Category Archives: Job Search

DARING TO DECLINE: KNOWING WHEN TO SAY NO TO A JOB OFFER

by Samantha McGurgan

Congratulations—you got the offer! This is cause for a celebration! Except…why are you experiencing the sinking feeling of dread? You may feel obligated to accept the offer because you already invested so much time and effort in getting to this point, and starting over takes So. Much. Work. You might be thinking:

Is it ok if I say no? 
Who says no in this economy?
How do I even determine if it’s not right for me?

As someone who has said no to few offers over the years, I understand how uncomfortable and scary it is to say no to a perfectly good offer on paper. And I can also attest to the fact that I have never regretted saying no to job that didn’t feel right, and only have regretted saying yes. Here are a few questions to ponder through this decision-making process:

1.) How does your body feel? Stop analyzing, over-thinking, second-guessing, and Googling for the answer. Check in with your body: what is your gut telling you? Listen to it. Unapologetically. It’s never wrong. It’s normal to have a bit of nerves when facing a new challenge or embarking on new territory. But there’s a difference between distress (unhealthy) and eustress (healthy). Get to know how your body reacts to negative and positive stress by reflecting on the last time you experienced something of each type—how did it feel? How do those two experiences compare?

For me, I feel depleted, tired, and unconsciously withdraw when experiencing distress. I clench my teeth. Deep down I know it’s not right, but I run over it repeatedly in my mind trying to find a way to make it work. My husband says: You just got an offer—why aren’t we celebrating?

Conversely, I feel charged up, energetic, and motivated when faced with the possibility of a new and exciting challenge (aka a job I actually want). I feel inspired. I literally jump for joy after getting the call that I’ve been selected as the top candidate. I feel like everything was worth it after all.

Bottom line: If the offer doesn’t make you feel good, this is a warning sign. It’s worth it to wait for the job that won’t make you want to quit after three months.

2.) Are you running toward the finish line or being chased by wolves? Both of these instances involve quick, forward momentum. The difference lies within the motivation. My first question is always: Do you want the job or are you afraid that it’s your only option?

There are currently more job openings in the United States than people who are unemployed. The culture of scarcity that has been drilled into us since the Great Recession doesn’t reflect the reality of the job market. Given that you are qualified for the role you are seeking, wait for the job that will provide a sustainable opportunity for career growth, rather than accept the first one that comes along (if it’s not truly what you want).

Many of my graduating seniors who are in the midst of their first job plan on accepting a position as a safety net with the intent to keep looking for a better option. I ask them to think deeply about what is lacking in the opportunity, decline the offer, and seek one that is a better fit.

This doesn’t mean don’t accept an entry-level position. This means don’t settle for something okay when you could have something even better if you’d only waited another month or two. Or six. And don’t accept an offer with the intention to bail when something better comes up.

Bottom line: You’re going to find a job. Trust in that. And aim high. Do you really want to go through the interview process any time soon anyway? If you’re already planning to quit before a year or two, decline the offer.

3.) What do you want your life to look like?

If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself lying awake at night asking the Internet for a glimmer of hope or a strategy to make a non-ideal offer work with my life.

Ok Google: Is there a way to spend a two-hour commute that won’t make me angry and hateful?

I’m exaggerating, but the answer is no. For me. Because I have a family, and I know the excitement of a new role would quickly wear off after spending 12 hours each day away from home. Other people I’ve spoken to don’t mind their commute at all because they love their job so much. The question to ponder is, how will this job affect the rest of my life and therefore my happiness? How does this position relate to my ultimate goal? There are going to be sacrifices. Let’s make the sacrifices worthwhile.

Bottom line: The more you know yourself and your goals, the better you can discern if the position is right within the context of your life as a whole.

