Jump Start your Future with a Career Portfolio

Lately, I have been talking with many classmates who are in their final year of university and thinking about the future.  What happens after graduation?  Some people I have spoken to had a sense of excitement to graduate as soon as possible. However, as each quarter passes by and graduation day approaches, many students are starting to feel nervous about their post-graduation plans. For example, most graduate schools in the US have deadlines in late fall or early winter of the year prior to entry of the program.  Many jobs and internships have due dates in the winter or early spring. However, in this tough economic time, it is quite difficult to find a job fresh out of college, especially one that is related to your major and interests. Now, what can you do?  My suggestion is to start building your network with your remaining months at school. How should you go about doing it? There is no exact formula. But here are some things I did to start.

  • Build a portfolio of your work and share it with the world.
  • Make your own website or a blog.
  • Take advantage of social media tools: create a LinkedIn profile, a Twitter account and/or a Facebook fan page!

Step 1 >> Build your Career Portfolio

The easiest way to start is to identity whether your documents are in paper or in electronic form. Paper documents can be kept together in binders with plastic sleeves. Electronic documents can be grouped together in a folder on your hard drive or a form of removable media. However if you choose this route, please remember to store the files in more than one place as a backup. To be safe, print everything out also. As you can tell, a hybrid print and electronic record-keeping system can also be implemented.

Collect various kinds of documents that have information relating to your biography, skills, accomplishments and community service experiences. Most commonly, your biography is summarized by your resume or curriculum vitae, whichever you prefer to use. Other notable documents in this segment of the portfolio include evidence of good health and letters of recommendation.

Typically, skills can be divided into four different categories.

  1. Learning skills
  2. Targeted Task skills
  3. People skills
  4. Self-Management skills

Each one of the four types of skills can be supported by a variety of different ways. Examples of learning skills include school-related information (transcripts, awards, etc.) as well as self-directed experimental learning.  Targeted task skills can be shown with evidence of your past accomplishments. Show the world you can communicate effectively. Illustrate your ability with project or work samples! People skills refer to your participation in leadership or management roles. If you still have a couple months left of school, it is still not too late to demonstrate your leadership experience. Next time you have a group project, take initiative – lead the group. Delegate tasks. Make everything run smoothly. Last but not least, self-management skills are also crucial to your success. Write up a personal “mission statement.” What is your goal in life? Spark interest in people you encounter with your professional presence and ambition!

For all projects that you or someone viewing your portfolio will be proud of, keep records of it in one place so that you can share to the world your accomplishments.  Same for community service experiences. Anything that shines you in positive light should be kept in a safe place.

Step 2 >> Showcase Your Career Portfolio

There are many ways to showcase your career portfolio these days.  The easiest is to make a website. For me, I use AdrianChu.com as a blog, which also serves as my virtual career portfolio.  How can you start?

Buy a domain name and get a hosting package. Download a blogging platform that you can use on your domain name, such as Blogger (http://www.blogger.com) or WordPress (http://www.wordpress.org).  AdrianChu.com runs on WordPress.

Or you can start a free hosted blog from various platforms including:

Personally, I like WordPress the most, since it has a lot of themes and layouts to choose from, but the other two are quite interesting also.  With Blogger, you can synchronize it with Google Adsense to publish ads on your blog. Posterous emphasizes the ability to publish stories via email.

So do the basic set up and make a page about yourself. Upload examples of your work that can be feasibly displayed on your website. You can update your blog frequently. I would suggest a minimum of once per week.

Step 3>> Connect your Career Portfolio

“I have a binder. I have a website. What’s next?” Increase your web presence by connecting your website with various Web 2.0 and Social Media technologies. The most common social networks to join are Facebook (http://www.facebook.com) and Linkedin (http://www.linkedin.com).  I’m sure you have at least heard of one of those before. Send me a message if you haven’t and I can help you set up one.  Facebook was designed for high school and college socializing, even though the average age of the user demographic is becoming higher and higher. Even the Baby Boomer crowd are getting their hands on a Facebook profile these days.  Currently, AdrianChu.com is linked to a Fan Page which copies my blog posts onto Facebook so that people can read the posts while being on Facebook at the same time.

For professional networking, I prefer LinkedIn as it is catered to the working crowd and it allows you to upload a virtual version of your resume to share with potential clients and employers. A great way to get visibility for your qualifications and your past experiences.

Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) is also an interesting way to make short “micro-blog” posts to share with others what you are up to. It is a more bare-bones approach to social networking.  If you just want to share short conversations with others, then Twitter is the choice for you.

What’s next?

Try out those three things for a few months. Then, search your name on Google and see which sites actually refer to you. You’ll be amazed at how “visible” you are online, unless your name is something like “John Doe,” which I would recommend creating a personal brand beyond your name. Maybe cater to your niche or your local area. Try searching “John Doe” + “San Francisco” or “John Doe” + “Real Estate Development”. That way, you may have a better chance finding your results. Periodically, googling yourself is a good idea, so that you can check up on your online brand and reputation. Anyway, I wish you the best of luck with your endeavors and happy March!

A Pile of Scrap Papers and a Pocket Notebook

This week has been quite busy. Two midterms this week. Plenty of projects to work on as well.  Doing some MATLAB code and learning how to design a LabView VI. Also I’ve been starting to do some circuit design work my project in the Environmental Innovation Challenge. And best of all, I finally get to register for classes in less than 5 hours. So, I will try my best to keep this post short and sweet.

