational interviews are a great way to leverage your personality and social skills. If you aren't setting up meetings, someone else is. Go into meetings confidently and know that showing other professionals your credentials that extend beyond your resume will put you on the career climbing track.

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently working at the United States House of Representatives, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting “from stress to success in the city.” Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

Have you asked for or given  an informational interview?

From Stress to Success in the City: Biking Benefits During National Bike Month

Biking is a fun and cost effective way to get to work which is why many professionals are catching on. It is time to ditch the planes, trains, and automobiles (okay maybe not planes) and start riding your bike to work. I commute to work on my bike because I am looking to stay fit, save money, and be conscious of the environment. This National Bike Month, I am highlighting why I bike to work and choose “green” options, such as bike sharing, rather than driving or taking public transport.

Between 2000 and 2011, the number of people in the U.S. commuting by bike grew by more than 47%. Bike racks and lanes are popping up all across America to accommodate the growing number of bike commuters in cities. To encourage and support biking to work, The League of American Bicyclists established an annual Bike to Work Day which is how I'm getting to the office on May 16th for this year's Bike to Work Day.

National Bike Month

If you live in a city, you do not have to own a bike to reap the benefits of using one. Bike shares, which give people the option of renting a bike rather than buying one, are appearing in many cities across the country. My city, Washington, D.C., has seen great success with its bike share program, and up until the release of New York's, had the largest program in the nation. Other cities such as Atlanta, GA, Charlotte, NC, and Boulder, CO have launched similar programs.

When choosing alternative forms of transportation for your daily commute, consider the real, tangible benefits of biking.

 Haley's Benefits of Biking to Work

  1. Keeps You Fit: I like to call this indirect exercise. Much like a night of dancing or a game of two-hand touch football with friends, your health benefits from biking without spending time in the gym. Before your know it, people will mistake your legs for Heidi Klum’s, but you might not have to insure them like she does!
  2. Saves Money: Choosing to bike to work saves you money. Driving your car and using public transportation can be expensive, especially with gas prices continually rising. You can even calculate how much money you will save by choosing 2 wheels over 4.
  3. "Go Green”: In the age where people are becoming conscious of clean air and blue skies, biking to work takes one more air-polluting automobile off the street. Choosing to ride your bike is one small change in your routine that, combined with other riders, makes a huge impact on the health of people and the environment.

Even turtles move quickly on bikes.

City planners, interest groups, and policy makers have all heard the war cry from bikers for safety on the streets, and slowly are beginning to favor transportation policy that encourages biking and biking safely. Even the U.S. House of Representatives where I work has created a Bike Caucus to support the cause.

Biking in the city can be dangerous. Keep these tips in mind to stay safe:

Haley's Biking Safety Tips 

  • Always wear a helmet (yes I know safety can make for an unfortunate hair day)
  • Make sure you can be seen (this means flashing lights, neon spokes, or the fluorescent crossing guard vest)
  • Lock your bike up (including your front wheel which people really love to steal them)
  • Use your hand signals people! (Remember how mad it makes you when someone turns in front of you without using their blinker? People feel the same way when you’re driving like a maniac on your bike)
  • Get in a bike lane ASAP (City planners, step up your lane game!)

Commuting by bike is healthy for your lifestyle, your finances, and the environment. During National Bike Month, join many other professionals choosing to bike to work. Stay committed to your two-wheeled commute beyond this one day to continue reaping your biking benefits. 

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning at the United States House of Representatives, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting “from stress to success in the city.” Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

How do you get to work?

Behind Every Great Man Is A Great Woman: The Importance of Female Role Models

Women often work behind the scenes to help distinguished men and women achieve greatness. To end Women’s History Month which also coincides with Cesar Chavez Day, we highlight Helen Chavez, the wife of the labor and civil rights icon. Devoting most of her life to supporting her husband, she quietly worked to improve the lives of migrant farm workers, becoming a strong female role model for women, including her granddaughter Christine Chavez.

Helen plays an important role in the just released film Cesar Chavez. In reality, she helped her husband and friend Dolores Huerta organize the National Farm Workers Association which is now the United Farm Workers of America. In order to support her family while Chavez and Huerta organized migrant farm workers, Helen returned to the agricultural fields of Delano, California. Helen accepted Cesar's posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton. Today, she continues to inspire her family as the matriarch, including one granddaughter.

Helen and César with Robert Kennedy.

