Month: October 2014

5 Tips for Making the Most of Your College Visits

On Sunday, my daughter Anya and I completed a 2260 mile road trip to New England in 6 days, and visited 5 colleges. We had many soaring moments, with occasional flurries of tension, Siri-guided dead ends and an AirBNB that reeked of cat pee. The trip was a great success.

The New School1_Pic

On the ride home, I thought, Wow, what made it work so well? Ultimately, the college search process is about more than finding a good fit. A successful college visit should help build students’ independence and sense of competency, and  help them lean into their professional identity. Here are things you can do to grow your son or daughter’s excitement about college, and end the trip still friends.

Some essentials: Anya wants to study Fine Art, specifically painting, drawing, interactive media and performance art. She conducted her own research on colleges, with my input.


Share the road

We shared the driving 50/50. Maybe that’s an obvious choice, but it helped her take ownership, not only of the experience, but of the city she might soon call home.  She glided into New York City like she’d lived there her whole life, which added to her excitement and sense of competency while we were there.

Anya was born with the Project Manager gene, so planning comes naturally to her. Encourage your son or daughter to take over as much of the trip planning as possible. I highly recommend the website roadtrippers, which helped us plot out what we could accomplish in one day, and where we needed to stay overnight, to make it to each morning’s campus appointment.

NYC1Establish a game plan

Before you go, talk about your need to ask questions, and her need not to be embarrassed by your questions. As a parent, of course you have questions. Establish a signal if you cross the line. I possess the added gift/curse (point of view depends on Anya’s mood) of being a career coach, which adds a layer of intensity for us. I can become a barracuda if left unchecked. i.e. How do you support the students in landing internships? How pervasive are career services programs, and what do they teach? I asked the student guides, What made you know this was the right college for you? I’m always looking for ways to get the guide off script and listening for how well the school helps students become “job ready.” At times my intensity drove Anya crazy.

There’s a benefit of me asking questions though: Initially she had no idea what to ask. Think about this from your son or daughter’s perspective: They are thrust into this completely new environment that feels overwhelming; there’s a lot to take in. Each school has its own uniqueness, your child trying to discern, what will this mean for me? Initially, Anya was relieved I asked the questions so she could take it all in. By the last two colleges though, Anya turned to me and said, “Mom, I’ll handle the questions.” Yes! Let the career self-advocacy begin.

Schedule a tour at the department of intended major

No college has denied us this request yet (including two schools with 40,000 students).  We met with one Academic Advisor, Alexandra, at a large urban school. She spent 2 hours with us, answering all our questions, showing Anya where she would take classes, what resources the art program had, and introduced her to an art student who talked about her experience there. It was our best visit by far, and as a result it is one of Anya’s top schools. If we’d just scheduled the general campus tour and missed the department tour, Anya might have dismissed this school.public space_Parsons1

Other suggestions:

  • Set up a class visit.
  • Meet with a professor in the department.
  • Before you visit, obtain a current student’s contact information from the department so your son or daughter can speak with the student. A conversation can pull out subtleties you wouldn’t learn from a campus visit.

Maintain safe distance

We made the mistake of planning two college visits in one day, at schools two hours apart. I don’t recommend it. Our brains could not take in any more information on the second tour. We both kept whispering to each other, “What did she just say?” My caveat would be if they are both in one city, two in one day might be doable. Know you will take in A LOT of information that day.

Remember, it’s about the relationship

If you are running late for your campus visit appointment, it’s not the end of the world, and not worth applying undue pressure. Prior to one visit, Anya needed to change out of her socks (it was rainy, she wore several pairs . . . oh never mind). The clock was ticking, it was 5 minutes before we were supposed to register, and she calmly sat in the car and changed her socks. I could have gone ahead inside, but I didn’t. I decided it was more important to feel positive and connected than to be on time. Relationship before content was my mantra during this trip. Whenever I switched that equation around, tension escalated between us.


This was an exquisite experience. Exhausting and stressful—yes. And did I mention we drove 2260 miles in 6 days? Today Anya possesses a future vision of herself as a professional artist she didn’t have a week ago. While visiting Parsons in New York, she saw what it could be like, and learned that artists find real work. Up until now, college has been all research, essay questions, websites, and long distance conversations with professors, advisors and students. Nothing compares to a flesh and blood visit, seeing artwork of your peers, the studios in which they create. Diving into college campuses made Anya’s adult future vibrate with possibility.

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a career coach, LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover Specialist, public speaker and blogger. She is the founder and principal at Coming Alive Career Coaching. To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages for your graduating college senior, contact Julie at  If you enjoyed this post, or know someone who would, please share!

Six Steps for Landing a New Job After Declaring You’ve Had Enough

Step 1: Let yourself grieve.  You need to grieve the very real loss of things that you like about your current job: Your lunch buddies, your cubicle mate with whom you exchange cute dog memes, the short commute, the feeling of job security you have. A friend recently confided that she hates the idea of leaving her secure job where she is liked, even though she hasn’t learned anything new in years and is hungry for a new challenge. I said, “Grow your flame. Feed your potential. There’s more security in that.”

6 steps finding new job_Coming Alive1It is really hard to leave what’s familiar, even if it doesn’t serve us. As career development expert Liz Ryan says, “Work should be a joyful human activity,” not a drudge or a drain. (“Grow your flame” is Liz’s trademark phrase, by the way).