Meanwhile, recently, while cleaning my room, I have found piles and piles of scrap paper where I have taken notes or just jotted down ideas from some point in time. My goal is to eliminate writing stuff on scrap pieces of paper and consolidate those into a notebook, where I can keep things organized and most importantly, find that information when I need it.  Taking it to the next level, I can save the notes I take on my notebook on Microsoft OneNote, so that my life can move towards the paperless future. Does anyone here have experience with Microsoft OneNote?

Anyway, in the future, I would also like to share some of my handwritten notes from years ago. Let me know if you have any particular interests. Perhaps, those random writings can sprout into fresh ideas for the future.

Goals for this upcoming week: Clean up the mess of scrap papers and get 50 connections on Linkedin.

Eating Lunch With People Who Are Going In The Direction You Want To Move In

Lately, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to write any high quality posts on my blog, but it is my goal to make the updates happen more frequently. Recently, I have been trying to formulate a self-development plan. In addition, I have been working on putting together a career portfolio of documents that include information about my biography as well as various skills in learning, targeted tasks, dealing with people and self-management. Additionally, I have included documents that describe my task accomplishments and community service experiences.

Due to having a busy schedule, one thing I decided to do is to better keep track of my time, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, in an effort to locate any sources of wasted time. (I would like to thank Vik Duggal for sharing with me some of his career development strategies.) I noticed there weren’t many slots open for free time to focus on professional development or networking. Therefore, one issue at hand was to try to improve on was lunch time. What do I usually do with my lunch time? Well, that’s sort of a rhetorical question… eat, of course. However, there was more to it. Do I find myself eating lunch on my own? Sometimes. And that is a good idea if you’re on the rush or just want a moment of silence, so that you can concentrate on that eating and move on to other things at an efficient pace. However, eating lunch with people who are going in the direction you want to can be a great way to learn new things, share ideas and network.

Learning new things is crucial to everyday life. What is one reason we go to school for? To learn new things. What’s one reason we pay attention to current events? To learn new things. By eating lunch with others, there is an opportunity to discuss things in a micro or macro level.  You can talk about the best restaurant down the street from where you live or things that happen on the other side of the globe.  At school, people are a great resource, from what class you should take to which professors are good? At work, you can learn how to work more efficiently or just things to know about in general. Like working together to solve problems, it is usually a good idea to have a second opinion on things.

Sharing ideas is a great way to have people thinking about you. It will help you build value and credibility. ‘Ethos’ is a big word. It simply relates to having high credibility. Why do I blog? I hope to share ideas that can be helpful to others. Helping others is a good thing. Not only is it good karma, but sharing ideas that help others is a great way to get yourself known to the community. It is good for career development. And most people welcome second opinions that will benefit what they are trying to do. Hence, there is an online equivalent to this, in the form of  discussion forums and Linkedin groups. Those are equivalent to eating lunch online (well sort of), which I will discuss in future posts.

Networking is useful. Why do we use Linkedin or Facebook? In general, it is to network and connect with people that you don’t normally see. By eating lunch with others, you’ll be able to see some and talk to some of the people that you would generally only communicate with, by “liking” their posts. “Liking” someone’s post is NOT EQUAL to communicating with that person. Commenting on somebody’s picture is NOT EQUAL to communicating with that person. Having a chat online is only slightly better, while email is one level up. Talking on the phone or video chatting is also at a higher level. However, nothing beats seeing someone, shaking his or her hands and having a real life conversation. Think about it another way, you usually see less people each day than the number of Facebook friends you have. Considering you have known two people for the same amount of time, who are you going to remember more? Someone you see in person or someone you talk to on Facebook once in a while?

Overall, eating lunch with others is a great way to learn new things, share ideas and build a network of personal friends and professional acquaintances, both of which are helpful in making your dreams come true. But can’t this be done on social networking sites? Yes, but it isn’t the same. Please read the earlier paragraph.  Now you may ask… how about eating lunch with people that don’t share your vision or aren’t going in the same direction as you? It can still end up as a positive and rewarding experience, as you get to learn how other people view life, what their goals are and how their goals are related to yours. Anyway, best of luck with your development goals and have lots of fun eating lunch.  Thanks for reading this post!

How the OPT Challenge led to the Goal

Recently, I have been working on a simulation exercise known as the “OPT Challenge.”

This report will discuss about the “Goal” of a manufacturing company as emphasized by Dr. Eli Goldratt in his book “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” and the results of the OPT Challenge, a simulation of a multi-station factory that products one main product and two spare parts.

By the theory of the learning curve, each time I played I was able to achieve better results and finally winning the game.

Please drop me a message if you are interested in seeing the process and my results.

As requested, here is a copy of the report.

Become my fan on Facebook!

Hope things are going well.  Sorry for the brief hiatus in updating this blog.  Recently, AdrianChu.com created a fan page on Facebook.  Becoming a fan of Adrian Chu on Facebook will allow you to follow our posts directly on Facebook’s News Feed.  The URL is http://www.facebook.com/adrianchuDOTcom.  Check it out!

Meanwhile, in this upcoming week. I will be posting several papers I worked on last quarter in Professor R.L. Storch‘s Introduction to Manufacturing Systems class in the University of Washington‘s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Hope you are having a wonderful New Year and all the best!