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Dorm Rooms to Boardrooms
ISBN :  0-9759665-0-2
Victoria Pilate
Crandell & Rose
Dorm Rooms to
spans the full
transition from college to
the Real World, covering:  

Interview Tips
Apartment Hunting
Office Politics
Getting Ahead
Business Travel Tips
Image and Style
Tips on Presentations
and more!
Companies surveyed in 2004 by
the National Association of
Colleges and Employers (NACE)
said they are most interested in
good communication skills.  The
NACE survey also found honesty,
interpersonal skills, initiative, a
good work ethic, and team skills
(in that order) as important
Cover Letter Tips

Avoid “Dear Sir/Ma’am” Salutations.

Customize for each job application.

Trifold resume and cover letter. Top fold
should be the top of letter and resume.

Demonstrate knowledge of company
and industry.

Briefly highlight background and
“I had an interview with a panel that
asked me questions rapid fire.  It felt
like target practice and I was the
target.  In a way they had to do that
because the office was one that
required people to think quickly and
on their feet.  I knew from the type of
work they did it was survival of the
fittest and this was a test of how I
could survive.”
Joining Professional Organizations

At a career talk, a student asked me if
joining professional organizations
could help a career.  I do not know of a
study that has found a relationship
between career advancement and
membership in a particular
organization or type of organization but
it makes intuitive sense.  For one
thing, professional organizations are
avenues to networking.

There is also bad news.  Some
membership fees of professional
organizations can be very pricey.  For
one organization, I found annual
membership fees were nearly $100; it
gave a discount for new members for
the first year.  A
Business 2.0 magazine
article (July 2004) suggested sitting in
on a few nonmember events to test the
organization and its vitality; writer
Eileen Gunn suggested smaller
associations (under 100 members)
can be better because they offer a
variety of perspectives but at the same
time are small enough that you can get
to know and bond with other
members.  If you’re lucky, your
employer may pick up the tab for some
membership fees to work-related
Gym etiquette and good health
go hand in hand.

Always wipe off equipment.  Cold
and flu viruses thrive on drinking
fountains, dumbbells and
equipment handles.  Washing
your face and hands after every
workout is the advice of the
American Safety and Health
“Don’t criticize someone unless
you see a clear way that your
words are going to help him
improve.” Robert Baron, Ph.D.,
professor of management and
psychology at Rensselaer
Polytechnic institute,
Men’s Health
interview  (July/August 2003)
Congratulating colleagues on major
accomplishments is important.  
Who can forget the scene in
Beautiful Mind
when John Nash was
penned by his colleagues?
Warning for Office Parties:

Two common choices on the office
party buffet, alcohol and sweets,
make an inebriating mix.  Sugar
intensifies the punch of alcohol.  In
effect, it decreases one’s threshold
for sobriety.
Thursdays are the best days for
office parties, especially any after
hours.  People want their Fridays
and weekends for family events.  

Avoid selecting dates near annual
events.  Mother’s Day or high school
graduations are bound to cause
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Excerpts from Dorm Rooms to Boardrooms
Job Hunting Hints
Author Buddy Hobart emphasizes the devil in the details of job hunting,
“The people who are successful at finding good jobs straight out of
college are usually the ones who understand the importance of the little
things.”  A sharp resume, a professional sounding message on your voice
mail, the right suit, and polished shoes all play a role in landing the
interview and the position.  In doing my survey, I was shocked to see some
of the email addresses of respondents; anything of a sexual nature or
even some hobbies (doll_collctr, sexie_girl, babydoll, me_rudeboy,
poopie_babe) as email addresses can discredit you.  

Watch Your Language on Interviews
Slang should never be used during an interview. “All else being equal—
experience, credentials, etc—in most cases the employer will select the
candidate with the better verbal skills,” says Laura Lorber, managing
editor of in a
Black Enterprise article.  

