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Archive for March, 2008

Looking good, grads

Good news, grads: several surveys have suggested that this year will be a good one for college graduates. Lost in all the talk about the economy and the hiring lookout for various demographics is the news that employers plan to hire college graduates – lots of ‘em.

Why?

In short, the need for skilled labor is rising, so regardless of what the economy’s doing, those positions need to be filled and college grads have the expertise to fill them.

Even if you’re not graduating this year, this is good for you, too. After all, these jobs aren’t going to fill up overnight, so don’t fret. I thought these tips might help you when you start sending out résumés.

1. Search thoroughly. You’re in demand, so don’t get tunnel vision and apply to just one or two companies. Look around just to see what’s out there. You’d hate to take a job and then realize you could’ve had a better one if you’d only looked a little harder.

2. Don’t settle for less than you’re worth. Once you’ve found that job you’re aching to have, look at their offer. Surveys have proven hiring managers are expecting to negotiate, so you have a good shot at getting more money if you just ask for it.

3. Take a look in the (metaphoric) mirror. Assess your skills. What are your strongest and weakest points? With a variety of options out there, it’s easy to think, “Well, I studied business so I can only apply for these positions.” If you’ve got strong communication skills or a knack for problem-solving, search job posting for those qualities. Sometimes the specific degree isn’t as important as the fact that you have a degree and the right skills for the job.

4. Remember the competition. You’re not the only graduate out there; you’re not even the only applicant, for that matter. You’ve got fellow students clamoring for your job and people who have been in the workforce for years, so don’t have a sense of entitlement at any point. Always strive to prove yourself and show why you are who the boss is looking for.

You’ve got a lot of chances at your fingertips, so enjoy.

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More Interview Tips

Some universities teach students how to go on a job interview, but chances are these are small lessons and not thorough walk-throughs. I’m not saying interviews are impossible rocket-science-like obstacles, but they’re tricky.

Job hunting is a definite give-and-take for both employers and job seekers. You want the job, they want you to want the job, you want them to want you and they want you to prove yourself. That’s enough to give you a headache.

So the interview is where you have a chance to do all of the above things. But how? Here are some tips:

  • Learn about the company. When you’re asked what you know about the company, you should be able to recall important names, figures, or events of the company. An interviewer wants to know you’re ready to be part of the organization.
  • Ask questions. When the interviewer offers you the opportunity to ask questions, don’t say “No, you’ve answered everything.” If you’re an active participant in the interview, you’ll show that you’re not just looking for a job, but that you also care about the position.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll probably be asked what your biggest weakness is, so think about where you have room for improvement and be able to talk about it without talking yourself out of the job. Also know where your strengths lie so that you can mention how they have contributed to your past successes either in school or at other jobs.
  • Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Just because you need to adhere to business etiquette doesn’t mean you have to be someone else. Do you want a job where you’re pretending to enjoy yourself every day? Be courteous but don’t act like you love public speaking just to get a job in PR that you’ll dread.
  • Be nice. It’s simple but helpful advice. Just being pleasant with everybody you encounter can go far. Many hiring managers ask the receptionist how you behaved to see if you’re the kind of person they want. Your credentials can be great, but when the decision makers are narrowing down the list of candidates, they’re going to think about whom they want to work with every day—and a nice person will win over an unpleasant one every time.

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Plenty of college students look to their graduation as the finish line they’ve been waiting four years to cross. For a lot of students, a bachelor’s degree is only the first step in a lengthy academic career. Anyone who wants to earn a master’s degree has an average of two more years of school ahead of them, and a doctorate can take an additional five or seven.

For the lucky students who receive full funding to continue their education, working isn’t a necessity (although many still do to live more comfortably). But for others, student loans still won’t cover their daily living expenses and a job is not optional—it’s necessary.

If you’re one of these students ready to make the leap to graduate school and you’re wondering how you’ll manage to work, go to class, and study, here are some jobs that could be just right.

