CPCC Career Services

April 14, 2014

What’s in a paycheck? 6 tips for doing salary research

Filed under: job searching — Tags: , , — Kelli Robinson @ 3:53 pm

When thinking about what career to pursue, salary is understandably a factor to consider. But what exactly does that salary mean?  What does it mean to make $50,000 a year? What would the lifestyle look like of someone making $20 per hour? Can someone live with an income of $35,000 per year?

Answers to these questions aren’t straightforward because everyone has a different approach to managing money. If a frugal person earns the same paycheck as someone who is more carefree with spending, their handling of that paycheck will be quite different from each other.

A person with little work experience won’t have the same perspective of a starting salary as someone who has been in the workforce for many years. Someone who is not paying living expenses will view salary figures differently than a person who has paid for their own food, rent or mortgage and utilities.

So at the end of the day, how do you know if the average salary of a career you’re considering is a “good” one? Here are some tips to consider:

Do your research.  There’s no reason to guess what a salary is for careers you’re considering. Resources like Career Coach, CFNC, O*Net and the Occupational Outlook Handbook provide lots of career information including salary. Salary calculator helps you determine a salary based on geographic location, industry, years of work experience and education level.

Create a budget and learn about monthly expenditures. How much are monthly payments for utilities, internet, cable or satellite and food? Students who don’t pay these bills yet may be surprised to find out. If you live with family members who pay for these expenses, ask what their monthly payments are. Fast forward to when you will be making the payments. Create a budget based on salary figures to see how far your dollar goes.

Know what debts to anticipate. In addition to monthly bills, will you have student loans, car payments credit cards or other debts? Factor this information into your budgeting.

Have realistic lifestyle expectations or make adjustments accordingly. Owning a new car with all the bells and whistles sounds great, but could a used car work? Enjoying the latest tech gadgets is fun, but do you really need the latest smartphone or tablet versions? Are top of the line purchases a priority? If the answer is yes, what sacrifices are you going to make? If you want to live in a spacious apartment you may have to have a roommate. If your hobbies tend to be expensive, you’ll need to make sacrifices elsewhere.

Don’t count on credit cards. The average credit card debt per U.S. household is $6500. A person with this debt who makes a minimum payment of $20 per month won’t be debt-free for almost 28 years. Credit cards put off the inevitable task of paying for the items you purchase. Nothing is free.

Make a priorities list. Besides the paycheck, what else is important to you in a job? Completing a work values checklist can help answer this question. When you find career options that compliment your work values, learn the salary ranges for the careers. Does this salary fit your lifestyle? If not, what changes do you need to make?

March 31, 2014

No joke! These 11 tips increase your chances of being interviewed and hired.

Playing April Fool's Day jokes at work can be fun. You have to get the job first.

Watch your back on April 1st, April Fool’s Day. But when it comes to job searching, it’s no joke that there are strategies that increase your likelihood of getting an interview or job offer. The catch? There is none. Yet, many job seekers often don’t think about these items when doing a job search, or only give them half-hearted attention. And the results aren’t very funny.

So what can you do to improve your chances of getting that interview or job offer?

Write a cover letter. If you have the opportunity to send a cover letter, send it. If it’s optional, opt in. A well written cover letter lets you make your case that you’re the strongest candidate for the job.

Don’t rely on online job boards. Sitting in front of the computer all day and applying for jobs is tempting. Don’t do it. You’ll limit your opportunities by not including networking and face-to-face informational meetings in your job search arsenal.

Sell your skills. If someone asked you what your skills are, could you answer? Do you know the difference between your job duties and the skills you use to perform them? Create a skills checklist as well as examples of where you’ve successfully used these skills.

Apply to select jobs rather than hundreds of them. Quantity doesn’t equal quality. Using the same resume to apply to many jobs in many different fields doesn’t increase your chances of being hired. In fact, it actually decreases the likelihood you’ll be offered an interview. Develop a targeted list of companies and tailor your resume to each company, position, industry, etc.

