Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

The Salary Question

Are you, as the candidate, supposed to bring up the subject of compensation during the interview process?  If so, when?  Although things will certainly be different for each employer, the general rule is that salary shouldn’t be discussed during the first interview.  And, whenever possible, let the employer bring the subject up first.

More importantly than worrying about when you should discuss it should instead be how you plan to discuss it when the time comes.  You should always do your homework prior to any interview so that you are prepared.  According to the CareerSpots video – The Salary Question – there are two sets of numbers that candidates need to know: the minimum salary that you need to make for your own financial obligations, and the average salary range for the type of position that you’re interviewing for.

That first number needs to be something realistic and well thought out; the second can be determined by researching salary information on similar positions for individuals with your level of experience and knowledge.  Don’t forget that geographic location is also a huge factor!  Understanding both of these numbers will help you to plan out a thoughtful response to the salary question.

How do you determine a salary range? The CareerSpots video offers several websites that may be helpful, including www.salary.com, www.salaryexpert.com, and www.payscale.com.  It also suggests the Bureau of Labor Statistics at www.bls.gov for tons of information, as well as professional organizations, business magazines, and online job boards for general salary information.

Another great resource, accessible through Career Services’ Resources for Students webpage is the NACE Salary Calculator Center.   The Salary Calculator’s User Guide and FAQ page indicates that “the program will reference your input information against the average salary values in our databases, and provide you with your personalized job salary data. The salary data provided to you is derived from salary survey data and compensation surveys.”

There are plenty of resources out there to help – be sure to investigate this before you ever talk with the interviewer – you don’t want to be caught off guard and unable to answer the salary question!

Professional Associations

I’ve posted about the importance of networking, informational interviewing, and researching industries and specific companies – all in hopes of encouraging students to become as informed as possible about their career development.

Another great way to be engaged in your field is to become familiar with corresponding professional associations.  A professional association is an organization seeking to further a particular profession and the interests of individuals engaged in that industry.  In a past Career Corner newsletter, we asked faculty to offer insight on the value of these organizations for students, as well as several tips for uncovering ones that interest you.  Click HERE for the newsletter.

In addition, our brilliant office assistant recently pointed out to me that an alphabetical listing of Professional Associations (over 500 included) can be found through The Campus Career Coach resource of JobCenter. Each of the websites included has some form of career center, job board, or other resources to assist prospective and current professionals in their fields connect with job, internship and scholarship opportunities.  Log into your JobCenter account, click on The Campus Career Coach icon in the left hand navigation column, and then select the Professional Associations tab from the horizontal list at the top.

Post 25 The Campus Career Coach

The Job Outlook for the College Class of 2013

The National Association of Colleges and Employers releases an annual report for students on the job outlook for the upcoming college class.  Based on a survey conducted from July 25 – September 10, 2012, 244 organizations provided input about their hiring plans and other employment-related issues in order to project the market for new college graduates for the current class and to assess a variety of conditions that may influence that market.

Take a look at The Job Outlook for the College Class of 2013, provided as a student report through NACE, to find information on:

  • Good News – hiring is up for new grads!
  • Who’s in demand
  • Who’s hiring: a look at specific industries, specific majors
  • What employers want in a job candidate
  • How to stand out: advice from employers

Although hiring procedures and job outlook will certainly differ among companies, industries, and geographic locations, the information provided in this report can reinforce some of your preparation and job search efforts.  For those students who are not part of the class of 2013, read through anyway!  Remember, knowledge is power!  At the very least, it provides you with some great insight into what employers are currently thinking in regards to their hiring decisions.

Settle in and browse…the Resource Library of JobCenter

Every week, the Office of Career Services sends out a “This Week at Career Services” email to notify students of upcoming programs, workshops, and deadlines, along with offering a brief spotlight on one of our resources.  Also included is a list of a few of the jobs and internships that were posted in JobCenter the week prior.  The email serves as a constantly updated snapshot of the services available to students; if it were to include everything new and beneficial, it would be much too large for the average inbox!

This week’s blog is meant to call your attention to a section of JobCenter that offers oodles of information on companies, internship, research, or job opportunities, and graduate schools or unique opportunities.  This is only naming a few of the 30+ folders in your Resource Library – a constantly updated electronic filing system of countless resources that should be added to your career planning tool box.

Did you know….

  • The Employer folder offers over 35 sub-folders about industries and/or companies?  There is information ranging from Accounting firms to GREEN jobs to state and federal government opportunities and resources for candidates.
  • There is an Internships / Research / Shadowing folder that includes links to current and annual programs and opportunities at places such as Pfizer, Disney, The Kennedy Center, etc.  I stopped counting at 50 sub-folders, all of which offer students great resources and ideas on identifying potential opportunities of interest.
  • A Unique Opportunities folder includes information on…you guessed it, opportunities that are unique.  AmeriCorps/Vista, Peace Corps, and Teach for America;  English Nanny & Governess School; a Leadership Pennsylvania Summer Institute, and more can be found here.

These are just three of the folders found in the Resource Library, accessible through the left hand navigation column in your JobCenter account.  Take some time today to turn on your computer, settle in, and browse!

A snapshot of current folders:
Post 23 Resource Library

Researching Companies – the most important activity of job searching

Spring often means that many students are engaged in an active search for jobs or internships.  Identifying companies of interest is certainly the first step, but what comes next?  Your resume, along with your cover letter or presence/conversation at a career fair, is your opportunity to illustrate how you would be a good fit for a position or organization.  That means that you should be purposefully highlighting skills, abilities, and attributes that are relevant to the employer.

Figuring out what is relevant is the behind-the-scenes preparation before your resume is created, your cover letter is drafted, and your interview responses are practiced.  By researching the organization and industry of interest, you will be able to tailor your job search materials and create a strong personal brand that advocates for why you should be considered as a candidate.