Christine Chavez continues her family’s legacy of working to protect the rights of farm workers and the larger immigrant community. Christine currently works at the United States Department of Agriculture and previously helped farmers at the United Farm Workers. In this Q & A, this activist shares with me her advice as a female role model.

  Inspiring Q & A with Christine Chavez, granddaughter of Helen & Cesar Chavez

The Wise Latina Club’s Haley: Why is it important to have female role models in your life? (edited for space)

Christina Chavez: In my life women have been the heads of households, leaders in my community and the movers and shakers of social movements. Female mentorship has been crucial to my development as a leader and a woman. We see ourselves in female role models. We need people who are in positions of power that look like us. Women's insights are extremely valuable and elevating women as role models is crucial not only for women but also men. Women establish the blueprint for how we will shape our families, communities, and selves.

The Wise Latina Club’s Haley: What characteristics make for an effective female role model?

Christine Chavez: For me I look at women who have not only success professionally but also have been able to successfully maintain relationships and inspire others. Humans are multi-faceted individuals. Women who bring a variety of characteristics can be effective. Personally, I believe women who are self-aware, socially conscious, health conscious, determined, and assertive are most effective because they tend to take a holistic and balanced approach to life and they lead through example. A woman with a purpose and a belief in mentorship can make true impact as a role model.

The Wise Latina Club’s Haley: What advice has your grandmother shared with you that influenced you professionally?

Christine Chavez: She has always told us never be afraid to speak up and know that you can change your mind about anything at anytime.

The Wise Latina Club’s Haley: Do you see yourself as a role model and to whom? At what stage are they in career and life?

Christine Chavez: Coming from a large family and a family of activists, I know that I represent something larger than myself. I know that many people look to our family as an example of leadership and perseverance. Coming from such a family, those values and ideals were ingrained and I try my best to manifest them myself. I know that we are all role models and I do my best to be a positive role model to younger generations and my peers. Currently, two young ladies I have been working with have claimed me as their mentor. Both are young Latina professionals and activists navigating life in D.C. as the first in their families to obtain [college] degrees.

The Wise Latina Club’s Haley: What advice would you share for women who want to make a positive change in their communities?

Christine Chavez: Act! It's simple, just make a decision to take action--look within their own communities and see what type of change needs to be made. Get others to strategize and work together.

We do not put enough emphasis on the need for female role models. Restricted by gender stereotypes, women frequently are overlooked in the professional world. Following in the footsteps of accomplished women is crucial for relationship and professional success.

4 Characteristics of a Female Role Model

1. Self-Aware

2. Determined

3. Balanced

4. Assertive

According to a popular adage, behind every great man is a great woman. We end Women's History Month which coincides with Cesar Chavez Day by focusing our attention on a great woman such as Helen Chavez who was as instrumental in improving working conditions for farmworkers as her husband. As important, we highlight the contributions of women and role models today who continue to fight for equal rights and greater representation for all such as Christine Chavez.

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning in the office of Congressman Sanford Bishop, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting “from stress to success in the city.” Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

Who are women in your life you admire?

Education Wednesday: Preparing Students for Technical Careers

To help more students reach lucrative and stable jobs upon graduation, many new educational models are emerging to provide young people with early vocational training. However, beyond familiar positions such as plumbers and electricians, early career-focused programs can give students a head-start towards advanced technical careers. As America's economy becomes more rooted in specialized industries, the time has come to familiarize ourselves with the alternative pathways that bypass traditional four year college degrees and lead straight to the careers of the future.

Education_Wednesday-Career_Readiness-TWLC

Business Insider recently posted a list of 40 jobs that do not require a bachelor's degree. Careers such as web developer, aerospace engineer, and registered nurse all boasted $60k salaries, yet required at most an associate's degree. Disheartening however, is the notion that in 2013 millions of jobs similar to these went unfilled do to a lack of candidates with adequate training. Sparking an interest early and creating prestige around postsecondary education options such as 2-year technical colleges could easily change this trend.

Middle and high schools can focus on key areas to help students prepare for future careers. In addition to academic knowledge, increasingly employers are discussing the necessary traits such as punctuality, accountability, and resilience that applicants are lacking, yet need to get the job. These qualities, which are often referred to as employability or "soft" skills, may seem like common sense. However, such skills are often left underdeveloped as schools focus more heavily on meeting academic benchmarks. On top of these traits, students must develop heightened problem-solving skills and participate in specialized training in areas such as healthcare science or information technology (IT) to prepare for careers

For students who desire to work in a specialized field, particularly one with a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-focus, these new options cater to a variety of interests and learning strengths.