Use LinkedIn. More people are familiar with LinkedIn, marketed as “Facebook for professionals.” But are you actually using it in your job search? If not, you’re missing out on far reaching opportunities to network, learn about job openings and become informed about your target industries. Check out Career Services’ helpful video for getting started on LinkedIn.

Research companies before an interview. Employers might think you’re joking if one of your interview questions is “so what does this job entail?” or “what does your company do?” With social media and the internet, it’s easy to research a company and its product, mission and goals. Ask questions that show the employer you’ve done your homework.

Secure top-notch references. What does the phrase “references available upon request” actually mean? More than just the name and phone number of someone who can verify you once worked for him. Your references could make or break your job offer. Make sure you ask the right people and prepare them to assist you in your job search. Click here to learn how.

Practice interviewing skills. When it comes to interviewing, “winging it” is a poor strategy. Literally rehearse your answers to common interview questions out loud. Schedule a mock interview with Career Services to role play an interview and receive feedback about how you did.

Remember that interviewing isn’t just what you say. It’s how you say it and how you look at the person when saying it. And what you were wearing when you said it and how you shook their hand before you said anything. Nonverbal communication is judged just as much, sometimes more.

Send a thank-you letter. Take the time after your meeting to send a brief note or email to the employer, thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest in the position. Great job interviewers haven’t received job offers because they failed to send thank you letters. If it’s expected and you don’t send one you won’t get the job. If it’s unexpected and you send one anyway, you may have just move your candidacy to the top of the list.

Follow up with an employer after the interview. If the employer gives a hiring timeframe – a question you can ask during the interview- contact her if you haven’t heard anything within the stated amount of time. A quick note to ask about the status of your application and reiterate your interest shows your continued interest in the position.



March 24, 2014

7 signs this job offer is a scam

Filed under: interviewing,job searching — Tags: , , , — Kelli Robinson @ 5:17 pm

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. This philosophy applies to many situations, including job offers. With technology and job searching so entwined, scam artists are hard at work luring job seekers with the promise of lucrative job offers that only result in identify theft, stolen money or both.

Many examples exist. A new scam targeting college students offers part-time online jobs. The notification is sent to campus email accounts, making it look more legitimate. But beware: the email indicates the company will send a check to the applicant who is then directed to cash the check and wire money to a stated account via Western Union. Being required to pay money upfront waves a huge red flag that this opportunity is a scam.

What other red flags should you look for? Here seven items that could signal the job you’re about to apply for is fake.

The job posting is very poorly written. If you see typos, mixed verb tenses or a job description that doesn’t make sense, don’t apply. When an ad reads like it’s been poorly translated or doesn’t actually say what the job entails, it’s a scam.

“No experience necessary.” Be careful of ads that indicate anyone could do the job, because not everyone can do every job. Certain skills sets, education level or years of work experience should be listed.

The email is a non-business address. When a potential boss reaches out to you from a Gmail, Hotmail or other personal account, hit the delete button. Legitimate job offers come from company email addresses, not personal ones.

“Please send money.” Candidates shouldn’t be asked to wire money, transfer funds or cash checks. Do your research when a company requires you to send money upfront to receive training materials, required company equipment or further instructions. Legitimate companies won’t do this.

“Before sending you an application, we need to receive your Social Security number, bank account and routing number.”  No, they don’t. Once you’re hired, it’s customary to provide this information to human resources departments for tax or direct deposit purposes. But there’s never a reason to supply personal information based on a job ad. During the hiring process employers may run a background check or a credit check. But you must be notified in writing and give written authorization before the credit check can be completed.

The salary is extremely high. Job scammers post extremely high salaries to attract desperate job seekers. Resources like Salary Calculator and the Occupational Outlook Handbook list salary ranges and starting salaries so you can know what a reasonable salary offer is. Career Coach is a great source for learning Charlotte/regional salaries.

