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 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 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

10 tips for a successful part-time job search

Competition for part-time jobs is high. Gone are the days when part-time work was reserved for high school and college students. Students now compete against older workers seeking part-time employment to help make ends meet.

With next week’s CPCC Central campus Part-time Job Fest in mind, let’s take a look at 10 things you should know to increase your chances for securing a part-time job.

Use multiple job search resources. You can’t just look at online job postings. You can’t just attend one job fair. Mixing and combining your strategies yields better results.

Network and hit the pavement. Walk into that retail store and ask to speak to the manager about hiring opportunities. Let friends and family know you’re looking for work. People can’t help you if they don’t know you need it. Most jobs aren’t publicly listed anyway, so you need to network to learn about them.

Apply to many different places. Don’t just focus on retail or restaurants. Apply to both industries. Include other industries, too. And apply to many jobs. Ten applications could produce one to two interviews, so you should complete many applications to increase your interviewing prospects.

Know how to complete a job application. In addition to or instead of submitting a resume and cover letter, you’ll likely be asked to complete an employment application. Treat the application as seriously as you would your resume. This means accurately completing all the sections using blue or black ink, and checking for spelling or grammar errors. If you’re directed to apply online, remember the same grammar rules apply.

Have a list of references ready to go. You’ll most likely be asked to supply references when applying for the job. Know ahead of time who will be your references. Have at least three to five people on your list.

Check the want ads. They’re not completely a thing of the past. Many small companies advertise in local and community newspapers rather than posting positions online.

Review interview questions. You may not be expected to answer the question “where do you see yourself in five years?” but you can expect questions about your skills and abilities as they relate to the job. Know what questions to expect. Practice interviewing.

Dress appropriately. Wearing a suit isn’t necessary, but avoid jeans and t-shirts. A nice pair of pants, top and dress shoes, paired with minimal accessories works well.

Keep track. Develop a system for keeping track of which places you’ve applied, who you spoke to, and the hiring timeline given. This information will help you follow up appropriately.

Follow up. Don’t assume you will or won’t be receiving a job offer. When you submit an application, follow up within one to two weeks. After an interview inquire about your application status if you don’t hear anything within the timeframe the employer gave you.


September 2, 2014

8 ideas for staying motivated this semester

What will help you stay motivated this semester?

Whether you’re a returning student or stepping onto campus for the first time, you’re going to experience days, maybe weeks, where your motivation dips. Here are some strategies for fighting the lack of motivation that inevitably creeps in as the semester rolls on.

Minimize distractions. Some distractions are external. Loud study areas (ask for quiet or find another place to study), traffic and bus routes (allow time to get to and from campus). We create other distractions ourselves. Who wouldn’t want to watch the latest episode of “Orange is the New Black” rather than study for an exam? Hit the books for two hours and catch your show during a study break.

Get organized. Establish a study area in your home that is off limits to other family members. Keep a calendar of important deadlines readily visible. Find your own form of organization. What works for some doesn’t work for all. Time management is essential. If you’re having difficulties with organization, a personal counselor can suggest some strategies.

Study what you enjoy. When you’re interested in the class material, studying comes easier. Job security and salary are important, but don’t lose focus of likes and dislikes when it comes to careers and majors. If you’re unsure which program you want to pursue, meet with a career counselor to discuss career and academic options.

Find a support network. Study groups in class. Student clubs and organizations. Friends and family who are positive influences. Supportive people can be found in many places. Seek them out when things get stressful.

Know your limits. You can’t study every minute that you aren’t sleeping. Working a full-time job and while going to school full-time yields bad results. Having limitations doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re human.

Create mini-goals. Your goal is to earn an A in the class at semester’s end. Establish smaller goals along the way to reach that larger one. Set a goal to study a certain number of hours per week. When you reach this goal, give yourself a mini-reward. Keep goals realistic so they are within reach.

Turn off your cell phone alerts. Your friends and family will survive if they can’t reach you immediately. Nothing is more distracting when trying to accomplish a task than a cell phone alerting you to an incoming call, text or email. Put your phone to vibrate (or better yet shut it off) when you’re studying. Additionally, shut it off during class or meetings with advisors, counselors or professors.

Take a break from social media. Facebook, Instagram and the like are fun and useful. But they’re also time suckers. Make a conscious effort to disengage from social media during study time.


August 26, 2014

7 of our favorite career exploration sites!