A former colleague reported being a new hire with one or two years of
experience and interviewing at his alma mater.  He interviewed students
whom he had known while he was a student there.  He was surprised that
students were far too relaxed with him during the interview.  He didn’t
expect them to ingratiate themselves to him but he expected a more
professional interaction.

Though he wanted to give them a chance, he had a tough time reconciling
their interview behavior to what they would do on the job.  Could he fairly
recommend John Doe for a job when John couldn’t seem to use a word
other than “Dude” or “sweet” in the interview?  

From my research, one student admitted to having made the mistake of
following the interviewer’s cue on using vulgarities.  That was a mistake.  
The interviewer apparently didn’t realize he was using vulgarities and
promptly suggested the student change his language.  Interviewers are
critical of your speech and dress but will give themselves latitude.  It can
be “do as I say but not as I do” with vulgarities in interviews AND in the
office.  That’s a bad habit to drop quickly!

Interruptions to Interview
If someone interrupts the interview, try to disengage yourself from the
conversation between the person and the interviewer.  While they are
talking, avoid eye contact with them by surveying the interviewer’s
bookcase or his awards on the wall.  By trying to maintain eye contact with
the interviewer while she’s dealing with the person who came in may be
interpreted as impatience.  

What to Consider for an Apartment
Make a mental checklist of things to consider when choosing a place to
stay.  You’ll be at a slight disadvantage in that you may need to learn the
pros and cons of a new city and its neighborhoods (and its suburbs) as
well as any quirky issues with the various neighborhoods of your new city.  

Luckily, crime statistics are down for the nation and for most metropolitan
areas.   Unfortunately, crime is still very real.  When deciding where to
live, you can get a handle on the safety of the area by doing a few things.  
First, call the police district for the area and ask for the crime statistics.  
Don’t be surprised by a negative report on crime from the police like  
“That’s a bad neighborhood.”  

Even the White House is in a “bad neighborhood” using some statistics.  
Ask the police for details like the numbers of muggings, rapes, etc.  A
neighborhood with a string of car vandalisms isn’t the same as one with a
history of muggings and murders.

Be sure to visit a potential neighborhood at night and during the day.  Are
there people standing around for no reason?  How is the street lighting?  
How clean are the streets compared to other neighborhoods?  Does it
look like an area that families or young adults are living?  

You can also gauge a neighborhood by reading the crime reports in the
local paper.  Metropolitan areas like Washington, D.C., and Orlando have
crime reports listed weekly in the paper.  

Assuming you’ll be living in a city that has public transportation, one of
your selection criteria for a place to live should be public transportation.  If
you’re going to drive to work, your residence doesn’t have to be super
close to a train or subway line.  You would probably only use public
transportation when your car is in the shop.  If public transportation is to
be a daily necessity, the closer the better.  In a city that has a large
subway and bus system, consider housing locations that are close to a
line that runs near your office. Where possible and affordable, shorten
your commute as best possible.  

The best location to live is near services such as a grocery store, drug
store, medical facilities, shopping centers, movie theatres, etc.  Here
again, give some thought to the what-ifs.  If your car is ever out of
commission, closeness to a grocery store or drug store becomes, using
Murphy’s Law, exceedingly important.  Distance to other services like
shopping centers and movie theatres is a consideration; this is a
secondary issue and only comes into play when considering

Common Activities for New Employees
As the new kid on the block, you’ll get the least glamorous assignments
and you may get those annual tasks that everyone dislikes.  You also may
be asked to do semi-professional jobs such as editing and proofreading
the work of others.  These are all opportunities to shine.  

At an old job, I was assigned to do the annual charity campaign because
as my boss put it, “It’s always assigned to the new person.”  It was a
matter of getting materials and instructions for the agency’s campaign
coordinator  then distributing and collecting pledge cards. For my office, I
had a “kick-off” with coffee, tea and doughnuts, put up posters and made
an email appeal to staff.  Then I did periodic email highlights of the
success stories, taken from the campaign materials that I had been given.  
I ended the office’s campaign with a brief program to present donor pins
making finger sandwiches and light snacks.

