Monday, December 28, 2009

Scholarship Spotlight: Microsoft Scholarships

Amount of the Scholarship: Depends on the scholarship

Deadline: February 1st


  • Displayed interest in the software industry
  • Commitment to leadership
  • Financial need
  • Full time student
  • Satisfactory progress toward an undergraduate degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a related technical discipline such as electrical engineering, math, or physics—and that you demonstrate an interest in computer science.
  • Maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average out of a possible 4.0
  • Quality of application

Additional Information:

1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052
Phone: (425) 882-8080

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Scholarship Spotlight: A. Patrick Charnon Memorial Scholarship

A. Patrick Charnon Memorial Scholarship

Amount of scholarship: $1,500 per year

Deadline: March 31

$1,500 scholarships awarded to full-time undergraduate students who have demonstrated their commitments to building communities. Each scholarship will be for $1,500 per academic year, prorated and awarded at the beginning of each academic term (for example, semester or quarter). Recipients may re-apply each year for up to four years, provided they continue to meet the requirements of the award.

Recipients must be admitted or enrolled in a full-time undergraduate program of study in an accredited four-year college or university in the United States. They must maintain good academic standing and make progress toward a degree. The Charnon Scholarship Review Committee will decide whether applicants fulfill the requirements of the award. The selection committee looks for candidates who value tolerance, compassion and respect for all people in their communities, and who have demonstrated their commitments to these values by their actions.

Applications must be postmarked by March 31st for the academic year beginning in August or September. Recipients will be notified of their award in early August, and a profile of the recipient will be posted on The Center website.

In addition to the application form, you need to submit a 2-4 page essay (typed, double-spaced) explaining how community service experiences have shaped your life and how you will use your college educations to build communities in a manner consistent with Pat Charnon's values of compassion, tolerance, generosity and respect. An official transcript from your high school or college and three letters of reference are also required.

Additional Information:

A. Patrick Charnon Memorial Scholarship
The Center for Education Solutions
Box 208
San Francisco, California 94104-0208

Monday, December 7, 2009

Scholarship Spotlight

Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics

The Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest is an annual competition designed to challenge college students to analyze the urgent ethical issues confronting them in today's complex world. Students are encouraged to write thought-provoking personal essays that raise questions, single out issues and are rational arguments for ethical action.

Amount of the Scholarship:
First Prize - $ 5,000
Second Prize - $ 2,500
Third Prize - $ 1,500
Two Honorable Mentions - $ 500 each

Deadline: January 8, 2010

Students are eligible to enter the 2010 contest if:1)They are registered undergraduate full-time juniors or seniors at accredited four-year colleges or universities in the United States during the fall 2009 semester, or 2)They fulfill the guideline requirements and are studying abroad during the 2009-2010 school year, as long as they are registered as full-time juniors or seniors at their home schools in the U.S., or 3)They are international or non-citizen students who fill the guideline requirements and are attending schools in the U.S.

The Foundation receives many inquiries regarding what students may write about in their essays. The topics provided by the Foundation each year are merely suggested topics - students may feel free to write about any topic as long as it pertains to ethics.

Faculty Sponsor:
Students entering the contest are required to have a Faculty Sponsor review their essay and sign the Entry Form. Faculty members should only endorse thought-provoking, well-written essays that fall within the contest guidelines. Any interested professor at the student's school may act as a Faculty Sponsor.

Additional Information:

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity
555 Madison Avenue
20th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Fax: 212-490-6006
Tel: 212-490-7788

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Creating Your Brand Statement: Putting it all together

In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes Part IV: Brand Identity Part V: Brand Promise
Part VI: Brand Vision Part VII: Brand Loyalty + Brand Equity Part VIII: Brand Statement); Part IX: Putting It All Together:

Putting it all together…
If you want to create a cover letter that actually compels prospective employers to open and review your resume, you can apply the principles you’ve learned, incorporate the brand components you’ve developed, and try something like this:

Dear Mr. Roberts:

You don’t know me. We’ve never met. But your niece, Jenny Jenson, thinks we should. As a junior at Acme University, I’ve begun exploring career opportunities and requesting informational interviews. Jenny really respects your experience, so I’m reaching out to request your guidance.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve developed a talent for concise, critical thinking. I’m inquisitive, strategic and self-motivated, so I believe I can offer the right company an opportunity to maximize project results with a minimum of supervision.

My objective is to eventually earn a role as the chief marketing analyst for a category-leading packaged goods company. Jenny and I think that sounds a lot like Central Foods, so I’m wondering: Am I on the right track?

If you could spare thirty minutes anytime on March 9 or 10, I would sincerely appreciate it. Unless I hear from you beforehand, I’ll call during the week of February 27 to discover your interest.

Thank you for your consideration.

In case you haven’t realized it yet, Robert Allen Paul’s “Company Of One” is not just another “you can be whoever you want to be and succeed” program. It’s a “you can be exactly who you are and succeed” program. It doesn’t take a genius. It doesn’t take a marketing degree. All it takes is a clear understanding of who you really are, what you really do, how you do it differently from everyone else, and the benefits of that difference to your customers.

You are already unique. You are already a power to be reckoned with.

You are a Company Of One.

Robert Allen Paul has graciously shared his contact information with me to post in this blog. If you would like more information, or sample letters, send an email (linked below), and mention my name, Denise Beebe. You can also purchase his book, or the e-version of his book that contains a workbook through his website, linked above.

Robert Allan Paul
PresidentCOO, Inc
8242 Turtle Creek Boulevard
Minneapolis, MN 55375

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Statement

In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes Part IV: Brand Identity Part V: Brand Promise
Part VI: Brand Vision Part VII: Brand Loyalty + Brand Equity) Part VII: Brand Statement

What Do You Say?
Congratulations! You’re now one of the fortunate few who understand who they really are, what they really do, how they do it differently from everyone else and the benefits of that difference to prospective employers. You even have a practical understanding of the principles that will get you in front of those key contacts. The only question is: What do you say?

Maybe we should start with what not to say. There are plenty of examples out there. Most of us will spend a lot of time fine tuning our resumes, but when it’s time to introduce ourselves, we just generate something generic like this:

Hi, Robert.

My name is John Johnson and I am, as the subject line suggests, inquiring into possible careers at Cuneo. I am a recent college collegegraduate from Acme University with a specialization in internet, television, film and new media marketing. If you have an entry level positions available at all, I would love to chat with you. I have included my resume, so please review it and let me know what you think. Thanks for you time and I hope to hear more from you soon.

This is an actual excerpt from an email Robert Allen Paul received from a graduate of a Big Ten school. Only the names have been changed. Here’s what he had to say:

“Aside from all the typographical and grammatical errors, there’s nothing terribly wrong with this introduction. But there’s nothing really right about it either. Certainly nothing interesting or insightful or enlightening or engaging. Is he really interested in any entry level position I might have? Does he really think I’m going to open and review his resume? And does he really want to know what I think? I don’t think so.”

Do you remember –back at the beginning of this blog –when I told you the first step in developing a career is differentiating yourself from everyone else? And that differentiating yourself begins with developing a summary statement that helps prospective employers recognize your personal strengths and their professional applications? The email above isn’t it.

So, what do you say? You already know!

This is where we bring it all together. This is where we combine all the results of your hard work.

Begin by copying the elements you’ve created in previous blogs into the appropriate blanks below. Now read them aloud, in the order that you’ve written them, as if they comprise one, cohesive paragraph. Because they do.

(Brand) I AM_______________________________________________

(Core competency) AND I HAVE A TALENT FOR ___________________________________________________________________________________________________.


(Brand Attributes) I AM _____________, ______________ AND ___________.