According to the Digital Job Choices Magazine, available through the Career Services website, “Researching employers is perhaps the single-most important activity you will undertake in your job search.  The information you uncover can help you:

  • Discover organizations that are a good match for you,
  • Identify the organization’s goals and needs,
  • Tailor your resume and cover letters to highlight your skills and experiences that match the employer’s needs,
  • Know what questions to ask employers,
  • Demonstrate your interest in and enthusiasm for the organization,
  • Answer interview questions with confidence, and
  • Make an informed employment decision.”

Click HERE for this 4 page article that advises where to begin, offers research resources, information you should be looking for, and websites to delve into specific industries.  Don’t skip this step!  The more effort you put in, the more confident you will feel when making a positive impression on potential employers.

Make the Most of Your Internship

It can easily seem as though the most difficult stage of being an intern takes place before you ever clock in for your first day – as you search for, apply to, interview for, and ultimately are selected for a position!  However, landing the position is only a fraction of what it takes to create a quality experience.

According to the CareerSpots video – Make the Most of Internships – there are three main things that interns should do to achieve maximum benefit during their experience.

  • Start building your network immediately
  • Understand your value to the organization by making connections between what you’re doing and how it impacts the department/company
  • Execute your work (and do it well)

A few words of warning are also offered: be careful with how involved you are in extra-curricular activities during your internship time-frame.  You need to be able to devote your attention fully to your internship (and your studies, of course!), something that can be difficult when you’re also stretched thin between multiple activities and organizations.

Additional actions for making the most of your internship are laid out in our Career TIP Sheet: Best Practices for Student Interns.  For example, set goals as part of your pre-internship planning to help you identify opportunities that match your interests and needs.  Thoughtful goal setting also helps you to articulate what you are hoping to learn during your internship to your site supervisor.  During your internship, maintain communication with your supervisor to be sure you understand expectations and assignments.  Ask for feedback regularly and keep a journal to track and reflect upon your activities.  At the end of your internship, make a plan for maintaining your new networking connections and practice articulating your experience.

An internship is meant to be a vital part of your college experience to build career-related skills, work habits, and attitudes.  It’s entirely for your benefit that you make the most of it!

Researching a Company

When preparing for a career fair, an interview, or a networking event in which you will be interacting with employers of interest, preparing ahead of time will help you to make a strong first impression.  We frequently receive feedback from events that employers wish students would spend more time researching their organizations beforehand; doing so will help you to prepare good questions and have a more targeted conversation.

CareerSpots has recorded a 4 minute video offering employer suggestions on how to begin Researching Companies.  A few specific points offered in their corresponding Quick Tips sheet are as follows:

  • Start with the company website.  You will find all the basics: information on the company’s products or services, mission statement, history, press releases, locations, job openings and much more.  Read the company’s annual report.  Look through company personnel profiles and, if possible, find information on the person who you ill interview with.
  • Get an industry view of the company.  Check out trade journals at the university or public library to see what other people are writing about the company.  This gives you a broader sense of the industry as a whole and how the company fits into the larger picture.  You can also find out who are the company’s top competitors.
  • Check out company blogs…

Informational interviews are also an excellent way to learn more about a company, industry, or profession.  Refer to last week’s blog on Informational Interviewing to learn what they are, their value, and how to conduct one!

Don’t underestimate the value of being prepared!  Spend the time researching companies ahead of time; it will be noticed by employers and will help you to stand out and move farther in the job search process!

Informational Interviewing

What are they? Why do them? What do you ask? What’s next?

To start, watch two students prepare and receive feedback in in this CareerSpots video: Informational Interviewing.

Conducting an informational interview does not have the same objective as a job interview.  While the latter is part of a hiring process to land a job, the former is about networking, learning, and practicing.  From informational interviews, you can gain a first-hand perspective about a company, a specific job, or an industry.

Informational interviews are extremely valuable for anyone looking to gather information.  When done professionally, they can open doors and help you make decisions about your own career planning.  So, how do you conduct one professionally?  Figure out who you would like to talk with and make the connection; prepare in advance and ask thoughtful questions; and follow up to express your appreciation and keep the conversation going.

Like job interviews, informational interviews should be taken very seriously from start to finish.  Your first step is to think about your purpose for conducting an informational interview – what are your interests, plans, etc?  Taking the time to articulate your reasons will help you to target the type of individual you might like to contact.

Second, determine who to connect with!  Think about your personal connections, explore the Career Connections alumni mentoring database, or initiate contact with someone from a company of interest.  Then, introduce yourself (usually through email or letter for the first contact) and ask for a half hour of their time.  Let them know your purpose for contacting them and give them an idea of what you’d like to discuss.  Don’t forget that professionals are busy – you may need to follow up!

Once a connection is made and an informational interview is scheduled – they can be conducted over the phone, in person, via email communication, or Skype – be sure to research the company/industry/profession and prepare questions that will direct the conversation.  You want to approach an informational interview with a plan; but you should always be prepared to improvise.  This should be a conversation, not a rapid-fire question/answer session!

If you are meeting them, be sure to dress as professionally as you would for a job interview.  Take your resume with you just in case (don’t forget, this is not a job interview, but you never know where it will lead!) and your notes with questions.  Your goal is the leave the interviewee impressed with your efforts!  Follow up with a thank you note afterword expressing your interest in continuing the conversation.  Congratulations – you are well on your way to building your professional network!

Although networking might be a daunting thought, informational interviewing is absolutely worth the effort.  Gain valuable information that you would have difficulty learning otherwise, and meet professionals who can be helpful to career path.  The more you practice, the easier it will be when participating in real job interviews and the more you will be familiar with the professional world.