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Career Tips

On this page, you'll find helpful suggestions to create a more positive job search experience.

You’ve just finished an exciting graduation ceremony and are eager to take your shiny, new—hard-earned—degree into the workplace to begin a sterling career. Fast forward a few months as you’re staring at your computer e-mail screen or telephone wondering why none of your outstanding cover letters and CVs has generated not even one positive response from prospective employers. New graduates should understand some less-than-encouraging realities of the post-recession business, education, health care, research, and IT world. Many employers, are, as a group, disappointed with recent new graduate hires. They are not displeased with the candidates but with their useful knowledge level. These employers do not find fault with the graduates, but do find their educational training, which lacks the skills necessary for the immediate contribution employers desire.

So what should you do:

  1. Find internships that offer the real world experience you lack.
  2. Identify your target industry(s) and learn what skills employers want. Use the Internet to better target the industry you prefer, and learn of the specific skills they want for new, inexperienced hires.
  3. Consider accepting entry level jobs at levels lower than you originally desired to gain some useful experience and understanding of the skills wanted by your chosen industry. and
  4. Do your homework. Learn what skills your desired career path demands of those succeeding in your field. Homework and professional improvement never ends!

Instead of viewing social media, except for its tantalizing marketing opportunities, as a troubling development, many businesses now employ these sites as screening tools. While the final legality of using social media for staff monitoring or pre-employment screening has yet to be determined, thousands of employers, large and small, are taking advantage of the features.

Pre-employment background checks. Thousands of employers now use social networking sites to conduct “unofficial” background and character evaluations of potential employees. While LinkedIn is the most popular “professional” networking site for employees and entrepreneurs, employers also visit much more “casual” Facebook and MySpace pages, as well. Workers seeking new employment are wise to monitor their entries on these sites.

For example, you may create a highly professional LinkedIn career-oriented site, impressing potential employers and peers alike. However, if your Facebook page contains photos of beach beer parties and you dancing on bar tables, you will lose all the goodwill and respect you created on LinkedIn. Once you are beyond high school or college age, you should remember that social media sites are available to all—even current and potential future employers.

~Kelly Services Career Tips

Career Fair success lies in effective preparation, and communication. Make sure to research the employers you want to visit: learn about them, the positions they're looking to fill, and what type of candidates they're looking for.

Tip: Arrive with a positive attitude- Have your 30 second commercial ready

Tip: Bring at least 20 copies of your resume.-
Fact: Employers only look at resumes an average of 10 seconds. Make sure you’re leaving employers with the impression - Hire Me!

Tip: Do your research- The more you know about a company, the more you can converse with the company representative and the more memorable you will be.

Tip: Get the interviewer's business card- If you are called for an interview, you will want to follow up with a letter that reinforces the points you made and the facts you learned.

Tip: Maximize, Maximize, Maximize- The lines might be daunting but don't fail to maximize this opportunity. Talk to every company that fits your experience and ambitions. If you meet with 20 recruiters, at the end of the day you will know 20 people by name. That sure beats sending a blind resume to "Personnel Director."

Tip: Plan a few key questions- Be ready to ask intelligent questions like asking how your skills might be utilized within the framework of the company and by asking questions about relevant news within that organization. Make sure to ask the recruiter what he or she likes best about the corporate culture to better assess if that company is right for you.

Tip: Wear Proper Business Attire- First impressions count!

Your career network will include most people in your regular, professional network and some additional contacts. The key is to create your career network before you need it. If you wait until you start a job search, you’ll lose valuable time establishing an active career network. Who Should Be In Your Career Network? The short answer: Anyone and everyone who could help you with your job search. Peers, friends, fellow alumni. Your career network often offers more than just leads on job opportunities. Many of your personal networkers might have inside information that gives you an edge with the employer and their interviewers. Knowing information not available to other candidates may give that little something extra to stand out from your competition.

Online career networking sites can also put you in contact with other networkers and managers at employers in your area. Since you don’t know these networkers, be sure you tell them you’re looking for new employment opportunities and clearly explain the type of job you seek. Do not contact network members only after you’ve been downsized or decided to launch a job search. Stay in contact with your career network regularly. However sophisticated and high-tech your network or your efforts, always remember people enjoy dealing with people they know—personally. The “old school” technique of actually meeting others in person remains important. Attend as many local networking events as your schedule permits.