An example might be something like this:

I am John Johnson and I have a talent for critical thinking. My objective is to eventually earn a position as the chief marketing analyst for a category-leading consumer packaged goods company. I’m inquisitive, strategic and self-motivated. As a result, I can offer the right company an opportunity to maximize project results with a minimum of supervision.

Read yours again. What you have is something that most people –and many companies –don’t have. You have a comprehensive Brand Statement. Your brand statement isn’t meant to be cast in bronze or carved in stone. It’s a living document that is meant to be reread and reworked and rewritten regularly.

Next up - Creating your brand statement: Putting it all together.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Loyalty + Brand Equity

In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes Part IV: Brand Identity Part V: Brand Promise
Part VI: Brand Vision) Part VII: Brand Loyalty + Brand Equity

What Will You Do To Attract and Keep Customers?
By now, you probably have a pretty clear understanding of what you do, how you do it and the benefits to your potential “customers.” The only thing left to do is to go out and there and get them!

This is where the principles of Brand Loyalty and Brand Equity come into play. Both are critical in attracting the attention of prospective employers. Both are instrumental in securing interviews. Both are invaluable in launching and advancing your career. But while both relate to the way you manage your professional relationships, in some ways, they are polar opposites.

Brand Loyalty vs. Brand Equity
We can all think of a simple definition of the word “loyalty.” But how would you define “equity”? It’s not a word you hear that often, but when you do, it’s usually in financial circles. That’s because equity refers to a sense or condition of ownership; ownership resulting from some sort of investment.

And that is the defining difference between Brand Loyalty and Brand Equity. Brand Loyalty is a measure of how willing the customer is to do business with you again. Brand Equity is a measure of how much the customer is willing to invest –in time, thought, effort or money– in order to do business with you.

Brand equity is the ultimate goal of every smart marketer (and every job hunter).

How can you apply these two principles in order to attract the attention of potential employers and advance your personal career? It’s actually easier and more common than you think. Let’s start with Brand Loyalty.

Brand Loyalty
There are a million customer loyalty programs out there and most of them fail. Because most of them aren’t based on any understanding of customers or loyalty. Contrary to popular practice, you don’t build loyalty by getting customers to invest more in your brand. You build brand loyalty by investing in your customer. No one understands this better than your average non-profit organization, so we will use one to help illustrate this point.

Frequent Flyer Miles vs. Free Address Labels
Free fares and class upgrades can be pretty appealing if you do a lot of traveling. Frequent Flyer programs are pretty much alike – they allow you to earn points for every mile you fly with them. After you’ve flown about 35,000 miles (and spent several thousand dollars), you get one free round-trip ticket anywhere they fly (as long as you don’t want to fly anytime that normal people would want to fly).

Now, there’s nothing really wrong with this loyalty program. Unless you count the fact that it doesn’t inspire loyalty. Are you any more likely to choose that particular airline for your next trip than any other airline with a similar program? Of course not. Because instead of earning your loyalty, they are forcing you to earn their reward. And by the time they deliver, you’ll probably feel like they owe you much more.

Compare that complicated program to the simple solicitations we all get from organizations like the American Lung Association. Once a year, I open my mailbox to find a fat, little envelope from the ALA. Inside is a letter about all the good they are doing –and some address labels with my name.

Why? You already know why. Because donations from consumers who receive some little trinket first are about five times that of consumers who get the letter alone. That’s why.

Most human beings are hardwired to seek balance and order. If someone gives you something –if someone invests in you –then, more often than not, you feel a need to reciprocate. When I get those cute little address labels, I can’t resist the urge to write a check. Even if it’s just for five dollars. Even if I’ll never actually use the address labels.

What’s true for fund raising is also true for job hunting. If you want a better return on your investment, then you must first invest in the prospect. How?

Start by doing your homework. Learn a little about the person you are approaching, the company you are pursuing, and the challenges they are facing. Then include that knowledge in your cover letter.

Which reminds me: Put it on paper. In an age when most candidates just click the Apply button and transmit an e-copy of their online profile, printing and mailing a real, live letter and resume can really help you stand out! Employers receive dozens of resumes every week, but do you know how many of them come via US Mail? Maybe half a dozen per year.

If you do nothing more than upload your resume to a corporate website, it doesn’t show much interest on your part. But if you take the time to learn a name, study the company, read the job posting, write a letter, print it on paper and pay for a postage stamp, then you have made a real investment in the position –and you might be owed something in return.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you will get the job. But it may mean someone will be more likely to pick up the phone when you make your follow up call. And that is when you start building Brand Equity.

Brand Equity
As was said before, you develop Brand Loyalty by investing in the customer, but you build Brand Equity by getting the customer to invest in you. The tricky part is figuring out how to earn that investment. There are three basic methods: You can require it, you can request it or you can borrow it. If you are job hunting, you are most likely to employ the last two, but we will cover appropriate applications for all three approaches.

Require It
Depending upon how much chutzpah (nerve) you have, you can always develop brand equity by simply demanding it.

Even if you haven’t been shopping for cars, you are probably familiar with both Hyundai and Toyota. If so, you probably know that the average Hyundai costs considerably less than the average Toyota. But did you know that many Hyundai vehicles have more features and options than their Toyota counterparts? Did you know that Hyundai has won just as many awards? Or that Hyundai vehicles also come with a longer warranty? It’s all true. So, why does Toyota outsell Hyundai by such a huge margin? Maybe Hyundais just don’t cost enough.

Remember the Two-Thirds Rule for developing brand attributes? You can’t be all things to all people. When Hyundai promotes Quality, Reliability and Value, consumers think it’s too good to be true –and start looking for reasons not to buy. On the other hand, Toyota focuses its marketing on Quality and Reliability. Period. Even during their annual Toyotathon events, advertising rarely features specific pricing. They figure if you want quality and reliability, you know you’ll have to pay for it. And you do.

So, requiring someone to invest more in your services often leads them to believe they are worth more.

This approach isn’t just about pricing, it’s just as applicable to other capital your consumers can invest. If you force a prospective employer to rearrange their schedule or drive half way across town for an interview, it implies that you are in demand and they may feel fortunate to be included in your schedule.

Of course, if you are a recent college graduate seeking your first career position, you may not possess the credentials (or confidence) to require that prospective employers make a major investment in recruiting you. In fact, in today’s economic climate, if you are an experienced superstar, you still might not have the daring to draw a line in the sand. But at some point this approach may become more appropriate, so it’s important that you understand the underlying principles.

Request It
One of the easiest ways to get others to invest in you and help you advance you career is to simply asking them to invest a little time and assist you in your career planning. And one of your best tactics is the Informational Interview.

Asking professionals in your chosen field to discuss key issues and ideas not only uncovers clues to the future and potential opportunities, but requires them to spend a fair amount of time and effort explaining themselves and educating you. Having made that kind of personal investment, they don’t want to see it go to waste and will be more likely to choose you over others if a position presents itself. It’s why so many of the college graduates hired by major employers are prior participants in their internship programs.

When your informational interview is drawing to a close, don’t forget to ask them to invest just a little more by providing you with a professional referral. Thank you so much. This has been very insightful. Is there anyone else you think I should meet? If they actually refer you to a professional associate, they become a personal reference for you –and that’s the first step in borrowing brand equity.

Borrow It
If neither of the first two approaches seems to work for you, your third option may be to borrow some brand equity.

If you happen to work for a recognizable organization, its reputation is automatically transferred onto you, and in most cases, it’s a blessing. The instant credibility that working for a good company creates is usually far greater than any you could earn on your own.

If you don’t work for a well-known or well-respected company (and as a student or new college grad, you probably don’t), you can still borrow brand equity from others -whether other people or institutions (like your college and its alumni). The credibility established through a personal recommendation or association trumps the credibility of even the largest corporation.

