Tag Archives: career development

Benefits Count

As you look for your first job, you’re probably not thinking about becoming ill, retiring, or looking for tax breaks. However, you should consider benefits to be an important part of your compensation package. According to the most recent survey of new college graduates, the top benefits desired by new hires include medical insurance and such “core” financial benefits as salary increases, tuition reimbursement, and a 401 (k) company match. Benefits that deliver more immediate satisfaction, such as family-friendly benefits, more than two weeks of vacation, and flextime are increasingly important. A good benefits package can add as much as 30 percent to your overall compensation and may make a huge difference in your work/life quality! Here is information about some commonly offered benefits:

Health insurance

This is an important benefit for three financial reasons:

  1. Even if you have to pay for all or part of the coverage, it’s cheaper to get insurance through an employer at group rates than to purchase it on your own.
  2. Health insurance is comparable to nontaxable income—providing health insurance could cost your employer upwards of $4,000 per year per employee—and you don’t pay tax on it. If you were to purchase health insurance, it might take more than $5,000 per year out of your pocket—after taxes.
  3. The third advantage, of course, is, if you get sick or have a surfing (or horseback riding or bungee-jumping) accident, your medical treatment is paid for (in part or in full, depending on your policy).

Annual salary increases

More money? Of course that’s a good thing. In recent years, some employers have frozen salaries—not given any raises—or given minimal, 1.4 percent raises. According to Aon Hewitt’s annual U.S. Salary Increase Survey, average salary increases over the past couple of years ranged up to about 4 percent. If you earn $44,500, a 4 percent raise will increase your income by $1,777.

Tuition Reimbursement

One way to get ahead in your career is to continue learning—keep up with the latest trends in your profession. In this case, your employer pays all or a portion of your tuition costs for classes related to the business of the company. In some cases, employers reimburse for nonbusiness-related classes and for supplies such as books.

401(k) plan

A 401(k) is a retirement plan that allows you to put a percentage of your gross (pre-tax) income into a trust fund or other qualified investment fund. In many cases, employers will match your contribution up to a certain percentage—this is “free” money that can add to your overall compensation package. Why is this important to you since retirement is still 30 or 40 years away? According to The Motley Fool, a multimedia financial-services company, someone saving $5,000 a year beginning at age 25 will have $787,176 at age 65 (assuming an 11 percent annual return on savings). Waiting until age 35 cuts your investment earnings in half, to a total of $364,615. Wait until age 45 to start your retirement fund and you’ll have only $168,887—not much to live on in retirement. Typically, you can direct your contributions and the matching funds into investments offered through your employer. And your 401(k) is portable—you can take it with you if you change jobs.

Flex spending account

Also known as flexible benefits and Section 125 plans, these plans let you put aside money (via a deduction from each pay) before taxes to cover various types of costs such as payment of health insurance and life insurance premiums, and vision care, dental care, or child- or dependent-care costs. By using money held out before taxes, you’ll spend pre-tax dollars on necessities and you’ll show less earned income on your federal tax return—so you will pay a lower percentage of your income in taxes.

Family-friendly benefits

Do you have to have a family to collect these benefits? Absolutely not! Family-friendly benefits can mean a lot of things.

  • Flextime allows you to vary your workday start and stop times, within limits.
  • Paid time off (PTO) deposits your paid-time off (e.g., vacation, holiday, sick, and personal days) into one bank from which you withdraw days, which you allocate as you wish. This means you could wind up with more than two weeks of vacation.
  • Telecommuting allows you to work from home or at an alternative work site for part of the week, checking in with the main office via telephone and computer. Some employers provide the office equipment for home use; in other cases, you cover the costs associated with telecommuting.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

What Interviewers Want to Know

During an interview, potential employers want to gather information to gauge whether you, the position, and the organization are a good fit.

Here are some generic questions—and examples of specific questions—an employer may ask in an interview. Use these as a guide to your preparation.

