First day on the job: 10 ways to make it successful

You finally made it. Your first day on the job. You’ve proven yourself through your studies, your resume and your interview. It’s smooth sailing from here, right?

It can be with the correct approach. But don’t confuse smooth sailing with slacking. Now’s the time to assure your new supervisor and coworkers that their decision to bring you on board was the right one.

You’re going to make an immediate impression on the first day. Follow these 10 steps to make sure it’s a good one.

Arrive on time. Remember how important the arrival time was for the interview? It’s still important today. The “15 minutes early” rule still applies.

Dress appropriately. If you’re unsure what the office dress code is, it’s completely appropriate to ask your director or the HR department beforehand.

Ask questions. No one expects you to know everything from the start. Ask questions now because you don’t want to ask a question three months from now that should have been asked on the first day.

Practice your “tell me about yourself” answer. You’ll be asked this question. A lot. Revisit the elevator speech you gave during your interview (it’s okay now to sprinkle a few personal anecdotes such as where you live). Keep your answers brief – people aren’t going to remember a ton of details in the first meeting.

Bring necessary documents. On your first day, you’ll complete paperwork to get you established, such as securing a parking pass, a work badge and paycheck items. Be sure to bring a form of identification (driver’s license, passport, etc.) and bank account information, as it’s likely you’ll be completing a direct deposit form.

Don’t be the comedian. A sense of humor is great, but allow time to figure out the office culture when it comes to jokes and humor. Avoid being labeled the office clown or comedian who doesn’t take his work seriously.

Take notes. Bring a legal notepad on the first day, or grab one at the office. Write things down (you’ll tell yourself you’ll remember it all, but you won’t). Write down questions to ask. It’s likely you’ll carry this notepad for the first few weeks.

Accept an invitation for lunch. Even if you packed your favorite ham and cheese sandwich. If coworkers invite you to join them for lunch, say yes. They’re making the effort to welcome you so take them up on their offer.

Dodge office politics. Offices have cliques. Offices have coworkers who know the 411 about everyone.  Don’t get swept up in office politics on the first day.

Listen. You have a lot to learn.




May 19, 2015

Avoid these 13 job interview mistakes

The job interview is your chance to show an employer that what they liked on paper (your resume or job application) is the real deal; you are the best candidate for the job opening. Avoid these 13 interview mistakes and you’ll increase your chances of getting hired.

1. Showing up late. When job searching, there’s no such thing as “fashionably late.” Plan to arrive 15 minutes early.

2. Showing up early. Arriving earlier than 15 minutes is awkward for the employer.

3. Dressing inappropriately. The best interviewing skills won’t save you from a bad first impression. Unless you’re specifically told otherwise by the employer, plan to dress professionally. Pay attention to other aspects of your appearance such as hair and nails (groomed), makeup and jewelry (minimal) and tattoos or body piercings (covered and removed).

4. Demonstrating distracting nonverbal cues. Do you avoid eye contact, slouch in your seat or constantly move your hands or legs? These nonverbal habits turn employers off and can make or break the interview.

5. Not researching the company. If you can’t show you know about the company, the department or the job, the interview will be short and the job offer won’t follow.

6. Talking negatively about current or previous employers. No matter how nightmarish the boss was, trashing him only casts you in a bad light. Instead, provide positive answers that focus on the type of work environment you thrive in and what challenges and experiences you’re looking for.

7. Appearing bored. If you lack enthusiasm during the interview, the employer’s left wondering how excited you are about the job itself.

8. Appearing arrogant. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Know where the line is so you don’t cross it. Learn to talk about your accomplishments without too much bragging and showmanship.

9. Not providing specific examples. Interviewers want to hear about previous experiences as testimony to your qualifications. Reviewing behavioral based interviewing techniques can help you provide specific answers.

10. Failing to ask any questions. The job interview is a two-way conversation. It’s expected that you’ll have well-thought out questions to ask the interviewer when it’s your turn.

11. Asking inappropriate questions. Avoid questions that indicate you’re only focused on what you can gain from this job or give the impression you’re not interested in the position.

12. Providing too much personal information. This often happens when an employer begins the interview by asking “tell me about yourself.” Keep the answer focused on your skills, qualifications and interests as they relate to the job. Developing an elevator speech can help you avoid providing unnecessary information.

13. Answering a call or text during an interview. Turn your phone off – which doesn’t mean putting it to vibrate mode. Believe it or not 49 percent of surveyed employers said job candidates do this – and don’t get a job offer as a result.

