Don’t overlook the importance of volunteering in the job search

April is National Volunteer Month. On any given day millions of people donate their time and skills to companies and organizations. Whether it’s long-term volunteer commitments or one day events, volunteering positively impacts everyone involved.

It also positively impacts a job search. While you don’t earn a paycheck from your volunteer experience, research shows that volunteering can increase employment opportunities. Here’s why:

  • Showcasing your skills set.  Volunteering lets you put your skills to use in an actual work setting. The duties and responsibilities become resume content and job interview topics.
  • Acquiring new skills. A volunteer position is a great place to try new skills you’ve never used before. The accountant who thinks he might want to work with kids? Volunteering to tutor in an after-school program offers an inroad to developing the necessary skills.
  • Introduction to new career options.  The best way to learn about career possibilities is seeing them first hand. Many organizations representing many different industries utilize volunteers. This can be a great way to try a job setting before committing to it.
  • Staying connected to the world of work. Whether you’re donating your time to an animal shelter or an environmental organization, you’re in engaged in the world of work. This benefit is especially helpful for job seekers who have recently been laid off. When you begin your job search, prospective employers prefer candidates who have remained involved.
  • Meeting people. Networking is a key component to any job search. Many jobs are not found through online job boards, but rather word of mouth. Volunteers for one organization have many professional backgrounds. Strike up a conversation with the volunteer next to you. You never know where it could lead.
  • An outlet for demonstrating you’re motivated and hard working. You aren’t getting paid for your efforts. If that doesn’t show your commitment, what will? Prospective employers look for candidates who possess a solid work ethic. Volunteer work catches employers’ eyes for this reason.
  • Feeling productive. Being engaged and productive increases your motivation level. Job searching is an exhausting process. Volunteering is a great energy boost to help continue the job search. For this reason, and all the reasons mentioned above, you should actually view it as a step of the job search process rather than an extracurricular activity.

Where to find volunteer opportunities   (Volunteer Match, Charlotte) (Hands On Charlotte)  (CPCC Service Learning)



April 2, 2015

6 Habits That Could Jeopardize Job Offers

How you say something is just as important as what you say.

Having solid answers to the interview questions is important. But how you act while talking with the recruiter affects your chances, too.

The suggestions listed are helpful guidelines when preparing for job interviews in the U.S.  Culture plays a big role in nonverbal communication. Different cultures share different views of the same action. For example maintaining eye contact is valued in some cultures but considered disrespectful in others. These differences make the job interview process challenging.

Check this list of what are considered unappealing nonverbal interview cues. Are you guilty of any? If so, follow the action items to improve what you’re silently communicating and improve your chances of landing a job offer.

Awkward handshake. A soft, limp handshake suggests lack of confidence. A crippling, knuckle-breaking handshake might imply arrogance. Handshakes lasting too long are inappropriate.

Action step: Practice shaking hands until you establish a firm, comfortable handshake. Always extend your right arm when accepting or seeking a handshake.

Bad eye contact. Find a balance between completely avoiding eye and staring intently to the point it’s uncomfortable.

Action step: Learn the difference between looking at someone and staring. There are many tricks that can improve your eye contact. For example, focus on a spot in between the person’s eyes, giving the impression that you’re looking directly at them.

No facial expressions. Employers are people, not robots. And they want to hire people, not robots. Showing no facial expression tells the employer you’re bored.

Action step: Think of the interview as a conversation between two people. It’s okay to smile, laugh and even make a funny (appropriate) comment now and then.

Poor posture. Slumping in your seat could mistakenly express boredom. Leaning forward across the desk is aggressive. Neutral posture is relaxed and confident.

Action step: Sit up in the chair, lean slightly forward.

Distracting gestures. These aren’t just limited to wild hand movements while talking. Tapping your foot, shaking your leg, clicking a pen, twirling your hair are also interfere with what you’re saying.

Action step: Identify any distracting gestures and look for ways to minimize them. Placing your hands on your lap, not crossing your legs and not carrying a pen are all helpful ideas.

Inappropriate interview attire. You must present yourself as a polished, well-groomed person to be taken seriously as a candidate.

Action step: Check out resources for learning about suitable interview attire.

The final action step for avoiding all of these behaviors is practice. Watch yourself in a mirror when answering questions. Schedule a mock interview with a career counselor. Ask the counselor for feedback about nonverbal cues you have specific concerns about.