Generic Questions Specific Examples
What do you know about the organization?
  • What do you think a typical day is like here?
  • What sparked your interest in [this organization]?
  • Do you have any suggestions for how we can make our organization better?
  • What made you decide to apply for this job?
What do I need to know about your personal traits or characteristics?
  • What is your strongest attribute?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • What personality traits make you suitable for this position?
  • If someone said one word to describe you, what would that word be?
How do you work with others?
  • Would you rather be micro- or macro-managed?
  • Tell us about your best and worst boss.
  • What is your ideal work environment? That is, what type of boss/co-workers would you like to work with?
What skills do you have relevant to this position?
  • What work experience have you had that is relevant to this position?
  • Tell us about any specialized training or certifications you have.
  • What skills do you think you need to add to your repertoire?
  • How will you get those skills? I know about your college and work background, but what else have you done that would aid us if we were to hire you for this position?
What are your personal goals?
  • Why do you want us to hire you?
  • What is your dream job? How would this position help you get there?
  • What is your seven-year career plan?
  • Do you have plans for graduate school?
How much do you know about your specialized area?
  • What are your strongest points with [two specific skills that the job requires]?
  • What are the most important traits of a person in your field?
How have you handled specific situations? (Behavioral questions)
  • Can you tell me about a time when you effected a change?
  • Give me an example of a situation that didn’t work out well.
  • What have you done that you are most proud of?
  • Tell us about a time when you took a unique approach to solving a problem.

Adapted from “The Job Interview,” an article by Susan M. Katz in the NACE Journal.
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Interview Etiquette

First impressions do count. Your resume earned you a job interview. Now, business etiquette will add some polish to your presentation.

Etiquette—good manners—is based on the idea that certain social behaviors put people at ease and make interaction pleasant. Here are seven rules for interview etiquette:

  1. Be on time.
    Or arrive 5 minutes early. Being late says you’re disorganized and not very good at time management. Drive the route to the organization the day before your interview so that you know exactly how long the commute will take.
  2. Turn off your cell phone.
    And leave it in your car. You don’t want to be distracted as you offer your expertise to an employer, and an employer doesn’t need to know your ringtone sounds like Beethoven’s Symphony #5.
  3. Respect those already employed.
    It doesn’t matter whether you’re interviewing to be an entry-level employee or the next CEO of an organization. Be polite to everyone you meet, including the receptionist. You never know who may be asked, “So, what did you think of this candidate?”
  4. Dress like you mean it.
    Dress in business attire, even if you’re interviewing in a business-casual office. Suits for men; suits or dresses for women. Go easy on the aftershave or perfume—better yet, don’t wear fragrance at all just in case someone you are about to meet has allergies. Go light on the jewelry—earrings, a watch, and nothing else. No T-shirts, tank tops, or flip flops.
  5. Be handy with your handshake.
    Hand out. Clasp the extended hand firmly, but gently. Pump once. Release.

    A flimsy handshake feels like dead fish and is unimpressive. A bone-crunching grasp may crush your potential boss’ tennis swing and your chance of getting a job.

    Practice ahead of time with a friend.

  6. Have a presence.
    Speak well, make eye contact, sit up straight.

    Use your interviewer’s name (in moderation), enough to show you’re awake and attentive, but not so much as to annoy the hiring manager. Looking the hiring manager in the eye as you talk shows you’re confident and engaged in the conversation. Don’t stare—that’s rude and creepy. Sit up straight. Slouching or sliding down in the chair makes you look tired, and no one wants to hire someone who is tired before they’ve started the job.

  7. Say thank you. Twice.
    The first thank you—at the end of the interview, the last few seconds before you leave the office (and while you’re shaking hands for the second time)—may come naturally. “Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you,” shows you appreciate that someone has taken the time to talk to you and consider you for the job.

    Say thank you by e-mail to each person who interviewed you immediately after you get back to your home. Spell everyone’s name correctly and use their correct titles (find the information on the organization’s website).

