Monday, July 31, 2017

10 Days in Europe: Trip Details + Packing List



     It's almost time for the thing I've been looking forward to all summer: my family's trip to Europe! I've mentioned it a few times on the blog, but I figured I'd elaborate a little more. My family is taking this trip because military members and their families can fly for free if there are extra seats on military flights around the world. Now that we're in New Jersey for the next year, we figured it would be a great time to try and snag a flight to Europe since it'll be a (relatively) painless 8ish hour trip. Hopefully we'll get to leave on Wednesday as planned because although I'm prepared to be a little flexible, I realize that's going to be easier said than done because I'm love plans and routine.

     Why am I so excited for this trip? For one, I love traveling and going on adventures. But more importantly, I'm a French major who's never actually been to France. Although I've traveled in Europe once before (southern Germany, Austria, and northern Italy), I know this trip is going to be a lot more fun and challenging since I'll actually get to practice my French; I'm looking at this trip as a sort of warm-up for when I (hopefully) study abroad in France during the Spring 2018.

     Packing for this trip has been a minor source of stress ever since my parents decided we were going. Taking French all throughout high school, every single one of my French-born teachers would comment on the "horrors" of American tourists and the clothes they wore while touring Europe. Shorts, tennis shoes, and baseball caps were the butt of too many jokes and rants to keep up with. Fast forward to this summer, and I've been carefully planning my packing list in my head for months, trying to balance fashion and function.

     I realize that I'm not obligated follow European fashion ideals, and I'm definitely not one to blindly follow trends. However, I've decided to try and adhere to more European-style outfits in Europe in hopes that I'll be targeted less by pickpockets (I hear they're awful in Paris) and to hopefully trick a few French people into speaking French to me (haha). In all serious though, my family usually tries to take a slightly less touristy approach to travel, so what the heck, why not dress a little bit like a European while in Europe. That being said, although I'm going to nix the shorts and tennis shoes, you can bet I'll still be dressing in my usual preppy style-- you've gotta compromise somehow, right?

Our Itinerary 
Ramstein, Germany --> Bastogne, Belgium --> Caen, France -> Paris, France --> Strasbourg, France --> Landstuhl, Germany --> Home!
     I realize a few of these places sound a little random, but that's because my dad and brother are making the first half of the trip all about WWII. Bastogne, Belgium was the site of the Battle of the Bulge (the battle that the mini-series Band of Brothers is based on, or so I'm told) and Caen is the city nearest the D-Day landing beaches. After that though, my family has left me in charge of planning our time in Paris and Strasbourg! Landstuhl is back near Ramstein Air Base and just so happens to be where members of my mom's family emmigrated from in the 1860's-- she's very into geneology and so we're going to do a bit of poking around to see what information we can find there. 

Packing Details
     One of the perks of flying on a military plane is that checked bags are 100% free. However, I realize that this is probably the only time in my life that I'll have that luxury, so I'm still packing everything in a carry-on and abiding by the 3-1-1 liquids rules. This'll also come in handy just in case we can't catch a military flight home and have to fly commercial back to the States. 

     I'm packing all of my clothes/shoes/toiletries in my Longchamp Le Pliage XL Duffel (linked retailer that has great customer service + free shipping!). It's huge but still carry-on compliant. I like traveling with soft-sided bags because although they're a bit annoying to carry around, airlines will almost never make you check bags like these plane-side, which means your bag will never be out of sight. The nylon fabric is a breeze to clean and it folds up like all the other Le Pliage bags so storage in a tiny dorm room/apartment/closet is no hassle. I'm taking my laptop/other small items, including my purse, in a backpack I got from Deloitte at the end of my externship.

     While packing, I tried to keep the weather and off-limits items in mind. I've been keeping a close eye on the weather and will continue to do so, but right now it seems like daytime high temps are going to be between 70-80 degrees F -- looks like leaving behind the shorts won't be such a big deal after all. Speaking of those, here's what's off-limits: shorts, tennis shoes (for the most part! I'm gonna wear them on the plane), flip flops, and baseball caps (no telling what the rest of my family is going to wear, though). As far as activities, we're mostly just going to be walking around cities, so I didn't bring anything too specific, other than a raincoat just in case.

Are you sensing a stripes theme?


     What I'm bringing for 10 days:
  •  Clothes
    • 3 sleeveless dresses 
    • 1 navy cardigan + navy sweater shell
    • 1 striped long sleeve t-shirt from a French brand, hoping to stock up while I'm there!
    • 2 light long-sleeve sweaters
    • 3 nice tops
    • 1 pair white jean crops 
    • 1 pair dark-wash jeans 
    • 3 pairs of pajamas
    • 1 pair of athletic shorts + sports bra + tshirt probably won't work out but justtt in case/they can double as jammies
    • Underwear + bras
  • Shoes
    • 1 pair tennis shoes I promise I'm only wearing them on the plane and if we go hiking (you never know with my dad)
    • 1 pair nice sandals 
    • 1 pair boat shoes 
    • 1 pair ballet flats


  • Small leather cross-body purse
  • Toiletries
    • Makeup + eyelash curler + makeup brushes
    • Tweezers
    • Hair ties + bobby pins
    • Comb + hairbrush + round blow-dry brush
    • Deodorant
    • Shampoo bar : LUSH they're a serious travel life-saver and I'll probably write a separate post about these at some point
    • Makeup wipes
    • Mini nail kit
    • Toothbrush
    • Razor
    • Shower cap
    • Clarisonic

  • 3-1-1 bag Yes, my bag barely zips shut 😛
    • Conditioner
    • Mini dry shampoo
    • Foundation 
    • Moisturizer daytime + nighttime, packed for travel in a contact lense case! best travel hack ever
    • Mascara
    • Concealer
    • Eyeshadow primer
    • Toner/facial mist
    • Toothpaste
    • Face cleanser
    • Perfume
    • Hair product
    • Acne spot treatment
    • Hand lotion
    • Tide pen I can't live without these because I'm messy
  • Odds and ends in my Deloitte bag
    • Melatonin pills
    • Sunglasses
    • Jewelry
    • Laptop + charger
    • Moleskine Travel Journal + a few pens
    • Cell phone + earbuds
    • Fuzzy socks for the plane ride

     So there you have it, my travel plans and packing list, with a few little tips added! Although I have a few posts scheduled for while I'm gone, your best bet to keep up with me in real-time while I'm gone is to follow me on Insta and or Twitter (just made this account!) for updates whenever I have Wi-Fi.

     Thanks for reading,
     Alex

Friday, July 28, 2017

July Favorites (+ Top Posts this Month)

     Can you believe July is almost over?! This month has seriously flown by. I realized that it's officially less than a month until I move back down to school-- but this is definitely a good thing! After getting to spend time with college friends over the past two weekends (the NJ Turnpike Northbound has become my new bff), I can't wait to be back in Williamsburg with my favorite people.

     If you've learned anything about me from reading my blog so far, it's probably that I love reflecting. So I thought the end of the month would be a perfect time to reflect on some of my favorite products/people/trends/etc., and also share a quick recap of your favorite posts from this month.

July Favorites
Disclaimer: This post was in no way sponsored by any of the brands/people mentioned below, so all information reflects my honest thoughts and opinions!


     Hourglass Arch Brow Sculpting Pencil // Eyebrows are definitely an important part of my beauty routine-- I feel like keeping your brows groomed instantly makes you look more put-together and I can't wait to get back to monthly threading appointments at school with my gals. I've tried a lot of different eyebrow products: gels, pencils, powders, you name it. This product is unique in that it's lightweight but still holds everything in place, and the range of colors gets rave reviews online. I've been impressed with how fast it is to fill in my eyebrows with this pencil-- literally a few seconds for each brow and then a few more seconds to brush them out with the spoolie. Admittedly, I got this as a gift this month, so it's hard to comment on whether or not this product is truly worth the price. However, after using it for a little over a week, I've barely needed to twist it to expose more of the pencil, so it seems like it'll last for a long time!