Step 2: Give yourself permission to figure it out in whatever time it takes. Before starting your job search, print out this quote by Albert Einstein and put it on your bathroom mirror:

 “Perhaps the fundamental freedom that anyone possesses is the choice of where we place our attention.”

 During your search, your attention will go south at times. You will feel tempted to quit, and slink back to your current job where you “shrink to fit” because shrinking will seem easier  than finding a new job. Instead, remember that any major change requires two ingredients:  Grace and grit.  Imbue your job search with those two qualities, and you will find a better job. I promise.

By grace, I mean give yourself a “grace period” that lasts throughout your whole search. Be kind to yourself when you blunder a follow up phone call at a new company you’ve targeted.  Grant yourself a reprieve. Know that job searching is clumsy and awkward, because you’re seeking out a lot of new information from people who seem to have it all. Except they don’t. Remember they were job seekers once, and may be secret job seekers right now. You don’t know.  As a job seeker, you’re rusty, so grant yourself grace as you build up your job seeker muscles again. Treat yourself to a cheap caramel iced coffee somewhere, or sit on a park bench and bask in the glow of each little success.

By grit, I mean, stick with your goal of making a change. If you tried to connect with someone and they didn’t get back to you, contact someone else at that company.  Don’t take it personally, don’t take it as a sign it’s not worth it.  As I said in an earlier piece, keep pressing buttons until you get a result. I spent a year taking an intensive Life Coaching course, and then realized I didn’t want to be a life coach! I liked it, but it wasn’t quite right. Those skills lay dormant for years until I realized I really wanted to be a Career Coach. The life coaching skills are a vital part of my services. That’s what I mean by grit—hanging in there even when it seems like you’re yielding nothing.

Step 3: Try new things. This is the step most people in job search avoid. Instead, what people often do is spend a lot of angry energy creating a new resume (I did that—I’d take a day off I was so mad, rewrite my resume, and it just sat in my secret file, all dolled up with no place to go). Beginning your job search by re-writing your resume is a waste of your time and here’s why: In today’s job market, 80% of jobs are filled by referral, 20% through an applicant pool. This means you need to go network, and try new activities, to meet new people. There are two reasons for experimenting: First, you build a referral base of people who might refer you to a job, but second, to learn your preferences. The more you know about yourself, the higher likelihood you’ll find a job that fits like a glove.

If you don’t try new things, you may end up in the same jam as a professional acquaintance of mine, “Amy.” Every few months she contacts me, at the end of her rope with her job. She says, “That’s it! I can’t take it anymore! I’ve had enough pettiness, I’m bored out of my mind. I’m through!” I ask if she’s taken any new classes in the direction she’d like to go, or sat down for informational interviews with “insiders” at companies she’s targeting, or attended free Webinars on something exciting to her.  No, no, and no, is her reply. She’s in a tailspin. She doesn’t feel she can leave her job, because she hasn’t opened up any new doors, or gained new insights about a new career direction. These two things are vital to your job search! Letting new information in alters your DNA, and gives your job search momentum. When I did informational interviews to learn more about career coaching, I visited several Career Services offices at local universities. I asked career advisors, “What’s the one thing college students most want to know about?” and they all said, “LinkedIn.” That information set my career trajectory on fire.  As a former software trainer, learning LinkedIn has been a natural for me. I began gobbling up everything about LinkedIn, and now optimize my clients’ profiles.

Step 4: Optimize your LinkedIn profile. (I know. It sounds like I’m plugging my services here, but really. You need to do this). I have received several consulting offers as a result of my optimized LinkedIn profile and my LinkedIn posts. As personal branding expert William Arruda says, “There are literally thousands of personal branding activities you can engage in every day that will help your career thrive. . . Almost all of them can be accomplished through LinkedIn.” It’s a powerful tool. Spending money for an optimized profile will be money well spent (if you apply grit. Once you’re optimized, you’ll need to work its features)! If you’d rather not pay someone, see Arruda’s article here, on how to optimize your own profile.

Step 5. Make new connections. Whether you are simply switching companies and staying in your industry, or switching industries altogether, like I did, it’s vital to make new connections, out there in the world, and on social media. Every time I’d read an article I really liked or found helpful, I’d reach out to the author on LinkedIn. I told her/him specifically what I liked about the article, and requested a connection. Ninety percent of the time, people accepted my request. Then if I thought they might have information that would be helpful, I requested informational interviews, and built relationships in the industry.  I’m there for them too, which is crucial to the process of  relationship building.

Step 6: Retell your new professional story to your friends and family and new people you meet. Share your excitement about your new direction with people. Tell them what you’re learning. It’s a necessary part of your re-invention and it will feed your conviction that change is a comin’. Telling it will make it real. You’ll also be amazed at how many people know people who can help you, once they learn what you want to do.  “Oh, you need to talk to my friend Sarah! She’s an admissions advisor at so and so.” It will work like that.

More importantly, you are stepping into a new, stronger identity by talking about the new things you’re doing. “Amy” above isn’t yet carving out a new identity. She’s so focused on being angry about her situation that she’s paralyzed.

Don’t let that be you. As Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Here I’ve provided you with a step-by-step list that will help you find work that makes you come alive. Go do it!

image: © /muamu

Thanks and gratitude go to Herminia Ibarra and her excellent book Working Identity for articulating  steps 3, 5 and 6 with such clarity. She captured my own long and winding reinvention process, before I knew that’s what I was doing.