3 Ways to Prepare Students for Specialized Technical Careers

  1. Specialized Charter Schools: Career-oriented charter schools help students hone professional skills and many even grade on the employability skills mentioned above. These career academies offer an intensive learning environment as they divide students' time between traditional classroom settings and training in specific career courses such as business, law, or engineering. As local public schools may not offer such specialized courses, these charter schools are great alternatives for students to prepare for their desired career. Other charter school models to consider include Early College Academies which often allow students to finish high school with an Associate's degree--one step closer to an advanced technical career.
  2. Youth Apprenticeships: I recently spoke with Dr. Bob Lerman, creator of the American Institute for Innovative Apprenticeships and a leading consultant for a new Obama Administration initiative. As we spoke about the benefits of youth apprenticeships, Dr. Lerman noted that these work-based training programs allow students to study alongside senior professionals in an industry setting. He also highlighted that students gain a tremendous amount of confidence while working in real world settings and mastering career-specific skills. As apprenticeships have long been commonplace in countries such as Germany and England, Dr. Lerman hopes to see the popularity of these programs continue to grow in America.
  3. Internships and Fellowships: For students already in college, internships can provide great perks such as access to thought leaders, executives, and potential employers for hands-on training. Unlike apprenticeships, internships are offered in virtually every professional field. Much as I mention in Education Wednesday: How to Secure Internships, students who participate in well-structured internship programs are twice as likely to be recruited for full-time employment as students who do not. Likewise, for recent graduates, fellowship programs can serve as a bridge between college studies and work in a desired professional field. Often fellowships offer more mentorship and opportunities to hone professional skills than the average entry-level position.

Education_Wednesday-Career_Readiness-TWLC

Pairing hands-on training with academic knowledge, many technical training models have had great success placing graduates in careers. Programs such as Praxis and YearUp are two career training programs that provide real world work connections as an alternative to college attendance,\. They are quickly becoming popular options and even attracting top applicants out of high school.

As parents, teachers and mentors, we must do more to expose students to new career possibilities in addition to linking them with the training they need to succeed. Helping students become career ready sooner with vocational training is vital to sustaining prosperity for more young people and our country. Likewise, emphasizing alternative postsecondary options beyond traditional college attendance can quickly help us meet future needs.  

Aundrea_Gregg-TheWiseLatinaClub

An education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

How do you help students prepare for technical careers?

Food Trucks: A Thriving Entrepreneurial Frontier

In addition to serving fast and delicious meals, food trucks have created a new market for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Easily accessible, these mobile restaurants can be found at breweries, music venues, or on a busy street corner outside of office buildings. I stopped by the Peruvian Brothers food truck parked in front of the Peruvian Consulate for a Saturday brunch tasting. The brothers, Giuseppe and Mario Lanzone, titled the experience “Gastro-Diplomacy.”

Meet the Peruvian Brothers

I was able to meet these hermanos and ask why they decided to trade captaining yachts (Mario) and competing on the U.S. Olympic rowing team (Giuseppe) for life in a food truck.

The brothers were separated for almost thirteen years pursuing two different careers. The food truck was a chance for them to reconnect and build a business together.

3 Reasons Why Food Trucks Are Good Business 

  1. Low-Overhead: Food trucks require relatively less investment than a traditional kitchen which requires restaurant space, expensive appliances, and a large number of staff. For the brothers this was a selling point. Giuseppe says, "starting with a food truck allows entrepreneurs to try out their product without a huge investment but the possibility to grow."
  2. Specialized Cuisine: Chefs can narrow in on one type of cuisine they enjoy cooking. Giuseppe and Mario were raised in Peru and wanted to showcase some of the authentic Peruvian flavors they grew up eating. Dishes such as  pan con chicharrón, which is a pulled pork sandwich topped with sweet potato and a vinegar based criolla sauce traditionally paired with grilled meats,  are among the brothers' favorites.  
  3. Flexibility for Customers: Giuseppe and Mario watched their father and uncle manage  a small restaurant out of a boat in Peru. “Mobile eateries are in our blood,” says Giuseppe. The “mobile” part of their business gives them an advantage over traditional restaurants. Food trucks can move to their customers versus their customers coming to them. 

