Category Archives: Jobs and Careers

Helpful articles and tips for job seekers and career switchers.

STEM of Consciousness for Career Changers

We hear a lot about the high demand for workers to fill STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers. What’s less clear is what actual jobs are available, and how you, as a career changer, can leverage your experience to enter these fields.

NOVA Workforce Development Division | STEM jobs

Interested in a STEM education?

Consider the realities of today’s job market:

STEM Advantages

  • High pay. STEM education isn’t just a path to a job; it’s a path to a high paying One study indicates that STEM majors will earn a minimum of $500,000 MORE over their lifetime compared to non-STEM majors, even if they don’t work in a STEM career.
  • Job availability. STEM jobs are found in numerous different fields, ranging from research to education. By 2018 there will be 3 million NEW or replacement jobs in STEM, so as a STEM graduate, it’s unlikely that you’ll have trouble locating a job in this field.
  • Less competition. Every year 2 million jobs in the STEM fields go unfilled, mostly due to lack of qualified applicants.
  • Basic skills are always needed. Yes, technology is ever progressing, but the basics stay the same. We’ll still need math and research. If you have basic knowledge of the scientific method, computers, and report writing, you’ll be valuable, no matter how things innovate.

Potential Hurdles

  • There’s no guarantee. STEM education doesn’t guarantee that you will walk straight into your dream job on a high salary. Without necessary “soft- skills” (see below), it’s unlikely that your technical skills will get you a long-term job or promotion.
  • What’s “hot” varies. It’s almost impossible to predict what the job market will look like years after you graduate. As a result, it’s difficult for educators to develop a curriculum to best fit the material that will be “hot” in the future.
  • Most STEM careers require a degree (often an advanced degree). By 2018, 92% of STEM jobs will require post-secondary education and training.
  • Career advancement may be limited. STEM is continually evolving, and only those who frequently update their skills will move forward in their careers.

NOVA Workforce Development Division | STEM jobs in science

The good news for career changers

No matter what you studied in school or your work background, employers will value your critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. The trick is to demonstrate that you have these key skills through your cover letter, résumé and interview.

  • Collaboration: Employers look for workers who possess “soft skills”, like being able to collaborate on teams and interact smoothly with clients.
  • Critical Thinking: According to a 2013 study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 93% of the survey respondents said, “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”
  • Communication: Successful managers communicate well, build relationships, and create an environment where employees can do their best work. In other words, they practice the skills most closely associated with a liberal arts education, where emphasis is placed on participation, community, and functioning as part of a team.

NOVA Workforce Development Division | STEM jobs in tech

Whether you decide to pursue a STEM career or not,
here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Work experience trumps degree. When asked what they look for in new college grads, a recent survey shows that employers are overwhelmingly interested in experience outside the classroom. A few specific classes and some real-world experience, even if as a volunteer, may be enough to get a job – whatever your field.
  • Core skills can be developed in fields other than STEM. Critical thinking and analysis can be honed in the Humanities and Social Sciences as well as STEM fields. Many experts agree that as a society, we need better STEM literacy overall – not just more STEM graduates.
  • Thought about Teaching? As demand for STEM workers has increased, so has the need for teachers who can prepare students to pursue STEM careers!

NOVA Workforce Development Division | STEM jobs in engineering

Final Thoughts

If you don’t like the STEM majors, you won’t be happy pursuing a STEM career. Students who are not happy are far more likely to switch majors, losing time and money, or to drop out altogether.

 

About the Author:

Edythe Richards is a Career Counselor who specializes in working with mid-career adults in transition.

September 2015: STEM Career Fair and workshop

This month NOVA’s Workforce Development Division is hosting a STEM Career Fair featuring 20 area companies involved with advancing technology and job opportunities—and they are seeking new talent! Attend our pre-event workshop on September 14 (details below), and come prepared to start or evolve your STEM career with some of Virginia’s cutting-edge companies!

NOVA STEM Career Fair, September 2015

Pre-event workshop

Do you know how to navigate a Career Fair? Do you need to brush up on your interview and resume skills?

A pre-event workshop will be held on September 14, from 1-4 PM (also at the Ernst Cultural Center, NOVA-Annandale). Registration is required: call 703-323-3281, or email NOVA_CustomizedTraining@nvcc.edu to reserve your spot. The workshop is led by Edythe Richards, a Career Counselor who specializes in working with mid-career adults in transition.

