Filed under: cover letters

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.

June 15, 2015

10 scary job search mistakes you must avoid

It’s that scary time of year again, with Halloween on the horizon. This is the week when all things frightening get a pass – from costumes to tricks, it’s hip to scare and be scared.

But you never want to frighten away hiring managers. It might be a good time to double check that you aren’t doing anything scary to sabotage your job search.

Here are some sure-fire scary job search mistakes to avoid:

Not eliminating resume and cover letter typos. Don’t trust spellcheck! Have someone else read both documents. Review them yourself by reading them backwards. You’ll be more likely to catch spelling errors that way.

Not sending a thank you letter after an interview. If ghosts can contact people through séances, you can find time to write a short thank you note to an employer. It could make the difference between getting hired – or not.

Applying to every position available with a company. Even the most brilliant person isn’t qualified for every position. Doing so shows you lack direction in your job search.

Making online job boards your top job search resource. Job boards should only be a small part of your strategy. Networking through seminars and programs and conducting informational interviews should be a key component.

Not being worried about your social media profile.  Employers check Facebook and Instagram to view job candidates’ profiles and pictures. That profanity-laced status update you posted on Saturday night might cost you a job offer.

Not utilizing LinkedIn. A great percentage of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates. Furthermore, employers check LinkedIn to view applicants’ profiles. If you don’t have a profile, or your profile is underutilized, you’ll be passed over.

Going to an interview without practicing your interviewing skills. Whether it’s at home in front of the mirror or during a mock interview, practice answering commonly asked interview questions before the actual interview.

Going to an interview without first researching the company. Familiarize yourself with the company, from its mission to its product. Check out the Facebook page and Twitter feed to learn the most recent happenings and reports.

Treating your job search like a fulltime job. People who are unemployed spend an average of 40 minutes per day job searching. It’s tough to do a fulltime job in 40 minutes. Approaching your job search like a fulltime job yields better results.

Stopping the job search after an interview. It’s not over until you walk through the company’s door for your first official day on the job. Even if the interview went well, don’t stop looking until you have a job offer in hand.

 

October 28, 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 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 sally.jones@hotmail.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

No joke! These 11 tips increase your chances of being interviewed and hired.

Playing April Fool's Day jokes at work can be fun. You have to get the job first.

Watch your back on April 1st, April Fool’s Day. But when it comes to job searching, it’s no joke that there are strategies that increase your likelihood of getting an interview or job offer. The catch? There is none. Yet, many job seekers often don’t think about these items when doing a job search, or only give them half-hearted attention. And the results aren’t very funny.

So what can you do to improve your chances of getting that interview or job offer?

Write a cover letter. If you have the opportunity to send a cover letter, send it. If it’s optional, opt in. A well written cover letter lets you make your case that you’re the strongest candidate for the job.

Don’t rely on online job boards. Sitting in front of the computer all day and applying for jobs is tempting. Don’t do it. You’ll limit your opportunities by not including networking and face-to-face informational meetings in your job search arsenal.

Sell your skills. If someone asked you what your skills are, could you answer? Do you know the difference between your job duties and the skills you use to perform them? Create a skills checklist as well as examples of where you’ve successfully used these skills.

Apply to select jobs rather than hundreds of them. Quantity doesn’t equal quality. Using the same resume to apply to many jobs in many different fields doesn’t increase your chances of being hired. In fact, it actually decreases the likelihood you’ll be offered an interview. Develop a targeted list of companies and tailor your resume to each company, position, industry, etc.

Use LinkedIn. More people are familiar with LinkedIn, marketed as “Facebook for professionals.” But are you actually using it in your job search? If not, you’re missing out on far reaching opportunities to network, learn about job openings and become informed about your target industries. Check out Career Services’ helpful video for getting started on LinkedIn.

Research companies before an interview. Employers might think you’re joking if one of your interview questions is “so what does this job entail?” or “what does your company do?” With social media and the internet, it’s easy to research a company and its product, mission and goals. Ask questions that show the employer you’ve done your homework.

Secure top-notch references. What does the phrase “references available upon request” actually mean? More than just the name and phone number of someone who can verify you once worked for him. Your references could make or break your job offer. Make sure you ask the right people and prepare them to assist you in your job search. Click here to learn how.

Practice interviewing skills. When it comes to interviewing, “winging it” is a poor strategy. Literally rehearse your answers to common interview questions out loud. Schedule a mock interview with Career Services to role play an interview and receive feedback about how you did.

Remember that interviewing isn’t just what you say. It’s how you say it and how you look at the person when saying it. And what you were wearing when you said it and how you shook their hand before you said anything. Nonverbal communication is judged just as much, sometimes more.

Send a thank-you letter. Take the time after your meeting to send a brief note or email to the employer, thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest in the position. Great job interviewers haven’t received job offers because they failed to send thank you letters. If it’s expected and you don’t send one you won’t get the job. If it’s unexpected and you send one anyway, you may have just move your candidacy to the top of the list.