When we talk about “borrowing brand equity,” what we are really talking about is networking. I don’t mean networking in a personal, passive, Facebook sort-of-way. I mean networking in a professional, proactive, productive sort-of-way.

Even today, in the age of the Internet, experts estimate that about 80%of all available positions are filled through networking and referral. Your friends and family are still four times more powerful than any website (including Start by asking everyone you know if they know anyone else in your chosen field. It doesn’t matter what company or position that second person might be in, as long as they are employed in your field. You won’t believe how many people you know actually know someone else you ought to know.

Ask the person you know for the contact info of the person they know and if it’s okay to mention their name. They’ll say “yes,” of course.

Now sit down at your laptop and type up a quick letter of introduction to request an informational interview. Since this person doesn’t know you, you will want to establish a little credibility up front by borrowing the brand equity of the person who referred you. Maybe something like “You don’t know me. We’ve never met. But your niece, Jenny Jenson, thinks we should.”

Then you can share some of the personal branding info you’ve already developed, including your career objective and a request to discuss your options when they have time. Since your new contact is already vested in a relationship with the person who referred you, they are much more likely to invest a few minutes in meeting (and helping) you.

If you will remember to ask for another referral at the conclusion of all of your referral conversations, you will be on your way to dozens of meetings and building a real business network. Before you know it, one of those interviews will turn into a real opportunity and that opportunity will turn into a real career.

Best of all, you won’t have to do it alone. Instead of just posting your resume a hundred times and hoping for the best, you will have a hundred people invested in you and doing their best to help you find your way.

These are just a few of the ways you can develop personal brand equity with career contacts and prospective employers. I am sure you can think of many more. Just remember: Your ultimate goal is to promote such extreme loyalty they wouldn’t dream of doing business with anyone else.

Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Statement

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Vision

In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes Part IV: Brand Identity Part V: Brand Promise)
Part VI: Brand Vision:

Who Do You Want To Be?
So far, the focus has been almost exclusively on who you are and what you do. But who do you want to be? What do you want to do? And who would you like to do it for? Some will tell you to “begin with the end in mind.” Marketers will tell you it’s the beginning of your Brand Vision. The first few steps of this personal branding process are usually the most difficult because we’re never taught to think about ourselves or our careers in this way. Yet, almost all of us have been told to “follow our dreams,” so imagining who we could be is almost second nature.

This is the stage of the branding process when you get to stare into space. Because this is the stage where you’ll gaze into the future and develop your brand vision. Some companies refer to it as their mission statement. You might call it your career objective. You want it to be comprehensive and expansive and instructive. But you also want it something you can remember and reflect on every day in order to keep your performance in line.

In short, a mission statement isn’t a map that tells you exactly how to get where you’re going. It’s a compass that lets you know if you’re veering off course.

But regardless of whether you’re a “map” or “compass” person, the one thing you need – is a specific destination. Which brings me to the primary point of this exercise.

Too many resumes include a mission (or objective) like the following:

“To secure a position that will allow me to utilize my skills and contribute to the overall growth organization.”

Sound familiar? Of course it does. Because we’ve all been copying the same objective statement for years. And that might not be so tragic if it actually stated an objective, but this generic waste of space doesn’t tell anyone anything. In fact, the only thing this objective indicates is you don’t care enough about your career to think about it.

So, let’s think about it. Let’s think about what you want to be, and where you want to be, and maybe even when you want to be there. Let’s imagine a specific position in a specific division in a specific type of company. Most importantly, let’s try to focus on the future instead of just the first job, so both you and your prospective employers can gain some perspective.

There is no need to develop a “10-Year Plan” or anything else that detailed. Any plan you might work up is probably going to change ten weeks after you are in the workforce anyway. But if you want your career to have any sense of direction, you need to begin with a well-defined destination. For example:

“To eventually earn a position as the chief marketing analyst at a category-leading consumer packaged goods company.”

That is an objective. That is a mission statement. That is a compass to help keep your career on course. And every day you will be able to measure your journey and judge if you are any closer to your destination.

But your objective doesn’t just provide direction for you; it also provides direction for prospective employers. An objective like the one above doesn’t just tell an employer you’ve got aspirations and a destination, it also tells them what they’ve got to do to help get you there. If they have a good idea of where you would “eventually” like to be, they have a better idea of where to put you now.

Needless to say, you can (and probably should) adjust your career objective according to the company to whom it’s addressed –as long as it’s still specific. The truth is, providing a more detailed objective actually creates more opportunities, not less, because it helps employers match you to more positions than just those for which you applied.

So, I will ask again: Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? This is the fun part, so don’t be afraid to daydream a little. Create your own mission statement. My Brand Vision: My Objective is to ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Loyalty + Brand Equity

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Promise

In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes Part IV: Brand Identity) Part V: Brand Promise:

What Will You Do For Me?
The problem with trying to build your brand identity by managing word-of-mouth is that it simply takes too long. You don’t have 30 years to do it the way Sony did. You may not even have 30 months. So, what do you do? You think about what you want consumers to say and then teach them how to say it. Marketers call this your Brand Promise, but it’s really just a statement of benefits.

The first step in developing a benefits statement is determining what those benefits might be. Since benefits are usually tied to features, we will define your features as your Brand Attributes. So, once you’ve established those, you will just have to attach some relevant benefits to the back end. Put another way, after you have told me how you do what you do, you will have to tell me what that will do for me.

You may already have an opinion regarding the benefits you provide prospective “customers” (i.e., employers), but by now, you also know it is not your opinion that really matters. What do your current “customers” say? Have you asked them? They’re the only ones who really know what it’s like to work with you, and most of them will be happy to share their thoughts. In fact, most will be delighted you even asked. Asking also helps you develop a little Brand Equity (which will be critical when you start networking).

So ask them. Reach out to your professors and past employers for a quick, simple benefits assessment. Based on your experience with me, what do you like best about the way I work? What are the biggest benefits to you? You may be surprised by the insights you gather –and how different they are from what you had expected.

When you discover your customer benefits from the customer’s point-of-view, you may also be surprised by how naturally they relate to your brand attributes. For instance, if you are majoring in marketing, and you tend to be “analytical, inventive and aggressive” well, as a result, your employer might benefit from “marketing programs that are on target, on time and on purpose.”

Let’s say you have decided the brand attributes that best describe you are “inquisitive, strategic and self-motivated.” What could the resulting benefits of employing such a person be from the employer’s point-of-view? Perhaps you can offer the right company “an opportunity to maximize project results with a minimum of supervision.”

Aside from ensuring your benefits are related to your attributes, the only other key to developing an effective brand promise is to keep it as simple as possible. Remember you want consumers to remember it. So, choose the most common benefits expressed by your “customers,” summarize them in one simple sentence and then include it in everything you do.

It doesn’t have to be catchy. It doesn’t have to be clever. It just has to be crystal clear. Clear enough that both you and your prospective customers can repeat it. Again and again.

Make a list of your customer benefits, and then create a simple brand promise that communicates the most important ones. That sentence should probably begin with the words “I offer the right company” and, once again, be followed by some sort of active verb phrase (“an opportunity to maximize project results,” etc.). Once you’re satisfied with your new brand promise, write it down. My Brand Promise: As a result, I offer the right company _____________________________________________________________

Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Vision

Friday, November 6, 2009

Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Identity

In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes): Part IV: Brand Identity:

Who Are Your Customers? What Do They Think You Do?
Understanding what you really do and how you do it differently provides you with an advantage when it comes to communicating key benefits to your “customers”. But who are your customers?