I tasted their light and healthy quinoa salad. Giuseppe and Mario shared the recipe with me to try at home. The salad was muy delicioso!

The Peruvian Brother’s Quinoa Salad Recipe

Ingredientes

One box of quinoa

Green, yellow, or red peppers

Cucumbers

Tomato

Avocado

Salt

Garlic

Parsley

Direcciones

Sauté quinoa with olive oil, Salt and Garlic for 2-3 minutes.

Add water.

Bring to a boil.

Let it cook covered for 15 minutes. 

Let it stand covered to cool for 5 minutes.

Refrigerate overnight.

When cool, add finely diced rainbow peppers, carrots, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes.

Add fresh lemon juice and olive oil.

Garnish with parsley and fresh avocado.

¡Salud!

Quinoa Salad

If you are looking for food trucks in your city, the internet and social media are two great resources for finding delicious meals on wheels. For updates on the location of your favorite food truck, follow them on social media such as Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

Food trucks provide customers with convenience and creative eats. In addition, entrepreneurs like the Peruvian Brothers are able to showcase food they are passionate about and find success through small business.

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning in the office of Congressman Sanford Bishop, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting “from stress to success in the city.” Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

What type of food would you like to see in a food truck?

Women’s History Month: The Importance of Female Mentoring with Chef Amy Brandwein

Any professional will tell you that a key to career success is mentoring. This is even more the case for women, especially those working in competitive, male-dominated fields. For Women's History Month, I decided to ask Top Chef Amy Brandwein of Alba Osteria in Washington DC on the role that female mentoring has played in her career. One of the first women named executive chef in the nation's capital, I sat down with her to dish on mentoring and her list of ingredients to "make it" at work.

Chef Brandwein is an accomplished woman in the culinary industry. The professional advice she shared with me can be applied to any workplace.

Women’s History Month: The Importance of Female Mentoring with Chef Amy Brandwein

Chef Amy Brandwein "Dishes" On Being a Female In the Culinary Field

During my Q & A with Chef Amy Brandwein, I zeroed in on the importance of women challenging and mentoring each other to reach success in their careers.

The Wise Latina Club's Haley: What are the challenges of being a female in the male dominated culinary field?

Chef Amy: The kitchen runs like the military. It does not work on consensus. There is someone at the top of the food chain and all other staff fall into the hierarchy. This reality comes with a two-fold challenge. That is, women face a harder time gaining respect in the kitchen. The other challenge is that men and women in the kitchen also have preconceived cultural ideas about a woman's role in society.

A woman is easily placed in the kitchen at home but is not often seen handling sharp knives, hot pans, and hot tempers. 

The Wise Latina Club's Haley: What is beneficial about being a woman in the field?

Chef Amy: We are very perceptive and our feelings are in tune with others. We pick up social cues well which can be helpful in the management field. We also communicate well with others. Maybe a little too well. Because of our strong communication skills, networking come naturally.

The Wise Latina Club's Haley: How often are you asked about being a female and in the culinary field? Does this bother you? Do you feel separation between you and your male counterparts?

Chef Amy: In the past, I was rarely asked about being a female chef. These days I get asked all of the time. I love working with men in the kitchen and the camaraderie that develops from it.  I grew up with a brother and three male cousins.

I learned fast how to survive, even thrive, in a mostly male environment.

The Wise Latina Club's Haley: You have two women in the kitchen that you mentor. Tell me a little more about these relationships.

Chef Amy: Building these relationships has allowed us to push each other past where we are currently in our careers. I encourage them in their abilities as chefs. Like, "Of course, you can do it!" or "I don’t know why you doubt yourself." They both struggle with male chefs giving them a hard time. The field can be a very bossy environment. Men who can perceive what is going on in a social situation have the upper hand in management.

The Wise Latina Club's Haley: How have women in the culinary industry made history?

Chef Amy: One thing I’m proud of contributing to is being a leading female executive chef in Washington, D.C. Milestones like these instill confidence in me to move on to whatever challenge I have next.

The Wise Latina Club's Haley: If you have any advice for professional women in the work field, especially the culinary field, what would it be?

Chef Amy: My advice would be not to cry. I had a tough boss at one time and I would cry when I was frustrated. My boss was not a fan of crying. At one point after that job I just stopped crying.

Crying is a natural expression but one to be controlled.