    A thank-you note does several things:

    • It says you appreciated the time your potential boss spent with you.
    • It suggests you’ll follow up on important things (like the boss’ business).
    • It’s a great time to reiterate (very briefly) how your qualifications are a good match and how interested you are in getting the job.

Good luck with the interview!

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Four Steps to Career Fair Networking

Career Fair Prep

  • Perfect your resume.
  • Get your professional dress ready (typically business casual or business dress).
  • Practice introducing yourself.
  • Find out which employers are attending.
  • Research the employers you want to meet with.
  • Prepare specific and general questions.

What to Bring

  • Business cards
  • Padfolio, notepaper, and pen
  • 10-15 resumes (depending on fair size)

During the Fair

  • Walk around to meet employers alone—you might have friends at the fair who you check in with, but don’t travel as a posse.
  • Limit your give-away item collecting.
  • Introduce yourself with a smile, a handshake (if recruiter offers a hand), and a few relevant details about yourself, your education/experience, and/or interest in the employer.
  • Speak slowly and confidently.
  • Be strategic—talk to your top three employers first, others if you have time.
  • Take quick breaks between rounds of visits to freshen up and take a breather.
  • Don’t dominate recruiters, be mindful of other students waiting in line.
  • Ask about opportunities and next steps if there are specific openings.
  • Wait for cues from recruiter regarding resumes—some will be collecting them, others might direct you to follow up by e-mail, or apply online.
  • Get the appropriate contact information and/or ask for a business card.
  • Thank recruiters after speaking with them.
  • Take notes as soon as you walk away from a table.

After the Fair

  • Take a few minutes immediately after fair to sort through your notes and make a list of follow-up items.
  • Follow up and thank recruiters of particular interest. (You don’t have to follow up with everyone.)
  • Follow up with online applications, or by sending a resume and cover letter to the appropriate contact.
  • Reach out via e-mail or by telephone to reps who were not at fair, but who work with your level of education/field.
  • Set up informational interviews with individuals at companies/organizations of particular interest to you, and with alumni in these organizations.
  • Check in with your career office with specific questions.

Article written by Kathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Are Your Career Plans in FOCUS?

As you plan your schedule for your next term/semester, prepare to transfer, or get ready to begin a new job take a moment to focus on your career development.  Are you attending NOVA to pursue a certificate or degree, but unsure about what career options might be available to you? Have you decided on a major, but have difficulty answering the question – “What can I do with a major in _____? Do you need to fine tune your skills or add to your skill set in preparation for a career change? Learn more about career options by utilizing FOCUS 2, an online interactive self-guided career and education planning system that can help you:

  • Select a program/major based on your interests and aspirations
  •  Discover occupations matching your personal preferences and attributes
  • Map out your career plans, present and future
  • Make informed career decisions

FOCUS 2 is free for NOVA students.   Learn more about and access the system at NOVA’s Career Services website.

Register to participate in the Focus on Your Career Planning webinar scheduled for this Thursday,  April 6, from 12:15 pm – 1:00 pm.  This 45 minute webinar will introduce students to FOCUS 2 and provide an overview of the career planning process.

Need some help?  Have a question?  Contact Christy Jensen, ELI Career Counselor, at chjensen@nvcc.edu.

Locating and Applying for Internships

An internship allows you to test your career objectives, helps you identify your talents, and directs you toward an appropriate career, while helping you acquire essential practical and professional skills you need in the business world. It also lets you see how well you fit into a specific company’s culture. But finding an internship takes some preparation. Before setting out to find an internship, ask yourself these questions:

  • Where do I want to do an internship? My hometown? Out-of-state?
  • What type of work would I like to do? In what field?
  • What type of organization would I like to do an internship for?
  • What do I want to gain from an internship? What specific skills or experiences do I want to acquire?