Traditionally, a customer –or consumer –is usually defined as anyone who uses or could possibly use your product or service. But in branding, the definition of a consumer also includes all of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t. Because even those consumers who are unlikely to become your customer (or employer) have some influence over those who might. They all participate in creating what marketers refer to as your Brand Identity; which is something different from simple Brand Recognition.

Brand Identity vs. Brand Recognition
What is the difference between Brand Recognition and Brand Identity? Let’s use a party analogy. You go to a party, you see an attractive person, and you walk up to them and introduce yourself with some Brand Advertising: “Hi, I’m (name) and I’m an awesome date.” So they say, “Hmmm. (Name)? I think I’ve heard of you.” That’s Brand Recognition. Now imagine you go to a party, you see an attractive person, you walk up to them and say “Hi, I’m (name).”
Then they say “Oh? You’re (name)? I hear you’re an awesome date.” That’s Brand Identity.

See the difference? Brand Identity isn’t based on what you say about yourself, but on what the consumer is likely to say about you. And, just as with brand positioning, your brand identity isn’t built in the marketplace. It’s built in the mind of the consumer. It consists of more than just the ability to recall your brand name. It consists of the consumer’s 360 degrees experience with your brand –personally and otherwise. In fact, it’s possible to develop a brand identity with all sorts of consumers who’ve never done business with you.

Every year, the Harris organization conducts what they call their Best Brand Survey. It’s a national poll of approximately 3,500 consumers that consists of just one question:
“We would like you to think about brands or names of products and services you know. Considering everything, which three brands do you consider the best?“

Can you guess which brand tops the list? According to American consumers, the best brand in America was Sony. For seven years running. That’s impressive performance by any standard. But what’s even more impressive is that there were years in which the percentage of consumers who named Sony as a best brand was greater than the percentage of consumers who actually own any Sony product.

In other words, you don’t have to have personal experience with a brand to have a definite opinion about that brand.
It can be disturbing to discover that people you don’t know –and who don’t know you –may still have an opinion of you. But that’s the way brand identity works; one impression or observation or interpretation at a time.

If I cut my hair or lose weight. If I’m ten minutes early or two minutes late. The clothes I wear. The car I drive. The way I answer the phone. The way I sign my emails. The way I treat my colleagues or my mother or the students in my class. Every little thing I say or do –or don’t say or don’t do –all make a little deposit in the identity account that exists in the mind of my consumer.

So, to those who might tell you the little things don’t matter, I’d say the little things do matter. More often than not, building positive brand identity is a matter of managing impressions and word-of-mouth.

Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Promise

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Attributes

In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies) Part III: Brand Attributes:

How do you do what you do? Now it’s time to discover your professional personality – or brand attributes. What are your brand attributes? Are you Decisive? Deliberate? Determined? Inventive? Analytical? In other words: How do you do what you do? How you do what you do is how you really set yourself apart.

It’s not always what you say, but how you say it. So it follows that –just as with your core competencies –there are no “bad” attributes. Do people find you impatient? -You’re driven and proactive. Have others accused you of too little tact? -You’re a clear communicator. No matter which adjectives you (or others) might attach to your personality, there’s a positive way of redefining them to communicate your professional approach. And while it’s always easier and more pleasant to lead with the “positives,” you may find that some of those “negatives” are what actually make you successful. And unique!

While you are thinking about how you do what you do, try to think about how you do what you do differently from everyone else who does what you do. Attributes play an important role in making your personal brand unique.

Ask your best friends what three adjectives come to mind when they hear your name – and write down whatever they say. Then use a thesaurus and find a few synonyms that convey those traits in more professional terms. So, once again, just as with your core competency, the most important thing is that you choose attributes that are true. Here are a couple of practical guidelines.

  • Compatibility Rule: You can’t be tough and gentle. You can’t be spontaneous and strategic. Don’t choose attributes that appear to be in conflict with one another.

  • Two-Thirds Rule: When buying a product there are usually three primary factors that drive purchasing decisions; however we seldom get all three, so choose based on benefits of the other two. If you’re a new college grad, the primary factors prospective employers consider when choosing candidates are likely Education, Experience and Compensation (Price). So, if you’ve earned good grades from a good school, but have no relevant experience, then you may have to offer prospective employers the benefit of lower compensation. If you’ve graduated cum laude from an Ivy League school and worked several related internships, then employers probably shouldn’t expect you to come cheap. Whatever the three factors are in your category, you need to choose the two you’re going to focus on and forget about the third.
Now, write a list of all the adjectives that describe your professional personality. Think about what each adjective might communicate to your “customers”, then circle two or three that you really like. Read them aloud. Read them again in a different order. Do they sound like you? If so, these are your new brand attributes! Write them down. My Brand Attributes: I am __________, __________, and __________.

Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Identity

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Creating Your Brand Statement: Core Competencies

In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand.) Part II: Core Competencies:

What do you do? What you do is best explained as a summary of your accomplishments. Just as on a resume, you skip the list of responsibilities and lead with accomplishments instead. If you think you haven’t done much yet, you need to change the way you think about what you’ve done – shift your perspective!

Defining your professional core competencies is all about discovering your personal strengths; you need to look beyond what you’ve done in school. Consider everything you’ve done in the rest of your life – college and childhood - what other people think you do well. Those things form the foundation of your core competencies.

Are you a sympathetic listener? A great planner? Well organized? A master at getting others to do what you want? There are professional applications for all these personal aptitudes. Think of several things you do well. Ask others who know you what they think. What do your friends and family see as your personal strengths? How about your professors, counselors, or advisors? Now just identify the common denominators.

Are you hearing your strengths as “you always get your work in on time, or early” or “you have odd ideas” or possibly “you seem to like to argue”? Whatever the common denominator might be, consider it a core competency. Regardless of what your personal skill turns out to be, you can turn it into a professional talent. And no matter what your talent may be, there are hundreds of employers who would love to put it to work. Change “odd ideas” into “a talent for delivering unexpected results”. If you like a good argument, then say you have a talent for critical thinking. If you usually beat deadlines, then you have a talent for exceeding expectations.

Discovering your core competency not only provides you with some personal direction, but some professional confidence, too. So, start making a list of all your strengths and successes, and then look for the common denominator. Once you’ve done that, there’s only one thing left to do: Pick one. But only one.

Focus. It’s critical that you focus your core competencies on a single business category and then do everything you can think of to own it. No matter how many things you do –or how well you may do them –people are likely to recognize you for only one.

You can’t be all things to all people. And when you try to promote yourself as a jack of all trades, you come off as the king of none. People (including employers and recruiters) have very specific needs; they don’t want generalists, they need specialists. So, if you want them to believe you can actually solve their problem, then you’re going to have to focus on it. The real impact of focusing on one core competency isn’t exclusion; it’s inclusion. Summarizing your key talent helps everyone who can really use it find you and add you to their list of candidates.
Make that list of achievements and accomplishments; of personal strengths and skills and successes. Then make a note of any common denominators that might point to a central theme. Are you an instigator or instructor? A promoter or problem solver? What seems to happen with projects or positions you make your own?

In 20 words or less, write down what you do - I have a talent for (so the next word should be some sort of active verb like “developing,” “helping,” “creating,” “delivering). Write down a number of different summary sentences. Read them aloud and think about what they really say. Whatever you decide will be fine – as long as it is clear and concise and true.

Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement – Brand Attributes

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Creating Your Brand Statement: Your Brand

In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student.

