6 job search strategies for overcoming a lack of related work experience

How do you land a job offer when you’re competing against applicants who have more experience than you do? It’s the rock and the hard place where job seekers often get stuck. You can’t get a job without having related experience. But you can’t develop experience until you get a job.

Internships, co op experiences, part-time jobs and volunteer opportunities are all great avenues for gaining related experience before applying for jobs. But pay attention to these strategies that you can use now.

1. Apply for jobs like you are a seasoned professional. Your lack of experience isn’t an excuse for not knowing how to conduct an effective job search. Do you have a top-notch resume and great interviewing skills? Are you researching and identifying companies? Are you networking and having informational meetings with others in the profession? Because effective, seasoned job seekers are.

2. Develop your personal brand. Identify your skills, values and talents. They help define who you are and that’s what employers are interested in knowing. Brainstorm a long list of each, then choose the top five you’re best at and/or enjoy doing the most. Use this top five list to create an elevator speech or verbal business card. Practice sharing this business card with family and friends so you’ll be ready to share it in interviews and networking meetings.

3. Don’t overlook your soft skills; sell them. When asked what employers look for when recruiting candidates, soft skills top the list.  The bottom line is, possessing a strong knowledge base won’t matter to an employer if you can’t effectively communicate, work independently or in groups with minimal supervision. These are a sample of the soft skills employers seek. Review your background to see where you have developed these skills. Make sure the employer knows about them.

4. Have a pristine online presence.  You demonstrate a lack of commitment, professionalism and maturity if your online presence is less than stellar. Your Facebook profile should not leave anyone questioning your character. Your LinkedIn profile should merit employers wanting to contact you or other professionals wanting to connect with you.

5. Hang out with professionals you aspire to be someday. The players sitting on the bench learn the most by hanging out with the team’s starters. Connect with professionals in your field. Join LinkedIn groups and both post questions and reply to others’ comments. Follow professionals on Twitter and use the retweet and reply buttons frequently. Attend seminars and meetings where you have the opportunity to introduce yourself to people in the profession.

6. Never apologize for your lack of experience. The job candidate whose cover letter begins “While I don’t have the specific experience you’re looking for…” won’t be called for an interview. The job interviewer who only tells a recruiter “I don’t have experience doing that task” won’t receive a job offer. Rather, write a cover letter that connects your skill set to the job. If an employer asks about a specific skill set that you don’t have, be honest but immediately change focus. “I don’t have experience with that particular task, but in my previous job I learned these skills that are applicable. Furthermore, my previous supervisor will tell you I’m a fast learner because I quickly learned new information for my previous position and excelled at it.”

These tips may seem simple. But sometimes the simplest suggestions make the biggest difference.




November 17, 2014

9 job search tips I learned from Sesame Street

Happy Birthday Sesame Street! The television show that has entertained and educated millions of children turns 45 this week.

It’s likely that Big Bird, Grover and Cookie Monster were some of your first childhood friends. Some of you may have young children now who are getting to know these furry Muppets and the life lessons they’ve been teaching since 1969. The world has changed a lot since then. The world of work has, too. But it’s amazing how many of these lessons still hold true today, even when it comes to career planning.

What are some items you learned from Sesame Street that you can apply to the job search?

Your ABCs. Each Sesame Street episode is brought to you by a letter and a number. Both are helpful even with specific elements of your job search like your resume! Use numbers and statistics on a resume to make it stand apart from the others. And triple check your spelling so it won’t stand out for the wrong reasons.

Knowing a second language is helpful…and marketable! Thanks to Sesame Street, many of us learned to count to ten in Spanish. Fast forward to today’s job market where employers actively seek candidates with foreign language skills. Using the keyword “bilingual” brings up over 70,000 job matches on Indeed.com. If you know more than one language, make sure you market this skill in your job search.

The world (of work) is diverse and connected. Regardless of your language knowledge, you’ll be working in a very diverse world of work.

