7 reasons why job search success is never guaranteed

Your career“I want to study the academic program or major that guarantees a job with a good salary after graduation.” This is a common request career counselors repeatedly hear from students.

There’s just one problem: Job search success is never guaranteed, regardless of what you study. Here are seven reasons why.

“Hot jobs” come and go. Yes, STEM is all the talk right now, and health care jobs usually make the Top 10 list of opportunities. But what’s always constant about the world of work is how often it changes. In 2008, job titles such as cloud specialist, digital marketing and app developer didn’t even exist.

The job market differs from city to city. Geography can impact your job search. The job market for dental hygienists is different in Charlotte compared to Chapel Hill. The salary is slightly different, too. Studying Simulation and Game Development is key if you want to work as a video game designer. But more opportunities exist in California and New York than they do in North Carolina just by nature of the industry.

Interests affect abilities. If you don’t enjoy an area of study, your ability to succeed in it can be limited.  Before you decide to work in a STEM-related industry, it’s important to know what STEM stands for (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Next, you have to decide if you actually enjoy any of those disciplines.

Abilities affects employ-ability. If you’re struggling in your classes, you may struggle in your job. Companies who hire welders look for candidates who can safely and effectively do the job. A candidate who has difficulties with class assignments may be overlooked.

Success in academics doesn’t guarantee success in the job search. During the job search, if you can’t connect with employers and impress them you will not receive a job offer, no matter how solid your academics are.  Job search steps include writing a standout resume and cover letter, networking, knowing what jobs to search for (and where to find them) and presenting yourself well in a job interview.

Lifetime careers are a thing of the past. It’s rare to retire with the first company that hires you. It’s even unusual to retire in the first career path you choose. Most people change career paths as their interests, skills and roles change.

Not all careers are connected to one particular major or academic program. You might be surprised at all of the career options graduates of different four-year college majors and associate degree programs pursue.


Should you earn a bachelor’s or associate’s degree?

Only you can decide.

Associate’s vs. bachelor’s degree: Which one is better? It’s a question career counselors hear all the time.

Ask yourself the following questions when deciding which path to pursue:

1. What careers are you interested in? Find out degree requirements for careers that catch your eye. A bachelor’s degree isn’t required for all professions. Furthermore, some professions require studies that are specific to an associate’s degree program.

2. What factors might affect your commitment to school right now?

Time. Associate’s degrees programs are typically two years in length, while bachelor’s degrees programs usually last four years. If you attend school part-time, completing both degrees will take longer.

Out-of-school/personal situations.  Are there circumstances for which one degree option may be better suited than another? Will childcare be a requirement? Will you be working while in school? Do you require the opportunity to       take night or online classes? Many associate degree programs and most bachelor degree programs require students attend class full-time during the day. How might this affect your choice?

Finances. Associate degree tuition is often less expensive than a bachelor’s degree. But additional expenses (lab fees, classroom materials, books) can add up. How much are your finances a part of your decision?

Interest in being a student. Be honest with yourself about your interest in being a college student right now. Both associate and bachelor degree paths require commitment to studying, attending class and participating in the college student process. You and others affected by your decision must be emotionally and mentally ready to make the commitment.    

Next, make sure you aren’t misguided by the myths about both degrees:

Myths about bachelor’s degrees

A bachelor’s degree means a better paycheck.  Not necessarily. Some industries do offer higher salaries for bachelor’s degree candidates, but not all professions. For example, a social worker may earn less than a cardiovascular technologist. Yet becoming a social worker requires advanced training beyond a bachelor’s degree, while cardiovascular technology specifically requires an associate’s degree.

Bachelor’s degrees are more valued by employers. “Value” is a subjective word. It’s important to focus on requirements for career fields rather than what is considered valuable. You’ll be valued as an employee for your qualifications, contributions and work ethic.

Myths about associate’s degrees

Associate degree courses are easier. Associate degree courses are college level courses taught by college professors. Content in a college science, math or humanities course is the same regardless of the degree.   

Associate degrees aren’t “real” degrees. Associate degrees prepare students for employment. What isn’t “real” about that?

At the end of the day, it’s not a matter of answering which degree is better, but rather which one is better suited for your current situation and future career plans.

Accomplish any of these career to-dos in 30 minutes or less

Summer is either very relaxing (light course load) or extremely busy (classes, increased work schedule, etc.). Whether your summer schedule allows time to unwind or barely any time to breathe, you can still accomplish career-related tasks. Check out this list of seven items, each of which you can achieve in 30 minutes or less.

1. Begin building a resume. Take 30 minutes to write down your employment history, education and accomplished skills. This information becomes the foundation for your resume that you can write in small chunks throughout the summer and have ready by fall. See the Career Services Career Guide for tips and samples. Email Career Services or schedule an appointment with a counselor to have your resume draft reviewed.

2. Complete your EmploymeNC profile, including uploading a resume. EmploymeNC is an online job searching and career information tool offered by Career Services to CPCC students and alumni. Search for full-time and part-time jobs, learn about upcoming career events and receive informative Career Services emails.

3. Watch a Career Services video. Whether you want to learn how to make career decisions, write a resume, interview for a job or use LinkedIn, Career Services offers short step-by-step videos to provide assistance.

4. Start completing your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is the social media resource for career and professional development. Watch the Career Services video about building your LinkedIn profile or attend a free LinkedIn webinar. Both provide great tips on what information to include in your profile and how to use LinkedIn effectively.