     @mykameier on Instagram // I can't really remember how I stumbled upon Beaumont Etiquette's website but kudos to whoever does their marketing because I was instantly convinced that $600 was a reasonable price to pay for etiquette lessons at the Plaza hotel in New York City. I also immediately developed a girl crush on the company's founder, Myka Meier. I alluded to this a little bit in my post about being a lady, I'm lowkey obsessed with the idea of etiquette (I have an 800+ page copy of Emily Post's Etiquette) even if I'm not always the most perfectly well-mannered person among my friends and family. Even those who aren't obsessed with etiquette will appreciate Myka's Instagram profile where she shares fun etiquette tips and pictures of her ultra-posh life in New York-- seriously, this woman is #goals. Oh, and did I mention she was trained by a member of the British royal household?

      Facial Mists // I bought Mario Badescu's Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater on a whim because I saw it in the Nordstrom Rack check-out line and it was only $5, but I've also used some facial mists from L'Occitane as well as rosewater and lavender water (that I made myself). I've already gone through half of the Mario Badescu bottle and am seriously convinced of the magical power of facial sprays; these products are great because they can be used as a toner or makeup setting spray, and they're just plain fun to use when you're bored at your desk (I'm guilty of doing this) or want a quick way to feel refreshed. Seriously, there are tons of brands that sell these and most of them are pretty cheap. I'll definitely be packing a facial mist to use on my trip to Europe so that I can get a semi-fresh feeling while on the plane!

     White on White // I've been seeing a lot of bloggers post white on white outfits on Instagram and the look has also been popping up on a lot of fashion websites (photo in the roundup is from Tuckernuck, one of my favorite clothing websites). This isn't something you'd wear to work/an internship, but I think it looks very put-together for more casual occasions! Stay tuned to see if I'm able to pull off a white on white outfit before the end of the summer, and next time you're lacking fashion inspiration, try pairing white crops and a white top.

     School Supply Shopping // Maybe this shouldn't be included for July because I haven't actually done any supply shopping yet, but I'm anxiously awaiting it! I've been browsing a ton of websites online and Kate Spade's "Tackle Box" of desk supplies stood out; the set would be a really cute back-to-school gift or a fun little splurge for yourself. Stay tuned for a full school supply round-up in August. 

Top Posts in July 
     Just in case you missed something, I thought it'd be fun to share this month's top three posts on the blog. If you haven't read them already, then what are you waiting for?
  1. The College Girl's Guide to Building Your (Stylish!) Business Wardrobe #1 by a landslide!
  2. Recruiting Boot Camp: Building & Updating Your College Resume it's not too late to get ready for fall career fairs
  3. Almost a tie, so I included them both (the Greek post had 1 more view!) Why You Should Consider Going Greek & Reflection: Halfway Through 2017 

     So there you have it, my month in a nutshell! Although we still have a few days left of July, I'm excited to start sharing my trip preparations (and my actual trip!) next week. Posts may be a little more sporadic for the first two weeks of August, but I'll do my best to keep you all updated + schedule posts ahead of time!

Thanks for reading,
Alex
    
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Why You Should Consider Going Greek

   

     My Greek experience isn't something that I've talked about much on the blog yet (aside from this mention about business casual clothes for chapter meeting), so I'm excited to share more with everyone today-- but not too much! My sorority experience isn't exactly typical; I love my chapter dearly and have gained a lot from it, but I won't hesitate to tell you that my favorite part of being a sorority woman has been working in the Panhellenic community as a whole.

     My freshman year of college, I applied to be on my school's Panhellenic Executive Board last minute, not really expecting to hear back-- fun fact, at this point, I hadn't even been officially initiated into my sorority! Just two weeks later, though, I was thrilled to accept the position of Vice President of Scholarship (the board structure includes a President, VP, and VP's of various areas of Panhellenic life). Serving on the board was an incredible opportunity for freshman Alex because I got to work with so many intelligent, high-achieving women who had an incredible vision for sorority women both at my school and across the nation. Being on Panhellenic Exec has also challenged me to work with other students from the fraternity and multi-cultural Greek communities which has been a great learning experience.

     This year, as Vice President of Conduct (yes, I'm the rules person, haha) I'm so excited to work with another group of incredible women, including some familiar faces from last year. A highlight so far has been traveling to Indianapolis back in January for College Panhellenic Academy and getting to hear from amazing speakers and other students. Even more exciting, though, is that I get to serve as a member of the Panhellenic Recruitment team with five other women. Recruitment team members are responsible for running formal recruitment as a whole, and let me tell you, it's a huge job; the master recruitment schedule I received last week includes many days that end after midnight and lots of early mornings.

     In the interest of serving PNM's (Potential New Members, the women going through recruitment) in an unbiased manner, members of the Panhellenic Recruitment team are "unaffiliated" when they return to school for the fall semester up until the end of recruitment. This means that I can't wear letters or talk to sorority women for extended periods of time in public-- as many women say, "we give up our letters to help you find yours". This also means, unfortunately, that I can't share what chapter I'm in right now, but I'll be happy to share with you guys after Bid Day in September.

     Why did I choose to spend the past two years working for the Panhellenic community as a whole? Because I truly believe that going Greek opens up a world of opportunity for women and can enable them to flourish in college. Forget the stereotypes you've seen in movies; those chapters may exist, but they're few and far between. Greek life is ever-evolving and continues to grow because more and more college students are seeing the value of joining these organizations.

     There's a common misconception that there is one type of "sorority woman" who was born to join an organization. But I'm here to tell you that a "sorority woman" is any woman who chooses to make a commitment to herself and to her sisters to strive to be the best version of themselves. Modern sorority chapters are full of woman with diverse interests and backgrounds, and if you're open to the possibility of joining a chapter, you'll find one where you feel at home.

     This post is aimed at any woman who's ever thought about recruitment. Whether you've claimed joining a sorority "isn't for you", or you've been dreaming of recruitment since you were in high school, I'm here to share some of the reasons you should at least consider how Greek life might fit into your college experience.

     Sororities were founded on the principle of empowering women // One thing I remember distinctly from a speech at College Panhellenic Academy is that a majority of sororities were founded before women had basic rights. Many women's organizations were established in the mid to late 1800's, before women had even gained the right to vote. The founders of all these sororities believed that women can achieve more when they're united, and together, modern sororities continue work to promote women's issues on college campuses across the country. On my campus and many others, sorority women are the students leading tough conversations about gender and sexuality, sexual assault, and leadership diversity.

     Sorority women are involved // The idea that sorority women are only involved in their sorority is laughable to me because my sisters are involved in so many activities, it's hard to keep track. Although most sororities require you to be involved in at least one other activity on campus, this is hardly the reason that these women are involved. Sororities require commitment and therefore attract women who are passionate and willing to work hard for things they're interested in. And on that note...

     Sorority women are leaders // The opportunity for leadership was one of the main reasons I knew I wanted to join a sorority as a freshman, and I haven't been disappointed in the slightest. Being in a sorority enables you to step up and take on a variety of leadership roles, from leading a committee for a small philanthropy initiative to serving as a house manager to working for your sisters as a chapter executive. Or maybe, like me, you're interested in working with the Greek community as a whole. All of these positions are stepping stones that will prepare you to take on bigger roles within your chapter, other organizations, and even in the workplace! Plus, the women in your chapter will probably be a source of inspiration, too-- watching my big sister + the rest of our family line kill it in chapter executive leadership roles has definitely fueled my ambition to lead. Examples of Greek women who have gone on to incredible roles? Condoleezza Rice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Harper Lee, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Carrie Underwood...the list could go on for miles.