The different kinds of jobs are so vast. Sesame Street introduced children to so many different employers. Mr. Hooper’s Store, the Fix-It-Shop, the post office, subway station and Laundromat, just to name a few. Viewers saw many jobs in action, including a store owner, postal carrier, firefighter and police officer. And this was on one tiny street. So imagine how many thousands of jobs exist in the world of work.

It’s okay to be afraid. Finding your own career path, writing resumes, having job interviews, making decisions about job offers – all of it can be scary. It’s okay to admit your career fears. It’s important to seek out resources to help you navigate them.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Perseverance is key to a successful job search. Keep submitting resumes, keep contacting people for informational interviews. Reach out to contacts through LinkedIn. Even after an interview where the end result isn’t a job offer, know that the next interview could have the result you’re looking for.

Getting along with others. Employers consistently rank teamwork as a top skill they’re seeking.

Know who you are…and like who you are. Are you an introvert or outspoken? What do you value more: A stable or flexible work schedule? With both questions there’s no right or wrong answer. What’s essential is knowing what’s important to you and using those values to guide your career search.

Everyone needs support. While you’re a student and during your job search having a support network is important. Whether it’s friends, family or both, look for someone to share ideas, questions and concerns.

November 10, 2014

8 signs you shouldn’t take this job

Saying no to a job offer is hard. If you just started your job search or have been looking for work for a while, saying no to a paycheck is tough. But sometimes it may be necessary.

If your personal circumstances permit you to do so, screen job opportunities carefully. Not for scams – although watch out for these, too – but for lemons. A legitimate job could be sour enough that you’ll be back to the job search within months or weeks of being hired.

Avoid the heartache by paying attention to these red flags when you apply for job openings:

Numerous job postings from one office. If you see multiple openings in one office, the good news is they may have an increased need for new workers. But be careful of high turnaround that could indicate a bad work environment.

Sketchy answer to “why is this position available?” This is a reasonable question that you should ask. You want to know if it’s a newly created position, did the predecessor leave or was she promoted? Or did something happen that no one really wants to discuss? Be wary of answers to the question that seem carefully crafted but don’t say a whole lot, or answers that contain more “ums” and pauses than concrete information.

Shady or vague job descriptions. A job description should tell the duties and responsibilities expected as well as list qualifications (skills, education, work background) sought. If a job opening lists little information or describes the position using language that leaves you suspicious, there might be a problem. It doesn’t mean you can’t take the interview, but it does mean you should ask many questions (and look for satisfactory answers).

Poor reviews. Websites like Glassdoor.com provide the opportunity for employees to post reviews. But it’s important to remember that online review sites are often used for negative reviewing. For every bad review, there may be 10 good ones that never get written. However, it’s helpful to research a company or department through LinkedIn and word-of-mouth. If friends wrinkle an eyebrow when you mention  interviewing at Company X, ask them what’s up.

Refusing to let you meet potential coworkers or tour the office. Was a future colleague on the interview panel? If not, were you given a tour of the office allowing you to meet future coworkers? Or were you whisked away to an office for the interview and only permitted to meet with HR representatives? You should pay close attention to an interviewer who seems unsettled by your request to see where you’d be working.

Tense or unhappy office vibe. If you are given the chance to tour the office, pay more attention to the ambiance than the office size or furniture. Do you see smiling employees? Are people engaged in conversation? Or is there a sense that people are angry, scared or bored?   

A quick interview. A brief interview could mean it was determined you don’t meet the qualifications or the interviewer isn’t interested in your specific qualifications and just wants to hire someone. Be on guard if there is no substance or “meat” to their questions or interest in your answers.

A job offer from an interview. It’s rare to receive a job offer at the end of an interview. Employers often review all applicant interviews before deciding, as well as check references before making job offers. It’s a big red flag if the employer’s final statement at the interview’s end is “You’re hired, when you can you start?”

There is the reality that even recruiters sometimes conduct bad interviews. Office tours may give off an unhappy vibe if employees are sick or just having a bad day. But when your gut is telling you something seems off, pay attention

November 3, 2014

10 scary job search mistakes you must avoid

It’s that scary time of year again, with Halloween on the horizon. This is the week when all things frightening get a pass – from costumes to tricks, it’s hip to scare and be scared.