Administrative Assistant – Your schedule (night classes versus day classes) will obviously dictate whether or not working as an administrative assistant. These positions are often some of the few that will adhere to a regular workday schedule and not require overtime. If you’re lucky – or unlucky, depending on your p.o.v. – you might even get a boring office where you can slip in a little study time and nobody will notice. Plus, if it’s in an industry related to your area of study, it doesn’t hurt to be meeting new people everyday who might be potential contacts in the future.

Group Fitness Instructor – Almost every gym offers group classes in spinning, running and other aerobic activities. Requirements for instructor certification vary by state, and gyms often have their own standards. If it’s up your alley, though, it offers flexible hours (classes are usually offered in the morning, lunch time, after work, and on weekend) and you get to stay in shape!

Blogger – Yes, “blog” is one of the most overused buzzwords of the last decade, but it’s a concept that’s not going anywhere. While personal blogs started the trend, businesses have picked up on it and raised it to another level. Blogging for a company can be more time-consuming that jotting down your own thoughts and rants on your own page, but it can still be done from a remote location and doesn’t require nearly as much time as a 9-to-5 gig.

Research Assistant – Chances are, if you’re in grad school, you know how to research like nobody’s business. It may or may not be your favorite skill, but it’s one you have that few people possess. A good researcher is thorough and has critical thinking skills that elevate the position above “go-fer” level. Of course many professors on every campus are looking for researchers, but also look at companies who need researchers for one-time projects (some long-term, others short-term).

Server – Although being a server is not an easy task, especially for a busy student, it’s a position that offers one of the most flexible schedules. The pay and tips vary depending on the type of restaurant you work at, so whether or not it can support your lifestyle depends on each individual.

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Here’s this week’s latest working news:

Man arrested for stealing office lottery ticket

One-third of workers sleeping on the job

Waitress saves diner’s life

Firefighter dies in line of duty

Construction worker stung 500 times by bees

Driving teacher accused of DUI while giving lesson

Job losses worst in five years

Have a great weekend!

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Take a minute to ask yourself what your strengths are.

Your sense of humor? Your ability to think on your feet? Your ambition? Are you good with computers? Are you creative?

Not only is it nice to pat yourself on the back every once in a while, it’s also good to take stock of your greatest assets. At the same time, you can see where your weaknesses. No, not so you can self-loathe, but so you can work on improving them.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) asked employers what skills matter most to them in their employees, especially entry-level.

Communication skills, work ethic, teamwork skills, and problem-solving skills all outrank computer skills.

In the age of technology, it’s a little surprising to see computer skills so far down the list.

What many employers realize, however, is that people can be taught how to use a PC or a Mac or a specific program. If you show up without good writing skills or the ability to articulate your ideas to a client or colleagues, employers can only do so much to help you out.

The good news is that you can develop these skills—if you don’t already have them—in school.

  • There are actual classes called “Interpersonal Communication,” for example, where you learn the science of communication as well as how to be a better speaker and listener.
  • Group projects are divisive: some people love ‘em, others hate ‘em. You’re bound to run into them in classes, so embrace them. You don’t have to love them, but learn how to function within them. Be a leader if it suits you, or integrate yourself in the team so that you’re a valuable contributor.
  • Also, join clubs and organizations that let you meet new people and perhaps take on leadership roles. Not only do you get to make new friends (and potential network contacts down the road), but you also develop valuable skills.
  • In your everyday life, outside of class and clubs, work on your weaknesses and strengthen your best qualities. If you think you’re not the greatest writer, read more—the more you read the better your writing is, plain and simple. And don’t forget the fundamentals of grammar. You might not have paid attention to them since grade school but remind yourself how to use who/whom, him/her, commas, and other elements will sharpen your skills.

They may sound like minor details but once you’re dealing with employers and clients, your communication skills are front and center. Take advantage of the resources around you and start practicing!

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