Samantha McGurgan is a career counselor at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and college success adjunct at Cuesta College. Her greatest moments of joy involve expanding the career horizons of first generation students and supporting military-connected students in their transition to civilian careers. She holds an M.A. in education, with a specialization in counseling and guidance in student affairs from Cal Poly SLO, and a B.S. in human ecology from The Ohio State University.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

How to Sell Yourself at the Career Fair

A career fair is a great place to gather information about potential employers and make contacts that can lead to your first job. Here’s some advice on how to make the most of your time.

5 Things to Take to the Career Fair

  1. Information about the organizations attending. Gather information as you would for a job interview on organizations you’re interested in talking to. To maximize the brief time you have with each employer, you need to know how your skills and interests match their needs. And don’t just concentrate on the “big names.” There are often great opportunities with smaller companies or those with which you are not familiar.
  2. A 30-second “sales pitch.” Share basic information about yourself and your career interests like this: “Hello, I’m Carrie Jones. I’m a senior here at Wonderful University and I’m majoring in English. I’m very interested in a marketing career. As you can see on my resume, I just completed an internship in the Marketing Division of the ABC Company in Peoria. I’ve taken some courses in business marketing. I’m very interested in talking with you about marketing opportunities with your organization.”
  3. Copies of your resume (10 t0 15, depending on the size of the event). Be sure it represents your knowledge, skills, and abilities effectively. It needs to look professional—easy to read format on plain white or cream colored paper—and be free of typos. If you are looking at several career options, you may want to have two or more targeted resumes with different career objectives!
  4. A smile, a strong handshake, and a positive attitude. First impressions are important. Approach an employer, smile, and offer your hand when you introduce yourself.
  5. Energy! Career fairs require you to be on your feet moving from table to table for an hour or so. Each time you meet someone, be at your best!

5 Things Not to Do at the Career Fair

  1. Don’t “wing it” with employers. Do your homework! Research the companies just as you would for an interview. Focus on why you want to work for the organization and what you can do for them.
  2. Don’t cruise the booths with a group of friends. Interact with the recruiters on your own. Make your own positive impression!
  3. Don’t carry your backpack, large purse, or other paraphernalia with you. Carry your resume in a professional-looking portfolio or a small briefcase. It will keep your resume neat and handy, and gives you a place to file business cards of recruiters that you meet. Stow your coat, backpack, or other gear in a coatroom.
  4. Don’t come dressed casually. A career fair is a professional activity—perhaps your first contact with a future employer.
  5. Don’t come during the last half hour of the event. Many employers come a long distance to attend the fair and may need to leave early. If you come late, you may miss the organizations you wanted to contact!

5 Things to Take Home From the Career Fair

  1. Business cards from the recruiters you have met. Use the cards to write follow-up notes to those organizations in which you are most interested.
  2. Notes about contacts you made. Write down important details about particular organizations, including names of people who may not have had business cards. Take a few minutes after you leave each table to jot down these notes!
  3. Information about organizations you have contacted. Most recruiters will have information for you to pick up, including company brochures, computer diskettes or CD’s, position descriptions, and other data. You won’t have time to deal with these at the fair!
  4. A better sense of your career options. If you have used the event correctly, you will have made contact with several organizations that hire people with your skills and interests. In thinking about their needs and your background, evaluate whether each company might be a match for you.
  5. Self-confidence in interacting with employer representatives. A career fair gives you the opportunity to practice your interview skills in a less formidable environment than a formal interview. Use this experience to practice talking about what you have done, what you know, and what your interests are.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Free Online Internship and Job Search Tool

Trying to find an internship?  Looking for a job?  Whether you are near a computer or on the go, a great place to begin your search is by accessing College Central Network (CCN) – NOVA’s online job board system.

The following are some benefits of using the system.

  • Search for jobs and other opportunities posted exclusively to NOVA.  Take a look at many local positions available now.
  • Search for jobs on CCN’s Jobs Central® national job board.  The job board contains over 500,000 opportunities from unique sources.
  • Check out CCN’s Intern Central® national internship board to search for internships.
  • Build a new resume with the Resume Builder feature.
  • Upload your resume and make it searchable to employers.
  • Check out over 1,000 career articles written by industry professionals.
  • View career videos and listen to over 25 career advice podcasts on topics including resume basics,  interviewing, and personal branding.
  • Browse and sign-up for upcoming workshops, programs, and events at NOVA and in the surrounding area.