But you never want to frighten away hiring managers. It might be a good time to double check that you aren’t doing anything scary to sabotage your job search.

Here are some sure-fire scary job search mistakes to avoid:

Not eliminating resume and cover letter typos. Don’t trust spellcheck! Have someone else read both documents. Review them yourself by reading them backwards. You’ll be more likely to catch spelling errors that way.

Not sending a thank you letter after an interview. If ghosts can contact people through séances, you can find time to write a short thank you note to an employer. It could make the difference between getting hired – or not.

Applying to every position available with a company. Even the most brilliant person isn’t qualified for every position. Doing so shows you lack direction in your job search.

Making online job boards your top job search resource. Job boards should only be a small part of your strategy. Networking through seminars and programs and conducting informational interviews should be a key component.

Not being worried about your social media profile.  Employers check Facebook and Instagram to view job candidates’ profiles and pictures. That profanity-laced status update you posted on Saturday night might cost you a job offer.

Not utilizing LinkedIn. A great percentage of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates. Furthermore, employers check LinkedIn to view applicants’ profiles. If you don’t have a profile, or your profile is underutilized, you’ll be passed over.

Going to an interview without practicing your interviewing skills. Whether it’s at home in front of the mirror or during a mock interview, practice answering commonly asked interview questions before the actual interview.

Going to an interview without first researching the company. Familiarize yourself with the company, from its mission to its product. Check out the Facebook page and Twitter feed to learn the most recent happenings and reports.

Treating your job search like a fulltime job. People who are unemployed spend an average of 40 minutes per day job searching. It’s tough to do a fulltime job in 40 minutes. Approaching your job search like a fulltime job yields better results.

Stopping the job search after an interview. It’s not over until you walk through the company’s door for your first official day on the job. Even if the interview went well, don’t stop looking until you have a job offer in hand.


October 28, 2014

Creating a targeted resume is simple

It’s a question that career counselors hear all the time when reviewing job seekers’ resumes:

“Do I really have to target my resume to every position I apply to?”

You really don’t have to…unless you want to increase your chances of landing an interview.

Generic resumes don’t tell the employer how your skills and qualifications can benefit his or her company in the specific role they’re hiring. Not taking the time to target a resume may show a recruiter you’re not serious about your job search.

If you want the employer to know why you’re the candidate for the job and that you do take your job search very seriously, read on to learn five simple strategies for preparing a targeted resume.

Know that writing a targeted resume doesn’t mean rewriting your entire resume. You can’t change your education or previous work experience, so you’re not reinventing the wheel with every application.

Start with the objective or career summary. Listed at the top of the resume, either of these categories grabs an employer’s attention and encourages further reading. An objective should state the position to which you’re applying, the name of the company (if you know it) and quickly mention relevant qualifications (skills, education, etc.). Career summaries are a little longer and often utilized by job seekers with multiple years of experience or specific accomplishments they wish to market. It should still be tailored to the employer. Target both. If your degree isn’t specifically relevant to the job, no need to mention it; list your skills instead. If the degree is important for another job, be sure to market it.

List a summary of skills section and use industry-specific keywords. Here’s where you pay attention to the job posting, specifically the requested qualifications. What specific skills are listed? It’s these skills that made you say “I’m qualified for this job.” List these skills on your resume. Know the keywords for your targeted industry and make sure they’re represented.

Consider a “Related Experience” category when appropriate. Of all your previous jobs, is there one that stands out as more related to the particular position to which you’re applying? If so, consider listing that position in a category called “Career-Related Experience,” and place it before the “Employment” section on your resume. Resume entries must be in reverse chronological order within a category. If your job from two years ago is more relevant to a position you’re applying to now, creating this category highlights that experience.

Reorganize categories. An objective and skills category should be first on the resume. But the category order after that depends on the job you’re applying for. Of the remaining categories, which one is most relevant to the position? The answer determines your resume’s category order for each job.

Creating a targeted resume may add some additional time to the application process. But targeted resumes shorten the amount of time you spend job searching by increasing your chances of being hired sooner.