Featured companies

Companies will be hosting on-site interviews at the STEM Career Fair on September 30 for pre-qualified candidates. Hiring companies include:

Veterans are encouraged to attend!

A Mobile Vet Center will be on site for veterans attending the Career Fair. MVCs, provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, are mobile offices that provide readjustment counseling and information resources to veterans across the country.

Mobile Vet Center | STEM Career Fair at Northern Virginia Community College STEM Career Fair

To register for the Resume and Interview Workshop,
or for more information on the STEM Career Fair:

 

 


NOVA Workforce Development Division | Blog
Northern Virginia Community College’s Workforce Development Division is dedicated to improving Northern Virginia’s economic development and business landscape with a comprehensive variety of training options, including Professional Development, Certificate Programs, Enrichment Courses, Continuing Education, and Customized Training. Visit us online to learn more.

Educating Youth Through Employment

NOVA’s Workforce Development Division attended the recent EYE (Educating Youth through Employment) Appreciation and Awards Ceremony earlier this month. Held by The SkillSource Group, the event celebrated the youth and the employers who participated in the EYE program – a summer initiative that recruits, screens and matches youth ages 18-21 with professional opportunities in the private and public sector, and with other local businesses. SkillSource, in coordination with Fairfax County’s Department of Family Services, has successfully implemented this employer-driven summer employment initiative since 2006.

These young adults are required to attend intensive training workshops before and during their work experiences. The EYE program offers local youth more than just a summer job, but rather an exciting, professional opportunity with training that will allow them to explore a career path that matches their interest. (SkillSource Group)

It was pleasing to see the number of employers who chose to give back to the community by hiring youth this summer. A considerable number of the EYE program participants will be attending Northern Virginia Community College. NOVA Workforce Development representatives met with the students and provided insight into courses and programs available to help the students meet their future goals.

Congratulations to SkillSource, the EYE Program employers, and all the community partners, but most importantly congrats to this year’s EYE Program participants.

 

SkillSource Group EYE program | Educating Youth through Employment


Joe Matope is a Business Development Manager with NOVA Workforce Development Division, and works with employers to develop and deliver customized training solutions for their staff. For more information about NOVA Workforce Development Division’s collaboration with SkillSource Group, contact Joe at jmatope@nvcc.edu.

STEM Career Fair: September 2015

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is on everyone’s minds these days, since cybersecurity is at the forefront of technological trends and our area is ripe for IT development.

Great things are happening both in the government and private sector in northern Virginia, and Northern Virginia Community College is pleased to answer the demand for well-trained IT professionals. This September, NOVA Workforce will be holding our second STEM Career Fair, aimed at students, veterans, and both entry-level and experienced IT professionals.

Prior to the career fair, career counselor Edythe Richards will be holding a free workshop for those interested in polishing their resume and interview skills in preparation for the Career Fair.

Save the date:

September 14, 1-4 PM: Resume and Interview Prep workshop

September 30, 10 AM – 2 PM: STEM Career Fair
(Registration is required; call 703-323-3281 or email NOVA_CustomizedTraining@nvcc.edu.)

Both events will be held at NOVA’s Annandale Campus, at the Ernst Community Cultural Center.

STEM Career Fair, Northern Virginia Community College

6 Emotionally Intelligent Ways to Ace a Job Interview

Face it: good looks and book smarts aren’t going to get you hired.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is what pays off in the job market. EQ is an intangible skillset that affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make decisions to achieve positive results. EQ is seen as the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence. In fact, those with active/ effective EQ reportedly earn an average of $29,000/year more than those with low EQ. (Forbes.com)

Here are 6 examples of ways interviewers assess EQ,
the story behind the questions, and the best ways to respond.

“Tell me about yourself.”

What they’re really asking: Why did you apply? What can you do for us? Are you the right fit?

EQ connection: Anyone can go into a monologue about their experience, but few can articulate how their behavioral identity (such as a strong need to be liked, or a commitment to stability and self-sufficiency) impacts people around them. Emotionally intelligent people are willing to talk about themselves in a candid, non-defensive manner. They also recognize how their feelings and behavior affect others, providing them control over potentially alienating behavior.

Best way to answer: Think of 2 or 3 accomplishments that directly relate to why you’re the best candidate for this position. If anxious, recognize that you may broadcast these feelings nonverbally. Use emotional and social “radar” to gauge how your words and actions influence your interviewer(s).

Emotionally Intelligent Ways to Ace a Job Interview

“Why did you leave your last job?”