Follow up with an employer after the interview. If the employer gives a hiring timeframe – a question you can ask during the interview- contact her if you haven’t heard anything within the stated amount of time. A quick note to ask about the status of your application and reiterate your interest shows your continued interest in the position.

 

 

March 31, 2014

The hard truth about soft skills: In the job search they matter!

   A recent LinkedIn article talked about the importance of soft skills in the job market. The phrase “soft skills” is misleading. Look up the word soft in the Thesaurus and you’ll find synonyms like lenient, lax, weak, even spineless. Talk about giving soft skills a bad rap.

The reality is, while solid academic performance and technical skills are critical, employers value soft skills just as much and in some cases even more. According to a Job Outlook 2013 report published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), soft skills make graduates stand out among their competitors in the job search. It’s great that you earned a high grade point average, but how well did you do working in teams on class projects? Your knowledge of Excel, PowerPoint and other computer programs is important, but so are your interpersonal skills.

Here’s a checklist of soft skills employers look for when recruiting job candidates:

  Communication skills (listening, verbal and written): Employers need employees who can effectively explain an idea through conversation or in writing. It’s also equally important that an employee listen to other colleagues’ ideas and points of view.

Interpersonal Abilities: Can you relate well to your coworkers? Are you good at building relationships? Bottom line, can you positively interact with others for the work day?

Planning/Organizing: An effective employee designs, plans and executes a project in a specific amount of time. Planning and organizing involves paying attention to details and knowing how to use your time wisely and effectively.

Teamwork: It’s tough to find a job that doesn’t involve interacting with others on some level. Can you work with other professional to achieve a common goal?

Flexibility/Adaptability: How well do you handle changes? Work assignments and conditions don’t always go according to plans and employers want employees who can easily adapt to these changes.

Problem Solving/Creativity: How creative are you at figuring out new approaches? If there’s a problem to solve, how do you go about doing it? Can you use available resources to offer solutions?

Multicultural Sensitivity/Awareness: This is perhaps one of the most critical soft skills as the world of work continues to diversify. Do you have an awareness of and sensitivity to other people and cultures?

Reference these skills on your resume and cover letter. Be prepared to talk about your experiences using these skills during job interviews.

If you’re concerned that you lack some of the soft skills employers seek, think of ways to begin developing them:

1. Identify the soft skills that need fine tuning. Ask friends, family and peers what areas they think you could improve. Use a skills checklist to evaluate.

2. Take some classes that could help you develop your soft skills. A public speaking course can help you improve your presentation skills. Look for leadership focused courses that develop teamwork skills or classes where you’ll polish your writing abilities.

3. Get involved in student groups  where you can develop soft skills in a fun environment.

4. Volunteer with an organization or group where you’ll develop skills, meet others and get involved with your community.

July 23, 2013

Seven tips for job searching while unemployed

After losing a job, negative feelings and a sense of urgency can stall a job seeker’s attempts to find employment. Without knowing it a job seeker may be sabotaging their hiring chances. Below are seven tips and suggestions for keeping your job search on track during this stressful time.

Have someone review your resume, interviewing skills and job search strategies: If you aren’t receiving calls for interviews, your resume may need some tweaking. If you’re getting interviews but no job offers, a critique of your interview skills may be in order. Are you using the right job search resources? Contrary to what many believe, browsing online job boards for hours is not the best strategy. A career counselor can help pinpoint where your job search might be breaking down as well as suggest other strategies you may not be aware of.

Network: The least effective job search is one that doesn’t involve networking. While online job posting boards exist in high numbers (and people find jobs using them), face-to-face meetings are still essential to a successful job search.

Develop a savvy social media presence: Social media is fast becoming the number one online job search tool. If you’re researching companies of interest, be sure to check out their Twitter feed. Make your presence known on LinkedIn to connect with other professionals, follow companies and learn about job openings.

Volunteer: Volunteer with a community organization. Doing so gives you a chance to meet other people and allows you to focus on something else besides your job search. Furthermore, the volunteer experience can be listed on your resume, downplaying the employment gap.

Keep cynicism and negativity to a minimum: Job searching is a long, lengthy process, often taking months to complete. Interviews that seem like a sure thing sometimes don’t result in a job offer. It’s tempting to develop a poor attitude or chip on your shoulder. Do your best not to. The negativity may come across in cover letters and interviews, further sinking your chances of getting hired.

Plan playtime: Job searching is a full-time job, but not one that should be done 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Play is essential to a healthy lifestyle, and maintaining good health is critical. Don’t feel guilty stepping away from your email to read a magazine, go for a walk or meet a friend. You’ll feel re-energized and re-focused when you return to the job search.

Rely on your support network: Everyone needs a helping hand at some point. If a family member offers to make dinner, say thank you and accept their kind gesture. Call a friend when you’re feeling discouraged. Don’t hesitate to reach out to others who can help in a variety of ways. You’ll be able to return the favor someday.

June 18, 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


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