This is what you need to do:

  • Concentrate on what makes you unique; focus on “different” so you stand out in the crowd.
  • Identify your unique personal strengths and develop a summary that helps others recognize the professional applications and advantages of those strengths – help employers understand why they might want to read your resume.
This is how to do it:

Your Brand

  • The first question posed by the branding process (or any prospective employer) is simply: Who are you? The answer becomes your brand. In simplest terms, a brand is really a name, and that’s where you start – with the name you want on your business correspondence.
  • Every name communicates its own unique characteristics – “serious”, “fun”, “friendly”, “reliable” … and so on. [Some international students take on an English name when they study abroad – perhaps because it’s easier for others to remember. Some keep their name, or use a shorter nickname.]
  • Just as words have meanings beyond their literal definitions, names are also infused with certain attributes. Whatever name you decide to use, it’s important to choose one that communicates who you really are – or at least who you want to be.
  • Your first exercise in building your personal brand is to take a few minutes and choose your personal brand. Write out all the possible names under which you could choose to do business and then go ahead and pick one. Write that name after the words “I Am” –and start thinking about who that person is.
Up next: Creating Your Brand Statement: Core Competencies

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Finding Scholarships and Grants

If you are looking for sources to help you finance your education, knowing how and where to search can be crucially important. Many scholarships and grants aren’t well advertised, so it will be up to you to do the work and find the opportunities. If you are already enrolled at a college or university, start with the professional services available, such as financial aid or career services. If you are not yet enrolled, contact college or university admissions offices directly and ask them about the opportunities and support they provide for international students - a number of them offer discounted tuition and scholarships. These opportunities are increasing, as universities see the value of having a diverse population of students.

When searching on your own, there are a number of free scholarship search sites/databases on the Web (also referred to as “multiple-source” sites, some are listed below). Profile-based scholarship searches allow you to register an account, have you fill out a student profile that includes your education history, intended major, group memberships, awards, test scores, and so on. Based on the answers in your profile, the website software will direct you toward scholarships and contests that you’re eligible for. Be sure to fill out the profiles with as much information as possible, for more search matches.

You can also search for scholarships on the Web yourself, using search engines. Knowing the right tips and tricks can help you find more relevant results for your scholarship search. First, don’t limit yourself to using one search engine – try several, including Google, Bing, Cuil, and Yahoo for example; the results and the methods will differ. Next, know how to search. If you want to find scholarships in your chosen field of study – Computer Science for example, typing "Computer Science scholarships" will return a number of relevant results. To see the latest CS scholarships that are being offered (this works only for Google), type in and enter your keywords "CS scholarships". Once you get to the results page, you now paste this string of words: &as_qdr=m at the end of the URL and press enter. Doing this will give you only the web pages on CS scholarships that have been published in the last month. You can also filter results in the last 24 hours (&as_qdr=d), the last week (&as_qdr=w), or the past year (&as_qdr=y1).

To get specific search results using any search engine, you have to add other relevant words to your keywords when you make your query. In scholarship searches, relevant words include "deadline (insert month)", "study in (insert location)", and "for (insert nationality, country of origin)". In our example, specific keywords could be "CS scholarships for Indians deadline December 2009", "CS scholarships for Indians in US" or any combination of keywords and modifiers that would best define your search. The key here is to be specific. Put the keyword/s inside quotation marks ("") only when you want exact search results for that keyword.

Aside from Google and other engines, you can search for scholarships in different platforms like Blog or Blog Networks (using Google Blog Search), Twitter (using, LinkedIn (joining groups) and even Facebook (search for scholarship groups). Once you find a source that you think is helpful, you can follow many of them on Twitter or RRS feeds to keep up with current information.

Also consider contacting organizations, associations, foundations, or government agencies. For example, contact the local Rotary International Organization to ask about their Ambassadorial Scholarships; or if you are a student member of an organization, ASME, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (for example), many have scholarship opportunities for international students. P.E.O. International provides a number of scholarships for international women students to study in the US or Canada. Google and Microsoft have tech-related scholarships, with some specifically for women. Ask your professors what professional organizations they belong to, and contact the national headquarters, or look them up on the Web.

Many of the sites listed below also have links to other important and useful information, including blogs, forums, discussion boards, etc. You can follow many of them on Twitter or RRS feeds to keep up with current information.

Scholarships for International Students would greatly appreciate your recommendations of websites with useful information regarding scholarships or internships. SIS would also appreciate guest blog postings from students, or university professionals who would like to share ideas, information, or suggestions! Please feel free to leave comments below.

Sampling of a few Scholarship and Financial Aid Sites:

• International Education Financial Aid:
• FastWeb:
• International Scholarships:
• Careers and Colleges
• FinAid:
• Scholarship
• Hispanic College Fund:
• CHCI - Developing the next generation of Latino Leaders:
• The Gates Millennium Scholars:
• ScholarshipsCanada:
• eduPass:
• Scholarship Monkey:
• P.E.O. International:
• Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation:
• Google Scholarships:
• The Foundation Center:

These are just a sampling of different kinds of sources you can use to find funding – there are so many more! Watch for a tab in the Facebook Page where I will list more sites. Follow me, IntStudentCon, on Twitter for posts on individual scholarships, or join the Facebook Page for postings (click on the icons on this blog site to access both).

Next up: Creating your Brand Statement (A follow up on the “Creating your personal brand” series). How to write cover letters and Resumes that stand out in a sea of competition! Valuable information from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul. Don’t miss this series!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Getting Ready for Scholarship Season – Avoiding scholarship scams!

How do you know what scholarships are legitimate and what scholarships are scams? If they sound too good to be true, they usually are; learn how to recognize and protect yourself from the most common scams. If a scholarship has an application fee or other required fees, it isn't worth your time and money to apply. Best bet – don’t pay for any scholarship information. Scholarship information is free and available to everyone.

Here’s one really easy way to check the scholarship or grant to see if it is legitimate:

Google it; use a search engine of your choice, and look up the scholarship name or URL, plus the word scam. You might find out it is listed as a scam; or you might get a lot of results and discussion that question whether a scholarship is a scam or not - so it’s probably best to skip over applying for it and move on to the next scholarship opportunity.

Other Tips for Avoiding Scholarship Scams:

  1. Don't believe a promise of guaranteed scholarships. No one can guarantee that you will win a scholarship or grant.

  2. You shouldn’t pay money to be matched with scholarships that suit you the best. Anyone can find out information about any scholarship by searching the Internet. Don’t pay anyone to do this for you.

  3. Beware scholarship services that charge fees or claim that you can't get this information anywhere else. There are many free lists of scholarships available. Check with your school, library and trusted online scholarship sites before you decide to pay someone to do the work for you.

  4. Don't pay an advance fee. Don't pay anyone who claims to be "holding" a scholarship for you or informs you the scholarship will cost some money. Free money shouldn't cost a thing. Disregard any news that you're a finalist in any contest that requires you to pay a fee for further consideration, or taxes on the winning scholarship.

  5. Don’t pay to have someone apply for scholarships for you. This just does not work. In order to be eligible for scholarships, you have to submit your own applications and write your own essays. You can’t get around this, even by paying money.

  6. Ignore the myth of unclaimed funds and the companies that advertise huge amounts of unclaimed money.

  7. Don't be fooled by official-sounding names and logos. Make sure the foundation, organization or program is legitimate. Remember – just Google it!

  8. If you feel as though the scholarship application and accompanying materials were never proofread, that’s a red flag. Multiple spelling and grammatical errors show a lack of professionalism that is essential to a scholarship foundation’s success.

  9. If the only address you can find for a scholarship is a P.O. Box address, do not apply! This is definitely a scam as well. Also be wary of residential addresses as the company headquarters. If you can’t find a phone number for the scholarship sponsor, move on to another scholarship opportunity.

  10. Do not give out your social security number, credit card, bank or checking account numbers to anyone claiming they need it for you to be eligible for access to "exclusive" scholarship information, or to deposit your winnings. Get information in writing first. It may be a set-up for an unauthorized withdrawal.