     Joining a sorority expands your network exponentially // Thousands of women in the US (and even some abroad) are Greek, and once you join a sorority, you join their ranks. Many sorority alumnae seek out opportunities to help college women in their former chapters, and many others will be thrilled just to find out that you're Greek in passing. Going through Big Four interviews and networking events, I can confidently say that being Greek gave me an instant commonality with many women (and men!) that I met and I felt more at ease knowing that we shared at least one personal experience. Not to mention, recruitment is great practice for networking events.

     Sororities foster a healthy sense of tradition // Tradition and ritual is what binds you to your sisters, and I for one love tradition. Especially during the chaos of college, routine and tradition can be extremely comforting. Having a weekly chapter meeting where I know exactly what to expect is nice amid the ever-changing demands of college, and knowing that I share rituals with hundreds of college women across the country is a pretty cool feeling, too.

     What questions do you have about recruitment? Comment below or DM @preppybeancounter on Instagram because I'd love to answer them in an additional post as recruitment gets closer!

   
Monday, July 24, 2017

5 Tips for Surviving Summer Classes

   

     I'm thisclose to being done with summer classes. At this point, just four small discussion posts and two online exams are standing in the way of summer freedom. In a lot of ways, this feels like a major milestone; sometime next week (not necessarily firm on the date because we'll be flying standby), my family will be headed out to Europe for around 10 days, and I'm still not sure if I want to keep working when I get home because 40+ hours a week at the golf course has gotten old fast. The idea that I could be completely done with obligations soon is exciting because this summer has been long but not particularly eventful so far.

     Lamenting aside, taking online summer classes has been a lot more of a learning experience than I expected. Considering I go to a fairly rigorous college, I'll admit I thought online community college courses were going to be a breeze-- they weren't. My summer classes required more effort than naive Alex had anticipated, and there definitely some things I would've done differently.

     Minor whining aside, I realize that thousands of college students take classes every summer. For some students, summer classes give them the credits needed to graduate on-time or even early. For others, summer can be a great time to knock out pre-requisites, or maybe, like me, they're trying to get extra credits to qualify for a licensure or exam. Whatever the reason may be, summer classes can be a great option to reach your educational goals, but they do require some advance planning.

     Today, I'm sharing my tips for surviving summer classes so that you can plan ahead and consider how summer classes might be able to help you out.


  1. Decide which class format fits your summer schedule best // Your other summer plans will majorly influence the types of classes you'll want to take. Living on-campus and paying your standard tuition can be expensive but worth it if you need to take very specific classes or want to pair your summer studies with on-campus research with a professor. On the other hand, if your class needs are less specific/you're taking fewer classes and you don't mind the idea of living at home for the summer, community college classes or online classes are your best bet and allow you to work throughout the summer as well. Just make sure that your credits will transfer back to your main college if you take them at another institution.
  2. Shop around for the best price for online classes // If you decide to take classes online, make sure you price out your options. Even if your college offers online classes (many schools do), check out what your local community college has to offer because the tuition is often much more affordable; just one online class through my college equaled the cost of the three online classes I'm taking through a local community college! 
  3. Professors still matter // I made the mistake of assuming that all summer classes were essentially the same, but I was wrong. Had I done some research on my professors, I would've never taken Astronomy to try and fulfill a science requirement-- the 13 page research paper on an arbitrary topic was definitely unecessary and didn't really expand my knowledge of astronomy. There IS such a thing as a bad summer class/professor, and you should try to avoid them if at all possible! 
  4. Stay on top of your schedule-- no, seriously // This is the advice I received consistently from other students who had taken summer classes. I'm a very organized person, so I thought this would be a breeze, and yet a few deadlines still snuck up on me; submitting the aforementioned 13 page research paper just seconds before the deadline was certainly a low point. That being said, make sure to print out your syllabi, write down all your due dates, and identify "bad" days/weeks where you have multiple deadlines so you can plan ahead-- had I done this, I would've realized that I had two online exams and that research paper due all in the same week, and I would've been able to handle the situation a lot better!
  5. Remember to enjoy your summer // At the end of the day, it's still summer even if you're taking classes. Allow yourself some time for fun admist all the studying. Additionally, grades often don't transfer from other institutions back to your main college (at least at my school). That means that as long as you pass the class, you'll get credit and it won't impact your GPA at all, and it's really not worth pouring in all that extra effort to get a 100%. It took me a while to adopt that attitude this summer, but since I realized this, I've enjoyed my summer a lot more.


     Have you taken summer classes before? Are you planning to take them later on in your college career? Let me know in the comments and add your own tips, too! 
Friday, July 21, 2017

Defining Class: How to be a Lady (or Gentleman) in the Modern World

   


     This past weekend, I was lucky enough to get a day off of work so I could finally get outside the military base and do something fun; I ended up driving to Connecticut to visit my boyfriend. On one hand, I was very excited since I had never met his family before or even really seen any part of CT besides the interstate on a trip to Boston. On another hand, though, I knew I might be in for an interesting experience since I had heard enough stories about his high school experience to infer that I might feel like a fish out of water there. Although my boyfriend is very down to earth, I knew I'd be meeting a lot of his friends from home who might not necessarily be the same.

     It's not that I'm unfamiliar with wealthy suburbs. Living in Fairfax County, the second richest county in the US by median income (#1, Loudon County, is just next door), during high school opened my eyes to some of the privilege that exists out there. Northern Virginia, or NoVA as most people in Virginia refer to the area as, is a bubble full of large homes, great schools, and stable, well-paying jobs.

     In my own personal experience, being a military brat has afforded my family comfortable lifestyle and the opportunity to travel extensively. Nevertheless, my parents have always expected me to do plenty of chores at home, have a job, and manage my money. I attended public school almost exclusively as we moved from state to state-- my two years at a private middle school in Hawaii were only prompted by the fact that the state has some of the worst schools in the country.

     By contrast, some of the people I met in the CT suburbs of New York City will probably never step foot inside a public school in their lives. Instead, their primary education culminated in private high school that cost more per year than most people's college tuition. They seemed confused when I mentioned that I come from a military family-- a fact I mentioned as we ate appetizers prepared by a private chef in an 8,000 square foot home. A lot of my experiences that day felt like they had been pulled straight out of Gossip Girl, except for most of the other people in the room, this was just a typical day in their life.

     This post isn't to complain about or chastise those who enjoy a privileged lifestyle; that'd be extremely hypocritical since I'd be lying if I said I didn't have fun living like "the other half" of society for a day, and I know that I'm also very blessed. But since this weekend, I've reflected a lot on my own personal values and the way I conduct myself, and I thought it might be worthwhile to share those reflections.

     My main takeaway from this weekend is that I'm proud of the way I live my life on a day-to-day basis. Of course, there's a time and place for everything. I don't claim to be well-mannered 24/7-- ask my friends about this, they've witnessed some pretty loud burps from me over the course of our friendship so far. But generally, I like to think that I'm a compassionate person who presents herself well to others, especially when I first meet them. The most surprising thing about Sunday was the confidence I felt in that situation knowing that I was presenting myself well and serving as a testament to my upbringing.