October 20, 2014

Start your seasonal part-time job search now!

The traditional holiday shopping season is shorter again this year. There are only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas (last year there were 25). That means retailers and other companies that thrive on holiday shoppers must start their season sooner.

Which means the search for seasonal employment opportunities starts now.

Even though the jobs may not begin right away, start researching job openings over the next few weeks. Consider the following tips for finding a part-time position during the holiday season.

Start with the big box stores. They are more likely to increase their staff than smaller stores and boutiques. Target, Wal-Mart and Kohl’s typically direct applicants to apply online through their website.

But don’t ignore the mom and pop shops. The main street shops may not hire as many seasonal employees as the big box competitors, but it can’t hurt to ask.

Look outside retail. Other organizations notice an increase in traffic over the holidays, too.

  • Restaurants, catering businesses, floral shops and shipping facilities are some examples.
  • With many people traveling during the holidays, opportunities may also exist with companies that cater to travelers, like hotels and even pet sitting businesses.
  • What jobs exist solely because of the season? Think Christmas tree lots, gift wrappers and Santa’s helpers!

Dress appropriately when inquiring or interviewing. When you walk into an establishment to ask about job openings, don’t be surprised by an impromptu meet-and-greet. It’s likely the manager or assistant manager will speak to you, so wear business casual attire to make a good first impression.

Be prepared. In addition to proper dress, bring all the necessary documents when you visit businesses to ask about job opportunities. Examples include:

  • A pen, in case you’re asked to complete a written job application.
  • Your resume.
  • When necessary, appropriate documents to show your eligibility for employment within the U.S.
  • List of references.
  • Time: Allow enough time for conversation if the supervisor or manager wants to talk with you.

Practice your interview skills. This may not be the full-time job interview after graduation, but it’s still an interview and you still want this job. Smiling, maintaining eye contact, delivering a proper handshake and solidly answering (and asking) interview questions are just as important. If you don’t take this seasonal job interview seriously, the hiring manager has no reason to seriously consider hiring you.

Know your schedule. One of the first questions you’ll be asked is your availability. Be honest. Know how many days per week and hours per day you can work. When establishing a start date, keep in mind important items like your class schedule and final exams.

Work hard and seasonal may become permanent. While companies reduce their staff after the holiday season ends, manager recognize solid employees when they see them. Don’t overlook the possibility that this seasonal job may last well into next year.

Career Services can assist your seasonal job search through:

  1. Resume and interviewing preparation;
  2. Job postings through our frequently updated job board (employmeNC);
  3. On-campus recruiting (check our website to see which companies are visiting campuses to speak to students about job openings);

Additionally, this year Career Services is hosting a Seasonal Job Fair at the CPCC Cato campus. Mark your calendar for Tuesday October 28 from 10 am to 12 pm. Local employers hiring for seasonal jobs will be on campus to recruit candidates and collect applications.







October 13, 2014

Tips & resources for LGBTQ job seekers

October is LGBT History Month, an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in American history. The month-long observance coincides with National Coming Out Day, which occurs on October 11.

The job search process can be stressful for many. But LGBTQ job seekers may find themselves faced with additional career planning concerns related to their sexual orientation and gender identity. The workplace is progressing, but still present challenges. Career counselors in the CPCC Career Services office can answer questions or concerns students may have about how their sexual orientation and gender identity may factor into their job search.

There are no steadfast rules to follow, but the following tips and resources can help LGBTQ students and job seekers begin to develop a plan.

Know yourself. Regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity, knowing your skills, interests and values as they relate to the world of work is an important – and often overlooked – step in the career search. When beginning the process of self-assessment, how much of what you learn is related to your sexual orientation/gender identity? Valuing a diverse environment and adapting quickly to different environments may be skills and values that you have developed from your experiences as an LGBTQ person. How do you want these traits to be carried out in your career search?