Next blog: Finding Scholarships!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting Ready for Scholarship Season – The all-important essay and possible interview!

Social network profiles. Please know that your social or web profile WILL be investigated as part of the scholarship process; make sure your profile is professional, and a good representation of who you are. Facebook, Twitter, Blog, LinkedIn – all of your personal branding profiles should be updated and appropriate for your current scholarship, internship, or job activities. If you don’t have, or don’t know the specifics of “personal branding”, read the series of posts in the SIS blog listed in the archives on the right, or search for ‘personal branding’. Remember – you can also use the social networks to find scholarships as well!

The personal statement or essay. The application essay can be just as important as your GPA and extracurricular activities in helping you win a scholarship - probably the most important aspect of winning a merit scholarship. This is where your application needs to stand out!

Create an essay outline, and have a ‘basic’ essay written, using all your skills to create a portrait of yourself as a worthy recipient. Then read all information that comes with the scholarship application to determine the criteria for awarding the scholarships; emphasize these points in your essay. Make sure your essay fits the theme, and answers the question concisely. Use very specific examples from your life experience. Be specific, but show passion in your writing! (Word of warning – avoid the sob story; they rarely, if ever, win scholarships. Remember that every applicant has faced difficulties. What's different and individual to you is how you've overcome those obstacles. This is more significant and memorable than merely listing your misfortunes.Scholarship committees are not as interested in problems as they are in solutions.) The judges will be reading essay after essay on the same topic, so make your essay unique and engaging, with positive energy.

Read, and reread your essay – refining, simplifying, and polishing. Show that you have thought deeply and broadly about what you have learned in your academic career and what you hope to learn next. Correctness and style are vital, and neatness counts. Adhere to the length requirements of the essay so you aren’t disqualified. Have someone read your essay, preferably someone with professional experience – a teacher, professor, writing tutors, or visit the college writing center if there is one available. Search the Web for articles on how to write scholarship essays. This is so very important – do your best work!

Interviews. Before you submit your applications, realize that you may need to be interviewed by the scholarship committee at some point in the process. There are academic scholarships or merit scholarships, especially those with high payouts that require a sit-down, face-to-face interview with the finalists in order to determine who is the most deserving of the award. Be prepared! Make sure if you get called in for an interview that you practice your scholarship interview skills and that you are comfortable with the topic of your essay. Review your application and keep a copy for yourself. That way, there are no big surprises when you go into the meeting room. If you need help with interviewing skills, visit the career services office at your university. Above all, be confident, be positive, and be yourself! (Smile!)

Next up – avoiding scholarship scams; then – finding scholarships!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Get Ready for Scholarship Season – Resume, References, and Transcripts!

If I posted a link to a great scholarship opportunity (in the Facebook Group or Page, or Twitter) with a deadline of ‘next week’ – would you be able to apply? Here’s what you need to have organized and available in order to be ready to apply for scholarships, grants, internships, or job opportunities:

Resume. Some scholarship applications will ask for your resume or CV. If you worked previously, list your experiences, but if you don’t have work experience – don’t worry. Use your resume/CV to point out any awards and honors you’ve received, community service you’ve been involved with, and activities you’ve participated in. List all relevant activities and honors, but be selective. If you have more activities than can fit in the space provided do not include the ones that are not significant.

Read the criteria for selection carefully to understand what the reviewers of the scholarship are looking for. For example, if the scholarship looks for applicants who can show leadership experience, or an outstanding extracurricular record, include your volunteer and community service activities, emphasizing those in which you took a leadership role. Most importantly, your activities should represent your varied talents and passions outside the class room. The reviewers are trying to get a sense of who you are and what you believe in. Make sure your activities reflect that.

Make your resume and application stand out from the crowd! If you need help developing a professional resume, find examples on the Web, or better – contact your advisor, or the career services department of your school or university. If you don’t have extracurricular activities or volunteer work to list – now is the time to get involved. (Who knows – the life you change doing volunteer work may be your own!)

Letters of recommendation, or professional references. Good references are essential to creating a winning scholarship application. Prepare a document that lists at least three professional references. These references should include one or two professors who know you, preferably both in and outside of the classroom. Choose professors that have had you in upper level courses, and that know your academic goals. You might also ask a coach or academic advisor, the employer that you worked for, or the manager you worked under. Choose people who are relevant to the sponsor's goals. For example, ask a science teacher to write a letter of recommendation for a science scholarship, not your Art teacher. (Never ask a family member to provide a recommendation or letter of reference.) In each case, you want these people to speak highly of you – to speak to others about your abilities and worthiness for the scholarship.

Make sure you speak to your recommenders, making sure they want to speak on your behalf. Give your recommender a written description of the scholarship and a copy of your personal statement or essay that you write for the scholarship application. It’s a good idea to keep them informed about what you are doing academically, personally, and professionally – sending them an updated resume and transcript will help them with the process of writing the letter, or speaking for you during an interview. You should also give them appropriately addressed envelopes with postage, if necessary.

Please, be sure to also give your recommenders plenty of time to write the letter! Ask him or her at least four weeks in advance to write the letter. Gently remind them ten days before the deadline, asking them whether they have sent in the recommendation or need more information from you. Do not ask to see a copy of the letter, even if they offer to give you a copy. If the recommender provides you with a copy of the letter, the selection committee may suspect that the letter isn't as candid as it might have been otherwise. Send the writer a thank you note after the letter has been mailed. Let them know how much you appreciate what they are doing for you; you will likely ask them to write additional letters for you. Once they've written one letter on your behalf, the second letter is much easier. If you send them a thank you, it will give them a good impression and make them more willing to spend time writing you additional letters in the future.

Transcripts. You should have copies of your transcripts available in case you need to send an unofficial copy along with the application. This is also good to have when filling out the application in case you need detailed information about courses and grades, and to send to the people writing letters of recommendation for you. If the application requires official transcripts from all the schools you have attended, request this information as soon as possible. You can do this by e-mail, fax, or call in your requests, but mail a letter as a backup. Some schools charge a nominal fee for official transcripts. After a few weeks have passed, call the schools to make sure that the transcripts have been sent to the proper address.

Scores of internationally valid exams (GRE for aptitude and TOEFL/IELTS for English). This may not be necessary, but just in case, you should have the proper documentation, or copies of appropriate exam scores.

Picture. Have multiple copies of a picture of yourself. A school picture or passport picture is perfect. Anything smaller than a wallet size head shot, will do.

Watch for the next post, covering the all-important essay, and possible interview!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Getting Ready for Fall Semester - Saving money on textbooks!

Textbooks. Just the word can conjure up pictures of dollar signs added to an already expensive tuition each semester. Now you have alternatives to purchasing new textbooks that can run in the triple digits, and cost over a thousand dollars a year! To check out the increased options and what works best for you, open a tabbed web browser like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari. This will make it easier to keep track of and compare options. You might also use a spreadsheet or a table in a word document to keep track of the list of books you need for each course, along other needed information, such as the link to the store or website, price, tax, shipping & handling, and the time it takes for shipping the books. (Be aware of shipping & handling costs, as well as shipping time!).

Before you start, make sure you know the name, edition, author, and ISBN number of the books you are searching for. To find this information, check with the campus bookstore (online if they have that option); ask the professor personally or send an email; check syllabi or course websites.

Used Books. Certainly nothing new, but you might find new places to purchase them.
  • Students. Ask students who took the course last semester – quite often they ask the professor if the same book will be used again the following semester, and have one for sale. Also check to see if your campus has a student-run textbook selling system in place, such as a website or bulletin board.