“Congratulations, you’re hired…even though we’ve never met you.” Receiving a job offer on the spot, sight unseen, is a big sign that the job offer isn’t real. If an interview isn’t part of the hiring process – or there isn’t any process at all – it’s likely a scam.

Your ideal real job is out there. Keep searching! Don’t be lured by scams of ideal jobs that really are too good to be true.

March 17, 2014

Do you feel lucky? 9 quick tips for improving your job search success

Filed under: interviewing,job searching — Tags: , , — Kelli Robinson @ 8:14 pm

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, we ask the question: How much of a job search is luck?

You hear references to lucky job searches all the time. “Being in the right place at the right time,” “Knowing the right people.” Some elements of a job search can’t be controlled and do have to be attributed to luck (good or bad).

But job applicants can manage many parts of the job search process. Here are nine tips to help ensure some luck is on your side.

1. Arrive on time to an interview. This means 15 minutes early. Plan your schedule accordingly. Take factors like traffic, bus routes and weather into consideration. But things happen. If you know you’re going to be late, contact the employer as soon as possible to explain your situation. And if you become ill, reschedule the interview for another day.

2. Have a solid online presence. Over 80% of employers research job applicants online before contacting them for an interview. It’s important to have a professional online presence, which means completing a LinkedIn profile. But it’s also important to have a positive online presence on social media outlets like Facebook. Does your Facebook profile paint the picture of someone an employer would hire?

3. Make sure your resume matches the specific job you’re applying for. Employers can spot a generic resume a mile away. It’s the one they receive in their inbox that could have easily been sent to hundreds of other employers in other industries. Targeting your resume to specific jobs might simply involve changing the objective. Other targeting strategies include editing your skills section to include keyword qualifications listed in the job posting. Even if a cover letter isn’t required, send one if given the chance. It’s one more outlet for telling this particular employer why you’re the right candidate for this particular job.

4. Dress appropriately for interviews. Even if you send a stellar resume that lands you an interview, your chances at being hired are zero if you don’t dress professionally for the interview.

5. Network. You won’t be lucky in your job search if you only apply to jobs online. Face-to-face meetings are essential. Schedule informational meetings with people in your targeted industry and companies. Find contacts through LinkedIn. Networking can be intimidating. Talk to a career counselor about developing an approach.

6. Do your company research. In addition to answering questions at an interview, you’ll be asked to show what you know about the job and the company. Research the organization through the company’s website or social media presence. If a company has a Twitter handle or LinkedIn profile, start following it.

7. Send a thank you note after an interview. This is one of the most overlooked step in the job search process. Too many people do not receive job offers because they think a thank you note is an unnecessary step.

8. Be realistic. Don’t narrow your job search (industry, geographically, etc.) too much. Allow time for the process – it can take several months to complete a successful job search. When you are offered a job, review the pros and cons carefully to make a solid decision.

9. Don’t panic. It’s hard not to because job searching is stressful. But when you panic you’re more likely to make errors on cover letters and resumes, appear anxious during interviews or overlook opportunities in your rush to find a job. 

March 10, 2014

What to do after attending a career fair?

Filed under: job fair,job searching — Tags: , , — Kelli Robinson @ 4:43 pm

Now that the CPCC Career Fair is over, what’s next?

A job fair may be a one day event, but there’s still some follow up action items to complete in your job search.

Send thank you notes to recruiters you spoke with. Take the time to send a quick thank you note to any recruiters that you talked to, thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest in working for their company. Many applicants overlook this simple step that makes or breaks a person being considered for a job.

Contact employers you didn’t meet with. Whether you weren’t able to attend the career fair or couldn’t speak with all of the companies on your target list, reach out to them now. Check out the company websites for information about job opportunities.

Do what employers asked you to do. If an employer requested that you send additional application information, asked you to contact him or her this week or gave instructions to apply via the company website, do it!

Follow up with recruiters within two weeks after the job fair. Touch base to learn the status of your application or jobs you were interested in and to reiterate your interest in working for the company.