     The moral of the story? I'll warn you, it's a bit of a cliche-- money does not equate class. With that in mind, I'm sharing some ideas on how to be perceived well and feel comfortable in any situation. Not only are these just good social practices, but comporting yourself well has been shown to be a major factor in securing promotions at work. Here are some things that I personally can help you be perceived in the best light possible and make you feel a little bit more elegant in your daily life:
  •  Be generous with thank you's // This one is just plain common courtesy. Say thank you whenever someone helps you out, no matter how small of an act. Everyone is busy these days, so recognize the extra effort that that person is putting in to make your life just a little bit easier. With that being said...
  • Don't break the rules just because you can // One of the guys I met on Sunday claimed that we would be able to sit in the grandstand at the polo match we were attending even though we had only bought lawn tickets. When he tried to get our group into the grandstand, one of the employees politely pointed out that we didn't have the correct wristband so we couldn't sit there. A few minutes later, this guy insisted on slipping up into the grandstand when that employee disappeared for a bit. Needless to say, when she came back sometime later, she wasn't happy to have to kick us out of the grandstand since she had already talked to our group. I couldn't help but feel pretty embarrassed, especially because breaking rules like that is something I'm not really comfortable doing. The real kicker is, we ended up having a much better view and more fun once we moved to the lawn, where we were supposed to be sitting anyways. Save yourself and other people some trouble and just do what you're supposed to do.
  • Dress appropriately // I'm a big fan of the saying that you can never be overdressed, but you can be dressed inappropriately. Dress to the level of formality that you're comfortable with, but always make sure that what you're wearing is conducive to whatever activities you might be doing that day. On Sunday, there was a stark contrast between outfits when it came to us girls. I showed up to polo wearing a sleeveless, knee-length seersucker dress and flat but formal Jack Rogers sandals (pictured on the blog Insta). The "Greenwich Girls", as we'll call them, wobbled around the polo match on sky-high wedges and complained about their feet hurting; later, when we decided to play lawn games, I had the misfortune of seeing their skimpy undies every time they moved thanks to their ultra-short dresses. Classy? Not really. I'm all about fashion, but modern ladies should prioritize functional fashion. 
  • Know how to get into/out of a car // See above story about undies. If you're going to rock a short dresses on the regular, consider looking up the strategy that royals and celebrities use to avoid giving paparazzi a shot of their underwear. I recently became super aware of this while awkwardly clambering on and off the beverage cart at the golf course where I work while wearing a skort; at first, I thought changing the way I got up/sat down was sort of silly, but admittedly I'm kind of into it now and feel super fancy every time I successfully get up/down gracefully. On a more serious note, this method also helps you avoid hitting your head on the car frame, something that's happened to me an embarrassing amount of times. This Howcast video can help you master the "swivel and pop" method as it's sometimes called.
  •  Spend less time on your phone // This is one I really want to work on for myself. Not only is being on your phone 24/7 in a group of people rude, it takes you out of the experience and can cause you to miss out on making memories. I'm not saying you should lock up you're phone every time you're out and about. Take that Snapchat, send that text, post that super cute Insta pic, but then put it away for a while. Another thing that I/a lot of other college-age people need to work on is walking around while using your phone; honestly, it's a miracle we haven't all walked into a wall or something, so maybe we should just quit while we're ahead.

     Clearly, this list isn't exhaustive, but my goal is to prompt you to think about your own personal experiences and your behavior. What would you add to this list? What habits/mannerisms are your working on? Tell us about it in the comments below!

P.S. I hope everyone has been enjoying the uptick in content lately-- I'm officially making it my goal to publish 3 posts a week (Mon/Wed/Fri)!
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

CPA Tracks: Master's of Accounting Programs and Why/How I'm Bypassing Them

   

     It was so fun to watch the views roll in on my last post about building your professional wardrobe in college-- I love talking about clothes, so it's exciting to see that people enjoyed it, too! While I'll definitely keep that in mind for the future, for today, I wanted to get back to the roots of my blog and talk a bit more about the subject that prompted me to start this blog: accounting. For many accounting (and even finance) students, becoming a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a major goal and a necessity for those going into audit or tax at any major accounting firm.

     The education requirements for the CPA exam aren't exactly clear; the recent explosion in Master's of Accounting Programs at universities across the country has created even more confusion. Many accounting students see these programs and think they have to get their MAcc. This is not true at all, as I've been told by partners from every Big Four firm. However, getting a MAcc can be useful for certain students who are trying to reach the 150 educational credits needed to obtain CPA licensure. In this post, I'll break down the CPA educational requirements and then talk about the different tracks that can help you reach that requirement so you can determine which makes the most sense for your educational situation.

CPA Educational Requirements
     Specific educational requirements vary from state to state, since your license will be based in the state where you work. In general, though, most states require 120 credits to sit for the exam and 150 to become licensed (in addition to any other requirements-- generally, a year of accounting work experience is necessary). Look up the rules for state so you can be sure you're taking the correct type and number of courses to get you where you need to be; oftentimes the state website includes a printable worksheet to track your courses.

     As an example, in Virginia, I'm required to have 120 credits to sit for the exam and 150 to be licensed. 24 of these credits must be accounting classes above the first introductory level (often called "Principles of Accounting"), and 24 must be other business courses, which can include courses in economics, statistics, etc.

Master's of Accounting (MAcc) Programs
      The 150 credit requirement is a relatively recent development; many older individuals currently working at accounting firms will tell you that back in your day, 120 credits was all that was necessary to become licensed. Since the average college Bachelor's degree equals 120 credits, modern accounting students are left with a 30 credit gap in their credentials. Seeing the chance to make a profit off this new rule, universities around the country began creating 1 year, 30 credit "Master's of Accounting" programs to bump students up to the required number of credits. Tuition for many programs costs over $30,000, even for in-state students attending public universities.

     A lot of students get tricked into thinking they must have a MAcc degree to get a job or be a successful CPA. The short answer is, this is absolutely not true! All firms care about is that you're able to get CPA certified; multiple partners from different firms have told me that MAcc students and students getting to 150 in other ways are viewed just the same. With that in mind, the MAcc may make the most sense for you depending on your situation. We'll delve into the possibilities below.

CPA Tracks: Many Paths to the Same Goal
     As you might imagine, there are a lot of different combinations to get you to 150 credits. Which you choose will depend a lot on your high school credits, financial situation, and time constraints. Below, we'll break them down and discuss the type of students that each path makes the most sense for.
  • 4 year degree + 1 year MAcc program = 5 years // Completing a four year degree plus a MAcc often makes the most sense for students who chose accounting a little later in their college career or  those who want to pick up accounting after completing a non-accounting undergraduate degree. If you switched majors halfway through school, adding in the Master's degree can give you the additional accounting credits necessary to become licensed. Many adults also use MAcc programs to get the credit necessary for the CPA exam after completing an undergraduate degree in an entirely different field. If you have the money to pay for undergrad and a MAcc, spending a full five years studying accounting can help you feel fully prepared to tackle the CPA exam.
  • 4 year degree + additional credits after graduation = 4.5-5 years // An alternative to doing a full undergraduate experience plus a MAcc would be to graduate in the standard four years and then just take 30 credits worth of classes at your own pace, such as through a community college. This is cheaper than paying for a MAcc program but is obviously less structured, and might require you to study more intensively for the CPA exam on your own.
  • 3 year degree + 1 year MAcc program = 4 years // Some students who are on track to graduate early may choose to complete their accounting degree  in three years, graduating from undergrad a year early and then spending that fourth year to complete a MAcc program. This path makes the most sense for students who enter college with at least 15 credits from IB/AP/dual enrollment programs who choose accounting as their major very early on. I wouldn't recommend this program if you'd feel left out being stuck studying for the CPA exam/your graduate classes while your friends are enjoying their senior year. Also, keep in mind that this track will still likely cost more than just getting a four year degree because you'll be paying pricier graduate tuition during your last year at school.
  • 4 year degree + additional credits during the semester or over the summer = 4 years // If you're feeling ambitious, you can fit all 150 credits into the course of your undergraduate degree and graduate in 4 years, ready to take the CPA exam. Students may take heavy course loads during the semester (17+ credits) or take summer classes to squeeze in an extra 30 credits. This usually works best path makes the most sense for students who enter college with IB/AP/dual enrollment programs, but it could it's possible to pull it off with no previous credit. This plan requires A LOT of planning to make sure you're completing all of your standard graduation and CPA requirements on-time. This option is best for students who choose accounting early in college because it would be extremely difficult to fit in all of the necessary classes after a major change. However, this option is likely the most affordable because you will only be paying for a few extra standard classes in addition to your normal Bachelor's Degree costs. 
My CPA Path & Why I Choose It
     When I decided to pursue accounting this past fall, I decided that after looking at all of my options, completing 150 credits in 4 years was the best option for my personal situation. Several factors led me to this choice. Firstly, I'm very blessed that my parents are covering the cost of my undergraduate education, and so I've always known that I wanted to arrange my post-grad plans in such a way that I'd incur minimal or no student debt that I'd have to pay off myself. In high school, I completed the International Baccalareaute (IB) Diploma, so I came into college with 15 credits thanks to my high school IB exam scores.