March 24, 2015

6 steps to complete the week after the Career Fair

If you attended last week’s Career Fair, there’s still work to be done. Follow these six steps to increase your chances of landing an interview with the employers you spoke with.

Send thank you notes. If you haven’t done so already, take the time to send a thank you email to the recruiters. Hopefully you secured a business card before leaving their table. If not, check EmploymeNC, the Career Services job searching database, to see if the company’s contact information is listed. A thank you note can make or break employment opportunities.

Contact employers you didn’t speak to. If you weren’t able to talk to every employer on your target list, it’s not too late. Check out the Career Services Career Fair Pinterest board that highlights every company who attended the fair.

Don’t panic if you don’t hear back. Recruiters receive many emails and can’t reply to every single one. If you don’t receive a reply to your thank-you note or follow-up correspondence, it doesn’t mean the door is closed. Allow time for employers to evaluate the resumes and applications received. If recruiters mentioned a date of when you might hear from them, follow up within a week after that date if you still haven’t received any correspondence. Persistence is good, just use moderation.

Follow employers’ follow-up instructions. Whatever additional steps employers requested – sending additional information, applying online, contacting them – do it. And do it this week.

Review your strategy. What worked and what didn’t? If you don’t receive follow up from any employers, consider meeting with a career counselor to review where your approach could be improved.

Continue to use other job search methods. Job searching isn’t reserved to a one-time event like the Career Fair. It’s important to continue using other resources (networking, online job boards, social media) to maximize your job search.


March 9, 2015

How to talk to employers at the Career Fair

It’s almost go time! The CPCC Career Fair is next week. Hopefully by now a career counselor has reviewed your resume (if not, email it to Career Services to receive feedback) and you’ve been researching and identifying companies you plan to meet with at the event.

What are you going to say to the recruiters at the fair?

Don’t walk up to a recruiter’s table and wait for them to start the conversation. Additionally, don’t just hand them your resume and walk away.

How you interact with employers can make or break your chances of landing an interview. Use the following steps – Start, State, Summarize, Seek – to increase your chances of receiving that email or phone call inviting you for an interview.

Start with hello, a firm handshake and an introduction. Give your name, academic program and your anticipated graduation date.

State your hook. The hook grabs the recruiter’s attention. It sparks their interest and encourages them to listen further and ask questions. Some sample hooks include:

  • “I’m really interested in talking to you about why my skills and qualifications match the positions you’re recruiting for.”
  • “I’ve researched your company and the job opportunities and I’d like to talk to you about how my qualifications best fit your needs.”
  • “I’m so happy to be able to talk with you. Your company is one of particular interest to me and I’d like to tell you why.”
  • “Your company is one that I’m very interested in joining. My education and skills set really match the qualifications you’re seeking.”

Summarize your skills in a 30 second PR pitch. Some call it an elevator speech; others call it a PR pitch. Either way, it’s a brief mention of the qualifications you can bring to the company. Practice this pitch before the career fair! Use the Career Services elevator speech guidelines to help.

Seek out information about the company. In other words, ask questions! Ask open-ended questions that show you’ve done your research and want to know more.

At the end of your conversation, thank the recruiter for their time, shake hands again and say you look forward to hearing from them. Ask for a business card – you’ll need it for follow up correspondence later.

Spend the next week practicing your handshake, eye contact, hook and PR pitch. Doing so will help ease some of your nerves the day of the event.




February 24, 2015

11 ways to create a career fair-friendly resume

When you attend the CPCC Career Fair next month, bring enough copies of your resume to give to employers of interest.

Career fairs are busy. Recruiters won’t have time to read your resume. They’ll glance at it – six seconds at the most.

Follow these tips to help you create a resume that will catch employers’ attention in a short timeframe.

Target the resume to the company: Research companies ahead of time to know which ones you’re interested in. Your objective and skills sections should match the positions and skills the company is seeking.

Use an Objective to specify your career interests and qualifications: An objective that includes the position of interest, company name and a quick mention of your background snags the recruiter’s attention.  

Create a skills category: Employers already know the skills they’re looking for. By doing company research you can know which skills they’re seeking. Make sure your skills category reflects this information.  

Avoid fancy fonts: They’re distracting. Standard fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri work best.

Keep it to one page in length: Unless you are a seasoned worker with years of relevant experience, your resume shouldn’t exceed one page.

