Monthly Archives: March 2013

Learning As I Go

I’m currently in my second semester here at CCBC and let me just say that it is completely different from my first!  I learned many lessons my first semester and they have helped me in huge ways for this second semester.  First semester was a learning process and was rough, but I’m glad that I went through it so that I could make my second semester better.

The number one thing I learned is how to do my schedule.  Last semester, I had back-to-back classes from 8 a.m. to 3:50 p.m., Monday and Wednesday.  I had ten minutes between each class and not much time for any breaks.  I thought I would be fine, but I needed breaks.  This semester, I made my days shorter and on longs days, I made sure I had a break.  Going all day to class and having no break to just regroup and relax is tough and was not for me.  So, when you schedule classes, make sure you give yourself time to breathe between classes.  Even when I went home, I was focusing on school constantly. Time for just you is necessary. Take some time and do something fun or relaxing!

Another lesson I learned is it is okay to ask questions.  I have always been afraid to ask questions. Even in high school, I never asked questions. After last semester, I learned to ask questions.  If something was unclear, I would just try to figure it out myself and I usually ended up wrong. I learned professors are there to help us and they don’t mind if you have a question to ask.  They will help!

I am still learning even as this second semester goes on.  This semester will only help me with next semester. School is one huge learning process.  I will never stop learning!

Audree, student blogger

Job Interviewing 101

Are you graduating soon or currently job searching? If you’re new to interviews or haven’t had one in a while, you might be stumped by some new, commonly asked questions. This week I talked with Erica Fox, Career Services Facilitator/Evening Counselor at CCBC, from CCBC’s Career Services Center about how to handle those tough questions.

 

On a larger scope, what’s an interview like in today’s job market?

A lot of the time, I think employers ask questions about the future to try to find out if the candidate is looking for a long-term job commitment and they also look for signs that indicate a person may be a job-hopper.  They want to know if the company is a part of the candidate’s plan for the future. The best way to find out if a candidate is going to work out long-term is to make sure they choose someone who aligns with the company’s mission and values. That is why it is so critical for a candidate to research the company, and have good questions prepared to ask the interviewer.

 

So, what about those bizarre questions I hear companies are asking? Do employers really ask about your “spirit animal” or something general like “what’s your story?”

(You can find a list in this article from Huffington Post.)

Yes, they do. Interview questions are chosen for a variety of reasons, and each interviewer has their own preferred style.  In my opinion, the “spirit animal” and “what’s your story” questions are just to see how someone reacts to the question. Those types of questions aim to catch a glimpse into someone’s personality. The secret is to keep cool and not get flustered, and to reveal some aspects of your personality without going overboard.  Because it is illegal for an employer to ask about the marital and family status directly, the “what’s your story” question can be a way to find out that information. It really is just a different way to say “tell me about yourself” which is a classic and typical interview question.  It’s always best to talk about your career and how you got to where you are in life from an educational or career aspect, rather than accidentally revealing information that could possibly lead them to believe you may need a lot of vacation time and sick time because you are very family oriented. As far as the spirit animal question goes, it’s ok to be honest and open and show some humor, because a recruiter would not ask such a silly question if they did not expect a somewhat silly answer.

 

Can you provide some not-so-silly questions employers might ask?

Today’s interview questions are aimed to get the candidate to talk in a contextual way about their reasoning skills, problem solving ability, how they react under pressure, and how they resolved and processed a mistake or sticky situation. Below are some good examples of these types of questions.

  • Sometimes it’s easy to get in “over your head.” Describe a situation where you had to request help or assistance on a project or assignment.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with an irate person/customer/client.  How did you handle the situation and what was the eventual outcome?
  • Sometimes it’s important to disagree with others to keep a mistake from being made.  Tell me about a time when you were willing to disagree with another person in order to build a positive outcome.
  • Why do you think you would be a good candidate for this position?  Why should we hire you?
  • Describe the system you use for keeping track of multiple projects.  How do you track your progress so that you can meet deadlines?  How do you stay focused?

 

Are you ready to test your skills? Make an appointment for a mock interview with a member of our Career Services Staff. Contact them at 724-480-3413 or career.services@ccbc.edu.

Then come to CCBC’s Job and Career Fair on April 17 to network with employers looking to hire.

 

– Amy McKissic, CCBC Publications Coordinator

amy.mckissic@ccbc.edu

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Cover Letter Writing 101

Making a good first impression isn’t just about a complete, solid resume. You also need a cover letter. The cover letter is included with your resume and demonstrates your desire to work with a specific employer for a specific job. Don’t make one cover letter to send with all your resumes. Not sure what to include? Don’t think you’re good at writing? Well, this week I talked with Erica Fox from CCBC’s Career Services Center to learn her top tips for cover letter writing. Read on and you’ll be on your way to writing a cover letter that stands out.

1: Always include a cover letter.
The cover letter is also called a letter of interest. Even when a job posting or description doesn’t specifically ask for a cover letter, send one with your resume.

2: Spell-check and grammar-check your writing.
Keep in mind a cover letter is a sample of your writing style. Make sure it is error free and uses proper grammar and format. Often, the cover letter is read before the resume, so it is the first document a potential employer sees.

3: Don’t repeat information from your resume.
A common cover letter mistake is to turn your resume into paragraph form and write statements like “I worked as a Sales Associate for four years, and I was in charge of training new employees.” That type of information is redundant, as an employer can find that information on your resume. A cover letter should be tailored to the job description. Highlight key accomplishments and skills that pertain to the position.