Spend quality time cultivating your personal and professional network. Just as the best employment firms learn about good openings before the general public, employees of companies can learn about excellent new job opportunities before any official and time-consuming search gets underway. Remember, most companies will proceed slowly and carefully until management is thoroughly convinced that a recovery has taken hold. Once you learn of a new opportunity from your network, be proactive and get to work. Call to setup informational interviews. Do your research and contact the company and market yourself as the best choice before prospective employers are overwhelmed with resumes from equally- or lesser-qualified candidates.

While there are ways to "disguise" employment gaps, it is not a good idea to deceptively hide these periods of joblessness. Employment continuity is important, but hiding or falsely claiming employ dates is easily discovered.You need not emphasize these gaps, however. For example, if you went some months without a job, simply list the years with an employer, without noting the exact start and stop dates. If you left one job in March and didn't find another until September of the same year, just note the end date of one and the start date of another by stating the year. No obvious gap will appear and upon verification your dates will be confirmed.

Since you cannot "explain" obvious employment gaps in resumes, your first step is to minimize these events to get an invitation for an interview. However, you will need a well-constructed explanation at this treasured interview.

If you were laid off or downsized, let the interviewer know. Plan to expand, in a positive manner, on the simple fact of the act. If you were laid off or terminated for non-performance-based reasons, e.g., recession-generated lay off, design an answer that reassures interviewers.

While there is no "one size fits all" statement, you can indicate that the down economy lay offs were wide spread, with no upturn in sight at that time. Therefore, you took some time to reflect, refocus and consider new career (employer, position, etc.) directions.

Psychologists have only recently uncovered, named, identified and classified this issue as an interview killer. A job candidate is the "presenter." The "paradox" is the candidate's willingness to offer presumed beneficial, helpful information that the interviewer judges as justifiable reasons to eliminate a candidate for an open position.The insidious effect of presenter's paradox is so pervasive because it makes sense and natural. The best way to avoid this terminal error, according to PhD. Halvorson, is to focus on the big picture. Eyes on the prize. Understand what the interviewer wants: To add value to the employer.Think of your qualifications as a complete package. Just as there is no perfect product, there is no perfect candidate. You must not risk introducing any perceived negative or irrelevant qualifications to keep your "suitability average" at its peak.

~Kelly Services

First, understand the focus of a job interviewer. They want to learn as much about your skills as they do about your personality and potential "fit" for their company. They are not the "evil empire" or people wanting to do you psychological harm. They want to recommend you for or eliminate you from consideration for the available job.

Help them out. By helping them, you're helping yourself stand out from the competition for the job you want. Interviewers typically have a menu of questions they must ask to get the information they need. However, as Ford R. Myers, writing for Job, points out, there are some questions you should ask to improve your knowledge and perception as the candidate they want.

What can you tell me about the job duties and responsibilities?

Where do you foresee this position going in the next five years?

How can I become a valuable contributor to the company?

Asking intelligent questions at an interview establishes you as a well-prepared, interested, sincere, and articulate candidate.

When an employer requests a salary history, many job seekers find themselves at a loss. You don't want to price yourself out of a job, but you don't want the employer to offer less than the going rate for the position.

So what's the right answer?

  • Don't include salary history on your resume.
  • Handle the request at the end of your cover letter. First, highlight your skills, experience, and interest in the position-information that is far more important to your consideration as a candidate.
  • Respond to the question positively without giving a specific amount. (Example: "I'm earning in the mid-30s.")
  • Say "salary is negotiable."
  • If you know the market value for the position and for someone with your skills and background, give a $3,000-$5,000 range. (Use the free NACE Salary Calculator to find an appropriate range.)
  • Be prepared to respond to this question in an interview. Carry a list of your positions in reverse chronological order, including the name of the company, your title, a synopsis of your duties, and, lastly, a general compensation amount (e.g. mid-30s).
  • Don't lie about your salary history. Employers may verify salary history through reference checks.

Salary requests are difficult for all job searchers to handle, not just new college grads. The key is to shift the focus, politely but firmly, from what you made in the past to competitive compensation for the position you want.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder,

Keep going! Be persistent in your job search. Get up every day as if you're going to work, and spend time identifying and researching employers. Contact employers and schedule appointments. Make your job search your job!

Register. Sign up on job-search engines. Stay current and active on business networks like LinkedIn or social media sites like Facebook where you can find company profiles.

Work your network. Contact alumni in your field. Remind your contacts that you're still looking for a job. Make new contacts by joining professional groups in your area.