Make sure the Education section clearly shows the college’s name, what you’re earning (degree, certificate, etc.), program (Criminal Justice Technology, Cosmetology, etc.) and graduation date:  Employers searching for candidates from specific programs immediately look for this information.

List your contact information at the top; don’t forget your phone number and email address: If you have a LinkedIn profile, this would be a great place to list your LinkedIn url.   

Use bullet points instead of paragraphs: Employers don’t have time to read a paragraph describing your job duties. Use bullet points that quickly summarize the same information.

Ditch the “I” statements and start with action verbs: Employers want to know what you did so don’t waste any time telling them. Use a variety of action verbs to convey duties and responsibilities.

Plug in numbers wherever you can: Numbers visually break up the resume presentation. Additionally, they can market your qualifications. List a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Mention the number of calls you field in your current call center job. Discuss the amount of sales you contribute to the restaurant in your server role.  

Check for typos: They’re still one of the biggest reasons why employers reject candidates.

Use sample resumes as guidelines. Have a CPCC Career Services career counselor professional critique your resume before the Career Fair to make sure you’re clearly and concisely marketing your qualifications.

February 16, 2015

Don’t believe these 8 myths about Career Fairs!

Attending a career fair can seem intimidating. Events like the CPCC Career Fair host many employers and attract thousands of job seekers. But often the intimidation stems from myths about career fairs. Let’s set the record straight.

Myth #1: Career Fairs are only for graduating students and alumni.

Reality: Many companies attending the CPCC Career Fair are looking for interns and part-time employees. Current students, this means you! Additionally, undergraduates attending the fair to meet employers and begin networking in their field make a great impression on recruiters.

Myth #2: None of the companies attending are hiring for my program/career interests.

Reality: With over 95 companies attending this year’s event, it’s quite likely your career interests are represented. Use the link that lists attending employers to research which programs companies are targeting. Programs in business, health care, hospitality, technology and more are in great demand.

Myth #3: Professional dress isn’t really necessary since this isn’t a job interview.

Reality: Not only is it necessary, it’s required. Job seekers will not be permitted into the Grady Cole Center unless they’re dressed professionally. You want to make a positive impression at the fair to be contacted for a job interview after the event. Professional dress makes or breaks this impression.

Myth #4: I can just show up the day of the event, no preparation is really needed.

Reality: Students who come to the event unprepared aren’t as successful as those who do. Three key ingredients to career fair are a top-notch resume, a solid employer pitch and effective company research. The Career Services career fair tips page offers ideas for all. Email your resume to a career counselor for a professional critique or schedule an appointment to meet in person.

Myth #5: People don’t get job offers after talking to recruiters at a career fair.

Reality: While job offers aren’t typically given the day of the event, solid candidates can expect follow up emails or phone calls inviting them for interviews. With so many job searching resources out there, career fairs are still ranked as one of the top recruiting tools by students and employers alike.

Myth #6: If I attend, all I have to do is give my resume to the recruiter.

Reality: This approach guarantees your resume gets placed in the “no” pile. With a confident smile and firm handshake, introduce yourself and offer your elevator speech that explains both your interest in the company and your qualifications for the job opportunities. Doing so catches the recruiter’s attention.

Myth #7: With over 90 companies attending, it’s too overwhelming and pointless.

Reality: The idea of visiting over 95 company tables is overwhelming. But a targeted approach makes the event more manageable. Not every company has opportunities that you’re interested in or qualified for. Research companies ahead of time. Figure out which ones are recruiting your background. Use this information to map out a plan of recruiters you’ll talk to.

Myth #8: My skills and background don’t match what companies are looking for.

Reality: Don’t judge a company by its name. You might be surprised where your qualifications match.  And you won’t know unless you attend.

Preparation is key to a successful career fair. Now that your career fair fears have been dispelled, get busy getting ready for next month’s event!



February 10, 2015

The CPCC Career Fair is coming!

The CPCC Career Fair is coming! Mark your calendars for Thursday March 5, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Employers searching for candidates from a variety of programs will be at the Grady Cole Center (next to the Central Campus) recruiting for job openings.

This is the college’s prime career event.

Here’s what you need to know:

Who should attend the Career Fair?

