EVENT REPORT: NCAC Fulbright Career Workshop, 3/6/19

The National Capital Area Chapter of the Fulbright Association (NCAC) held a career workshop last night (3/6/19) that was offered by Sven Sommerfeld. Sven is a member of the board of NCAC. A Fulbrighter from Germany, he is post-doctoral fellow the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. He was joined by Monica O’Hearn ,who works in foreign development assistance and is on the NCAC board, and Blake Phillips also on the board. The presentation was made to 11 Fulbrighters from the U.S. and abroad including from Ukraine, Austria, Guatemala, Japan, and Egypt. Sven’s presentation focused mostly on the core aspects of job hunting including developing a resume and interviewing. It was an interactive workshop that incorporated some experiential activities. In considering strategies for job searching, applied activities are important to prepare one for the what needs to get done!

At the onset, Sven emphasized the importance of job seekers getting out of their comfort zones. This is difficult, and I think even more so for internationals looking for work in the U.S. They may come from a reserved culture where modesty is an important value. The U.S. culture however often demands that job seekers promote themselves and not be ashamed about “singing their own praises.” He also stressed the importance of networking in your field and in the Fulbright community. Use Fulbright to give you a competitive edge.

He looked at the overall process of finding work. I thought this “pyramid” (above slide) was well developed. Sven reminded us that only a fraction of all online applications get to the interview stage. A key to success might be bypassing the process through networking.

He recommended a comprehensive approach (below slide) that included (1) identifying a career goal; (2) building a resume (or CV); and (3) practicing for success (for instance, preparing for interviews).

In starting off, he recommended a SWOT analysis. Here one looks at their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. I recommend this model developed by LiveCareer (and free). In addition, taking an iterative approach that can result in honing your skills is important (below slide).

He also recommended taking the “funnel test” in identifying your passion(below slide). It is similar to Richard Leider’s Napkin Test ,which I recommend with my clients.

Sven then focused on resume development. He made the distinction between a CV – which is an academic rendering of experience – with a resume – which is used in most other contexts. Monica recommended finding someone who regularly recruits in the field to review your resume. She also indicated that much of interviewing is looking for the right fit between the candidate and employer. It was recommended using grammarly.com as a useful way to check spelling and grammar in resumes. Sven also recommended that since it is easy to develop a resume for a specific job, that should be done, but always consider the cost/benefit analysis. If you really want the position, it might worth the time to rewrite a resume. For other positions, maybe not.

In the process of crafting your resume and presenting your accomplishments, the STAR approach (slide below) is helpful. This can also be used in sharing about yourself in an interview. I’ve found the most important aspect is the “action to results” part. Employers want to know specifically what results you will bring.

At the end we focused on interviewing skills. We first engaged in a exercise that asked us to think about our best team experience. Then working in pairs we engaged in an informal or informational interview (slide below).

Overall, I thought it was a good workshop. There were other aspects of resumes and interviewing covered, but these are highlights. For those starting the career search, whether you are a Fulbrighter or not, developing a strong resume and honing interviewing confidence is importance.

If you are following my other “Event Reports” go here. Recently, I have visited the World Bank, Johns Hopkins University/SAIS, CSIS and the SIDW career fair at George Washington University.

David J. Smith is a career coach, speaker and consultant based in Rockville, Maryland, USA. He is the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace(IAP 2016). He is an official member of Forbes Coaches Council and member of the PCDN Career Advisory Board.  David is also the president of the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc. and teaches at School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and the School of Education at Drexel University. David was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar teaching at the University of Tartu (Estonia) in 2003-2004. He writes the Career Corner column for the Fulbright Edge. He can be reached at davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com

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