     I'm usually an extremely disciplined student, so I knew that taking a heavier course load + summer classes would be manageable for me. So, in order to meet the 150 credit CPA requirement, I'm taking 9 credits (3 classes) online through a community college this summer and then will take 16-17 credits for the last two years of my college career. Although this path will be tougher than others because of the short amount of time and the fact I'll be studying a lot for the CPA exam on my own during my senior year, I know I want to start working right out of college, so this track will enable me to graduate CPA-eligible; not to mention, I paid just $1,250 for my additional classes and then was able to get a small scholarship to cover the entire cost, setting me up to achieve my goal of graduating without any student loans or debt.


     I hope that this post will help inform potential accounting students and future CPA's so that they can choose the right path for themselves. My best advice for high schools students and/or college freshmen and sophomores who are considering the CPA exam would be to plan early and often so that you can avoid spending unecessary time and money to achieve this goal. As always, I'm here if anyone has any questions about majoring in accounting or planning for CPA eligibility requirements :)

Monday, July 17, 2017

The College Girl's Guide to Building Your (Stylish!) Business Wardrobe

 

     As I hinted to in my last post about the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, this post is going to be all about dressing professionally. There's definitely a reason that I added the distinction of "preppy" to The Preppy Bean Counter-- I love fashion (even if not everyone shares my same sense of style). Additionally, I'll admit I own a lot of business casual clothes. That's partly because I really like being on the dressier side every now and then, and partly because it's a necessity in my life right now. My sorority has formal chapter meeting every week, which means that every Monday night I have to be dressed in pin attire (you can only wear your sorority pin with professional attire as a sign of respect!). Additionally, while working in my school's Career Center, I was required to wear business casual since I would be directly interacting with employers. Finally, business attire is 100% unavoidable as a business student. Accountants are notorious for dressing badly but I'm determined to break that stereotype.

     As you can see, knowing how to dress professionally is very important for me. I get a lot of compliments on my business attire and a lot of girls I know lament that they have nothing professional to wear.  Earlier this summer, I met up with a friend to help her shop for clothes to wear to her big internship, and it was so much fun! I think a lot of college students avoid shopping for business clothes at all costs because they think business clothing implies expensive, mom-like, and impractical. Hopefully I can clear up some of those misconceptions with this post, though!

     Dressing professionally is often harder for women because we can't just throw on the same suit every day like men. But in the professional world, clothing is critical to communicating your competency and and your personal brand. I'm not saying that you have to spend a ton of money and spend hours planning your work outfits, but dressing appropriately ensures that you present yourself professionally and helps you get the respect you deserve for your hard work.

     We'll start with the distinction between business casual and business professional (also known as "business formal"), a breakdown of what you should be looking for in each piece and where to find them, some additional resources, and finally, a list of starter pieces I think every woman should have!

Business Professional vs. Business Casual
     I've summarized the types of clothes acceptable for each dress code in the table below and included my personal formulas for quickly putting together an outfit that works. Business casual tends to be a broad category and interpretations can differ a lot from employer to employer i.e. they might allow things like jeans or dressy sandals. If you're new to an office, keep it on the more professional end of the spectrum but observe what other people wear; you can always adjust accordingly. In my opinion, it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed, so for business casual, it's usually best to err towards more formal. As Oscar Wilde said, "you can never be overdressed or over-educated" :)


What To Look for + Where to Buy
     Suits // TBH it's always seemed unfair to me that men have entire stores/store sections dedicated to suits while women have to struggle to find them. Luckily, suits and matching or coordinated jackets and bottoms have become interchangeable in modern business fashion. Personally, I don't have a traditional suit so I can't offer a ton of advice on what to look for or where to buy them. Generally, though, don't be afraid to splurge on a suit if you want one or find one that you like because you'll be able to wear it for the rest of your life and can always where the bottoms and jacket seperately to create even more outfits. Colors/patterns should be neutral/solid i.e. black, navy, camel, grey. I don't think patterned suits exist but you shouldn't be buying them if they do. Suits should be tailored professionally; this can be expensive, but ill-fitting clothes look sloppy and again, you're probably going to be wearing this for a long time. I once had to go to an interview with a brand new jacket that hadn't been tailored yet-- the sleeves were so long that my hands were almost lost in the sleeves and it wasn't fun and I didn't feel confident because I knew I looked silly.
        Where to buy:
  • Department stores
  • Ann Taylor
  • Banana Republic 
  • Tahari
     Jackets // If you go the suiting separates root, stick to similar rules: neutral colors, no patterns, get them tailored. Try on a lot of jackets to get a feel for the style that best suits you (pun intended, hehe). Just one jacket is enough when you're starting out but later on you may need more!
       Where to buy:

  • Department stores I've had the most luck buying Calvin Klein brand from Macy's
  • J. Crew/ J. Crew Factory
  • Brooks Brothers/ Brooks Brothers Factory
  • Banana Republic

    Pants + Skirts // For business professional, as always, you're going to be sticking to neutral colors. Additionally, for business professional you want to make sure you're sticking to full-length pants, no crops, and make sure they're tailored to just skim the tops of your shoes-- yes, that means you need to wear the height of heels you expect to be wearing most often when you get the pants hemmed! Business professional skirts should be A-line or pencil style and knee-length. For business professional, you can get away with fun colors and patterns as well as cropped/capri styles and more flowy skirts. 
       Where to buy:
  • LOFT
  • Ann Taylor
  • J. Crew/ J. Crew Factory personally, I like the Frankie cropped chinos and the Sidewalk skirts
  • Talbots
  • H&M you have to be choosy here but I have a skirt from here that's held up surprisingly well
Blouses + Sweaters // Camisoles are great for layering under jackets and cardigans. When can you forgo a jacket or cardigan with a sleeveless top? Only when you're going for a business casual look and the straps of the top are 2-3 inches or wider-- even this may be considered a no-no in ultra-conservative offices. Button down shirts look oddly bad under jackets on women (in my opinion), so don't buy too many because it's a rookie mistake. I'm personally a big fan of sweater shells because they can be worn on their own outside of the office; I know a lot of people think sweater shells/sweater sets are outdated, but it seems like they're making a comeback and I love their versatility. In general, avoid excess cleavage and make sure tops are long enough to tuck in (it's nice to have the option to do so even if you think you won't want to).
       Where to buy:
  • Department stores
  • Nordstrom Rack honestly great for finding anything on this list at a good price
  • J. Crew/J. Crew Factory good for basic sweater shells!
  • Brooks Brothers/Brooks Brothers Factory
  • H&M see disclaimer in above section
  • Tuckernuck
Dresses // Dresses are the end all be-all of work attire because a dress is an outfit all-in-one. They look very polished but all you did was throw it on! Just as with tops, be mindful of straps, length, and cleavage. Ponte dresses are very forgiving and also super comfy! Add tights in winter if you need extra warmth.
      Where to buy:
  • Department stores
  • Nordstrom Rack  look for brands like Eliza J. and Tahari here and in normal dept. stores
  • Tuckernuck
  • J. Crew/J. Crew Factory
  • Camilyn Beth not all of their styles are work appropriate but these dresses are SO pretty

Additional Resources
     Here are a few other places to look for professional wardrobe advice!
Business Attire Starter Pieces: What you need to have in your closet right now
     These pieces represent an absolute minimum of what you should have in your business casual wardrobe as a college student who's going to be looking for a job. If you're a business student, you should strongly consider buying even more than this; I promise, you're going to use it!