Remember the best way to prepare for an interview is to practice, practice and practice some more. Some ways to practice before the interview include:



May 5, 2015

13 “Must Follow” Resume Tips

The resume is one of the most important documents you’ll write. It’s your admission ticket to a job interview. People have different ideas on what makes a great resume, but here are some basic tips that everyone follows. Use these strategies to write a resume. Meet with a CPCC career counselor to receive feedback on ways to market your skills and qualifications.

1. Check for typos. Don’t rely on spell check. Hint: Read the resume backwards (bottom to top, end of lines to the beginning). You’ll focus on individual words and more easily catch mistakes.

2. Use a consistent, professional font style. Top choices  include Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman and Verdana. It should be easy on the eyes and look professional, not fancy or flashy.

3. Keep the font sizes consistent. Whatever font size you use for one category title should be used for all. Keep font sizes consistent for each entry.  Don’t choose a size smaller than 11 point font.

4. List important items on the left side of the page. Employers’ eyes zero in on the left side of the page when they glance at a resume. Job titles, degree and skills should appear on the left. Entries such as dates of employment, locations for past employers and graduation date can appear further to the right side of the page.

5. Use bullet points. Avoid long paragraph descriptions. Bullet points help the employer quickly glance through the resume.

6. Nix the “I” statements. Complete sentences aren’t necessary; start with action verbs. Instead of “I was responsible for increasing floor sales by 50%,” say “Increased floor sales by 50%.”

7. Keep it to one page. Employers are short on time so one page resumes work best. A two page resume might be okay if you have extensive relevant experience. Resumes exceeding two pages won’t catch an employer’s eye.

8. Don’t get wordy. Focus on relevant information rather than telling your entire employment history. Too many words is a visual turnoff that causes employers to move to the next applicant.

9. Focus on the past 10 years. Unless the jobs are particularly relevant, only list those from the past 10 years. If you’ve worked for one company for longer than ten years, list the job but not dates of employment.

10. Target the resume to the job/industry. Nothing turns an employer off more than receiving a resume that’s clearly been sent to multiple job openings in different industries. Quickly updating your objective or career summary easily targets the resume to a specific job or company.

11. Use bold and capital letters wisely.  Bold font and ALL CAPS help break up the presentation. Remember to be consistent: If you bold one job title, bold all of them. If the EDUCATION category title is capitalized, do the same with the other category titles.

12. Include an appropriate email address. Use your student email address or set up a job search email account that uses a combination of your name as the address. Fun addresses ( send the wrong message about your professionalism.

13. List contact information at the top of the page. Include your name, mailing address, phone number and email address. Put your name in slightly larger bold font

April 27, 2015

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a…

Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day is celebrated every April. Participating companies encourage employees to bring their children to work and let them see a day at the office in action. Many companies organize events designed to introduce kids to different departments and careers.

Think back to your childhood, when you were asked “what do you want to do when you grow up?” Did you want to be a doctor, teacher, pro athlete, astronaut, or singer? Or did you aspire to more fantastic career goals such as princess, pirate or superhero?

Your current career goals are probably quite different than your dreams as a kindergartner. But LinkedIn published a report in 2012 that showed the influence childhood dream jobs can have. A survey of more than 8,000 professionals found that while less than 10% were working in their childhood dream job, over 20% said they worked in a career that relates to their dream job.

So don’t dismiss those youthful ambitions just yet.

Here’s the top 10 list from the survey:

Top Childhood Dream Jobs for Women

1. Teacher

2. Veterinarian

3. Writer (journalist or novelist)

4. Doctor, nurse or EMT

5. Singer

Top Childhood Dream Jobs for Men       

1. Athlete

2. Pilot

3. Scientist

4. Lawyer

5. Astronaut

While the exact job title might have changed, what still may linger are the interests and work personality. The childhood astronaut may want a career as an adult that is challenging, adventurous and inquisitive. The preschool veterinarian might pursue a career where being able to care for others in need is a priority.

The following exercises might help connect your childhood to current career pursuits and uncover some patterns to consider:

1. Write down the jobs you found interesting as a child, including ideas you had as a middle and high school student. Do the jobs share any patterns or similarities?

2. List careers you were exposed to as a child, through your family and media (television, movies, books). Which ones look both appealing and uninteresting? Write down your reasons for each.

3. Identify your dream job(s) that you have today. When we’re grownups, we have more external factors that influence career decisions (salary, job security, benefits, required training, etc.). Set those aside for a minute and let your imagination run.

If you’re having difficulty making career decisions, career counselors can help. Schedule an appointment to talk about career options that make sense now. You may be surprised how much as a kid you already knew!




April 20, 2015

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

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