Over time it has to come out of your repertoire. On another note, as long as you put in your hard work and do well on the job, the culinary industry is fantastic. The industry does not care who you are as long as you put your best foot forward.

Women such as Rosa Parks, Hillary Clinton, Ellen Ochoa, and Beyoncé have paved the way for other women to succeed in any field. In the culinary field, executive chef Amy Brandwein is also an example of the power and potential women bring to the table. Confidence plus a strong work ethic is a recipe that all women should put in the recipe book of professional success.

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning in the office of Congressman Sanford Bishop, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting “from stress to success in the city.” Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

Which women in your life inspire you to greatness?

From Stress to Success in the City: 4 Tips For Achieving Success When Moving

In American culture, most young people idealize the thought of picking up our life and moving to our “dream” destination. This is especially true for those who have recently graduated from college and are ready to start life on their own. Once the initial excitement of moving wears away, navigating life in a new city can be challenging and lonely for those who make this move. Whether moving for a new job, chasing childhood dreams, or acting on a whim:

Be proactive and patient to turn “stress in the city” into “success in the city.”

Photo Courtesy: solucimmoblog.fr

In September 2013 I decided it was time to move to a new city because my year-long internship in North Carolina was ending in December. I was ready to write a new chapter in the story of my life. I picked up my southern roots and planted them in Washington, D.C. The fast-pace environment combined with its rich history convinced me that D.C. is my “dream” destination.

I have been in D.C. for a little over two months. In my short time living in here, I have experienced many ups and downs. I have learned that cities are great for young adults, but moving is no walk in the park or the National Mall. Financial stability, effort, and confidence are all key components to making the most of a new city. As important are social skills I put into this list:

Haley's 4 Social Skills to Turn Stress into Success

  1. Network "Authentically": Be genuine when you are networking so you don't come across as a "user." Follow up with your new contacts the next day because that professional can be the person who gives you your next job. For me, body language is important because of its power to communicate attributes people will want in a co-worker. Instead of slouching or looking down at the ground which screams lack of confidence, smile and make eye contact which says confidence, inviting, and approachable.
  2. Join a Club: As soon as I moved to D.C., I joined a running club which is how I met Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D. and founder of The Wise Latina Club. Book clubs, intramural sports, trivia nights, and alumni groups are great ways to widen your circle of contacts beyond work through a shared interest.
  3. Find a Trustworthy Mentor: Seek out someone seasoned professionally and in life to challenge and give direction. In addition to learning the ropes, she may open doors--crucial for attaining professional, social, and financial success.
  4. Be Patient: Finding friends and feeling comfortable in a city do not happen overnight. Remember we each reach success at our own pace. Keeping in mind that often times it's not the destination but the journey, celebrate the small victories such as making a new friend or joining a new club. As the days, weeks, and months pass, your new city will begin to feel like home sweet home.

Moving to a new city is a time to be challenged and grow. Enjoy it. Walk confidently, knowing that many others have been through the same life transition and succeeded.

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning in the office of Congressman Sanford Bishop, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting "from stress to success in the city." Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

“What have you found helpful when moving to a new city?”

Education Wednesday: How to Secure Internships

Along with academic learning that takes place in the classroom, college should be utilized for hands-on professional development. Internship programs offer students the opportunity to test their interests in real-world settings. For students hopeful to transition from college into thriving careers, capitalizing on internships is a must.

Courtesy: SAP.com

Studies find that students who participate in well-structured internship programs are twice as likely to be recruited for full-time employment as students who do not. The perks of internships include access to thought-leaders, executives, and potential employers for hands-on training. Internships instill professional discipline and problem-solving skills that catch the eye of hiring managers.

Knowing where to start to secure meaningful internships can be difficult, especially  first-generation college students, many who are minorities. Much as I mention in Education Wednesday: Empowering First-Generation College Students, young people benefit greatly when mentors and parents offer guidance through application processes. Each of us can play an active role in preparing more minority students to secure these necessary positions.

Aundrea's Tips for Securing Internships

  1. "Work" your network: Finding an internship (and job) is all about who you know. Start with your own place of employment for possible opportunities. Likewise, ask friends and family members if they know of any internship programs. Be diligent about finding  an “in” that can lock down a position for your student.

  2. Students should network too: Joining organizations such as young professionals clubs are great ways to start positive new relationships, much as I discuss in Education Wednesday: Continuing Support for First-Generation College Students. Networking through social activities can help students build career contacts that can lead to internship positions. Hint: Important resources not to overlook are school alumni networks. It was a Howard University alum who helped me land my first internship.