Call on the career center. Even though you've graduated, your college's career center is ready to help. Use all the online resources the career center offers.

Take a temp job. Temporary work will give you a way to pay your bills, and will help build the skills and experience that employers want. Plus, temp work will give you more contacts for your network, and may lead to a full-time job. Some organizations use temp positions as a stepping stone into full-time employment.

Get your foot in the door. Some employers offer internships to recent graduates. You may find part-time positions at a company for which you want to work. This could be effective, especially in an organization that hires from within. If you do a great job, you become an excellent candidate for a full-time position.

Look for ways to build new skills. Volunteer opportunities, like temp work, will open your network to new people and new opportunities. It can also help you develop new skills that will make you a more appealing job candidate.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.

Believe it or not, most job interview questions fall within three basic categories. With that in mind, it’s a better use of your time to prepare to address these basic categories of questions. While they may not be the only questions you will be asked, if you focus on developing a career story for the three question categories discussed below, you'll be ready to answer just about anything.


1. Your Work History


Typical questions:


  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Tell me about your work history.
  3. What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
  4. What's the biggest mistake you made in your career and what did you learn from it?
  5. Why do you have an employment gap?

The Story: What you did to prepare for this job and what you’ll do once you’re hired.

When a recruiter asks you about work experience, they are not interested in your biography. They want to know what you've accomplished as a professional and how your past experiences have prepared you for the job you are interviewing for. So show recruiters your past developments, successes, and failures. You want to offer an engaging account of your career development, the more honest the better. Describe how you've prepared to help that company fulfill its goals.


I spent time interning at McGuirk Marketing Consultants, there I worked under Bill Davies developing social media strategy. Our initial Facebook initiative brought in over 100K in revenue. I used my experience at McGuirk Consultants to land a position with Madison Games, a app developer, who I developed and launched their entire social media presence. My efforts at Madison not only increased downloads of apps via social media promotions, but also built up an extensive social community. I plan to bring these experiences to your firm, ultimately to develop a social media presence that brings awareness to your products, refer new customers to your product, and build a loyal base of followers.

2. Your Skills

Typical questions:

  1. What experience do have doing X (a specific skill mentioned in job post)?
  2. What is your biggest weakness?
  3. What is your biggest strength?
  4. Tell me about a problem you had in a previous job and how you solved it.
  5. What issues do you see facing this position?

The StoryWhat skills do have and how you have developed them.

A recruiter will ask you a number of questions related to your skills. Here there may be a temptation to talk about yourself. This is wrong approach. Instead, discuss your skills as they relate to the job you are applying to. Questions related to your work history and skills are meant to give the recruiter an idea of how you respond to adversity, how well you know your limits, and if you're an honest person.

You will also probably run into some personal questions related to your skills. Use these questions to show how you fit with a company and how you identify yourself. If questions about your hobbies provide you a way to discuss further development of your skills that are applicable to the job, you should use this time to highlight that.

Again, crafting a story about your skills will help you prepare for skill related questions.


I developed my writing abilities in college through my liberal arts degree. I further honed this skill with time spent freelancing and interning with various media outlets. During that same time I also spent time working close to social media. This included volunteering as a social media community manager for a local non-profit. From that time I have taken new job opportunities that have allowed to develop my skills related to social media and writing. Realizing I lacked a breadth of multimedia skills I also took it upon to myself to learn the Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut Pro, Pro Tools, and digital photography.

These skills have enabled me to deliver a number of different types of content across social media channels for my previous employers. I’ve produced video content when an outside vendor couldn’t in time and created all image-based content when the market budget didn’t allow much for expenses.

When I’m not working I manage a forum and am a regular contributing blogger with a number of websites.

3. Our Company and Your Possible Fit Here

Typical questions:

  1. Why are you interested in a job at our company?
  2. How did you find out about our company?
  3. What can you tell me about our company?
  4. Why should we hire you?

The StoryWhat will you do for our company in this position.

The last grouping of questions relates to the company itself. These questions represent the recruiter's best attempt to determine how strong a fit your are for the company. To prepare for these questions establish a strong knowledge of the company, the position, job responsibilities and functions, the company’s industry and direction.

Developing a story works here as well. First, learn everything you can about the specific offerings of the company. From there establish how the position you are interviewing for fits into that offering. Then think about how you can use that position to improve the company’s offerings. The more specific you can be about the relationship between the company’s business, your position, and how you could leverage that position to benefit the company, the more you'll seem the right person for the job.