Don’t delay – follow the steps below to begin using the system.

  1. Access College Central Network
  2. Select Students
  3. Follow on screen instructions

Contact Career and Experiential Learning Services if you are unable to access the system.

What to Do if You Don’t Have a Job at Graduation

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.

Jobs and Internship Database for NOVA Students and Alumni

Yellow road warning sign , New Job Ahead , 3d render

Trying to find an internship?  Looking for a job?  Whether you are near a computer or on the go, a great place to begin your search is by accessing the Jobs and Internships Database for NOVA students and alumni.

The following are some benefits of using the system.

  • Search for jobs and internships.  Take a look at many local positions available now.
  • Build a new resume with the Resume Builder feature.
  • Upload your resume and make it searchable to employers.
  • Check out over 1,000 career articles written by industry professionals.
  • View career videos and listen to over 25 career advice podcasts on topics including resume basics,  interviewing, and personal branding.
  • Browse and sign-up for upcoming workshops, programs, and events at NOVA and in the surrounding area.

Don’t delay – follow the steps below to begin using the system.

  1. Access the Jobs and Internships Database
  2. Select Students or Alumni
  3. Follow on screen instructions

Contact ELI Counselor, Christy Jensen (chjensen@nvcc.edu) if you have any problems accessing the system.

Network For Your Job Search

Networking could be what helps you land a job.

If you take part in social networking sites, you probably have a pretty good idea of how networking can enhance your personal life. But, if you’re like many new college graduates, you’re probably not as comfortable about incorporating networking into your job search.

In spite of your discomfort, you need to incorporate networking into your job search: Especially in a competitive job market, networking could be what helps you land a job. In fact, many jobs are filled before they are even advertised—filled by people who learned about the opportunity before it was formally announced.

What is networking when it comes to the job search? It’s not about using people. Just as you look to build personal relationships through social networks, you want to build relationships to foster your professional life. These relationships can help you not only in your current job search but down the road as you build your career.

Networking is not one-sided: It works both ways. You offer assistance to others just as they offer assistance to you. Perhaps the easiest way to think about networking is to see it as an extension of being friendly, outgoing, and active.

Here are some tips for building and maintaining a healthy network:

  1. Make a list of everyone you know—and people they know—and identify how they could help you gather career information or experience.
    Who do you know at school? Professors, friends, and even friends’ parents can all be helpful contacts. Did you hold a part-time job? Volunteer? Serve an internship? Think about the people you came into contact with there.
  2. Sign up for an alumni mentoring program.
    Many colleges offer such programs, and they are a great way to build relationships in your field.
  3. Join the campus chapter of a professional society that relates to your career choice.
    In many ways, a professional society is an instant network: You’ll be with others who have the same general career interest. Plus, you may be able to learn more about your field from them. For example, you may be able to learn about the field and potential employers from others who share their internship experiences.
  4. Volunteer at a local museum, theater, homeless shelter—anywhere that even remotely relates to your field of study.
    By volunteering, you’ll not only learn about your chosen field firsthand, you’ll also be able to connect with people who are in the field.
  5. Speak to company representatives at career fairs, even if you’re not ready to look for a job.
    Be up front that you’re not currently in the job market and don’t take a lot of the representative’s time, but touching base with a potential employer now can help you down the road when you are ready.
  6. Attend company information sessions at your college and talk one-on-one to the recruiters who run them.
  7. Schedule informational interviews with people who can tell you about their careers.
    It’s best to ask to meet in person or by phone for a short interview, and don’t immediately start asking “How can you help me?” Plan your questions ahead of time, focusing on how the company works and how the person shaped his or her career path.
  8. Add your profile to LinkedIn.
    It’s free. And then, work your profile. Add work history (including internships!), skills, and keywords. Make connections to people you’ve worked with or met through networking. Ask for “recommendations” from people who have worked with you. You’ll find LinkedIn is a good source of suggestions for people in your field to contact for informational interviews.
  9. Remember to be courteous and tactful in all your conversations, to send thank-you notes to people who help you, and to find ways to help others as well.
    Don’t drop your network once you’ve gotten a job. Nurture the relationships you’ve built and look for opportunities to build new connections throughout your career. Getting started might be uncomfortable, but with time and practice, networking will be second nature.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Jobs and Internships Database for NOVA Students

