Tag Archives: job search

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.

Relevant Work Experience a Key for Job-Search Success

We know that recruiters looking for candidates to hire for their organizations want college graduates who are a proper fit for their culture and industry. But, without being hired full time, how can you demonstrate that you can perform at a high level on the job?

The best way to impress potential employers during your job search is to gain and highlight relevant work experience.

Nearly all of the employers taking part in the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) Job Outlook 2015 survey said they prefer to hire job candidates who have work experience. Relevant work experience is preferred by almost 75 percent of employers. On the other side, fewer than 5 percent of employers said experience didn’t factor into their decision when hiring new college graduates. Six in 10 employers say they prefer work experience gained through an internship or co-op experience.

For college students, relevant experience is typically gained through internships. In fact, an internship can be your way to get your “foot in the door” to a job with many employers.

Simply put, employers are looking for evidence that you can do the job; the internship provides you with that evidence. Be sure to visit the career services office for guidance on internships that can support your career goals.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Fall 2016 Apprenticeship Job Fair

The Apprenticeship Job Fair is scheduled for Thursday, September 15, 2016, 10am-2pm at 7611 Little River Turnpike, Annandale VA, 22003.  The event is free of charge and open to the public.

The Fall 2016 Apprenticeship Job Fair is in partnership with SkillSource Group Inc. and Virginia’s Department of Labor & Industry – Division of Registered Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship

Social Media in Your Job Search

social media 2Social 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 to build 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

Marketing Your Resume to Employers

Job OpportunityHiring managers get flooded with resumes for job openings. How can you ensure your resume will be looked at? Take some advice from hiring managers:

  • Do the basics.
  • Proofread for spelling, grammar, and tone. (Ask friends to proofread, too.)
  • Use a simple, easy-to-read typeface.
  • Follow instructions in the job posting. If the employer asks for information—such as references or writing samples—provide it.
  • If you’re applying by e-mail, your cover letter should be contained in the e-mail. If you’re applying online and there’s no space indicated for a cover letter, put your cover letter in the comments section.
  • Don’t let the informality of e-mail and text correspondence seep into your communications—whether e-mailed, online, or written—with potential employers.
  • Organize your resume for the employer—Organize your resume information in a logical fashion. Keep descriptions clear and to the point. As possible, tailor your resume to the job and employer, emphasizing skills, experiences, abilities, and qualifications that match the job description.
  • Customize your response—Address the hiring manager directly, if possible, and include the name of the company and the position for which it is hiring in your cover letter/e-mail response.
  • Make it easy for the hiring manager—Use your name and the word “resume” in the e-mail subject line so it’s easy to identify.
  • Focus on the skills and abilities you can bring to the employer, not what you want from the job—In your cover letter, answer the questions: What can you do to make the hiring manager’s life easier? What can you do to help the company? This is your opportunity to market yourself and stand out from the other candidates. Your resume should support that.
  • Be professional—Use a professional-sounding e-mail address or voice mail/answering machine message.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Free Online Job Search Tool for NOVA Students

182292619Looking for a job?  Trying to find an internship?  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.

Get started today.  Check your VCCS student e-mail account with instructions for accessing your free account.  Contact Career and Experiential Learning Services if you cannot access your account.  A brief introduction to CCN will be provided in today’s Conducting a Job Search webinar being held from 12:15 pm – 1:00 pm.  Learn more and register at http://eli.nvcc.edu/webinars.