Locating opportunities

After you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to start searching for internships. Here are some suggestions for locating internship opportunities:

  • Check out College Central Network (CCN) – NOVA’s online internship and job database for students.   Through the database you can learn about internship opportunities with local companies as well as connect to a national internship board.  Did you know it may be possible to earn college credit for an internship?   Visit this website to learn more.
  • Attend job fairs. Employers often use fairs to identify students for internships as well as for full-time employment.  View the “Upcoming Events and Programs” and the “Announcements” sections of CCN to learn about upcoming, local job fairs.
  • Network. Talk with friends, family, co-workers, supervisors, instructors, administrators, and professionals in your field of study, and let them know you are searching for an internship.

Applying for an internship

Each employer has its own application process. Does the company want you to apply online? What is the deadline? What will the employer need from you to make your application complete? Start the process early. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Create your resume.
  • Write a cover letter, if required.
  • Utilize the resume builder and Job Search Kit in CCN to create your resume and cover letter.
  • Work with a NOVA career counselor to discuss internship opportunities, have your resume and cover letter critiqued, and discuss tips and strategies for getting the most out of an internship.

Choosing an internship

Your final task is to select the internship opportunity that is the best match for you. Review your goals for doing an internship and choose the opportunity that best meets those goals. An internship offers many benefits, including:

  • Valuable experience. Many employers want to hire people who have experience and can step into the job and be productive right from the start.
  • Information. An internship will help you make contacts, get ideas, and learn about the field.
  • Practical application. You will have the chance to apply theories learned in the classroom to a real-world setting. When you return to the classroom after your internship, you will better understand the many nuances of business operations that relate to the theories you study.
  • In many cases, an internship can lead to a job offer.

Original article by Amy Marie Charland and Mary Ann Lawson. Modified by Christy Jensen. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Social Media In Your Job Search

Social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends and relatives, but it also can be a useful tool in your job search. Employers are using social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to both promote their organizations and connect with potential job candidates.

While social media can help you research employers (critical to your job-search success), be sure to use it more actively—as a way to connect with potential employers. By following a few basic tips, you can use social media to get in front of hiring managers.

Get Noticed

There are a few key points to keep in mind when using social media as a job-search tool.

Create a Profile That Gives a Positive Impression of You Think of it as your online resume: What do you want it to say about you? Hiring managers can get a stronger sense of who you are, and if you’re a potentially good fit for their company, through your profile.

Be Aware of the Keywords You Include in Your Profile This is particularly true for sites focused on professional networking, such as LinkedIn. Many employers do keyword searches to find profiles that contain the skill sets they’re seeking in potential hires.

Don’t Include Photos, Comments, or Information You Wouldn’t Want a Potential Employer to See

Don’t Mix Personal With Professional The social media you use in your job search has to present you as a potential employee—not as a friend. Follow the rules for writing a resume.

Make Sure Your Profile Is Error-Free You wouldn’t offer up a resume rife with misspellings, would you?

Choose Appropriate Contact Information Your e-mail address or Twitter handle should be professional—a simple variation on your name, perhaps—rather than suggestive or offensive.

Connect Many organizations have embraced social media as an extension of their hiring practices, and provide information that you can use to research the organization and connect with hiring managers and recruiters.

    • Check your college/university’s social media groups: Many times, employers join such groups.
    • Check social media groups that are focused around your field of interest or career.
    • Search for the social media pages, profiles, and videos of organizations that interest you. Many organizations post job descriptions, information about salaries, and more.
    • Ask questions. Even something as broad as “Is anyone hiring in [industry]?” may bring responses, and asking questions about a specific organization—“What’s it like to work at Company X?” can give you insight into the organization and its culture.

Stay Connected Keep in touch with recruiters or other decision makers you may interact with in cyberspace.

There may not be an available opportunity at their organization right now, but that could change, and you want to be considered when it does.

