Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

Jocelyn Says: Get Your Foot in the Door by Job Shadowing

You may remember from my last blog entry the importance of researching companies you are interested in as one of the first steps to finding an internship. But, what do you do once you have an idea of where you want to go? How do you get an “in” with a potential internship site?

For me, the first step was to send a letter of introduction to the organization. I searched the company’s website for contact information and sent my letter via email. Of course, this was not a five page essay about my goals and interests, but rather a short paragraph. I explained that I was emailing because I wanted to learn more about existing careers in the organization. I gave a brief description of my relevant experiences and included details from their website that emphasized why their particular company stood out to me. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I concluded the letter by requesting a day of job shadowing.

When I pushed the send button I was nervous. I knew the organization did not have to accept my request and could just as easily deny it. However, three days later the president of the organization replied explaining that they would be happy to help. He provided me with a list of days to choose from and highly recommended that I spend an entire day. He also requested that I provide him with a list of what I hoped to gain from the experience so that he could plan the day accordingly to ensure that I found it worthwhile.

My day of shadowing can be broken into three parts: an informational interview, tour/meet and greet, and assisting an employee with a project.

  • During the interview I had the chance to speak with the president of the organization who answered many of my questions regarding management and responsibilities.
  • While on the tour I was able to meet each employee in the office and speak with them. This opportunity introduced me to the array of jobs existing in the organization and allowed me to seek advice as to how to better prepare myself for a similar career.
  • The final hour of my job shadowing experience allowed me to assist with a project. I was able to actually see myself fitting into the organization; this was a huge confidence boost!

The best part came at the end of my day when the president talked to me briefly about my experience there. He prompted me to consider what I had learned, what I enjoyed, and what I did not like. Before I left, he encouraged me to send a copy of my resume to his office that he would keep on file to consider when they began accepting internship applications.

I left my day of shadowing feeling more confident about the career path I am pursuing. I had gained a better understanding of what I would be faced with as well as the overall work environment. The experience has helped me more confidently articulate what I am looking for in a job, what I want to do as a career, and what type of organizations may be a good “fit.” I made sure to send a thank you note and a copy of my resume the next day and have since kept in touch with the contacts I made.

Although introducing yourself to a brand new person and making a request to job shadow may be out of your comfort zone, I highly recommend taking the risk. After all, how do you know if you will actually enjoy a certain career if you’ve never set foot in the building?

J

Jocelyn Davis ’15, Career Services Student Assistant

Exploration, Part 2: Focusing your Efforts

Last week, I introduced the career planning model geared toward freshmen and sophomore students in Exploration, Part 1: Drawing Connections.  In the early stages of career planning, you often find yourself exploring a broad array of interests and corresponding careers.  You hopefully begin to see patterns, enabling you to hone in more specifically on a few possible career paths.  But you still may be unsure of how to actually get yourself from point A –> having identified possibilities…to point B -> transitioning to your first post-graduate opportunity.

Now it’s time to dig deeper in your exploration.  Investigate these paths more fully and be intentional about gaining experience that will set you up for more promising employment or graduate school leads.  In the second phase of our office’s career planning model, students are encouraged to utilize resources & activities to help you:

Career Planning Model 2

As you work through the resources and exercises, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of understanding what employers and graduate schools are looking for.  When constructing your documents (resumes, cover letters, graduate school essays, LinkedIn profiles, etc) and preparing to talk with hiring or admissions professionals (informational interviews, networking events, interviews, etc), you’ll be expected to articulate what you can contribute to their organization/program.  The only way to do that successfully is to know what they value and how you fit into their bigger picture!

First, gain a broad understanding of the world of work by researching the expectations of employers.  Use this information as motivation to begin developing certain skills, or as affirmation that you are on the right track.  Then, delve into what specific industries look for and expect; read industry journals and explore professional associations of potential career fields.  This will give you greater knowledge of expectations while also helping to clarify further whether or not it is a field you want to continue pursuing.  From there, begin identifying specific companies or programs and research their criteria and preferred qualifications of successful candidates.  By working through these tiers of exploration and investigation, you’ll be more fully prepared and confident as you make your transition into employment or grad school.

You may be overwhelmed with all of the information in these career planning models, and that’s ok!  The key is to break things down into manageable pieces so that you can fully explore your options and feel confident in the decisions you make regarding your career planning.  For a real-life example of a student who has put many of these suggestions into practice, tune in next week to read Jocelyn Davis’ post on exploring careers through job shadowing.

Gwen Miller, associate director of career services

Exploration, Part 1: Drawing Connections

Whether an underclassman meets with us to begin a dialogue about their future, or a junior starts to articulate interests while embarking upon an internship search, or a senior is looking for advice to really target a job or graduate school, exploration is often at the heart of students’ meeting requests with Career Services.  We love to engage students in conversations to help you draw out skills, interests, values, and goals, all while hoping to spark excitement toward investigating what’s out there in the world of work.

This week and next, I’d like to discuss the idea of exploration from two angles:

  • drawing connections between interests and potential careers or majors;
  • delving deeper into more specific professions/industries to help transition to the workplace.

Our office uses a model to help guide students through many elements of career planning.  The first half encourages students to utilize electronic, printed, and human sources of information to begin exploring how ones interests and strengths might relate to college majors and future career fields.  Although it’s geared toward freshmen and sophomores, the resources suggested can be applicable to anyone’s stage of career development.

Career Planning Model 1

One key component that is absolutely necessary to anyone’s exploration is talking to other people!  Whether you’re questioning what major is right for you, or wondering what you could possibly do with a degree in ______, or you’re interested in learning how certain occupations function within different industries, asking individuals who know about the topic is one of the most effective means of gaining valuable information.

So, go through the suggested resources for exploring your options and investigating potential careers…and then talk to someone about what you’re discovering!  And when I say talk to someone, I don’t mean go ask someone else what you should do.  Instead, arm yourself with knowledge, draw connections between what you’re learning and your own interests and goals, and ask others to clarify, offer perspective, or discuss ideas with you that you haven’t thought of.  The discoveries along the way will be worth the effort.

Next week’s blog will look at the next components of the career planning model to offer suggestions and advice on delving deeper into more specific professions/industries as you begin to engage in a job or internship search.  Stay tuned!

~Gwen Miller, associate director of career services

Make the Choice to Read Job Choices

Among many traits that employers look for in ideal candidates, resourcefulness and an inquisitive approach to problem-solving are right up there.  Learning about the latest trends and resources, as well as staying current on the competition, are important to many organizations for success.  Students should take a similar approach to career planning and the internship/job search!

Each month, the Career Services Blog will spotlight a few of the tools and tips that we believe are valuable.  This month, I’m encouraging you to get acquainted with the digital Job Choices magazine, accessible on the Resources for Students page of the Career Services website.

Why? Because you can be assured that these online magazines, compiled and distributed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, contain oodles of relevant articles and information for your job or internship search.  Published annually, each magazine – Job Choices and Job Choices, Diversity Edition – covers information from rights and responsibilities of job seekers, to social media, to graduate school or first years on the job.  Take a look at the contents page of the Job Choices edition:

Job Choices picture

 

If that doesn’t inspire you to take a look, maybe the opportunity to win $500 by taking a Reader Poll will (details on page 5 of the magazine).  Two LVC students have won within the past several years…maybe your resourcefulness will also be rewarded!

*Note: Even if you don’t win the $500, can we agree that resourcefulness for resourcefulness’s sake is generally a reward in and of itself?  I think so!

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career services

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!