  3. Increase online-presence: Personal and professional online profiles can help or hinder a student's chance of selection for an internship. Hiring managers often research all social media channels to gauge a candidate's fit with company values. Inappropriate selfies and other postings, even on what you believe are personal sites such as Facebook, are a Don’t. Instead, students should take time to build profiles on websites such as LinkedIn or Monster.com that descriptively convey their talents and interests as an individual. Also, immediately "clean up" all social media.

  4. Do not limit the searchWhen applying for internships, students should prioritize their choices. Positions in a desired industry will be at the top of the list. However, students should not overlook positions that can offer similar work experiences. Hint: Check leading industries near college for internship opportunities. Also, students must be flexible to travel to a good opportunity. All too often students pass on quality internships because the location is far away from the comforts of home and the familiarity of friends.

  5. Apply early: Internships are generally offered in trimester-like cycles during the Fall, Spring, and Summer. Students should be aware of relevant deadlines and submit applications as soon as possible. This will allow time to thoroughly edit applications and spend extra time preparing for interviews.

Students must take every opportunity they can to adequately prepare for life beyond college. Entering careers where minorities continue to be underrepresented takes hard work in the classroom coupled with a resume that demonstrates specialized knowledge. While securing an internship is the first step, next week I will share tips for ways students can make the most of these important work experiences.

Aundrea_Gregg-TheWiseLatinaClubAn education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

Is your student applying for top internships?

Finito If You've Been Unemployed 6 Months+ ? On MSNBC

I don't have to read the data to know the answer. I just listen to person after person tell me one story after another:

Viviana, I have an Ivy League degree under my belt. Once I switched from electrical engineering to public service, I haven't been able to get a job. I'm trying to stop this free fall.

Viviana, I have three masters, the last one in International Relations from Johns Hopkins. I graduated in the dark days of the recession--Spring of 2009. Since then, I've had one 3 month contract.

Viviana, I beat stage 4 breast cancer. But I can't beat the hole in my resume from my illness that raises HR software red flags and seems to automatically eliminate me.

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The next time someone touts our declining unemployment rate or boast that we've added X hundred thousand new jobs, I need to ask her if lately, she's stepped outside her cocoon.

Indeed, the unemployment rate has gone down since the belly of the recession at the end of 2008/early 2009. The economy is adding jobs. But millions of Americans continue to be without work, they've given up because of the constant rejection, or are "gigging" without benefits or an upwards career and wealth building trajectory. Many have been out of a job for more than 6 months, what economists call The Long-Term Unemployed aka The Long-Term Screwed. These types of workers were the topic of my round table discussion on MSNBC Live before President Obama announced from his bully pulpit that 300 American companies are re-vamping their human resources practices to help hire more long-term unemployed.

Most of the unemployed have been out of work for 6 or more months which is also when your job prospects fall off a cliff, to less than 15% according to a report by the social and economic policy research think tank The Urban Institute. Contrary to my anecdotes, they tend to be less educated, single parents, of color, and disabled. The competition is fierce: 3 applicants for every job opening.

I am a regular on MSNBC and I have never seen my Twitter light up as it did during this panel discussion on January 31, 2014. People tweeted me about their personal experiences: some HR software such as Taleo forcing people to enter their graduation dates. One job title to match one job description with only one field for dates.

Immediately, the blind spots emerge. Not quite ageism or anti-entrepreneurialism for those working how-many-part-time-jobs. But definitely a sign that companies are relying on software that isn't flexible to see the candidate as a whole, as opposed to the sum of parts (to not say, application fields).

If you've been in Washington and connected to politics, you know initiatives come and go, vanishing even faster with our daily dose of media over-saturation. After hearing story after story on social media and in person, we need the good idea of hiring The Long-Term Unemployed become a great business practice, in fact a Country Best Business Practice, where government leads in full partnership with industry and local community groups. Until then, some new guidelines for companies and job seekers.