Job seekers looking for full-time jobs. Job seekers commonly complain about having to blindly submit resumes online with no chance to meet recruiters in person. Here’s your chance! If you’re graduating, are a CPCC alumni or a current student searching for a full-time job, the Career Fair is an opportunity to talk to employers actively seeking candidates.

Candidates seeking part-time jobs, internships or co-op positions. Many employers at the fair are also hiring for part-time jobs as well as internship or co-op positions with their companies. The time to search for summer positions starts now.

Students wanting to network with employers in their industry. Begin building your network now for your job search later. Employers will be impressed with your enthusiasm and knowledge of the importance of networking.

What should I know before attending the Career Fair?

Professional dress is required. People not wearing professional attire won’t be admitted to the fair. Visit the Career Services Pinterest board for tips on how to dress professionally.

VIP Access for CPCC students & alumni, as well as all military service members and veterans. Students and alumni can present their CPCC ID and military service members and veterans can present their military ID to gain admission through the VIP entrance. This helps avoid long lines.

Get your resume ready. Employers accept or reject resumes within seven seconds. Make sure you’re presenting a top-notch resume that gets placed in the recruiter’s “Yes” pile. Schedule an appointment with a career counselor to have your resume reviewed. Use the online Career Guide for resume tips, guidelines and samples.

You need an elevator speech. This is the pitch you give to employers when you approach their table. Start practicing how you’ll confidently shake hands and clearly tell the recruiter your skills and interest in their company. A career counselor can help you develop your elevator speech.

The Career Fair is crowded. Last year over 90 companies attended the Career Fair. This year will be the same. Research companies ahead of time to target the employers you want to speak with. Clear your work and class schedule to allow enough time to attend the event.

What resources can help prepare for the Career Fair?

Career Services Blog. Check back each week before the career fair for helpful tips.

Watch the video “Prepare for the CPCC Career Fair.” Dr. Connie Johnston in the CPCC Career Services Office offers five great suggestions for making the most of the event.

Check out other online resources. Our Career Fair page offers additional information to help get ready.

Meet with a career counselor. Career counselors can answer any questions about the fair, review your resume, help you prepare your elevator speech and more. Schedule an appointment today.




February 2, 2015

7 tips to help de-clutter your job search

  Getting organized consistently makes the top 10 list of New Year’s resolutions. In January the internet’s filled with blog tips helping people de-clutter their closets, kitchens, bathrooms, work space…the list goes on and on.

What are some tips for de-cluttering and managing a job search?

De-clutter your resume: Start your resume with a clearly defined objective or career summary followed by a skills section that lists relevant, specific skills sets. Focus the employment section on jobs within the past 10 years. Use bullet points and short sentence fragments to help the resume read easier.

Avoid rambling interview answers: When an employer wants to know your strengths and weaknesses or wants you to “tell me about yourself,” a brief, informed and well-thought out reply is key. Know what interview questions to expect before the interview and practice, practice, practice.  

Develop a clear, concise elevator pitch: When you attend a career fair or networking event, or simply strike up a conversation, can you tell the person your career goals and skills? It’s called an elevator speech and it usually doesn’t come naturally. Write one down and rehearse it. The speech length depends on your audience and situation but always leaves the recipient with an understanding of your career objective.

Clean up your Facebook page: Ditch the inappropriate photos. Stop using profanity and never trash professors, coworkers or supervisors. Employers check candidates’ Facebook pages and a tasteless social media image will cost you interviews and job offers.

Created a targeted LinkedIn profile: Employers also check a candidate’s LinkedIn profile to view their professional and educational accomplishments. Making a LinkedIn profile involves more than just copying and pasting your resume. Check out the Career Services LinkedIn Tutorial that provides tips to get you started.

Clear out your inbox (or create a new email account or folder for job searching): Email becomes an essential communication tool during the job search. You’ll use it to apply for jobs, follow up after interviews and initiate networking opportunities. First, make sure you’re using a professional/appropriate sounding email ( isn’t). Second, create separate folders to help you manage your correspondences. Finally, delete any emails you no longer need.

Develop a productive plan: Create a job search routine and stick to it. This involves more than making to-do lists. You must manage your time and prioritize activities. A career counselor can help you form a strategy.

Finally, don’t give up. It takes 30 days to start a new habit or break an old one. Which is why the best time to begin de-cluttering your job search is right now.