  • Websites. is a good place to purchase used books. You can also use Google or Bing to search for books by typing in the name of the book and edition, and see what other options come up.

  • Book companies and vendors. There are companies that buy and sell used textbooks, and sometimes you’ll find good deals there. A few to try: Better World Books;; CampusBooks,com;;;; … do a search and you’ll find many more. Keep in mind that book companies also buy back used textbooks, often paying for shipping, at prices better than the local campus bookstore can offer.

  • If your books just aren’t worth selling back, consider donating them to organizations such as Books for Africa. Better yet, hold a book drive on your campus to send used books and funds to people who need them (Books for Africa, Room to Read, Worldfund, Invisible Children, and more) – check out Better World Books;; and other book companies for more information. Not only will the textbooks go to a good cause, they will not end up in a landfill. AND – you can earn money for your campus organization! (Win-Win!!)

E-Books. Again, this is not exactly new, but there are new players and better options. Many of the book publishers have online versions of the textbooks they sell – at a reduced price; so check out the book publisher’s website for details. There are a number of sites that offer the classic texts, novels, and books free:
Google Books:;
Many Books:;
Project Gutenberg:;
do a search for “free eBooks” and you will find others as well.

Amazon has two great new devices called the Kindle and Kindle DX. They are small, slim 3G wireless reading devices that let you download ebooks in 60 seconds! No monthly fees, no service plans, no hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots. (I have a Kindle, and that means reading my web email, posting to Twitter, catching up on Facebook, and surfing the Web in the car!! And, of course, reading books!) Check them out at (, click on Kindle for more information. It’s rumored that Amanzon and several major textbook companies are working together for better pricing on the Kindle and textbooks. I know there are a number of universities looking into this option for students.

Barnes and Noble also has eBooks available, some free, and a free downloadable eReader – software that lets you read ebooks on your iPhone, Blackberry, or your desktop ( click on the link ‘download eReader’).

If you’ve never read an eBook – download a free one today and check out the tools available. You can highlight, take clippings, bookmark, and (what I like best) SEARCH! When you study, wouldn’t it be great to search your textbook like you search websites for specific terms?

Renting/Lending Textbooks. Now this is an old idea with a new twist! There are a number of universities and book companies that have a number of textbook rental options. The prices are usually much cheaper than the new retail price of the book. Check with your university bookstore to see if they are planning a rental option for students; some are working directly with book publishers and vendors. If not, there are websites that have online textbook rental options for students, although shipping & handling, along with shipping times, make this a less desirable option than renting through a university program. There is a company, called Cengage Learning that plans to make the first couple of chapters of the rented text available online to students, so last-minute ordering isn’t such a problem. They also announced that they would start renting books to students this year, at 40 percent to 70 percent of the sale price.

There are a couple of new Internet textbook-rental companies, BookRenter (, and Chegg ( that billed itself as “the Netflix for college textbooks.” Both advertise books at 65 – 85% off the regular price of textbooks. This is another option definitely worth looking into!

But don’t delay – order your textbooks as soon as possible so you have them in time for classes! (Ok – that’s the professor in me speaking!) Good luck with your textbook search, and good luck in your courses this fall!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Getting Ready for Scholarship Season - Organization matters!

The first post in the “Getting Ready for Scholarship Season” series was generic in nature; intended to get you motivated and ready for the detailed information to come. This post is about being organized!

Get organized. If you start off organized, you are less likely to miss important application deadlines or forget to ask for a letter of recommendation. Put each application's materials in a separate file folder – whether it’s a physical folder or a computer folder, or both. Create a checklist listing all the required materials, as well as the following:

  • Scholarship name and description; phone number if available

  • Date application must be received by scholarship committee

  • Date you requested the application

  • Date you received the application

  • Date application and supporting materials were mailed

  • Date you called the Scholarship Agency to verify they received your application package

Keep a copy of your entire application materials, so you can resend it in case it is lost in the mail. Keep a master checklist of all the scholarships to which you are applying, so you can check off the completion of each application. You will also find it helpful to refer to old applications when applying for other scholarships!

Do not miss deadlines. If you miss a deadline, your application is disqualified, regardless of your excuse. Scholarship sponsors never provide extensions. So when you receive the application materials, take note of the deadline and whether it is a postmark or receipt deadline. If the deadline is based on the date your application is received by the sponsor, be sure to mail the application at least one week before the deadline date. If possible, set your own personal deadline at least two weeks prior to that date, so that your application materials are ready well in advance of the official deadline. You might consider including a self-addressed stamped postcard with your application so the sponsor can drop it in the mail to let you know that your application has been received and whether you are missing any supporting materials. You could also send the application by certified mail, return receipt requested.

Organize the application materials.
If an application consists of several loose pages, label each page with your name, and possibly also a purpose and page number. This will help prevent parts of your application from getting lost or out of order. If not specified, send your application materials in a large manila envelope, to prevent unnecessary folding of your papers. Make sure you have sufficient postage.

Remember - believe in yourself and in your chances to win scholarships. Hard work and time spent on the scholarship process will pay off eventually. Keep your chin up and think about how great the reward will be if you can win even one of the scholarships you're trying for!

Next post: Resumes, References, and Transcripts!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Get Ready - It's Scholarship Season!

Now is the time to get ready for finding, applying for, and winning scholarships! This process can be time consuming and takes dedication and motivation. But being organized and prepared will help you. In the next set of posts, you will find tips and advice that will also help you. The following information was taken from Scholarship Experts, and is generic in nature; it is intended to get you motivated and ready for the detailed information to come!

Be proactive
No one is going to track you down to give you a scholarship; you must do the legwork yourself. So when you find awards with eligibility criteria that you can meet, contact the provider and request a scholarship application packet. Whether you have to request the application via email, phone or by sending in a self-addressed stamped envelope, DO IT. There's just no other way to get the ball rolling than to take the initiative and be assertive in requesting information.

Be timely
Most scholarship providers set deadlines, and you must adhere to them. Make sure you submit all required all materials well before the deadline. If the scholarship deadline is approaching and you have not yet received the application packet that you requested earlier, follow up with the provider and request the application packet again. You do not want to miss a deadline, as few scholarship providers will consider late applications.

Be organized
Good organizational skills can pay off: literally!
  • Keep your scholarship applications ordered by deadline date.

  • Give yourself plenty of time to complete and send them in well before the due date.

  • Keep letters of recommendation and transcripts on hand so you don't have to obtain new ones every time they are required for an application.

  • Make copies of your completed scholarship applications before sending them in, and file them in folders labeled with the deadline date and the mailing address and phone number of the scholarship provider.

  • Call before the deadline to see if your application was received in good order. If it got lost in the mail (glitches happen), you still have an extra copy you can send in.

Be persistent
The scholarship search process doesn't happen overnight. You must be diligent about looking for new scholarships to apply for. Plan to spend several hours each month reviewing the programs with deadlines approaching, preparing application packets, and getting your applications in the mail on time. Then the cycle should begin again:
  • Find scholarships that you're eligible for

  • Obtain application information

  • Apply in an organized, timely manner.