With my previous work experience I have had the opportunity to develop skills that will help me execute a social media strategy that will bring your organization a new revenue source and greatly increase the size of your fan base in the mobile gaming community.

To this end I am looking for a position that will not only enable me to build out the social media component of your already successful mobile gaming business. I feel that your company’s environment that fosters creativity and acknowledges success is the perfect environment to execute this

So you see the job interview can be broken into three main questions 1) What have you done? 2) What skills do you have? and 3) How will you contribute to our company? Prepare stories for all three, and you’ll be ready for the interview

Read more on the Simply Hired Blog

Your resume might be the first impression you will make on potential employers, and it might be the most important.  With the average job post receiving over 50 applications, employers might not spend more than 10 seconds looking at your resume. One yardstick they focus on is your GPA. It's considered as “a heuristic for intellectual horsepower, commitment to excellence and work ethic.”  
So when should you leave your GPA out? Do it when it's definitely not a bright spot. If it’s borderline, then include it because the negative assumption might be worse than the reality. However, make sure to over-emphasize the things that make you shine: your relevant experience, skills and recommendations.

Internships are arguably one of the most important to-dos for students. Right from your first day, you are working tirelessly to secure one in a top company. But landing that internship doesn’t always guarantee you a long-term future at the company. Here are 3 tips to help you turn your internship into a full-time offer:
Be eager, and work with everyone. This may sound obvious, but don’t limit yourself to working with just one Associate or VP. Work with everyone.
Be quantitative. Many people struggle with quantitative skills during the internship. Make sure you familiarize yourself with some quantitative work as much as possible.
Have coffee chats. Go to the coffee room, have conversations with people on your team and those on other teams. Be a sponge there and suck up as much knowledge and build up  as many relationships as possible.

Today's tip is based on an excerpt from "Turning Your Finance Internship into a Full-Time Offer" from the Evisors blog.

Meeting and talking to people in the industry or company you want to work for is a great way to get your foot in the door. More than 50% of all jobs filled in the US in 2012 were from referrals of current employees. So how do you get better at networking?
Be interesting. Other people will want to talk to you when they think they can learn a few things by doing so. Meeting people can do nothing for you if you yourself have nothing to offer.
Collect more business cards than you hand out. Put the ball in your court, collect their information and be the one to contact them. You need their help breaking into the industry, not necessarily the other way around.
Join clubs. Find clubs for people in your industry, be active and meet as many people as possible. You’ll have a much better chance of building a relationship that could lead to a job.

Today's tip is based on an excerpt from "7 Ways to Network Effectively" from the Evisors blog.

Companies don’t want to see generic resumes and cover letters. Show the employer that you have researched the organization, and it differentiates you from other candidates who gave generic resumes and cover letters. Custom resumes also show employers that you’re interested in the position. In addition, pay attention to details such as the format and font. If you’re faxing your resume make sure the font is 12 pt. to ensure it is legible and clear once received.

#1 - Externships are shorter than internships - Internships are longer in duration and can last anywhere from 2-3 months, a semester, and in some cases an entire year. Externships, on the other hand, are for a considerably shorter length of time - sometimes just a few weeks.

#2 - Externships are more observational - Students serving as interns will be given meaningful projects, be assigned responsibilities, and work deadlines and expectations. Externships, however, are generally considered job shadowing opportunities. Students are typically just observing, exploring and asking questions.

#3 - Externships can lead to internships - A student participating in an externship can possibly be hired for an internship within the same company. So externship students should approach this job-shadowing opportunity with the same amount of professionalism, and commitment they would demonstrate with an internship.

Both internships and externships are great opportunities for students to gain valuable exposure into their chosen profession, and both offer benefits that can help students make good career choices. In summary, an externship can lead to an internship, and an internship can lead to a job.

After weeks of submitting your résumé, going to interviews, and talking to employers, you’re in the fortunate position to have two job offers on the table. With comparable salaries and job descriptions, how do you know which one to choose?

Are the offers bona fide?  Before assuming you have a choice to make, ensure you have both job offers in writing

How do the financial rewards compare? One of the prime considerations when considering a job offer is salary. But, you should also evaluate bonuses, perks, and benefits.

Does one position appeal more to you than the other? Pinpoint the differences, and assess which job is more in line with your preferences.

What are the opportunities for advancement like?Find out what a typical career path for a new hire looks like at each company, and inquire about career management, as well as training and development opportunities.


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