Trying to find an internship?  Looking for a job?  Whether you are near a computer or on the go, a great place to begin your search is by accessing the Jobs and Internships Database for NOVA Students. 

The following are some benefits of using the system.

  • Search for jobs and internships.  Take a look at many local positions available now.
  • Build a new resume with the Resume Builder feature.
  • Upload your resume and make it searchable to employers.
  • Check out over 1,000 career articles written by industry professionals.
  • View career videos and listen to over 25 career advice podcasts on topics including resume basics,  interviewing, and personal branding.
  • Browse and sign-up for upcoming workshops, programs, and events at NOVA and in the surrounding area.

Don’t delay – follow the steps below to begin using the system.

  1. Access the Jobs and Internships Database
  2. Select Students
  3. Follow on screen instructions

Contact ELI Counselor, Christy Jensen (chjensen@nvcc.edu) if you have any problems accessing the system.

Tips From Employers That Are Hiring

The best job-search advice comes from the employers that are hiring. If you take the time to follow this advice, you’ll be better prepared than your competition for your application and interview.

Here are some things you can do to aid in your job-search success:

Research the Company

  • What products or services does the company produce and sell?
  • Where is it located?
  • How well did the company do last year?
  • What activities by this company have been in the news lately?

Learn something about the company with which you want to interview. Read its website and its annual report. Search for news stories mentioning the company. Use this information to customize your resume and cover letter for the position you want. Impress the interviewer by knowing something about the company.

Perfect Your Qualifications

A high GPA is important. It means you know the subject matter. However, employers are looking for people with “soft skills,” too—skills you can learn through extracurricular activities such as leading a team, taking part in a group task, or organizing a volunteer project. Employers want to find communication skills, a strong work ethic, teamwork skills, initiative, the ability to relate to co-workers and customers, problem solving skills, and analytical skills.

Get Experience

Year after year, the majority of employers taking part in a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) say they prefer to hire job candidates who have pertinent experience. For college students, typically, relevant experience is gained through an internship.

In fact, an internship can be the “foot in the door” to a job with many employers: NACE surveys show that newly hired employees often come from the organization’s own internship program.

Build a Network

Whether you get the job you want—or even hear about the job opportunity you want—could easily depend on who you know.

Here’s where you will find people to build your professional network:

  • Business and professional social networking sites
  • Professional associations (online and in person)
  • Career fairs
  • Company information sessions
  • Your school’s alumni network
  • An internship or co-op program
  • A student professional organization
  • Faculty contacts
  • Employee referrals
  • Parents of friends who work in your field

Apply Online

Few employers want a paper copy of your resume in the mail. Many employers want to receive resumes and job applications through their websites.

Here are tips to keep your resume from getting lost in a company’s database of applicants:

  • Load your resume with keywords: Add job titles and specific skills—especially those that are specific to your field.
  • Use jargon and phrases specific to your field.
  • List the names of companies you’ve worked for or interned with: recruiters may look for their competitors’ names.
  • Post your resume on professional niche websites.

Make Career Services Your BFF

What is it worth to have someone who is in daily contact with potential employers show you how to write a winning cover letter, critique your resume, practice interviewing with you, connect you with people who are working in your field, and give you access to thousands of job opportunities?