Develop a system for keeping track of recruiters, companies, applications and job leads. Mark dates you meet with someone, apply for a job or have an interview. Set calendar reminders to follow up. Many job searching devices exist to help simplify this task.

Review your strategies. Ask yourself what worked and what didn’t? If you felt nervous delivering your elevator speech to employers, consider rewriting or practicing it. If after a few weeks you do not receive requests for job interviews, it might be wise to have your resume critiqued. Applicants who receive interview requests but no job offers may want to review their interviewing skills.

Use other job search resources. A successful job search strategy incorporates all resources – job fairs, online job boards, networking, social media etc. – rather than focusing on just one. It’s critical to use all options available to you.



March 3, 2014

Last minute tips for the CPCC Career Fair!

Filed under: interviewing,job fair — Tags: , — Kelli Robinson @ 5:22 pm

Career Fair week is here! This Thursday, March 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., over 95 employers will be at the Grady Cole Center to talk about job openings. Are you ready?

What last minute details should you pay attention to these next few days to ensure you’ll impress employers? The following checklist can help.

  • Review February posts from the CPCC Career Services blog. Last month we offered weekly posts on Career Fair items. From resume tips to how to dress professionally, many of your questions can be answered here.
  • Have a career counselor review your resume. Stop by the Career Services Central campus office tomorrow (Tuesday March 4) from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to have your resume critiqued by a career counselor. No appointment necessary. You can also email career.services@cpcc.edu to receive feedback.
  • Assemble your professional dress now. Make sure clothes are pressed and accessories are chosen wisely. Don’t forget a tote or professional bag (if possible, no backpacks) to carry resumes and gather employer information.
  • Practice your elevator speech. Rehearse your elevator speech in front of a mirror, friends or family. You want employers to know you’re confident and knowledgeable about your skills and qualifications as they relate to the job. Practice a firm handshake, too!
  • Research employers you plan to meet with. Use the Career Fair Employer List to identify which employers you plan to speak with at the event. Use the companies’ websites and social media presence (Facebook pages, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter handles) to learn about the companies and prepare questions to ask.

Some helpful hints for the day of the event:

  • Arrive early. Parking fills up quickly and lines get long.
  • Bring your CPCC Student ID. Doing so gives you access to the VIP entrance to avoid longer lines. *Note: Veterans who bring their DD-214 papers will also be admitted through the VIP entrance
  • Check the weather. You may be standing outside in the early morning hours. Dress accordingly.
  • Plan your transportation. Parking in the Student Decks will be available (no permit required), or plan your bus route.
  • Arrange for childcare. Job applicants who bring children to the career fair will not be admitted to the event.
  • Bring a snack. Pack a small bottle of water and a snack to keep your energy up throughout the day.
  • Have multiple copies of your resume. Estimate how many employers you’ll be speaking to, but bring a few additional copies just in case.

Make the most of this great opportunity to meet face-to-face with employers. Check back to this blog next week for post-fair tips.

February 25, 2014

Get a Career Fair recruiter’s attention by giving a great elevator speech!

Filed under: interviewing,job fair — Tags: , , — Kelli Robinson @ 4:17 pm

When you walk up to recruiters at next week’s Career Fair, what are you going to say? After you shake hands and tell them your name, what are you going to talk about?


You have less than a minute to tell an employer your skills and background and what makes you a qualified candidate for job openings at their company. You accomplish this task by writing and practicing a killer elevator speech.

To give a great speech you need good content and sharp delivery. Make the recruiter want to ask more questions about your background and accept your resume for future consideration.


Discuss your professional background as it relates to the company. How does your education or experience make you qualified for this job? What skills do you have that will help you contribute to the company’s success? Not only does this show you know yourself, it shows you’ve done your company research.

Convey any related experience you have. Remember, relevant experience isn’t always paid. Did any classroom projects help develop a solid knowledge base? What about internships, volunteer experience or campus or community leadership roles you’ve had?