What they’re really asking: How self-aware are you? How do you handle your emotions at work? What lessons have you learned from your work history?

EQ connection: This can be a confusing question, as your instinct may be to be vague just to placate the interviewer. However, if you skirt the question, you run the risk of looking “guilty”, making the interviewer wonder what you’re hiding. An emotionally intelligent person will understand their emotions as they relate to the real reasons behind leaving their last job. They will also be able to regulate and control their behaviors associated with these emotions. We’ve all had instances at work that didn’t go as well as intended, but criticizing others or too much open disclosure can indicate a lack of self-regulation that never bodes well in an interview.

Best way to answer: No matter what your reason for leaving, the trick is to put a positive spin on your answer. Convey that the position you’re interviewing for is a better opportunity. Never mislead the interviewer or speak negatively of past employers.

“How would you handle a difficult customer?”

What they’re really asking: How do you resolve conflict? Can we trust the reputation of our organization to you? Can we depend on you when we need to?

EQ connection: Emotionally intelligent people demonstrate a willingness to understand and empathize with customers and co-workers. They intuitively grasp what others want and need. Similarly, they are excellent team players with the ability to keep focus on a project while remaining aware of and responding to the emotional climate of the group.

Best way to answer: Provide a specific example (preparing a list beforehand will make it easier for you to recall these stories when asked). Demonstrate that you shifted the interaction with the difficult customer from potentially adversarial to collaborative and/or helpful. Assure the interviewer that you will provide excellent service without compromising the integrity of the organization.

“Give me an example of a time when you had to quickly analyze a situation and make a decision.”

What they’re really asking: What are your problem-solving skills? Are you capable of making sound decisions on the fly without becoming stressed?

EQ connection: Emotionally intelligent people are able to find solutions and deal realistically and calmly in stressful situations. Additionally, success in problem solving and stress management means you are able to demonstrate resilience and maintain a positive attitude. At work, this is vital if you’re facing tight deadlines, juggle multiple responsibilities, or work in an environment with constantly shifting priorities.

Best way to answer: The interviewer will be interested in the thought-process behind your actions. Make sure your answer tells a success story that demonstrates your understanding of the situation, how you dealt with pressure and/or navigated through competing priorities, and implemented a workable solution.

“What are your weaknesses?”

What they’re really asking: How self-aware and confident are you? Do you learn from and reflect upon your mistakes? What are your lessons-learned?

EQ connection: While being open to feedback is never easy, emotionally intelligent people take it in, analyze it, and potentially make changes based upon the critique. They demonstrate emotional maturity, adaptability, and leadership potential.

Best way to answer: We all make mistakes, so refusing to answer this question is a sign you’re not willing to learn. Keep in mind also that any strength carried to the extreme can be a liability.

 


emotional-intelligence

 

[ image via TalentSmart.com. ]


“What do you know about our organization?”

What they’re really asking: Do you care enough about us to do your research?

EQ connection: This question partially relates to self-awareness (i.e., how clear are you about how your strengths will fit into the organization?), but it also relates to expression and decision-making. Lack of preparation can indicate either lack of interest in the position or an inability to stay flexible and tactfully communicate with the interviewer(s).

Best way to answer: Talk about a challenge the organization is facing and what you know about their plans to fix it, new products or features, or the organization’s business approach. It doesn’t take much effort to research organizations online (but be careful about the sources you use; not everything published online is true). Answering this question successfully isn’t a matter of reiterating what you read on the website, but how you translate that into what you can do for them.

If you want to boost your EQ, it’s important to be honest. It takes a lot of maturity to be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses, and many otherwise competent professionals lack this key element of EQ. This, along with the ability to pick up on other peoples’ emotions, can spell the difference between success or failure on an interview.

 

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Originally published July 9, 2015 on LinkedIn, by Career Counselor Edythe Richards.

Edythe Richards (MA, MBTI®MP, GCDF) has helped hundreds of mid-career adults, baby-boomers, veterans, immigrants, recent grads, and average folks locate and sustain meaningful employment through her work with Northern Virginia Community College’s Workforce Development Division, and Arlington County’s One-Stop Employment Center. She has created a bridge between the worlds of counseling, coaching, and workforce development, offering a unique blend of compassion and realism. Edythe also serves as a liaison to several community organizations, providing consulting and training on team building and effective communication, workplace-focused seminars on resumes, networking, job search, and other career-related topics.