  • 1 jacket + skirt or long pants to match-- this is your "suit" for interviews/other business professional events
  • 1 cardigan
  • 1 additional pair of pants (these can be crops) or a skirt
  • 2-3 professional blouses/sweaters
  • 1 sheath dress
  • Pair of plain black flats or heels (only go for the heels if you're positive you can walk in them for extended periods of time)


So there you have it, a definitive guide to diving into the world of professional dress! Business attire is less scary than you think, and I'm always here to answer questions if you have them.

Do you already own all of the starter pieces here? What's your wardrobe missing? Comment below!



Saturday, July 15, 2017

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2017: Mini Round-Up (Everything Under $100!)

   

     Hey everyone! After a hectic day on yesterday (long day at work, power outage at home, and a minor car accident while my mom was driving-- not our fault), I wanted to settle in for a cozy Friday night and write up a quick post about something fun. Enter: clothes! Thursday morning, I was shopping the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale after gaining early access and stumbled upon a lot of great deals. The sale started Thursday for those with a Nordstrom card; I didn't want to miss out so I signed up for the card because Nordstrom also happens to be one of my favorite department stores-- it's a great place to shop for cute business attire, and the Anniversary sale is a great opportunity to stock up on really high quality pieces at a much lower price!

     If you don't have a Nordstrom card or don't want to sign up for one (you gain instant access if you do!), you won't be able to access the sale until next Friday (July 21). If you do decide to wait, though, you'll be in luck because on Monday I'll be publishing an extremely detailed post about building your business professional + business casual wardrobe in college. The post is going to include my list of the basic business clothing items that every college girl should have in her wardrobe, which could serve as the perfect shopping list for hitting the sale. In this post I'm highlighting a view of my favorite items I've come across: business-y first, and then some fun preppy stuff just because at the end :) So, without further ado, here are some of my personal favorites from the sale!

 Business Attire & Basic Essentials on Sale
     A quilted jacket is perfect for fall and looks a lot more professional than an old North Face fleece when heading into interviews, formal meetings, or work.
Lauren Ralph Lauren, 2 colors, $99.90 (regular $160.00)








     I'm a big fan of work dresses because you just zip them on and head out the door. Eliza J makes beautiful dresses, and I think this one is great because you could make it even more professional for work by adding heels and a jacket or cardigan, but you can also dress it down to wear outside of work. Plus, the fit-and-flare style looks great on a lot of body types!
Eliza J, 1 color, $91.90 (regular $138.00)



     Cropped pants are a business casual staple because they look a lot more modern/less stuffy than trousers (the word "trouser" makes me shudder). These look polished and comfy!
Vince Camuto, 1 color, $58.90 (regular $89.00)








     Definitely more on the "casual" end of business casual but this top would look great with crops like the ones above, plus you could paid it with jeans for less professional occasions. Psychologists say that the color red projects power, so this could be just the top to wear to work!
Bobeau, 4 colors, $34.90 (regular $52.00)






     Scallops are a preppy staple, so of course I'm in love with this scalloped sweater. The blush color is my favorite but it looks like it may be sold out? At any rate, black is a great choice for matching with lots of different bottoms, and there are other color options if you want to make things a little more interesting.
Halogen, 4 (or 5?) colors, $39.90 (regular $59.00)






     Admittedly, I'm not at all familiar with this brand of watches, but it stood out to me for being cute and plain. I feel like a lot of women's watches that I come across are obnoxiously large and/or covered in rhinestones or weird patterns, so this one feels like a breath of fresh air. Truth be told, I used to scoff at the idea of wearing a watch, but I broke down and ordered one from this sale! Why should you invest in a watch when your phone always has the time? A watch allows you to stealthily check the time without other people assuming you're uninterested and checking to see if you've gotten any text messages, which could be viewed negatively in a meeting or other work situation.
Skagen, 2 colors (black version on a separate page), $99.90 (regular $155.00)


     Be sure to check out the sale Shoes for classic flats and heels, and the Handbags section for work/school totes!


Everyday Pieces
I don't personally find drop-waist style dresses to be the most flattering on my figure, but I really wish I could pull them off because this dress is adorable. Could also be used as a business casual outfit with the right shoes + accessories.
Halogen, 3 colors, $65.90 (regular $99.00)







     Most people like Kendra Scott jewelry, and I'm no exception. I love this bracelet because it's not too overwhelming; not to mention, there are matching earrings and a necklace included in the sale, all at the same price!
Kendra Scott, 3 metal colors, $35.90 (regular $55.00)






     Again, I'm not sure I could pull this one off, but someone out there can and this top is way too cute not to include thanks to the bows/stripes/great price. Soprano, 3 colors, $22.90 (regular $35.00)









     I feel pretty silly for not realizing that home decor was included in the Anniversary sale until after I had made my purchases. Don't make the same mistake as me and be sure to peruse through this section! There are tons of cute throw pillows (like this adorable pineapple one from Southern Tide!) as well as wall decor, candles, blankets, etc.
Southern Tide, $25.90 (regular $39.99)


     Maybe I just think this is super cute because I'm about to go on an international trip at the end of the month, but something about passport covers just scream "adult" and "organized" to me. There are tons of other monogrammed totes and bags in the Handbags & Wallets section!
Cathy's Concepts, 4 colors (separate pages), $48.90 (regular $73.00)




     Alright, alright, I know what you're thinking, I'm just getting more and more random as this post goes on. But hear me out-- this summer I started using a diffuser regularly in my room to diffuse essential oils and it honestly makes whatever room you're in feel like a spa. What college student couldn't use a spa-like atmosphere? When you're trying to get things done, you can use stimulating scents, and when you're ready for bed, soothing scents can help you sleep better. I'll probably write a post about how I use essential oils sometime in the future, but in the meantime, take my word for it when I say that this is a great deal on a diffuser!
Serene House, 1 color, $25.90 (regular $39.90)




     So there you have it, my mini guide to some of my favorites from this year's Nordstrom Anniversary Sale! Comment below if you end up treating yourself to something from the sale, and keep an eye out for my business wardrobe guide on Monday. Happy shopping :)
Thursday, July 13, 2017

Recruiting Boot Camp: How to Prepare for & Execute the Perfect Interview

     Here we go with our last post of the Recruitment Boot Camp Series! I think interview skills are a good place to leave off because I think it's the last piece of the recruitment process that you can effectively practice/prep for on your own; I'll save other recruitment articles for later this fall, when they'll be slightly more relevant. Interviews are SO important because you've worked so hard to secure that interview in the first place, so you definitely don't want to waste the opportunity! 

