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:
- If it’s required and you don’t send one, the employer thinks you can’t follow directions.
- 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 email@example.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
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
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
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 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
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
You’re ready for the interview. How could you not be?
- You arrived exactly 15 minutes early, professionally dressed with a reference list in hand.
- You offered a firm, confident handshake when greeted by the interviewer.
- Using LinkedIn and the company website, you thoroughly researched the employer and are prepared to answer any questions about the organization.
- You know your skills, strengths and weaknesses inside and out.
- You could do the required job duties in your sleep, you’re that qualified.
- Behavioral interview questions are a breeze because you practiced them numerous times.
What could possibly go wrong?
How about when they start the interview with one simple question: Can you tell me about yourself?
Suddenly you’re palms start sweating and your mind begins racing.
Should I tell them my name? But they already know my name. Should I tell them my work history? No, that’s on my resume. But wait, everything about me is on my resume. Is this a trick question? Ask me my strengths – I’ll spit them out. Ask me what the company’s closing stock price was yesterday- I checked. Ask me to repeat your LinkedIn profile- I’ve memorized it! But please, don’t ask me to tell you something about me.
What do they want me to say?
Before you know it, you go into ramble mode, and the interview’s over before it barely began.
So here are some strategies for answering the question “Tell me about yourself.”
Expect it. Conversations most often start with a nonchalant open-ended question. Remember that interviews are conversations, too.
Know that how you respond matters just as much as what you say-maybe more. If you pause for too long, stumble over your reply or ask for time to think about it, your answer no longer matters. Awkwardness has already been established and you’ll have to work hard to eliminate it. If you reply unenthusiastically, the interviewer might wonder how excited you really are about the job.
Keep your answer short. “Tell me about yourself” doesn’t translate into “tell me everything there is to know about you.” A crisp, one to two sentence answer grabs the employer’s attention and encourages more questions.
Avoid personal items. Where you live, your age or your marital status are common conversations openers for areas other than a job interview. Keep your answer focused on skills and qualifications.
Practice your answer. This question deserves just as much practice as the other commonly asked interview questions. If you can’t tell the interviewer about yourself, you may not get the chance to show how well you answer the other interview questions.
Develop an opening hook. This is a phrase or sentence that begins your answer, gets the interviewer’s attention and helps you transition to what professional qualifications you want to share. Some examples might include:
“I’m someone who is really excited to be talking with you today about joining your team.”
“People who know me best say that I’m…”
“The three words I would use to describe myself are…”
“With 10 years of experience in customer service, I believe I’m the candidate for this position.”
“Having just recently earned my degree, I’m eager to begin working in the profession.”
End the answer with confidence. Don’t fade off into a whisper. Don’t end the last word with a question in your voice. And don’t end the answer with “does that answer your question?” All three responses show a lack of confidence in your answer.
You’re the only person on the planet who can tell others your story. Know your professional talents and target them in a clear concise answer. Pair your answer with an opening hook, eye contact and enthusiasm, and you’re on your way to a solid interview, with hopefully a job offer to follow.
July 28, 2014
Email is a primary way to communicate in the professional world. Students use emails to communicate with professors, job seekers use it to navigate the job search process and employees use email as a primary communication method in the office.
Given its importance, make sure you know email etiquette. It’s not just a matter of being polite. Using email improperly can have lasting consequences. Check out these 13 tips before you hit the send button.
1. Use a professional email address. An email address containing your name or a combination of your first and last name works best.
2. Identify the topic in the subject line. Don’t leave email recipients guessing why you’re writing them, and don’t give a long winded answer. A subject line that reads “I have a question about the grade that I received for the midterm exam last Thursday” gets cut off when it appears in the inbox. A subject line reading “Question re: COMM 110 Midterm” works better.
3. Start with a formal greeting. Any professional email that begins with “Hey” deserves the delete button. “Dear” is the most formal greeting and your safest bet. “Hello” can also be used. Address the person with a salutation (Dear Professor Smith, Hello Dr. Jones, etc.) Continue using a formal title until given permission otherwise.
4. Write a brief email. Think about how quickly you scan your emails. Keep this time frame in mind when drafting an email. Use clear, concise language to convey your point. Paragraphs help break down the email into smaller sections. Email isn’t the format for offering a long explanation about confusing topics.
5. Don’t use email to replace face-to-face or phone conversations. The amount of emails sent and received in an office on any given day could likely be cut in half if people simply picked up the phone. Remember that the purpose of email is not to permit passive aggressiveness or laziness.
6. Avoid emoticons. When emailing professors, supervisors, or others higher up the chain of command, don’t include emoticons. Is it okay to use smiley faces when corresponding with coworkers? It depends on the office etiquette. Whatever procedure has been established, follow it.