January 5, 2015

9 job search items to complete over winter break

Career Services hopes you have a restful break and looks forward to working with you regarding your job search in 2015. If you’re graduating in the spring, here are nine items to work on over winter break that could help you land a job after graduation. And if you aren’t graduating? It’s never too early to start developing a job search plan.

1. Work on your resume. If you have one it’s time to update it. If you don’t, it’s time to create one. Utilize the CPCC Career Services Career Guide that contains helpful tips for creating a top-notch resume. Get your resume professionally critiqued by a career counselor when you return in January.

2. Start building your professional wardrobe, beginning with an interview suit. Put those gift cards you receive to good use. Take advantage of post-holiday sales. Check out the Career Services Pinterest page for great tips regarding professional dress.

3. Know some job options that can answer the question “what do you want to do?” If you’re unsure of what career options to pursue, it’s time to start exploring. Some great sites that can help you include Career Coach, the Occupational Outlook HandbookCFNC and What Can I Do With This Major.

4. Let people know what profession you’re planning to pursue. Holiday gatherings present great opportunities for networking. Being in the right place at the right time is a big job searching component. Practice an introductory speech that lets people know what you’re interested in.

5. Make sure your online presence is squeaky clean. Take the time to clean up your social media profiles. Employers check candidates’ sites before and during the interview process.

6. Register for EmploymeNC. EmploymeNC is Career Service’s online job board that lists full-time and part-time job opportunities for students and alumni. The first step in using the site is to upload a professional resume. Take advantage of this free online job board.

7. Save the date for the 2015 CPCC Career Fair. Mark your calendar for Thursday, March 5, 2015. CPCC hosts its annual job fair that day at the Grady Cole Center near Central campus. Many companies attend recruiting students and graduates for full-time, part-time and internship opportunities. Check the career fair link for future updates.

8. Develop strategies for your job search if it is a unique one. If elements to your background make your job search unique (having a disability, being an international student, having a criminal record, for example), start putting together a plan to implement your job search with these components in mind.

9. Plan to visit CPCC Career Services – virtually or in person – in 2015. The Career Services staff is ready to help make your job search a success.

December 17, 2014

10 tips for surviving final exam week

  As you prepare for final exam week, Career Services offers tips for making this stressful week the least stressful it can be.

 Manage your time wisely. Create a calendar listing the dates, times and locations for all of your final exams. Plan your studying accordingly. Remember that one exam might not require as much as study time as another.

 Avoid cramming. Stick to your study schedule to avoid cramming. Last minute studying doesn’t help retain information and only increases anxiety.

 Beware the ultimate distraction: social media. Okay, shutting down Facebook, Twitter or Instagram entirely during finals week isn’t going to happen. But pay close attention to how much of your study time you’re scrolling through your sites or texting friends. Study for dedicated smaller intervals (30-50 minutes) and check social media during a 10-minute study break.

Join a study group…or not. Study groups can be very beneficial but they’re also not for everyone. Decide if you’d benefit from joining or forming a study group. If the answer’s yes, be sure to find a quiet place to meet (the library). Avoid the study group becoming a social group.

Review, review, review. If review sessions are offered, attend them. If you can review previous exams, do it. Visit the professor during office hours or email to get answers to any questions and clarify what to expect on the final exam (content, format, etc.)

Take study breaks. You’re human. Your body and brain can’t go nonstop without breaks to refuel and re energize.

Remember to eat…healthy. It’s tempting to grab a candy bar from the vending machine. Instead, grab a granola bar, fruits, veggies and snacks that are high in protein. Make water your go-to drink rather than soda, coffee and energy drinks.

Exercise. If you have a normal exercise routine, stick to it as much as possible during finals week. But even a 10 minute walk will do wonders.

Sleep. Designate sleep time in your study schedule. Avoid all-nighters; you’ll be too tired to concentrate during the exam and will have trouble recalling information.

Relax. This is just a test. Think positively before the exam and once you’ve completed it, let it go.

On the day of the exam, be sure to do the following:

  • Eat breakfast
  • Arrive early (Check traffic reports and bus schedules before you leave. If you’re getting a ride with someone, confirm your transportation the day before).
  • Bring all necessary supplies (pencils, calculators, etc.)
  • Go to the bathroom before the test
  • Use all of your allotted time. Check your answers and proofread your essays.

You’ve worked hard this semester. Good luck next week on your finals!

December 3, 2014

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