Include a “hook,” or a way to get the employer to take action. Ask for a business card, ask relevant questions about the job or inquire about the hiring process.


Start with a confident handshake. Remember to smile and maintain comfortable eye contact. Being nervous is understandable, so take a deep breath beforehand to avoid talking too fast.

Finally, the best speakers rehearse a practiced speech beforehand. You should do the same. Take time now to write and practice your elevator speech. Rehearse it in front of the mirror and family and friends. Time it to make sure it doesn’t exceed one minute. Get feedback from your audience and practice your speech many times.

Your goal at the job fair is to capture the recruiter’s interest enough to be considered for a follow-up interview. A strong elevator speech helps you achieve this goal.


February 17, 2014

Professional dress: Make a good first impression at the Career Fair

Filed under: job fair,job searching,professional dress — Tags: , — Kelli Robinson @ 5:43 pm

As you’re preparing for the CPCC Job Fair on Thursday, March 6, remember this fact: Employers critique your candidacy before you say a word. As you walk up to their table and prepare to discuss your qualifications, they’ve already made one evaluation about your attire. Does your choice of clothing fit the part of a future employee?

Professional dress is required for admission to the career fair. Why? Because a career fair is an event where employers and job seekers discuss professional job opportunities. The question should be why wouldn’t you dress professionally?

But what does professional dress exactly mean?  Check out the following guidelines to help you dress for success at the career fair.


  • Business suits
  • Khakis or dress slacks
  • Collared or button-down shirts
  • Professional dresses and skirts
  • Navy, black or dark grey colors work best
  • Neutral or matching panty hose
  • Closed-toe shoes (no sandals!)
  • Minimal jewelry (avoid long dangly earrings, bangle bracelets and excessive necklaces)
  • Groomed hairstyle
  • Light makeup and perfume
  • Neatly manicured, clean nails

Low-cut shirts, short skirts and tight fitting clothes will make an impression, but it won’t be the right one.


  • Suit (solid color, preferably navy, black or dark grey)
  • Long-sleeve shirt (white or color that coordinates with the suit)
  • Belt and matching tie
  • Dark socks and matching conservative shoes
  • Little or no jewelry
  • Neat professional hairstyle
  • Limit aftershave and cologne

Be sure your suit is properly fitted.

Some other appearance errors to avoid at the career fair

  • Wrinkled clothes. The night before or morning of the interview, iron your clothes.
  • Bad breath. Bring breath mints instead of gum.
  • A loud cell phone ring.  Avoid this potential distraction when talking to an employer by turning your cell phone ringer off or at the very least setting it to vibrate.
  • Exposed body parts. A job fair isn’t the place for spaghetti straps, mid-drift tops or muscle shirts.
  • A showcase of tattoos. If your arms are covered with art, cover them.
  • Food in your teeth. Check a mirror to make sure your smile won’t be distracting.
  • Piercings in other places besides ear lobes. It’s best to removal facial and tongue rings.
  • Unique hair color or nail polish. Stick to traditional conservative colors.
  • A backpack. Carry your resumes in a binder or folder.

Finally, you don’t have to break the bank to look sharp. Big box favorites like Target, Kohl’s, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s offer great professional dress options at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, you can find items at consignment shops as well as Goodwill and Salvation Army stores.



February 10, 2014

Check for spelling errors! (and 7 other resume tips for the Career Fair)

A resume. The toughest one-page paper you’ll likely ever write. When done well, this document could be the ticket to your next job. When written poorly, it likely guarantees you won’t be selected for an interview.

No pressure.

With the CPCC Career Fair just three weeks away, it’s time to start polishing your resume to give you a better chance of impressing the employers.

Here are eight tips for creating a resume that employers will look at favorably.

1. Keep it to one page. Studies show you have six seconds at most to make a good impression, since that’s the average amount of time recruiters spend on a resume. A two-page resume doesn’t work with this short attention span.