  1. Diversity as a Best Business Practice: Do companies realize that in addition to doing the right thing, diversity is a best business practice given that our country is becoming more mixed as confirmed by the Census data? As mentioned earlier, the long-term unemployed are single parents, disabled, of color. How is leadership, human resources, and hiring managers harnessing flexible work schedules or insights into new markets these candidates bring to create a competitive advantage?
  2. HR Hiring Culture Change That Is More Akin to College Admissions: One of my favorite activities is interviewing prospective freshman which helps the Admissions Office see a total picture of a student, not just grade point average and SAT scores. Taking a cue from universities, HR departments should also look at candidates as a whole whole, trading the overreliance on software for the input of trained HR professionals who are evaluating candidates' applications, phone and/or in-person interviews.
  3. Invincibles: Get an "Old" Long-Term Unemployed Mentor and Long-Term Unemployed Oldie, Get a Millennial Mentor: Recently a hiring manager friend shared over cocktails how difficult it was to interview millennial candidates because they were "uninterested"--conveying an attitude of: I can take this job or leave it (I couldn't believe my ears). These "whatevs" prospectives lost out to an older worker with more experience and eager to work. From millennials, older workers can learn to be more fearless, resourceful, and flexible.

These ideas are not meant to address serious economic structural issues such as a mismatch between candidates' skills and those required for available jobs such as computer programming. It also doesn't address globalization, specifically capital's flight overseas, bringing countless jobs once performed by Americans to countries with cheaper labor. Rather, the cultural, institutional, and economic changes needed to significantly grow the economy and individual's wealth can take years to take root and flourish. Until then, I hope these pointers can help companies and unemployed workers make some easy changes today to help our country and themselves get back to work.

Click on Career and 6 Minute Career Climb to read and see videos with practical tips to help you in your job search or turbo-charge your career, ranging from effective networking, resume writing to career advancement.

These pointers are a starting point. Can you add your tips?

Education Wednesdays: Why You Should Know More About STEM

By now you have probably heard the term STEM being passed around everywhere from White House news feeds to local classrooms. Referring to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, STEM education is seen as the new vehicle for innovation, maintaining America's economic lead in the world, and, the source of tomorrow’s careers. If you do not already know about STEM, you need to school yourself pronto. Why? Instilling an interest in STEM could be one the greatest advantages you give your kid for academic and career success.

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Currently, an estimated 3 million STEM jobs go unfilled. A lack of qualified candidates has forced many companies to import high skill talent, or outsource positions to countries prepared to meet growing demands.  Meanwhile, a meager 12% of underrepresented minorities enter college pursuing degrees in fields such as engineering. Latinos account for only 4% of scientists and engineers in the U.S. compared to 73% of engineers who are White. The statistics for women in STEM are equally disheartening--only 1 in 10 of those in STEM fields are minority women.

If more minorities are to capitalize on our STEM future, we must begin at home, as well as in schools and communities by encouraging the curiosities of our young ones and instilling in them a belief that they can be the future leaders of innovation.

Here are some tips to help you spark interest in STEM with your child:

Aundrea's Tips for Encouraging STEM at Home

  1. Pick a STEM Hero: Helping your child find a role model can peak their interests to see the STEM education as an obtainable goal. Whether it is Bill Nye the Science Guy or inspirations such as Cristina Fernández-Valle, a renowned Cuban-American neuroscientist, it is important to find someone with whom your student can identify.
  2. Lead STEM Activities at Home: Teachable STEM moments don't have to be confined to the classroom or workplace. As a weekend project get the kids involved with home activities such as cooking or gardening and highlight the ways STEM works in everyday life. Here are some great suggestions for activities to try. 
  3. Urge Honors and Advanced Placement Classes: The gap in minority participation in STEM is exacerbated by the lack of minorities taking advance math and science classes. If your student already has an aptitude for STEM subjects, urge her to take additional classes to the highest levels offered at her school. This will serve as great preparation for rigorous college courses.

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A recent  list of the hottest college majors highlighted courses such as biomedical engineering, forensic science, public health, and robotics that all yield high paying jobs for degree holders, yet are underrepresented by minorities.

Igniting new curiosities and equipping students with the right tools will continue to be a paramount priority as we look to increase the number of minorities working in STEM. The Obama administration recently endowed $3.1 Billion federal dollars to support STEM programs at universities with large minority populations. Organizations such as Black Girls Code, an initiative teaching young ladies of color about computer programing, are, likewise, emerging to spark minority interest. As we bring the conversation home--identifying a STEM hero, making science fun with activities, and  encouraging advanced classes are all great ways get your student (and you) thinking about science, technology, engineering, and math as pathways to future success.

Aundrea_Gregg-TheWiseLatinaClub An education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

How do you lead innovation at home? Share the tips that have helped you get your student interested in STEM!