Be positive
Finally, believe in yourself and in your chances to win scholarships. Hard work and time spent on the scholarship process will pay off eventually. Keep your chin up and think about how great the reward will be if you can win even one of the scholarships you're trying for! After all, your education depends on it!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Personal Branding: Bringing it all together – tools to aggregate information

If you’ve been following my other posts regarding creating a professional online presence and your own personal brand through social networking, you probably have a number of accounts and profiles. You don’t want to spend all of your time checking and posting information to all of your different social networking sites separately, so I’ll share with you several interesting and fun (and did I mention free?) web or desktop tools that will make your online life easier!
In a previous post I gave you information on how to find scholarships using Twitter ( ). You should also search the Web, using different search engines, including the new Bing ( ); you will come across sites that have frequently updated information. Instead of bookmarking the site and checking it regularly, it’s a good idea to set up RSS feeds. They can keep you up to date with the latest news, sports results, weather, music, or what your friends are doing (Twitter or blogs, for example), by bringing the information to you. If you need more information about what RSS feeds are, and how to set them up using a feed reader or news aggregator, here’s a helpful YouTube video to get you started:

RSS in Plain English:

Twitter can be an important part of your social media life. You might have more than one profile or account, with many people and organizations that you follow and watch, a frequent need to do searches of topics (scholarships!), and of course, your own microblogging activities. Twitter itself is pretty limited, but there are free desktop applications you can download and use. There are two worth checking out:

TweetDeck lets you manage all of your Twitter accounts, stay in contact with Facebook and more. I have Facebook in one column, my personal Twitter account in another, my IntStudentCon Twitter account in yet another. There is a refresh button, but the updates come in automatically. You also have the option of having alerts pop up (much like messenger). You can check on the local trends – what your friends are talking about – and see your favorites (much like bookmarks or favorites). It’s easy to Tweet to multiple accounts, and it will sync with your iPhone if you have one. ( )

Seesmic is very similar to TweetDeck, and is undergoing new updates regularly, so by the time you read this blog and try it out, it will have even more capabilities. Seesmic makes it easy to reply to Facebook and Twitter, sharing text, links, photos and videos all in one screen. ( )

Here’s a current favorite Web site that I’m using to keep track of information of all kinds – PageFlakes ( ). As soon as you set up your account, there is a default tab (page) that brings in default information such as the local weather, national news, video options, music options, and so on. You can create more tabs/pages for different content. On my second tab I have my RSS feeds to the blogs I follow, along with Facebook and my Twitter accounts. On the third tab I have specific Google searches as RSS feeds (you can search for “Scholarships for International Students” and use it as an RSS feed). I always keep my browser open, with the PageFlakes site available 24/hours a day for instant access to all the information I need.

There are so many other Web and desktop tools and applications available – find something that works for you! And if you find or use something that you really like – please share the information by leaving a comment below. (Thanks!)

Very shortly the prime time for applying for scholarships for next spring and next year will be here! My next series of posts will get you ready, and hopefully very competitive – so “RSS” this blog site! ; )

Monday, June 15, 2009

Personal Branding: LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a more professional social networking site that is career-focused and enables users to exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with trusted contacts. LinkedIn users invite people they know and trust to become "linked in" to them. (Similar to being friends on Facebook.) They are then called “Connections”. Choose connections wisely. You'll also want to choose your network carefully; only add people you actually know – and who know you well enough to give you glowing recommendations. A recruiter may choose to contact one of your connections to ask about you; make sure that person is someone you know and trust, such as family, friends, former teachers, colleagues, and employers. Here’s a short video description of LinkedIn:

A major feature of LinkedIn is its groups, allowing anyone to start a group based on an association or industry topic. For example, there are tens of thousands of academic and corporate groups that enable alumni and employees to stay in touch. LinkedIn members request an invitation to the group and can receive postings by other members via e-mail. It is through these groups that you can find jobs and internships, and make new connections. Watch for future blog posts about how to use LinkedIn to find internships and jobs.

Here’s how to get started:

Go to and create a free account.

  • Create your profile. Your profile is very important, and can increase your visibility online and help build your personal/professional brand. Make sure your profile is complete and detailed – almost like an online resume that includes information such as education, skills, qualifications, employment information and experience, and recommendations.

  • Add a picture. It’s always important to connect a face with your name. A headshot is recommended; but no larger than 80x80 pixels.
    Education. When adding information about your education, don’t forget to add your activities, associations, and any special honors or awards you’ve earned.

  • Professional Summary. When filling out this section, be sure to select an industry (recruiters often use that field to search). If you change your major, or are looking for a job in a different industry later on, make sure you update this information. There is a ‘headline’ feature that will appear at the top of the page when your profile is viewed by others – so be sure to fill in this information.

  • Keywords and skills. Be sure to include keywords and skills that will make it easier for your profile to be found in search results.

  • Contact settings. Contact settings let your connections (and recruiters) know what you are available for. Even if you are not ready for a job yet, it’s beneficial to be flexible here – you never know what opportunities might come along.

  • Links. If you have a web site, blog, or Twitter profile, add the links – it’s a good way to provide more information about you, and your interests. Beyond just linking to my blog sites, I have used the RSS feed to bring my blogs into my profile (this is a good idea of your blog is professional in nature, rather than personal – more information about blogging in a future blog!).

  • Public Profile URL. Make your profile public. Customize your URL so it is easily recognizable as yours … such as

  • Make connections. Connect with other members and build your network – invite family, friends, former teachers and current professors, and employers (past and present). The more connections you have, the more opportunities you have. Just make sure you only connect with people you know – quality is more important than quantity here!

  • Get Recommendations. Ask former and current employers, teachers, and professors for recommendations – as you would for a resume.

  • Groups. Join groups that you are affiliated with (such as the school you are attending, or have graduated from); or groups that interest you – by topic, industry, or interest.

There is plenty of excellent information about LinkedIn on the Web – use a search engine or two and look up information that can help you create a professional LinkedIn profile, or how to use LinkedIn to find information, internships, or jobs.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Personal Branding: Twitter!

Twitter is a must for college students! – For personal branding, networking, opportunities, and limitless access to information. Recent headlines say that Twitter is transforming business and impacting life in general! So, what is Twitter? Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that lets you post short text messages on your profile – up to 140 characters. You can follow people or organizations in order to read their updates (or ‘Tweets’), and others can follow you to read your Tweets as well.

To begin, create your free profile at using your name (try to be consistent with the same form of your name that you used to create other social profiles). Fill out your user profile completely, including adding a picture of yourself. Make sure your bio reflects and represents who you are. Before you start posting, think about how you want to brand (or represent) yourself.

Basic information to get you started:

First, you can only post 140 characters, but only use abbreviations when necessary. If you want to post a link to a web site, you might want to shorten the link by using a URL shrinking service such as or You will see posts with “RT” – this is used when someone is re-tweeting something someone has already posted. The “@” sign is used to direct a message to a particular user. For more information on how to effectively use Twitter, check out the following videos on Youtube: Twitter in Plain English: , Twitter Tutorial - Getting Started:  

Beyond keeping connected with family and friends, and creating a personal brand with Twitter, there are definitely other benefits and opportunities.

The current economic situation and poor job market are making it very important to get ahead of the competition through online networking, and using invaluable online tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others. According to some professionals, social media tools will separate you from the pack. It is estimated that 78 per cent of companies now use social media or networking sites to both find and attract people to fill graduate jobs. Four out of five hiring managers Google search a candidate’s name before they decide to bring them in for an interview. Some feel the traditional job boards like and are outdated and may cease to exist in the future. Employers want graduates to research jobs and prepare for interviews more thoroughly than ever – and this is possible through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online social tools.

As an international student, it will be useful for you to follow schools, organizations, and companies that post information regarding studying abroad, scholarships, internships, jobs, travel and volunteer information and opportunities. You can also ask the people you follow for help or advice. Check out this video at Youtube “How to Find and Follow People on Twitter: ; here’s a link to help you find people or organizations to follow:!/who_to_follow/;

And maybe the best thing about Twitter is that it’s fun! You’ll find different ways to use Twitter - connecting with people who share the same interests and ideas can create a special community for you; connecting with people who have different interests and ideas can open your world!

The next post: How to build your personal brand using LinkedIn. (Very professional, huge benefits!)