4: Give props.
In the first paragraph, make sure to identify how you found out about the position, whether that was from a job search website, a specific person who told you about the position, or if you found the job on the company’s website.

5: Do your research.
Research the company before writing your cover letter. Know the company’s mission and values so you can describe why you want to work for them. If you are excited at the potential opportunity to work for the company, it is fine to say so.

6: Show by example.
Do not be arrogant, and say in your letter “I think you will find that I will be an asset to your company, and as you can see, my qualifications fit the job description perfectly.” The employer will decide if you will be an asset. Stick to concrete examples of why you think the company will benefit from hiring you.

7: There’s no “I” in cover letter.
Try to avoid excessive use of “I” and “me” and “my” in your language throughout the cover letter. So, instead of saying “I think the educational success I have achieved show that I can balance many tasks at one time.” Say “The educational success achieved at CCBC is partly due to my ability to balance multiple projects, and stay focused and organized.”

8: Give thanks.
In your last paragraph, thank the employer for their time and consideration, and state the best way to reach you. The resume has your email, phone number and address, but the cover letter is the opportunity to let the employer know your preferred method of contact.

Think you’re ready to start writing? Go for it! Then schedule an appointment with a member of our Career Services staff for an expert review and more tips.

BONUS TIP: Get a head start on the competition! Research the companies attending our Job and Career Fair now so you can bring customized cover letters along with your resume.

– Amy McKissic, CCBC Publications Coordinator

amy.mckissic@ccbc.edu

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Resume Writing 101

Every week in March and up until our Job and Career Fair on April 17, I’ll be talking with Erica Fox, Career Services Facilitator/Evening Counselor at CCBC, from CCBC’s Career Center to help prepare you for networking, resume writing, interviewing and more. Check back every Friday for a new post!

Even if you don’t have a lot of experience, creating a resume is still necessary. Read on to learn what you should and shouldn’t include.

 

What are the basics that need to be included on a resume?

  • Heading (name, address, phone number, professional email address that includes your name)
  • Career Objective – This is optional and is only used if it is extremely specific to the job. Do not use general statements like “Seeking a position that will utilize my education and experience.”
  • Summary of Qualifications (optional)
  • Education
  • Related Coursework (optional)
  • Certifications, Clearances, Licenses
  • Experience or Related Experience
  • Activities, Honors
  • Military Service
  • References – Do not include the phrase “References available upon request.” References should be listed on a separate page with the same heading as the resume.

 

Is multiple pages for a resume ok?

Yes, as long as all the information is relevant.  A resume should not be longer than two pages normally.  This depends on education and years of experience.

 

Do you ever recommend using different colored paper or ink to make a resume stand out?

No, a clean, error-free resume with relevant experience and education is what a candidate needs to make their resume stand out.  Personally, I am more conservative with my resume preferences, as are a lot of employers. I would only ever say graphics or color on a resume is ok if the resume is for graphic design or an art related field. Resumes should not include your picture either.

 

What about fonts?

Do not use crazy fonts either. You want a resume to be easy to read, not distracting.  Employers are more interested in the content of the resume, not the display.  Also, some companies use software to screen resumes by scanning them, and using excessive italics, underlining, bold and unusual fonts can make a resume hard to scan.

 

Who should I use as references?

Professional references need to be former or current bosses or supervisors, colleagues, clients, business contacts, and others who can speak to your work ethic and recommend you for employment.

 

Can I include a family member as a reference?

No, do not use immediate family members.  If you need personal or character references, you can use family friends, teachers, professors, academic advisors or coaches.

 

Should I ask someone to be a reference first?

Always.

 

What counts as experience?

This depends on how much work experience you have.  If you have never been employed and you are creating a resume to apply to your first job then you would talk about the work place skills you have learned and include them in your “Skills and Qualifications” section.  Workplace skills include organizational, time management and computer skills as well as reliability and punctuality, an openness to learn and try new things, leadership skills, and professionalism.  Plus, you would hopefully have activities and volunteer experience you can list.

 

Should students include activities, clubs, and internships or would this make them seem inexperienced in the “real world”?

Absolutely include.  That type of experience is extremely valuable and would not make someone seem inexperienced in the “real world.”

(Note: You can read more about the importance of internships, volunteering and continuing to learn in this article by Matthew Tarpey on CareerRookie. You can find more tips via Twitter by following @CareerRookie.)

 

Does too much experience/too many jobs listed on a resume give a negative impression to employers?

Not usually. Having a lot of jobs in a short period of time can give the impression that a person hops from job to job, so a candidate should expect to explain the reasons for leaving one job to start another in the cover letter or interview.  Also, if a candidate has “too much” experience and they are applying to a job they are overqualified for, they would also need to be able to explain their reasoning in the cover letter and/or interview.

 

Do you still have questions? Our Career Services staff can help you create a resume from scratch, update an existing resume, or give you advice on how to improve and use your resume to help you land the job.

 

They also critique resumes via email for job seekers who have an existing resume. Email a copy of your resume to career.services@ccbc.edu.

 

Check back next week for tips and tricks on cover letter writing!

–  Amy McKissic, CCBC Publications Coordinator

amy.mckissic@ccbc.edu

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