Understand the law. There is currently no federal law that protects LGBTQ employees from discrimination. Selected states and municipalities have incorporated their own policies. Know which states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Research companies. Companies and organizations in a variety of industry are recognizing the importance of sensitivity and inclusiveness for LGBTQ employees. Do some investigating. Does the company’s non-discrimination policy include sexual orientation and gender identity? Are domestic partner benefits offered? Is the organization listed on any LGBTQ best places to work list? Do you know company employees who you feel comfortable asking about the office culture as it pertains to sexual orientation/gender identity? LinkedIn features many LGBTQ professional groups that can provide some of the information you seek.

Consider your options. Whether or not an LGBTQ employee choses to come out in the workplace is a personal choice. Sexual orientation/gender identity is a part of the work environment in some capacities. For someone who is not out, questions about weekend activities or the decision to display desk photos of significant others are suddenly not so simple. If the decision is made to not come out, how if at all will it impact interactions with coworkers?

As with any job search, resources and research can help. Become familiar with the following campus, local and national organizations and websites that can provide information and support for LGBTQ job seekers.

Spectrum Club CPCC student organization for LGBTQ students and allies.

Time Out Youth Charlotte-based organization providing support, advocacy and education for LGBTQ youth ages 13-23.

LGBT Community Center of Charlotte Charlotte-based organization offering programming and resources

Human Rights Campaign Provides information about corporate policies and culture surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Out For Work A national organization that educates and empowers LGBTQ college students and allies for the world of work.

Simplyhired Search job openings within LGBT-friendly companies.

Note: The Levine Museum of the New South presents the exhibit “Out of the Shadows: Gay America from Kinsey to Stonewall,” now through January 25, 2015. This exhibit, organized by the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, offers a thought-provoking and historic look at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered culture since World War II.  



October 6, 2014

Tips for a successful academic advising appointment

Registration for the spring semester begins in November, which will be here before you know it. If you haven’t scheduled an appointment with your academic advisor, now is the time to do so.

What can you do to make the most of your academic advising appointment?

Show up. No-showing for your advising appointment is unprofessional. If circumstances come up that will keep you from attending your scheduled meeting, contact the advising center to cancel and reschedule. But just as important, you’ll miss the chance to receive guidelines and suggestions for your academic progress.

Be on time. Arriving late leaves less time for you and your advisor to discuss questions or concerns. Depending on how late you arrive, you may be asked to reschedule.

Bring any necessary documents. Transcripts, course planning sheets, placement test results. Store all of this information in an easily accessible folder.

Write down a list of questions. Take time before the appointment to write down any questions or topics you want to discuss with your advisor.

Take notes. Advisors document all appointments. You should, too. Keep track of the conversation, recommendations and suggestions. Written notes will be helpful to refer back to at a later date.

 Ask questions. An academic advisor’s job is to make the course selection process as simple as possible and help you avoid scheduling errors. An advisor can’t know that you’re unclear about something if you don’t ask.

Share concerns. Academic advisors know a lot about campus departments and resources. If academic or personal circumstances are keeping you from a successful semester, let the advisor know. He or she can direct you to support services that can help.

Accept responsibility. Advisors guide the course selection and registration process. But it is your responsibility to know campus policies and procedures, dates and deadlines. You are in charge of your academic career while at the college.

Solid academic advising helps with career planning, too. Your path to graduation is smoother with proper course selection and registration. Delayed graduation delays the job search. Additionally, students who meet with academic advisors can learn about campus resources such as Career Services, the Academic Learning Center and other departments that can help lead to a successful college career. Success in college is a key component to successful career development.



September 29, 2014

5 common career fears – and how to overcome them

What’s keeping students from selecting a major or career path? Very often it’s because they’re afraid. Do any of these fears sound familiar?

1. I’m afraid I’ll choose a major that won’t lead to a good job. What makes a job “good?” The answer is often a personal one. Salary and job security aren’t the only factors to consider. Plus, your major doesn’t always determine your career path. In fact, it rarely does.

2. What if I choose a major and change my mind? Welcome to the club! The majority of students at many colleges universities enter college undecided or change their mind once they arrive.