Find the career center on your university or college campus today. Employers use this resource to find new hires, so shouldn’t you be there?

Say Thank You

Stand out among candidates. Send a thank-you note to each recruiter you meet at a career fair; to the employer who practices a mock interview with you; to a hiring manager who spends a few minutes interviewing you for a job; to anyone who serves as a job reference.

  • Keep your message short and confirm your interest. “Thank you for the opportunity to discuss [name of the position] at XYZ Company.”
  • Spell the recruiter’s name and title correctly.
  • Send your message immediately.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Free Online Internship & Job Search Tool for NOVA Students

Trying to find an internship?  Looking for a job?  Whether you are near a computer or on the go, a great place to begin your search is by accessing College Central Network (CCN) – NOVA’s online job board system.

The following are some benefits of using the system.

  • Search for jobs and other opportunities posted exclusively to NOVA.  Take a look at many local positions available now.
  • Search for jobs on CCN’s Jobs Central® national job board.  The job board contains over 500,000 opportunities from unique sources.
  • Check out CCN’s Intern Central® national internship board to search for internships.
  • Build a new resume with the Resume Builder feature.
  • Upload your resume and make it searchable to employers.
  • Check out over 1,000 career articles written by industry professionals.
  • View career videos and listen to over 25 career advice podcasts on topics including resume basics,  interviewing, and personal branding.
  • Browse and sign-up for upcoming workshops, programs, and events at NOVA and in the surrounding area.

Don’t delay – follow the steps below to begin using the system.

  1. Access College Central Network
  2. Select Students
  3. Follow on screen instructions

Contact Career and Experiential Learning Services if you are unable to access the system.

10 Tips for Top-Notch References

“References available upon request” is a statement that can make or break your job offer. Here are 10 tips for assembling a successful reference list.

  1. Ask, don’t assume. Ask your references for permission to use their names. Confirm the following:
    • Do the people you include as references actually want to give you a reference?
    • Does their schedule permit time to discuss your qualifications?
    • Most importantly, what kind of reference will they be? When it comes to references, neutral is the same as negative, so ask your contacts to be honest: Can the people you ask give you a positive recommendation?
  2. Let the professionals do the job. Potential supervisors are not interested in hearing friends or relatives talk about how nice you are. They want confirmation for their main objective: Are you going to deliver the duties of the job? Good reference sources include previous supervisors, co-workers, professors, or advisers. Think outside the box: If you voluntarily coordinated an organization’s fund-raising effort, the organization’s supervisor could be a great reference. It doesn’t matter that you weren’t paid.
  3. Avoid name dropping. A reference’s name or job title is insignificant compared to the information he or she will provide regarding your strengths and weaknesses. CEO may be a loftier title than supervisor; however, who can better attest to your abilities on a daily basis?
  4. Provide references with the appropriate tools. Give each reference a copy of your resume, so he or she has a complete picture of your background. Provide a description of the job to which you are applying. Knowing the duties and responsibilities ahead of time will prepare references for questions they may be asked and help them relate your experience to the potential job.
  5. Alert references to potential phone calls. Contact your references and tell them to anticipate a phone call or e-mail. Tell them the name of the company, and the position for which you interviewed. If you know the name of the person who will check your references, offer that information, too.
  6. Keep your references informed. Were you offered the job? If so, did you accept? When will you start?
  7. Thank your references. When you accept a job offer, take the time to write each of your references a thank-you note. They have played a valuable part in your receiving an offer.
  8. Keep in touch. Don’t end contact with your references. Send an e-mail, call or meet them for lunch on occasion. You never know when if and when you may need to call upon them to be references in the future.
  9. Update your list. Just like resumes become outdated, so do reference lists. As your career builds, keep your reference list up-to-date.
  10. Return the favor. Your references may have been the deciding factor in your job offer. When you are asked to be a reference, say yes.

Article written by Kelli Robinson.  Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.