It cost little out of my pocket to do, made a great impact on a worthy cause
(the office had 100 percent participation and three recipients of the donor
award) and scored some career enhancing points.  Imagine the difference
if I had done the task grudgingly and resentfully at being singled out as
the new hire to do an undesirable task.

As a new employee with a fair amount of free or at least flexible time, you
may be asked to proofread or error check documents or figures.  
Proofreading is more important than you think.  A typo or misplaced
comma can cost money in a contract dispute or can cost your employer a
valuable client.

If you do proofread, learn common proofreading notations and be careful
with your proofing notes. I once got a document back that someone had
proofread. He used a pencil and small writing. It was very hard to see his
edits; it took extra time to go over his pages carefully so as not to miss

Also, you may have many manuals to read.  Here’s where you shouldn’t
skimp.  Read any manuals that you’re given.  These will come in handy
very shortly.  Your coworkers will know rules and procedures back and
forth. Once you’re at full speed, there will be no exam on how well you
know the rules. You’ll be expected to work at a high level of competence
within the boundaries established by your employer’s rule book.  It may be
boring but it is necessary. Take notes. It helps to stay awake.  

The Society of Human Resource Management found 25 percent of
employers have formal mentor programs.  Such programs are designed to
help new employees blend in and learn the ropes.  

However, University of Georgia professor Lillian Eby found that 54 percent
of mentees had negative mentoring experiences. Instead of benefiting
their careers, some found the experience harmful.  The reasons were
varied but had a common theme; the mentor often expected the mentee to
follow his advice without exception or the mentor expected the mentee to
be a carbon copy of herself.  Occasionally, the relationship sours because
of lack of confidentiality.

Professionals suggest not having mentor in chain of command of one’s
immediate office.  Rather seek one or ask to be placed with one in an
office that interests you or had a potential for strategic alliances.  Some
career counselors suggest having more than one mentor, one for each
skill area on which you want to develop. Frankly, though that sounds
good, I believe it would be difficult in practice to find more than one or two

If the mentor program does not have guidelines for it, be sure to inquire
about confidentiality and frequency of meetings.  One career writer
suggested that, if the relationship involved goal setting, the mentor and
mentee should discuss early on accountability.

Mentors can help with career advice and decoding office politics.  They
can also help with making vital connections to others whose cooperation
you may need.  They can even provide vital office “gossip” – informal
information about coworkers that is needed to interact successfully.

Likewise, think about how you approach the mentoring relationship.  As
one career writer noted, the mentee tends to treat the relationship as
temporary or ad hoc, going to the mentor about a particular problem then
disappearing.  The goal for both parties should be long term
development. However, some mentor programs like Intel’s have an
established duration of a few months, often six to nine months. The two
can continue the relationship informally.

You should not expect a counseling session or extensive career advice
from mentors. Rather, their role should be one of being a springboard for
you to bounce ideas or to point you in the right direction.  You should also
be open for criticism. Above all, know that your career is not your mentor’s

Small Talk
In any social or professional setting, you will need to make small talk with
others.  If you don’t know the person, you could easily struggle though a
few awkward minutes.  If you ask the wrong question, your struggle could
be even worse.

There are a few things you should never ask people at work.  Never ask
when a person plans to start a family.  Many people struggle with infertility
privately or their decision to have or not have children is highly personal.  
Six million Americans struggle with infertility. An infertile woman can be
highly sensitive to the topic of children.  I almost never ask about children
unless I see pictures in the person’s office.  

My favorite interaction advice of etiquette guru Hilda Klinkenberg is on
taboo small talk topics.  In the Working Woman article, she advised
against diets, personal health, personal tragedies and the cost of
anything not work related.  She also advised against asking for free
professional advice such as asking a dermatologist to look a mole on your
arm.  I’d add to that list smoking; some smokers are extremely sensitive to
suggestions to quit or comments about their health, even in a joking

Never comment to a person about their height or other personal
characteristic.  That’s an insult.  This includes asking about scars.  
Comments like “Did you play basketball?” can grow weary on a tall

Safe topics are the weather, job related developments, local arts festivals,
or major sporting events.  Stay away from news events that could be
construed as political or are controversial.