2. Develop a targeted resume.  Once you know the companies you plan to visit at the Career Fair, target your resume for each of them. Best place to start is with the objective. Yes, it will be time consuming, but yes it will be worth it!

3. Start job descriptions with action verbs. Remember your composition class where you learned the importance of writing complete sentences using subjects and verbs? Put that training on hold for the resume. Start with action verbs when listing your job duties. Avoid personal pronouns. If you can say something in two words instead of five, do it.

4. Use bullet points.

  • Paragraphs are visually long and therefore a turnoff.
  • Not every item needs a bullet point.
  • Using too many bullet points ruins the effect.

5. Check for spelling errors. Grammatical and spelling errors still top the list of reasons employers reject resumes. Don’t rely on spell check. Scrutinize your resume forwards and backwards. Have someone else review for errors, too.

6. Use keywords but avoid rambling. Keywords are words or phrases specific to an industry. Employers use them the same way you use search words on Google. Make sure your resume reflects keywords for your targeted industry.

At the same time, leave out unnecessary details. The interview will be your opportunity to provide more explanation. The resume is a summary of accomplishments and qualifications.

7. Make sure the appearance is consistent and standardized. Avoid fancy fonts. Stick with the standards like Times New Roman, Arial or Calbri. Your name can appear in a slightly larger font, but keep the rest of the text within 10-11 point font size. Don’t change font sizes or styles midway through the resume. If you bold one job title bold all of them. Putting one category title in all caps? Then do so for the other category titles, too.

8. Have your resume reviewed by a Career Services career counselor. Schedule an appointment with a career counselor who can give your resume a professional review and offer tips for improvement. The Central campus office offers Drop In services (Mon-Fri 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) with no appointment necessary.

Employers are eager to talk to you about your resume next month. Is your resume ready for them?







February 3, 2014

Why attend the CPCC Career Fair & what to expect

The CPCC Career Fair is just over one month away! On Thursday March 6 employers will be at the Grady Cole Center to discuss full-time and part-time jobs as well as internship opportunities. Mark your calendar and plan to attend.

Why should I go to a career fair?

If you’re job searching, why wouldn’t you attend the job fair? This is your chance to meet employers face-to-face who are actively hiring people just like you. Online job searching has been a staple for years thanks to job boards like employmeNC and Indeed.com that let job seekers apply to jobs from the comforts of home. Social media has taken the online job search one step further allowing online interaction with professionals and company representatives through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

But the chance to talk to an employer in person can’t be trumped or replaced. At the end of the day an in-person interview is how employers evaluate your candidacy for a job opening. Don’t pass up the opportunity to make a good first impression – and solidify yourself as one to be contacted for that interview. The job seeker attending the job fair has the advantage, so why shouldn’t that job seeker be you?

What can I expect at a job fair?

Be prepared for lots of people in a loud environment. Approximately 75-85 companies attend the event. They each bring two or more recruiters who spend time talking one-on-one to job seekers that number over 1,000. Each company sets up a display table. Their job is to promote their company as place you might like to work. Your job is to promote yourself as someone they might want to hire.

Anticipate long lines. CPCC students, alumni and all veterans can access the event through the VIP entrance. You may also encounter long lines at employer tables. Be patient. Remember you might meet your next employer today so it’s worth the wait.

Allow enough time. The CPCC Career Fair is open from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Depending on how many employers you plan to talk to, you could be at the event for an hour or longer. You’ll want to spend at least 5-10 minutes talking to each employer.

Start preparing now. A job fair isn’t an event you prepare for the night before. You’re going to need professional attire, a sharp resume, knowledge about the companies attending, a list of questions to ask them and a top-notch elevator speech that sells your skills and qualifications to each employer. Take the next month to get these items in order.

Visit Career Services to help you get ready for the job fair. Visit this blog over the next month for tangible tips on how to be successful at the event. Clear your class or work schedule now for March 6 to avoid conflicts and the chance to attend this event.



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