    As always in this series, I'm including a fun graphic with a summary of the tips I'll be going over. 


PREP
     Preparing for your interview ahead of time is the most critical aspect of the whole process; no matter how good you are at "winging" things, an interview is just not a place where you want to take chances. At best, your unprepared answers will come off as disingenuous or disinterested. At worst, you won't have any answer for a question and the interview will be punctuated by uncomfortable silence. Either way, you probably won't look like the type of candidate that an employer wants to hire. So how do you avoid this?
  1. Find out who your interviewer is (and don't be afraid to ask for additional information or details) // Finding out who your interviewer is can make a huge difference in your level of comfort once you're actually in the interview room-- meeting someone for the first time is nerve-wracking enough without knowing that they're momentarily going to be asking you a million questions! If you're interviewing on-campus, companies will often have a "pre-night" networking event where you can network with professionals and, most importantly, meet your interviewer! If you don't have a pre-night event, email the employer and politely ask if it would be possible to get the name of your interviewer; then, you can look up their profile on the company website or just Google search them. Doing so will help you put a face to the name and may help you identify potential commonalities that could spark conversation in the interview. Additionally, don't be afraid to ask specific questions about the interview! You have a right to know if it's a group or individual interview, about how long the interview will take, and to be provided with a job description if you haven't been provided with one already. This information will frame what you can expect and will make you feel more at ease headed into that interview room. 
  2. Do your research // It's reasonable to expect an interviewer to ask you why you applied to this specific company or something you believe you could bring to the company, so that means you should probably know a little bit more about the company than the name. Do some digging on the company website and read up on their mission statement, history, services offered, etc., so that you have some information to work with when those questions inevitably arise. You'll look well-prepared and genuinely interested in a job with their company as opposed to just being interested in a steady paycheck from any source, and employers will appreciate this. Also make sure you're familiar with the job description of the position you're applying for so that you can communicate your suitability for the specific tasks that will be required.
  3. Practice your "pitch" // Your pitch is how you answer the prompt, "so tell me a little bit about yourself". In your pitch, the interviewer is looking to get a feel for your background and why you want to work for their company. Your pitch should be 30-60 seconds long, and should touch on education, experience, and why you want/would be great for this position. This article from Forbes offers a great outline for how to develop your pitch. The great thing about your pitch is that it can be practiced! Once you've created a precise pitch, record yourself delivering it or repeat it for a friend or family member; critique yourself or ask for the other person's opinion so that you can fine tune the way you present yourself and your brand. Beware of over-rehearsing, though-- you don't want to come off as robotic in an interview. Practice until you get a pitch that you like, and then just practice it one or two more times soon the day before or the morning of your interview.
  4. Think of questions to ask your interviewer // When your interviewer asks if you have any questions at the end of the interview, do not say "no". Admittedly, I've done this once or twice and I really wish I hadn't. Although it may seem harmless to you, interviewers sometimes equate a lack of questions to a lack of interest. Plus, not asking questions is passing up a great opportunity to learn more about the company! Have at least three questions ready to pull out at the end, and ask whichever ones feel the most genuine in the moment. Here are some ideas:
    • How would you describe the corporate culture here?
    • What sort of training is offered for this role?
    • What's a typical day like in this position?
    • What's your favorite thing about working here?
    • What sort of benefits does the position offer?
    • How is job performance measured? 
DURING 
     If you've prepared well for your interview, hopefully you're headed in feeling calm and collected. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind during your interview in order to have the best experience possible.
  1. Keep your body language "open" // Body language is so easy to forget but it can really make a difference. During an interview, you want to make sure that your body language is communicating interest and openness. Make sure not to cross your arms, maintain good eye contact, and try your best to nix nervous habits like touching your hair, rubbing your nose, etc. The goal here is limit distractions and communicate that you're present in the interview. Avoid leaning back in your chair-- not only are you risking falling over, but this can be seen as you trying to distance yourself from the interviewer!
  2. Be honest // This one is a no-brainer. Don't lie about your experience. Just don't. Even if fibbing about your resume may help you land a job, it's not going to do you any favors once you actually have to do work that you're not qualified for. 
  3. Ask questions // See #4 above.
  4. Clarify how the process will proceed from here // Nothing is worse than waiting and wondering what the next step is. Be sure to ask your interviewer what happens next: if there are additional interview steps, if there's an additional application or information they need from you, etc. Ask for an estimate of when you'll be hearing back and how, that way you can follow up if you don't hear back. 
AFTER 
  1. Send a thank-you email // If you have an email or physical address for your interviewer, make sure you follow up with an thank-you! This is just common etiquette (I'm a big fan of etiquette so expect some posts about it later on), and it'll also show that you're a caring and invested potential employee. A little thanks go a long way.
  2. Be patient // Don't worry too much about finding out the results of your interview! You probably did a great job and stressing now can't change the outcome of the interview.

     And now we're wrapped up with Recruiting Boot Camp! Now go start working on your pitch :)
 I've got some fun content planned for the next few weeks since things have been so serious lately, and expect to see some more college-geared posts as the new school year gets closer and closer! Be sure to keep following @preppybeancounter on Instagram for a daily peek at what I'm up to. 
Monday, July 10, 2017

Recruiting Boot Camp: Writing an Attention-Grabbing Cover Letter

      Today, I'm writing about cover letters because to me, they're one of the most vague parts of the recruiting process. However, I've forced myself to get comfortable with them because cover letters can mean the difference between being ignored and getting contacted for an interview (plus, I love a challenge). The other somewhat confusing element of cover letters is that they're typically listed as "optional" for online applications. Here's the secret: they're not. If you're serious about a position you're applying for, you should always include a cover letter, because the lack of one sends the message that you're not interested enough to take an extra hour or two to craft this additional document.

     That being said, I'm still really working on my own cover letter skills, but these tips are really helping me step up my game and hopefully they'll be useful for you too. So without further ado, let's cover cover letters! (pardon my pun)

     
     The format // The good news is, unlike resumes, cover letters are quite cut-and-dry when it comes to formatting. This is not necessarily the time you want to get experimental with fonts, colors, etc. If you really want to put a personal spin on it, though, go for a personalized letterhead and then keep the meat of the letter traditional. The structure follows: your contact information, employer's contact information, salutation, an introductory paragraph that describes who you are and what position you're applying for, body paragraphs that discuss what you have to offer, a final paragraph which touches on following up about the position, a formal closing, and your signature. This template does a good job of breaking down what should be included in each section. 

     Communicating who you are // Your first paragraph of your cover letter is your personal "pitch", similar to how you might answer the question "tell me about yourself" during an interview. In this first paragraph, the most basic information you as a college student would be sharing is your name and what position you're applying for! I know that seems sort of silly but this clarifying information is important just in case your letter somehow becomes separated from the rest of your application. From there, it makes the most sense for you as a college student to share what school you attend and what you're studying. After that, you should use a sentence or two to describe why you want to apply to this position specifically; this is where you would mention a mutual contact (if you would have one), your specific interest in the company, and/or your specific interest in the position. This helps create familiarity and gives your letter purpose. 

     Presenting yourself as the best candidate for the job // I've said it a million times before and I'll probably say it a million times more, but landing a job or internship as a college student is all about presenting your limited experience in the best light possible. A common mistake people make in the body paragraphs of their cover letters is simply rehashing their resume almost word-for-word. Instead, in one to two body paragraphs, you should pull out a few key experiences and discuss how specific elements or tasks associated with these experiences make you well-equipped to perform the position you're applying for. The goal is to show your potential employer that although you may not have much (or any) formal industry experience, your experiences have still prepared you for the responsibilities of the position you want. 