7. Be mindful that grammar conveys emotions. WHEN YOU USE ALL CAPS, YOU’RE YELLING AT THE RECIPIENT. If anger is the emotion you’re feeling at that moment, don’t send the email. on the other hand using lowercase letters gives the perception of laziness.
8. Keep exclamation points to a minimum. Exclamation points convey excitement and should be used sparingly in writing. Whether rightly or wrongly, overuse of exclamation points shows immaturity.
9. Be careful with humor. If you say something funny in email, remember that you aren’t physically present to back up your remark with facial expressions or voice connotation. In a professional email exchange, it’s best to omit humor unless you and the recipient(s) know each other quite well.
10. Think before hitting “reply all.” The constant “you’ve got mail” notification gets pretty draining – especially when it’s for an email that you had no business being a part of in the first place. When sending an original email, think long and hard about who really needs to be included. Conversely, when you reply to an email that was originally sent to multiple people, ask yourself if everyone really needs to see your answer.
11. Know the proper way to use courtesy copy (CC) and blind copy (BCC). Only copy people (CC) who are directly involved with or impacted by the email subject. Use blind copy (BCC) when sending to a large distribution list. Should BCC be used to reply to some people in secret? No.
12. Remember that culture affects how people speak and write. Cultural differences lead to miscommunication. Email is no exception. Be mindful of a person’s cultural background when sending or receiving emails.
13. Follow the golden rule: “When in doubt, leave it out.” Email isn’t private. The delete button isn’t permanent. If you have doubts about the email’s content or the language and tone used, don’t send it.
July 21, 2014
Is an interpretive dance the best way to quit your job? Probably not, even if it gets you 18 million views on YouTube. But it’s inevitable that you’re going to change jobs throughout your career. Whether it’s to pursue another opportunity or simply leave your current job that doesn’t meet your expectations, resigning is just as much a part of career development as is accepting job offers.
Remember, you’re not erasing your current job from existence when you leave. You’ll list the employer on your resume and hopefully secure solid references. Here are some tips to follow that will help you leave on a professional note rather than leaving a bad impression.
1. Give notice. Don’t quit and leave in the same day. It’s standard practice to give at least two weeks notice when resigning. If you want or need to leave sooner, discuss options with your supervisor.
2. Write a resignation letter. It’s professional to submit a formal letter of resignation. The letter needn’t address your reasons for leaving; it’s up to you if you want to address this. The letter should state that you’re leaving and when your last day of work will be.
3. Be prepared for an exit interview. Your employer may ask for or require an exit interview, which is simply a meeting between you and a company representative (human resources employee, supervisor, etc.). Companies conduct exit interviews to gain feedback about the job, work environment or organization. Carefully consider your answers to commonly asked exit interview questions. You don’t want them to come back to haunt you.
4. Clean out your desk – and your computer. Even if you’re prepared to give two weeks notice, your supervisor may ask you to leave at that particular moment. Before submitting your resignation, delete personal files and messages on your computer. Jot down contact information of those you wish to keep in touch with after you’re gone. Do not copy any company information that you’re not permitted to have when you’re no longer an employee.
5. Keep the negative thoughts to yourself. Your resignation letter, exit interview and conversations with soon-to-be former colleagues could present opportunities to trash and blast your job, company, boss, etc. Don’t take advantage of the opportunity. You run the risk of burning bridges later.
6. Avoid bragging about your exciting new opportunity. Even if it’s a promotion, a salary increase or a move to a nicer work environment, colleagues don’t want to hear about how much better things will be in your new job. Know the difference between enthusiasm and arrogance.
7. Know details about benefits. Find out the implications of your resignation on your health care benefits and retirement package. Inquire what happens to any unused sick, personal or vacation days.
8. Ask for a reference. If you’ve been a reliable employee, it’s completely within reason to ask supervisors and coworkers if they’re willing to serve as references for you. See if they’ll write a recommendation as part of your LinkedIn profile or serve as an email or phone contact.
9. Say goodbye. Take time to email or personally thank your supervisor and co-workers. For those who you want to stay in touch with, provide your cell number and personal email address.
July 15, 2014
Are you having trouble remembering all the different strategies for doing well in school and developing a successful career plan? Too many tips to keep track of? If you’re looking for one golden rule to remember, here it is:
DO EVERYTHING EARLY!
1. Meet with your academic advisor…EARLY! Be aware of priority advising dates for the fall (Sept/Oct) and spring (February/March). Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule an appointment with your advisor. If you do, you’ll have limited meeting time options to choose from. Arrive EARLY for the advising appointment. Otherwise, you won’t have time to address all of your questions.
