Archives – May, 2013

Yes! Cover letters still matter

“Are cover letters still necessary?”

Students ask CPCC Career Services’ counselors this question all the time. As the job search moves through the electronic age where resumes are scanned, emailed and even tweeted, questioning a cover letter’s relevance is understandable.

The answer? Cover letters are as relevant as you want your application to be. Unless the online application doesn’t give you the opportunity to send a cover letter, or an employer specifically requests that you not send one, take the time to write an effective marketing pitch for why you’re the best candidate for an interview. After all, that’s what a cover letter is.

Cover letters set you apart from other applicants

“Just do it.” A three-word slogan that sets Nike’s brand apart from other sports apparel companies. What information from your background sets you apart from other applicants? The resume doesn’t allow you the space to discuss details. The cover letter gives you the opportunity to expand on a specific example from your background that is particularly relevant to the job. When job searching, your professional experience is your brand and the cover letter is a marketing tool for promoting it.

Cover letters show your personality

Let’s face it; resumes are dry, fact-based and formal documents that leave little if any room for personality. That’s where the cover letter comes in, giving an employer a glimpse of who you are by going beyond brief descriptions of job duties and lists of qualifications. Make a connection between you and the employer or you and the company. Make this letter professionally meaningful. When writing a cover letter, it’s important to continue following resume guidelines that suggest refraining from irrelevant personal information. But the cover letter is a chance to provide details about your professional experience that helps the employer picture you working in the job.

Cover letters tell a story

Are you returning to the world of work after being a stay-at-home parent for 10 years? Were you downsized from a job and decided to return to school? Did you change careers? A resume doesn’t give job applicants the chance to answer questions like these that provide insight into a person’s work history as it relates to their life story. Cover letters can include information that would appear out of place on a resume. Even when tailoring a resume to a specific job opening, applicants often feel their the document doesn’t convey how strongly their qualifications match the employer’s needs. That’s where the cover letter comes into play.

Don’t forget to follow cover letter guidelines that include formatting and topic suggestions. Above all else, don’t forget to send the cover letter. It’s true; the employer may not even read it. But why take the chance that they might have wanted to?

May 28, 2013

7 Career “To Dos” for Summer

Congratulations to CPCC students who completed the spring semester. If you’re taking a break from coursework over the summer, enjoy a much deserved rest from your studies.

Additionally, summer is a great time to get a jump start on career planning. Remember all of the things you’ve wanted to do but couldn’t because of your class schedule? Over the next few months, consider the following seven items you can accomplish to better prepare for the world of work after graduation.

1. Find a job: In addition to the paycheck you’ll earn, you’ll learn valuable on-the-job skills. Part-time, full-time or temporary work gives you exposure to the world of work, whether the setting is an office, restaurant, retail store or warehouse. You’ll develop an understanding of what it means to be an employee. Check out EmploymeNC, an online job board, for job postings.

2. Volunteer: Give back to your community, network with others from a variety of professional backgrounds and develop strong skills all at once. Volunteering is also a great way to get a feel for the world of work. Check out resources like Hands On Charlotte and Volunteer Match for volunteer opportunities with a variety of organizations in many different settings.

3. Update your resume: Take the time to update your resume now so you won’t be rushing to do so when you begin applying for jobs. Get feedback from a career counselor through email or in person.

4. Research career options: Utilize many career exploration websites to learn about career options related to your major. Check out the following extensive resources:

Occupational Outlook Handbook

O*Net

CFNC

Career Services

5. Arrange information interviews: The best way to learn about a career is speaking to someone in the profession. Information interviews are the best tools for finding out what it’s really like to work in a particular job. Use your network of friends and family or meet with a career counselor to discuss a strategy for locating a professional to speak with.

6. Polish your skills: Skills are talents and abilities that are used daily in every aspect of your professional, academic and personal life. Are you hoping to fine tune your computer skills? The better your skills the better your chances for success. Check out college and community programs that offer computer instruction. If you want to fine tune your math skills (perhaps to retake the placement test), look for tutoring resources. Do you want to improve public speaking skills? For a small fee of $20, the Toastmaster’s International organization can help.

7. Create a LinkedIn account: Regardless of your career choice, LinkedIn – dubbed the Facebook for professionals- is an invaluable tool for networking, job searching and professional development. If you aren’t familiar with this social media tool, take the time to create and develop your LinkedIn account.

Take time this summer to refocus and re energize for your return to class this fall as well as start your career planning for your entrance to the world of work in the future.

May 20, 2013

5 possible reasons you’re having trouble pinpointing an academic program – and what to do about it

Why is it difficult for some students to choose an academic program? Whether you’re a recent high school graduate or adult learner, selecting which program to study sometimes causes fear and anxiety. Self-assessment and career exploration are critical steps in the process. But you still might be stuck. What could be the reason and how can you persist to find the program that best suits you?

1. Are you relying on feedback from others? Seeking input from family and friends is understandable. They may offer different perspectives and ideas you haven’t considered. After others have offered their perspective, ask yourself what you believe you should study?

Families play different roles in different cultures. Some cultures stress individuality while others emphasize family first. What is your family dynamic when it comes to making choices? What are your thoughts about this? If you’re struggling to find balance between receiving input from others and making the decision for yourself, look for ways to develop your decision making skills.

2. Do you have too many interests and can’t eliminate any of them? One student may equally love health care and business. Another student enjoys the arts but really wants to work in a field where he is helping people. Both may have difficulty narrowing down their options because they fear that focusing on one means they’re giving up the other.

Not necessarily. If you enjoy art but want to help people, could working in the museum’s education or membership departments satisfy both interests?

Volunteering is a great way to channel interests. Is your interest is in one field strong enough to pursue as a profession or would volunteering be a good fit?

Do some research about the different occupations that are possible with the academic programs or majors you’re considering. You may be surprised by the options.

3. Is nothing grabbing your attention? Other students have difficulty choosing a major and finding any careers that look appealing. Consider talking to a career counselor. You may have some false or exaggerated perceptions about the world of work that are keeping you from making decisions.

Have you worked in the past? Making decisions with no previous experience is tough. Working a part-time job – even if in a field that’s of no interest in the long-term – gives you a better perspective of the world of work. Volunteering can expose you to different career fields, too.

4. Are you selecting programs of interest that don’t match your skills? It’s tough when skills and interests collide. A student may have a strong passion for the nursing profession, but struggles to pass science classes. Another student may be focused on engineering but doesn’t do well in math. If you find yourself having to consider a different academic program because of your skills sets, take a look at what your strengths are. Additionally, what other programs capture your interests? You may not yet know if you’ve been focused on unrealistic career paths for so long.

5. Are you concentrating too much on the “hot jobs lists?” Websites and magazines publish “Top 10” lists highlighting job areas with the best growth, stability and salaries. All are important factors to consider, but none should be the sole reason for choosing an academic program or career path. Skills, abilities and interests play larger roles in career satisfaction and success than predictions on “what’s hot” in the job market.   

At the end of the day you’re the person who’ll be attending the classes, writing the papers, working on the projects and taking the exams as part of your chosen academic program focus. Ask yourself what’s keeping you from making a decision and seek out solutions that could help.

 

May 13, 2013


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