The start of the fall semester brings many questions about careers. “Which career path should I pursue?” and “where can I find job openings?” are especially popular. If you’re asking these questions, it’s time to start doing some research. The web provides tons of resources, so many that it can seem overwhelming. The CPCC Career Services staff has identified a list of favorites for you to bookmark.

Career Coach

Career Coach answers many questions about the Charlotte and regional job market for various professions. Type a job title in the “career” field, and you’ll receive information including average salaries, average number of local job openings and required academic studies to enter the profession. If a CPCC degree prepares you for the field, you’ll know which one. You can also search CPCC degrees to find out what career options match the programs.

Career Coach also offers a great resume writing tool and an online assessment to help you identify career interests.


This online job board is specifically for CPCC students and alumni. Local companies and employers post full-time and part-time job opportunities. Uploading your resume is the first step in using employmeNC. A career counselor reviews your resume (we want to make sure you’re putting your best application forward!). Once it’s approved, you’re set to start applying for jobs.

employmeNC is also a great way to stay connected with Career Services about upcoming events and job-related opportunities. Make sure you complete your profile to receive informative emails.

What can I do with this program from CPCC?

If you want to know what career options exist for the AAS degrees CPCC offers, this page has the answers. Click on your program(s) of interest to learn about job titles and where to find information about the industries that correspond to the academic programs.

College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC)

Many high school students know of CFNC as a resource for searching for colleges and financial aid opportunities. But CFNC has a great career exploration component, too.

  • Create a CFNC Account
  • Under the “Plan” link, click “For a Career.”
  • Search the “Explore Careers” section to learn lots of career-related information. They’re organized into groups to make the research easier. Read facts about the professions, watch videos of people working in the jobs, or read interviews of employees in the industries.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

A comprehensive site that lists details about thousands of occupations. Search by career categories or type a specific job title in the Search box. You’ll learn about educational requirements, daily job duties, average salaries, job outlook and related careers.


Provides very detailed descriptions of the world of work. Search specific job titles or browse groups of similar occupations. You can explore occupations that use specific skills or capture specific interests.

What can I do with this major?

A comprehensive site that looks academic majors commonly found at four-year colleges and universities. Click on the major to learn about possible career paths, job titles and strategies for pursuing both. This site really demonstrates how your academic major doesn’t necessarily determine your career path.


August 12, 2014

Connecting to your college is the key to success!

Whether you’re transferring to a four-year college or are earning an AAS degree to enter the workforce, CPCC is your college home for the next few years.

There’s a misconception that community college students don’t need to connect with their institution. They go to campus, go to class and go home. This “drive through” approach to college doesn’t work. When students connect with their campus, they significantly increase the likelihood of completing their course of study.

So how do you connect?

Talk to classmates. Introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you. Strike up a conversation. Switch seats throughout the semester to meet more people.

Form study groups. Seek out classmates who are interested in forming study groups that meet regularly. Whether it’s solving those tricky math problems or dissecting a reading passage, study groups help many students learn classroom material.

Join clubs and organizations. A student group is a great way to meet others who share a common interest. CPCC offers many organizations for students to join. *Hint: Being an active member or leader in a student group is a great resume builder!  

Get to know your professors. Introduce yourself after class. Answer questions and offer feedback during class. Don’t hesitate to see a professor during office hours with questions you may have about course material. Professors can’t help you if they don’t know you. *Hint: Professors often become mentors, write letters of recommendations or serve as future  job references.  

Participate in class. And not just when it’s required. Participating in class discussion boosts your understanding of classroom material. Professors know those who raise their hands so don’t wait to be called on.

Ask for help. Not knowing is not an option. Seek out the available resources to get your questions answered. Professors hold office hours for this reason. The Academic Learning Center provides fantastic tutoring services. Any questions about course scheduling can be answered by your academic advisor.

Develop an education and career plan. Students who randomly schedule classes not knowing their intended academic program or career path get easily frustrated. Meet regularly with your academic advisor to make sure you’re taking the correct courses. Schedule an appointment with a career counselor to learn about programs, majors and career options.  

Read your emails. Your student email account becomes a critical communication tool. Check it frequently. Don’t delete emails before reading them; they may contain important information.

Visit the college website- often. Bookmark the CPCC website, as well as relevant department pages, and frequently check both.

Whether you’re fresh from high school or starting or returning to college after many years in the workforce, stepping onto a college campus for the first time can be scary. Connecting to those around you can help calm some fears.

August 4, 2014

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