3. I’m afraid that everyone else besides me knows what they want to do. They may say they do because admitting to being undecided can be uncomfortable. Many colleges are shying away from using the word undecided for this very reason.  If classmates tell you their selected program, ask questions about how and why they chose that program. The conversation might help spark some ideas – or help you conclude they aren’t as decided as you originally thought.

4. What if I try something and I’m not good at it? You suffer from atychiphobia – the fear of failure. But how will you know you’re not good at it if you don’t try in the first place? Many famous people have offered thoughts about failure that all share the same message: Failure is part of life. Everyone has failed at something at some point. What you take away from it is up to you.

5. I’m afraid I’ll change my career path and my studies will have been a waste of time and money. Odds are good that you will change your career path. As you learn more skills, take on different roles and grow older, your interests will change. You’ll also find that your job search will change: Employers will pay attention to your work experience and skills set.

So what do you do if these fears are keeping you from deciding on a major or career path? Consider the following ideas. 

Do some research.  Can you imagine buying a car before researching your options. Give career research the same attention. Many different online resources can help.

Talk to people. Don’t be turned away by the classmate who knows what degree they’re pursuing. Ask questions about it. Talk to program chairs and advisors about specific programs. Arrange informational interviews to learn about career fields.

Take a class. Doing so is a great way to confirm if a program might be a good fit. Learning firsthand is a better approach than assuming.

Meet with a career counselor. A career counselor’s job is to guide clients through the career selection process. Schedule an appointment to talk about resources and options that can help you.

Meet with a personal counselor. A person’s indecision may be a symptom of something bigger that’s blocking their ability to make choices. A personal counselor can help identify the root of indecision and develop strategies for overcoming it.

Remember that career decision is a lifelong process. This isn’t a one-time event. Knowing that you’ll repeat these thoughts and steps may ease the stress of having to complete everything right now.

September 22, 2014

What’s keeping you from writing an awesome cover letter?

Cover letters cause many job seekers a lot of stress. It’s like writing a paper for class except you don’t receive a grade telling you how well – or poorly – you did. This three paragraph correspondence may likely be more challenging than any 10 page paper. But you should send a cover letter for two reasons:

  1. If it’s required and you don’t send one, the employer thinks you can’t follow directions.
  2. If it isn’t required and you don’t send one, you’ve passed up on the chance to market your qualifications beyond what your resume does. What if the other candidates included one?

Use the following checklist to help you “grade” your own cover letter before submitting it.

Reference the job in the email subject line. The vast majority of today’s job applications are emailed, which means the email itself is the cover letter. Don’t leave the email subject line blank! When applying to a job, the subject line should include the job title. Example: Job application for dental hygienist position. Include a job number if you know it.

Include a formal greeting. “Dear Mr. Jones,” “Dear Ms. Smith” are proper greetings to begin a cover letter. Avoiding “To Whom It May Concern” is easier than you may think. A quick call to the company or hiring department with a simple question (“Hello, I’m applying for the dental hygienist position and I wanted to know to whose attention I should send my application?”) often gets your answer.

Let the reader know the position name and how you learned about it. This information becomes the first paragraph. The person receiving your application may be screening several applicants for several positions. This information puts them in the right frame of mind to read your application. Example: I am applying for the dental hygienist position posted on Indeed.com. Please accept my resume for your consideration.

Don’t repeat your resume. Give more details about information on your resume that help connect you to the specific job opening. Was there a particular course you studied while earning your degree that an employer might like to know about? Can you reference an example from your work experience that proves your ability to perform certain tasks or demonstrates certain skills?  Example: My clinical experience at Smith’s Pediatric Dental Associates allowed me to develop the personal and technical skills needed to successfully work with kids. I welcome the opportunity to bring this experience to your pediatric dental practice.

Check for spelling and grammar errors. This document is viewed as a writing sample. If it’s full of errors, the employer likely won’t even bother looking at your resume.

End the letter with enthusiasm. Use the final paragraph to reiterate your interest in the position. Example: I look forward to hearing from you regarding this position. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at 704-555-1212 or via email at sally.jones@hotmail.com with further questions.

Give your cover letter as much attention as you do your resume. When you receive the job offer, you’ll be glad you did.

September 15, 2014

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