Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

What to wear, what to wear…?

You know that your jeans and t-shirts aren’t going to cut it in the work place, but perhaps you don’t know if a 3-piece suit is the way to go.  You’ve heard of casual Fridays, but aren’t sure what that means either!  So what do you do?

First of all, think situationally.  Interviews should always be business attire; it’s best to wear business attire to career fairs, although business casual could be acceptable if you’re seeking an internship.  Networking events depend on the venue, your purpose for attending, and those who you are hoping to meet.  Basically, it always depends!

Take the guess work out of it by setting a few rules:

  • Wear business attire in any situation in which you hope to make a good impression on potential employers/clients/colleagues/etc.
  • Don’t assume that “Business Casual” is in any way casual.  Instead, think of it as “Business Smart.”  Take a look at the CareerSpots Video – Business Casual – for more information on this distinction.
  • When in doubt, opt for conservative business wear.
  • You don’t have to spend a fortune to find business attire that fits well and looks professional; shop around and find key items that will mix and match to create several looks.

It’s better to be overdressed on your first ‘Casual Friday’ so you can scope out what is considered acceptable prior to implementing your own wardrobe creativity.  Keep in mind, your boss has the final stamp of approval.  Dress for the job you want, not to impress your colleagues with your fashion sense.  Also remember that your internship or field experiences may allow a more laid back style; the expectation is still business attire when you prepare for your full-time job search.

When in doubt, ask professionals in the field or talk to faculty or Career Services’ staff members.  Take a look at the image below from the 2013 Job Choices Digital Magazine (accessible on our Resources for Students page) for additional tips:Post 19 Professional Dress image

Tips for Using E-mail at your New Job

With so much technology at our fingertips, it can be too easy to slip into a casual communication style in the workplace.  Abbreviations, one line responses, and replying from a cell phone are second nature.  However, employers indicate that professional business communication is still a requirement for many organizations!  Take a look at these tips for using E-mail at work and think twice before hitting that ‘send’ button!

  1. Do not use your employer’s e-mail address for anything other than work-related correspondence.
  2. Read e-mail carefully so that you can respond appropriately.
  3. Don’t send confidential material by e-mail.
  4. Use a subject line that reflects what your message is about.
  5. Don’t use abbreviations or text-message jargon (BTW, LOL, or smiley faces, and so forth) in your e-mail.
  6. Use a brief greeting as you might in a letter (Dear John, Good morning Mrs. Smith). Include a closing (Sincerely, Yours, Thanks).
  7. Use spell check and reread your message before sending.
  8. Respond to e-mail promptly.
  9. Use typefaces and colors that are appropriate to your workplace. Ask if your office has a style that you should follow.
  10. If you find you are e-mailing back and forth several times, pick up the phone to settle the issue.
  11. If you forward a message, remove the FW from the subject line.
  12. Change the subject line if the topic of the e-mail changes.
  13. Do not share other people’s e-mail addresses.
  14. Be careful using “reply all.” Consider whether it is necessary that everyone sees your reply.
  15. Do not forward other people’s messages without permission.
  16. Watch the tone of your e-mail. Remember, the person receiving the e-mail can’t see your body language.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder

Behavioral Based Interviewing

Generally speaking, you are not likely to have made it to the interviewing process of your job search if the organization meeting with you didn’t believe you could do their job.  They still want to hear you speak about your skills and job knowledge, but if they didn’t think you had the basics, you wouldn’t even be there.

Although this is reassuring in some ways, it also puts the pressure on you to perform well during that interview by articulating your strengths, offering examples of your past behaviors, and providing relevant information that reinforces your fit with that company.  Many employers utilize the Behavioral Based method of interviewing, meaning they ask questions that require you to tell stories (give examples) about how you responded in past experiences in order to gain an understanding about how you might behave in future work situations.  The CareerSpots video – Behavioral Interviewing – gives an excellent introduction to this interview technique as well as examples of questions, good responses, and attributes they’re listening for.

How prepared do you think you are for a behavioral interview situation?

Time and again, we hear that communication is one of the top skills that employers and graduate schools seek.  You may truly be the perfect fit, but if you can’t articulate your strengths and experiences well, you may be passed over.  Good communication takes reflection, practice, and an understanding of what employers/schools are seeking.

Why Be LinkedIn?

Students and recent graduates have a wealth of information at their fingertips through the many social media venues out there.  The common belief is that social media is for connecting and sharing with friends.  While that’s true, you can also use the ability to quickly (and relatively effortlessly) find and connect with others to your advantage in your job search.

LinkedIn is a social media forum built for this kind of professional networking.  According to the CareerSpots video, Why be LinkedIn, creating a profile allows you to talk with individuals about who you are and what you’re interested in.  You can also search for organizations and receive periodic emails from industry associations, alumni networking groups, or specific companies about news or job opportunities.  Conduct job searches using key words or connect with employers of companies with which you have an interest.  LinkedIn offers a six (6) video guide to students or recent graduates on how to Get Started, Build a Professional Brand, Find your Career Passion, Build a Professional Network, Turn Relationships into Opportunities, and Researching & Prepping for Interviews utilizing the capabilities of a personal LinkedIn account.  When used well, LinkedIn can allow you to harness the power of social media in a professional way for the benefit of your job or internship search.

While LinkedIn may be the professional social media outlet, don’t forget about the benefits of other sites.  You can search for companies or associations in Facebook, Twitter, blog sites, and any other forum.  You never know what information you can glean to learn more about an industry/company/culture/etc that will help with your job search and interview process!

Following Up with Employers

Recruitment season means many students are likely writing and sending out numerous resumes and cover letters in hopes of being selected for interviews and, ultimately, internships or full time opportunities.  Tailored application materials are much more likely to get you noticed than generic ones, but there is still fierce competition in the job market.  So what do you do after you’ve submitted an application?  And how do you stay on an employer’s radar after an interview? By following up!

Following up with employers is essential in the job search.  However, there’s an important distinction between touching base and being a pest.  The CareerSpots video, Follow up with Employers, offers guidelines from an employer perspective to help you know when to call or email after submitting your application and what to do after an interview.

Although all employers are different, one thing remains certain – you MUST make time to follow up!  Doing so will help you stand out and demonstrate genuine interest while remaining actively engaged in your job search.

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.

First Impressions

Welcome to the 2012-2013 academic year at Lebanon Valley College!  I trust you had a relaxing summer and are ready to hit the ground running for this fall semester.

The first week of school is all about first impressions, whether it’s your first year or you are a returning student.  What you wear, when you arrive, how much effort you put into your participation and engagement – these are all things that make up how you are perceived throughout your first few days.  As you well know, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!

Entering into the professional arena is no different.  You are expected to present yourself well on paper – through resumes, cover letters, graduate school applications, online applications, etc – as well as in person during networking events and interviews.  Don’t fall into the trap of believing it’s too early in the year to begin thinking about this – professionalism is developed, just as any other skill.

This semester, the Career Services’ Blog will touch on professional, career related topics and advice, highlighting resources that can benefit you and showcasing a weekly CareerSpots video.  This week, check out this 90 second clip on First Impressions to help get the year started on the right foot.