Style Tips for Interviews
The key to dressing for interviews is professionalism and neutrality.  Even
if the company has an every day casual dress policy, the expectation at
interviews is business attire.  For women, that generally means suits with
skirts and not pants suits.  For both men and women, dark suits in solids
or pinstripes generally are expected for interviews.  For professional
attire, navy blue and black are universally stylish and conservative; dark
greys and some green shades are also stunningly professional.  You can
add your own personal flares by using accessories strategically.

Your accessories should be equally neutral and professional.  
Interviewers will notice even the smallest detail of a ragged friendship
bracelet, scuffed shoes or wrinkled shirt under a coat.  Though minor in
your eyes, in the eyes of an interviewer, failure to take care of the small
things suggest a future failure to meet the demands of real on-the-job

Students complain that dressing for interviews in a suit is “not me.”  Worst
yet, some students voice the opinion that they’re “selling out” when they
dress and speak differently (correctly read:  professionally) in interviews.  

The truth is you’re not selling out, you’re adapting.  If you went to your 90
year-old grandmother’s birthday party, you’re not likely to wear cut-off
jeans and a shirt that shows off your body piercing.  Likewise, if you go to
your best friend’s wedding, you’re likely not going to wear low ride jeans
and flip-flops.  If you can adapt for other occasions, you can adapt for
interviews and the office.  

Conferences are great opportunity for career and personal
advancement.  You have the opportunity to network with others in your
field or industry.  You can talk to coworkers in a less hurried atmosphere.  

This is one of your best opportunities for networking.  Introduce yourself
to others and be sure to ask for business cards.  And don’t be stingy with
distributing your business card.  If your employer doesn’t provide them,
have your own printed.

Equally important, you have the opportunity to gain new knowledge and
skills.  Take notes even if it’s not interesting or currently relevant to your
position.  I’ve found that a presentation at a conference that wasn’t
immediately relevant to my work became helpful later.  

There’s loads of free information about the industry, professional training
or resources and new tools for doing business.  Service providers will
often use professional conferences to preview new products they will soon
offer.   You can be the first in your office or organization to have
information to share about new technology.   

With all the information you’ll be taking with you, do yourself a favor and
mail the information to yourself.  Rather than weigh down your suitcase
and wreck havoc with your back, if you have loads of product samples and
booklets, just mail it to yourself.  Most larger hotels have express mail

Enjoy yourself.  Take advantage of the mixers.  Even if you’re an introvert
or don’t drink, try the conference’s social even if it’s just for a short while.  
Whatever you do, don’t drink too much.  

A coworker was embarrassed to be “sent to his room” at a conference by
his boss because he drank too much during the social.  In his case, he
said he had been fasting for Lent and the alcohol hit his system hard.  
What an embarrassment

Don’t miss the opportunity to see a new city.  That’s one thing I regret
about my first few years of business travel.  I was so worried about sticking
to a budget that I wouldn’t splurge and go sightseeing when on business
travel.  Many city landmarks have late hours one day a week, particularly
museums.  Luckily, many times these late hours are free or reduced cost.  

If you’re drained after a long day at the conference, take a nap for an
hour then go out and explore.  On one of my last business trips for a
previous job, I bumped into my boss as I was headed to the bus stop to
hop a bus to go exploring. He was shocked at my “daring.” For the
remainder of the conference, others would ask me, “Where to tonight?”
and before the meeting started I would let others see the postcards from
the places I had seen the night before.

Once the conference is over, you’ll have a few extra areas to tie up.  First,
if you were asked questions or assigned tasks, work on getting those
squared away or putting together a plan of action together for a long-term
task.  If you were the only participant from your office, you’ll need to report
back to your supervisor on any developments or relevant information to
your office or organization.  An email will suffice in most cases.  
Victoria Pilate, Ph.D.