2. Register for classes…EARLY! You’re not the only one who needs that math course, English course, computer course or humanities elective this semester. Other students are also trying to coordinate class schedules with work schedules. Waiting until the last minute only ensures that classes you need or particular class times you want will be full.
3. Decide which program you want to pursue…EARLY! Research CPCC’s academic programs that interest you. Learn about the programs’ course requirements, competitiveness, desired GPA, necessary exams, etc. Narrowing your focus saves you stress and lets you focus on your studies. You’ll also save money by not taking classes that end up being unnecessary in the end.
4. Focus your career goal…EARLY! If you’re tired of family and friends asking about your career plans, take time to figure them out. Career planning doesn’t happen overnight. Researching career paths that compliment your personality, interests and skills takes time. A career counselor can help navigate this process. The sooner you get started, the more time you have to make a meaningful decision.
5. Develop a resume…EARLY! Yes, even recent high school graduates should have a resume. It’s a living document that you build as you gain more experience and develop new skills. Don’t wait until your graduating year, when you’re doing a job search, to start a resume. At that point, your resume should only need fine-tuning.
6. Research job opportunities and companies in your area…EARLY! Do you know what the regional job market is like for the field you’re pursuing? What companies are hiring? Learning this information earlier makes your job search easier. Resources like Career Coach and CFNC can help.
7. Start using LinkedIn…EARLY! LinkedIn is Facebook for professionals. But here’s the catch; don’t wait until you’re a professional to start using LinkedIn. This will be a go-to job search resource, but it won’t be helpful if your LinkedIn profile isn’t properly completed and you haven’t begun establishing contacts or joining industry-related groups.
8. Prepare for interviews…EARLY! Know what to expect in an interview, from the questions you can expect to the questions you should ask. Career Services offers fantastic interview prep materials, from mock interviewing to in-print and online resources.
9. Show up for the interview…EARLY! But not too early! Arriving 15 minutes prior to your interview is appropriate. Showing up an hour early is rude. If you’re late and you don’t call or offer an explanation, the employer doesn’t have to conduct the interview. And if they do, it’s likely out of courtesy – a job offer isn’t likely.
10. Send a thank you note or email after the interview…EARLY! Within 48 hours is best. The interview is fresh in your mind and the employer – who is anticipating receiving a thank you note– will still remember you.
June 29, 2014
Even if you’re not a soccer fan, you’re likely aware of the sport’s major event currently taking place in Brazil. The World Cup captivates billions of futbol fans across the globe. It’s estimated that one out of three people worldwide will be enjoying the matches over the next month.
In the spirit of the world’s game taking center stage, did you know there are seven career and job search tips you can learn from the World Cup?
1. Back up your stats. Being qualified on paper only goes so far. Spain was heavily favored to repeat as World Cup champions this year. Yet, they were eliminated in the first round of play. England’s roster consistently sports talented players, but they haven’t won a World Cup since 1966.
When you’re job searching, a solid resume highlighting your skills gets your foot in the door. But job offers are made based on how well you interview to convey your qualifications for the job.
2. Start preparing early. The World Cup takes place every four years. Yet national teams start preparing for the next event mere months after the current matches end. Finding the right career path and implementing a successful job search take time. Don’t wait until the weeks before – or after – graduation to prepare.
3. Know that others can help you. Teams advance out of the first round of World Cup play based not only on their own success but how other teams in their group do. Fans find themselves rooting for one country to help their own. In job searching, networking is the way others help you in your career development. Just like in World Cup play, relying on others is a strategy you can’t ignore.
4. Use many tools to create a winning strategy. Job seekers can’t rely solely on one job search tool to get a job. It’s like a soccer team relying completely on their goalkeeper to win the game. Job boards like employmeNC provide great job leads, but you also need to incorporate other resources like networking, on campus recruiting and job fairs.
5. Develop a parallel career plan. When one of the US team’s essential players – Jozy Altidore – was injured in their first game, the coach immediately substituted a player and implemented a plan. If internal or external circumstances prevent you from reaching your first career goal, what other options are you considering and what do you need to do to achieve them?
6. Remember that luck plays a part. Some World Cup teams have an easier time advancing into the next round literally thanks to the luck of the draw. You control many elements of your job search. But luck is a factor. Being in the right place at the right time, being the more qualified candidate, etc. Someday this will be you.
7. Believe that with hard work, dreams come true. John Brooks, a backup player for the US team, literally dreamed two nights before the first game that he scored the winning goal. Brooks entered the game when starter Matt Besler was injured. His dream from the night before came true when his goal led the US team to victory. Half the battle of job searching is believing you can do it.
June 24, 2014