     Let them know you want the job! // I know, again, this seems a bit redundant, but it can't hurt and may even help you. As you close your letter, be sure to state that you'd love the opportunity to discuss the position more in an interview and that you're happy to answer any questions they may have about you and your experiences. Doing so presents you as confident, cooperative, and reaffirms your deep interest! And finally...

     Never re-use cover letters // Each position you apply to is unique, so each cover letter you submit needs to be unique! Although you may be able to keep the body paragraphs of your letter the same when applying for different positions within a single industry, you should always tailor the opening and closing paragraphs to the specific company you're applying to and address elements of the job description. Customization and attention to company/position detail are important because employers can generally tell when you're just recycling the same cover letter you've already attached to a dozen other applications.

     So there you go, a few tips to help you fine-tune your cover letter and target it for maximum efficiency! Since cover letters aren't exactly something you can write ahead of time, just make sure you bookmark this post so you have it handy during fall application season :)


     P.S. As some of you may know, The Preppy Bean Counter has a new Instagram! I realized doing my personal account/blog account all in one was not going to work long-term, so be sure to go follow @preppybeancounter on Insta. My goal is to be posting daily and the content will definitely be on the lighter side (AKA less serious and business-y). 
Thursday, July 6, 2017

Recruiting Boot Camp: Creating a Killer LinkedIn Profile

     Alright, so after that brief interruption to post my half-year reflection, we're back to the recruiting boot camp series! In this installment, we're going to go over some tips for creating your LinkedIn profile. To be honest, I don't really get the college student angst surrounding LinkedIn-- it's super simple to create a profile, and it doesn't require much upkeep once you've gotten established-- but I may just be biased because for some odd reason I really enjoy the site. I know LinkedIn isn't necessarily fun or hip, and your friends might not be on the site yet, but people who can give you a job are on the website, and that's what counts. 

     Every single college student needs a profile on LinkedIn. First off, if you apply for a position, be it an internship or full-time position, there's a high probability that your potential employer is going to look for you on LinkedIn. Your lack of a presence on the site can be viewed as a red flag that you're not as career-ready as claim in your application, or even worse, that you're simply too lazy to create a simple online profile. In either case, not having a LinkedIn profile can reflect poorly on you as a candidate, especially when many other candidates already have a strong presence on the site. Additionally, many employers now allow you to apply to positions directly through LinkedIn, saving you time and energy.

     More importantly, though, LinkedIn can help you land an opportunity without even trying. Employers conduct millions of searches on LinkedIn every day, looking for candidates to fill positions, and if they encounter your profile and are intrigued by something they read, they may reach out to you offering more information or even offering an interview. Pulling in job opportunities without even applying sounds like a dream, right? That's why it's so important to create a LinkedIn profile and do it right!

     So how you do create a LinkedIn profile that's going to drive views and impress potential employers? Here are my tips based on verified research and my own personal experience-- I've even consolidated the main points into a handy little graphic.

  1. ALWAYS add a profile picture // Putting a profile picture is the simplest and most effective strategy for prompting profile views on LinkedIn. The site is full of picture-less profiles that will never be viewed because it's easy to assume that a profile without a picture belongs to someone who's inactive now or who never finished creating their profile. According to LinkedIn's own metrics, profiles with a picture included get 14 times more views than those that don't. Additionally, some employers admit that when going through profiles of applicants, they immediately write off applicants who don't have a picture attached to their profile. I think most students avoid adding a picture if they don't have a formulaic LinkedIn picture-- neutral-colored background reminiscent of those grade-school photos that that grandmas put up on the fridge, ill-fitting blazer/button down combo, and a slightly pained smile that subtly begs, "please hire me so I don't have to move back into my parent's basement".* I used to think I had to have one of these photos; you do not need one of these photos. Find a solo picture of yourself wearing an appropriate outfit, and upload that ASAP. It's important to have a picture, but that doesn't mean you need to do a full-on photo shoot-- you just need to put a face to the name/resume, so don't let your lack of uber-staged picture stop you from creating a successful profile. You can worry about upgrading your picture later!   *On a side note, the number of guys using their awkward LinkedIn prof pic as their Tinder pic is laughable and I pray that boys will find a new way to show off how #professional they are.
  2. Make your tagline unique // Your tagline is the snippet that appears along with your name and picture when searches are conducted, and its one of the first things people read when they land on your profile. The number of college students with the tagline "Undergrad Student at XYZ University" is mind-boggling; admittedly, I was guilty of this LinkedIn sin for a long time, too. But a tagline like this is unoriginal and sells yourself short. Create a tagline that communicates your interests, the types of opportunities you're seeking out, or industry-specific subjects you're passionate about. Think about using keywords and avoid cliches or cutesy-sounding stuff. For example, "(Insert your major) student interested in (industry-specific subject)" is already a vast improvement from "Undergrad Student at XYZ University" because it lets connections know what you're studying and subjects you're interested in applying that knowledge to. Play around with it and see how you can best summarize yourself as a potential employee.
  3. Write a thoughtful summary // Your summary is a place to elaborate on your tagline and explain a bit more about what you're interested in and why, the type of experiences you've had, and what you're looking to get out of the future. The best advice I've heard about the summary section is that it should read like the first one or two paragraphs of a cover letter (don't worry, we'll tackle those in this series, too). This is your chance to talk about yourself and establish your brand!
  4. Describe your work experience strategically // Just like on your resume, you should describe your experiences in using action verbs and outcomes to really pack a punch. Being strategic about how you describe your experience can help potential employers envision you in a position. 
  5. Include any volunteer experience // Another fun recruiting fact-- apparently a solid portion of employers have reported to LinkedIn that they regard volunteer experience to be just as valuable as more traditional on-the-job experience. If you've got something to list here, don't be shy! Volunteer involvement shows that you're a caring person who's willing to put in work just for the sake of a good cause. 
  6. Don't neglect the additional profile sections // Be sure to utilize the "additional" sections on your profile as well. Include any awards/honors you've received (dean's list, departmental honors, scholarships, etc.) and add some of your strong skills so that connections can endorse them. These small pieces of information can really add up when it comes to attracting profile views. 
  7. Show off your courses and activities // Good news, the things you're already doing at school can be integrated into your profile, too! List any specific college courses you've taken that are especially relevant to the industry you're hoping to break into. Under the description box in the "Education" section, be sure to include any clubs or organizations you're involved in as well as any leadership positions held. Include your GPA if you think it'll reflect well on you but don't feel like you have to advertise it if you don't want to. 
  8.  Provide examples of your work where applicable // Employers like tangibles, and including samples of work can speak to your skill and education. Ideas for content to link include videos of presentations you've given, papers you've written, graphics you designed, etc. For example, I had a research article published in a school journal, so I've linked it in my profile so that potential employers can read my work and get a feel for the style and quality of my writing. 
  9. Engage with content on the site // This one might be a goal to set for later on-- it's certainly something that I haven't really done yet. The best way to get the most out of LinkedIn, though, it to engage with the content. Commenting on articles or sharing them to your network with a brief opinion included on the post can help establish you as an upcoming leader, demonstrate your industry-specific accumen, and exhibit a commitment to learning. 
  10. Build your network // Finally, you can't maximize the benefits of LinkedIn without adding connections! Start out by adding friends, professors, and other professional adults you may know. Follow industry-specific groups, employer profiles, and interest networks such school or fraternity/sorority alumni groups. Following these groups can help interested individuals find your profile as well as expand your network of contacts. 

     So there you have it, tips for starting up your LinkedIn profile! Let me know if you find any of these strategies particularly helpful because I'm still working on perfecting my profile as well, and be sure to connect with me on the site so we can all expand our networks!