11 career to-dos to tackle over winter break

Now that winter break is here, you have time to tackle the career planning to-dos that took a back seat to studying and attending class this past semester. Check out the following 11 items you can tend to before the spring semester starts in January.

1. Update your resume (or start one). Check out the Career Services Career Guide for many resume tips and samples.

2. Practice writing a cover letter. Cover letters are still part of the job application process. The Career Guide also provides step-by-step instructions for writing a cover letter, as well as samples.

3. Clean up your social media presence. If you don’t think employers check out your social media presence, think again. Take time to review the image you’re presenting through your social media outlets. Ask yourself if you’d want a prospective employer to view it.

4. View the Career Services LinkedIn video and develop your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is the go-to social media site for professional development, job searching and networking. The first step is creating a top-notch profile. The Career Services LinkedIn video provides easy-to-follow instructions for developing your LinkedIn profile and starting to use this important social media tool.

5. Join the Career Services Linked In group. Once you’re a member of LinkedIn, join the Career Services LinkedIn group, where you’ll have the chance to engage in career-related dialogue with Career Services staff, employers and other students.

6. Purchase interviewing attire. Take advantage of after-Christmas sales, put those gift cards to good use and buy a suit for upcoming job fairs and interviews.

7. Register for employmeNC. Access this online job database for CPCC students and alums through the Career Services website. Employers actively seeking CPCC students and alumni applicants post full-time and part-time jobs. Uploading your resume is the first required step to utilize employmeNC (see tip #1 above!)

8. Create your elevator speech and practice it. If you’re attending a holiday party, standing at the bus stop or waiting in line at the store- and you meet someone working in your industry, what would you want that person to professionally know about you? The elevator speech is the chance to convey your skills and background. Use the Career Guide elevator speech exercise to help you write your elevator speech, and then practice it in front of a mirror or with friends and family.

9. Start telling people what field you’re interested in. Networking is how you access the hidden job market, which is where many job opportunities exist. People can’t know what industry you want to work in unless you tell them.

10. Clarify your career goals if you don’t yet know them. If you’re unsure of your career plans after graduation, it’s time to start researching. Career exploration websites can help. Additionally, consider meeting with a career counselor next semester.

11. Examine situations that may make your job search unique. Some job applicants have conditions that may play a part in their job search. Ex-offenders, persons with disabilities and international students could be examples. If your job search requires you to consider any circumstances, look through career-related resources for assistance. A career counselor can also help you develop a job search and interview plan that proactively addresses any concerns that you might have.

Happy Holidays from the CPCC Career Services staff. We look forward to working with you in 2014.

7 holiday shopping tips that can help your job search

To be a kid again, when a man from the North Pole magically brings gifts every Christmas Eve.

But the reality is holiday gift shopping is a process. Job searching is, too. What strategies for successfully navigating the stores could also help you in your job hunt?

Know that deals and steals won’t come to you. You won’t know who’s having the best sales unless you actively look. Even setting up your smartphone to receive coupon alerts requires effort on your part. Similarly, job opportunities won’t passively come to you. You have to take an active role in your job search.

Remember the early bird gets the gift.  If you wait until the last minute to purchase something, don’t be too upset if it isn’t available or they don’t have the right size or color. You may have to settle for something else. When you see a job posted that looks interesting, apply to it. That day. Right away. You’d hate to finally get around to applying only to find that the application period has closed – or you can still apply but now are in the middle of hundreds of applications instead of one of the first three received.

Develop a plan. Gift buying strategies vary. Some people pluck items off of wish lists received from family and friends. Others think of a gift idea and purchase it. Some browse online or in stores until they find a gift idea they like. Regardless of the approaches, they’re all strategies. Job searching also requires a plan, so take the time to develop one that works best for you.

Keep notes on what you’ve accomplished so far. If your shopping list includes many people, or you’re one who starts shopping in August, you need to keep track of what you’ve bought and who you’ve bought for. When you begin your job search, keep track of applications sent, phone calls and emails. Mark your calendar with deadlines and notes to follow up on job leads.

Read the fine print before purchasing. Be aware of a company’s return policies and other items before making your final purchase. When you receive a job offer, make sure you understand the specific offer (salary, benefits, etc.) as well as duties and responsibilities before accepting.

Let everyone know your progress. Doing so helps people avoid giving the same gift to the same person. In the job search process, letting everyone know your progress equates to networking, a must-have job search tool. People can’t help you find a job if they don’t know you’re looking for one.

Understand that nonverbals can mean the difference between a good or bad experience. A grumpy customer, grouchy sales associate or rude driver in the parking lot turns any holiday shopping experience into a sour one. The same thought holds true for job interviews. What nonverbal messages are you sending in an interview? They could mean the difference between receiving and not receiving a job offer.

As you make your way through the malls this holiday season know that you’re developing some excellent job searching skills along the way.


7 factors when considering a job offer (besides salary)

When considering a job offer, it’s understandable that the starting salary usually gets top billing. Money matters, so make sure the offer is what you expected. It’s important to research salary ranges for the position you’re interviewing for so you’ll know an appropriate offer when you receive it.

But when weighing a job offer’s pros and cons, avoid focusing solely on the paycheck. Other factors should also be considered.


Health insurance is a hot topic these days and for good reason. A company’s health care package (out of pocket expenses, deductibles, etc.) can be just as important as the salary. What type of life insurance is offered? Find out details about retirement packages; even if you’re years away from the retirement age, planning starts now. More immediate information to consider might be the company’s vacation and sick time policies.


If you’ll be driving to work and travelling a long distance, a big chunk of your paycheck will go to the gas tank. Additionally, how bad is traffic during the hours you’ll be driving to and from work? If you are relying on public transportation, can you easily get to work or will you be required to change multiple bus routes?

Work Hours

How long is a typical work week? The job description may state 40 hours per week, but is it realistically 50 hours? If so, is overtime offered? An additional 10 hours per week may not look like much on paper, but can feel much longer each week in the office.

Professional development

Perhaps the initial offer is slightly below your professional expectations. But is there opportunity to grow within this company? Are new hires promoted quickly? Have employees been with the company for a long time? Will you have the chance to attend seminars, conferences or continuing education events? A “yes” answer to any or all of these questions indicates the company’s commitment to its employees’ career development.

Company culture

Fitting a square peg in a round hole is tough. If this analogy applies to how you might feel working in the company’s environment, give it serious thought. The flexibility and newness of a startup company, for example, is very different than the established procedures of a Fortune 500 company. If your previous office employed 10, how will you respond to now being one of 100? Take time to evaluate how the company culture fits your personality and preferences and what changes you’ll have to make – and are willing to make – to succeed.

Compatibility with your supervisor

Consider it a red flag if you aren’t given the chance to meet your prospective supervisor during the interview. If you’ll be working closely with this person, it’s important to learn if his or her managerial approach works with your work style.

Rapport with coworkers

You usually spend more time with coworkers than family. While you needn’t become best friends, you need to be able to work together to achieve workplace goals.

Receiving a job offer is exciting and wanting to accept the offer right away is normal. It’s important to fight that feeling and give the job offer serious consideration. Otherwise, you may likely find yourself job hunting again sooner rather than later if the new job isn’t a good fit.