Finally, in addition to maintaining your network, use social media tobuild your network. Don’t just establish a social media presence—work it. Reach out. Interact. You will get out of social media what you put into it.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers

This week at ELI!

Priority registration for continuing students begins on Tuesday, November 8 and open registration for all students starts Monday, November 14.

To help you plan for your next semester, join an ELI Counselor on Thursday, November 10 from 12:15 – 1:00 pm (EST) for the Getting Ready for your Next Semester Webinar! This 45 minute webinar that will focus on answering key questions students have about preparing for their next semester. This is a great opportunity for new and returning students!

Have any questions about your spring term courses? Need to change your degree plan? Schedule a virtual appointment with an ELI Counselor! Visit ELI’s Advising Week blog series for more information to help you plan your spring schedule.

November is National Career Development Month. Join ELI Career Counselor on Wednesday, November 9, 12:15 pm – 1:00 pm for the Exploring Career Options Webinar. This 45 minute webinar will focus on using various online resources to research career options.

This week is National Distance Learning Week! Not sure if online courses are right for you? Take the SmarterMeasure assessment to gauge your readiness!

logoWe will celebrate throughout the week with trivia, facts/myths, and memories ! ELI started as correspondence classes in 1975 and used video, audio, and postal mail for courses. Can you imagine? Join us on Facebook and Twitter throughout the week for more!

s ELI-2Have a great week!

Where Will Your Path Lead? (Part 1)

This article is part one in a three part series that provides readers with an overview of the career development process designed to help you identify your path and continue on your journey.

Stop for a minute and answer the following questions:

  • Are you thinking about pursuing a degree at NOVA, but are unsure as to what degree and program to select?
  • Are you considering transferring to a four year institution to continue your studies, but are unsure which major to pursue?
  • Are you trying to decide on a career to pursue, but are unsure where to begin your exploration?
  • Are you trying to find a job or gain practical experience, but are unsure where to begin your search?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, look no further than NOVA’s Career Services website to help you get started finding answers.  The Career Development Process section of the website provides an overview of a four step process that will help you with the following:  1) understanding self, 2) exploring careers, 3) making decisions, and 4) finding employment.  The career development process begins with self-assessment.

Step 1: Understanding Self

When was the last time you thought about what you really enjoy doing?  During this step you will focus on gaining a better understanding of yourself by identifying your interests, personality, skills, and values through career assessments. The results of the assessments will identify potential career options for you to consider and explore.  A list of free assessments and resources can be found on the website.

One resource to try now – FOCUS 2.

FOCUS 2 is an online career and education planning system that can help you –

  • Select a program/major based on your interests and aspirations.
  • Discover occupations matching your personal preferences and attributes.
  • Map out your career plans, present and future.
  • Make informed career decisions.

NOVA’s Career Counselors are available to assist you with each step of the career development process.

Article by Christy Jensen-NOVA Academic/Career Counselor.

November is National Career Development Month.  Check NOVA’s Career Services website for information about programs being offered virtually and across the College in support of NCDM.

Free Career Planning Tool for NOVA Students

Did you know all NOVA students, staff, and faculty have free access to FOCUS 2, an online, interactive, self-guided career and education planning system that can help you:

  • Select a program/major based on your interests and aspirations
  • Discover occupations matching your personal preferences and attributes
  • Map out your career plans, present and future
  • Make informed career decisions

View a Getting Started with FOCUS 2 handout.

Follow the steps below to begin using FOCUS 2.

  1. Visit NOVA’s Career Services website
  2. Select FOCUS 2
  3. Click FOCUS 2 button
  4. Click REGISTER button
  5. Enter “NOVA” for the access code
  6. Enter your NOVA student e-mail address in the e-mail box
  7. Provide requested information
  8. Check box to acknowledge terms and conditions of system
  9. Click CONTINUE button

Contact Christy Jensen (chjensen@nvcc.edu) if you have any problems accessing the system or to schedule a career advising appointment.