5. Visit Career Coach. If you’re still undecided regarding your academic or career interests, Career Coach is a great online tool for you to use. In just 30 minutes you can learn about job opportunities related to CPCC programs. All of the information is localized, which means the job statistics are regionally based.

6. Write and practice your elevator speech. If people ask you what your skills are, can you tell them? If you know your job interests, would you be able to talk about them in 30 seconds or less? An elevator speech is the tool to help you clearly and concisely discuss your qualifications as they relate to your career goals.

7. Learn about jobs related to your academic program. If you want to learn about jobs related to your A.A.S. degree, check out Career Coach (mentioned above). Students earning an AA or AS degree with plans to transfer to a four-year college or university to discover bachelor’s degree career options here.

Do you have time to spare and questions to ask? CPCC Career Services is open throughout the summer months. Now is a great time to meet with a career counselor to get your career and job search questions answered.

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!




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.

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.


The one tip to remember for academic and career planning success is:

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:


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.




7 job search tips you can learn from the World Cup

  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.

Are you doing ALL that you can to find a job?

Accenture, a global consulting company, recently released its 2014 College Graduate Employment Survey. The survey examines the difference between graduates’ expectations of the world of work and the reality of that world. The results are pretty interesting.

One statistic in particular stands out: 69% of 2014 graduates expect to find work within the first six months after graduation. However, for graduates of the classes of 2012 and 2013 only 42% found jobs within the first six months after earning their degrees.

Factors that affect the length of a job search:

  • The state of the local and national economy
  • Quantity of jobs in a candidate’s preferred location (not many film jobs in Iowa, for example)
  • Demand for a candidate’s skill level and degree
  • A job seeker’s flexibility regarding types of jobs, geographic location, salary, etc.
  • Quality of the job search

The fifth factor – quality of the candidate’s job search- is critical and one that the job seeker completely controls. For graduates who didn’t find a job within the first six months after graduation, it’s worth asking what their efforts were like. If you’re job searching, ask yourself: Are you doing everything, using every resource and considering every option in your job search? Before answer yes, ask yourself if you’ve done the following:

1. Join professional associations: Every industry, from accounting to zoology, has a representing association or society. Members have access to membership directories, job search databases and other resources. 

2. Join regional groups: Most major cities organize groups that allow residents to meet others. A city’s Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for locating such groups. Meetup.com is another source. The common interest might be professional, cultural, hobbies or a combination.  

3. Attend meetings and seminars: Simply joining a group isn’t enough. Be an active member. Attend networking meetings, seminars and conferences. Meet people face-to-face.

4. Become active on LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a social media outlet for professional purposes. It needs to be part of your job search toolbox. Learn how to create a LinkedIn profile and utilize this critical job search tool. The CPCC Career Services LinkedIn How To video can help.

5. Volunteer: Get involved in a local community group or cause that interests you. You’ll meet people who share a common interest in that group or cause. Volunteering is one more avenue for meeting people.

6. Conduct informational interviews: Find a professional working in your targeted industry. Contact someone employed at a company you want to work for. Set up a 30 minute meeting to  talk about the company or the profession, ask questions about the person’s career path and receive suggestions for your job search.

Networking is the commonality for all of these tips.

Most job searches take longer than anticipated and it’s not uncommon to spend more than six months searching. But regardless of industry, geographic location or flexibility when considering options, job searching takes longer if you aren’t actively connecting with others.



What you’re missing if you don’t complete an internship

Many academic programs and majors require students to complete internships and co-ops. Some do not. If an internship isn’t mandatory for your area of study, and your schedule allows time to pursue one, give it strong consideration.

When you don’t complete an internship you miss out on the chance to:

1.       Get hands-on work experience. Possessing practical knowledge about an industry boosts your qualifications.  You can create an “Internship” or “Related Experience” category on your resume, and then talk about relevant job duties and projects during an interview. Very impressive.

2.       Gain an edge in the job market. Two candidates interview for a job. Both earned the same degree. One candidate has minimal work experience while the other has completed one or more relevant internships. Who initially appears more qualified for the job?

3.       Have the chance to try a career path before committing to it. Reading about a profession through career exploration websites is helpful. But nothing beats the chance to experience a career before committing to it. In addition to doing the actual work, you’ll have the chance to talk with people working in the industry.  

4.       Network with professionals. Most jobs are found through networking. During your internship you’ll meet people who become colleagues, supervisors and mentors. They’ll recommend professional groups to join, LinkedIn resources to check out and additional people to meet.

5.       Learn how to work in an office. Following an office dress code and other office policies, arriving at work on time, handling conflicts within a work setting, interacting with professional peers and supervisors. It takes skill and practice to learn these concepts.

6.       Apply classroom knowledge to work environments. Academic preparation shows your ability to learn concepts. Internships give job applicants the chance to apply concepts to real-world settings. This is what employers are interested in hearing about.

7.       Develop skills. Employers look for skills when reviewing applications. In addition to industry-related skills you develop transferable skills that are critical for success in many job settings.

8.       Acquire references. References vouch for your abilities to perform tasks or use skills to succeed in a job. It’s important to acquire professional references. Internship supervisors and coworkers serve that purpose.

9.       Become more confident. Getting experience builds confidence. If an interviewer asks if you can do something, you won’t have to rely on hypotheticals (“Yes, I could do that if I have the chance.”). You can say “Yes I definitely can do that,” and provide concrete examples.