Thursday, December 3, 2015

Job Searching: Where Do I Begin?

So where to begin?
First, make a plan! To be effective at a job search, develop a strategy. The strategy should include some basics, such as:

1)      Identify the city or region in which you’d like to live.  

2)      Study job descriptions of positions which interest you to understand what employers need or want.  Gone are the days when help wanted ads were the main job search tool. Now, the Internet provides any number of links to online job banks and search engines, social media platforms, and company job sites – literally at one’s fingertips! You’ve been on many of these sites:,, and are some of the popular sites. There are also the job banks for jobs across the nation or state by state. Among the pros of using these tools are the vast number of jobs posted nationwide, and even globally. Among the cons – the vast number of job searchers competing for the same position. It can seem overwhelming.

3)      Know what you would like to do and find organizations that have those types of positions.

4)      Attend campus recruiting and networking events. Attend career and job fairs, trade shows and conferences – learn about employers who are hiring. (Are you a student in the Iowa College Recruiting Network? Spring Interview Day is right around the corner. Contact your Career Services staff for more details and to get signed up!)

5)      Design a personal business card to share at job fairs and networking events. Being memorable works better when people you meet can find you again!

6)      Update and customize your resume and cover letter with your latest accomplishments, education, and experience. Applying to a specific job? Be sure to use as many key words as possible (key words are those found in the job description).

7)      Use social media wisely. Make sure your privacies on accounts such as Facebook are appropriate as employers may look online for information about job applicants. Better yet, create a professional account on LinkedIn, complete your profile, and join groups within your career path to expand your network and connect with people in your chosen field.

8)      When you find a job posted online, check the organization’s website and see if the job is posted with them under Careers, Employment, Jobs, Work for Us….if possible, apply for the job from the company’s own website rather than from a job bank. For example, if you find a job on a Workforce Development website and you can find the company and the job posted on the company’s website, apply through the company’s system. Workforce Development postings have filters and you must match nearly all of the requirements just to post to the position. If you go through the company website, however, your application stands a better chance of getting through to a hiring manager.

9)      You’ve heard it before, but we’ll repeat it again and again – connect with employees inside your companies of interest! Do you know people who work where you’d like to work? Talk to them, let them know you are applying, ask them to put in a good word about you – and be sure you deserve the good word! Employers would rather hire a ‘known’ candidate than someone unknown.

10)  And once more – Network! Let family, friends, faculty, staff, other students, and your references know you are hunting for a job. Some estimates about hidden jobs – those which may never be posted – account for up to 80% of hires. Whether that statistic is accurate or not, employers don’t post all jobs, and appreciate saving money on posting job openings. Oh, and share your resume with your network. A recent success story came about when a new grad shared her resume with a family member, who shared it with a friend, who shared it with an employer, who called the job seeker requesting an interview and, ultimately offered the young woman a job.

11)  Searching for jobs at a distance? Try browsing the Chamber of Commerce websites for towns and cities in the area you’d like to live. Chambers usually have lists of companies and organizations on their site, and they are most often linked to the organization’s own website. Go from there to find the Employment tab for that company or organization. Very large metropolitan areas may have a number of cities represented in ‘area’ or ‘partnership’ chambers, giving even more access to numerous employers as you search. And if you have questions, pick up a phone! Chamber personnel are excellent in providing more information and contacts which may be of great help in a job search in their area.

Your job search strategy is basic and once you have your plan, the second step is to Work the Plan. You may make lists of employers to contact, or jobs to which to apply, but if you don’t stay organized, your job search will be frustrating and you may lose track of where you’ve applied or what resume you used to apply. (Yes, your resumes should be tailored to each job, not generic for every job!)

An easy way to stay organized is to create a simple chart with the job, company, application materials, and date of application noted. Once you have applied, if you haven’t heard back in a timely manner, do a courteous follow-up via telephone or email, mentioning the time frame of your application, asking if they received the application or if they need any other information, reiterating your interest in the position, and ask the time frame for further decision making. If the application instructions ask you not to contact them, follow those wishes. And do remember, organizations may get a few or hundreds of applications for a position. It may take several weeks for them to actually identify the candidates they wish to interview and, after the interview, make a final selection. So be patient and apply for other jobs while you wait!

Note: Job searching wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how to use Social Media to find jobs, but that is an entire other blog (stay tuned for that Career Hot Spot blog in February)!

Written by: Debbie E. Stevens, William Penn University
Career Services Coordinator

Edited by:  Bobbi Meyer, Simpson College
Director of Career Development & Civic Engagement

Monday, November 16, 2015

Resumes and Cover Letters: Shifting our Perspective

Opinions vary about what should or should not be on a professional resume, so it can be confusing for a college student to know where to begin.  The key is to think strategically and to ask yourself what qualifications you would look for in a candidate if you were making the hiring decision.    

Like so many of us, employers are pressed for time and appreciate resumes that are concise and easy to read.  Use bullet points to emphasize key skills and achievements and keep your resume to a single page. 

Since you have limited space to sell yourself, make sure your content is relevant to the qualifications for the position.  It’s a good idea to review job descriptions so you know what is important to include.  Use quantitative language wherever possible to describe how performance is measured and, it goes without saying -always, always be honest.  

Use reverse chronological order to emphasize the most recent and, in most cases, relevant information toward the beginning of the resume. Education will likely be at the top– especially if there are specific degree requirements to be considered for the job.  Include degree type (A.A., B.S., B.B.A., etc.) and majors/minor.  A G.P.A. of 3.5 or above should also be included to emphasize strong academic preparation.  High school and related extracurricular activities should not be included on a college resume.  You should also leave off other colleges you’ve attended unless you earned a relevant degree or diploma.  

Hopefully, you listened to your campus career counselor and participated in an internship or two during your college experience.  This qualifies as relevant experience, so be sure to include it toward the top of your resume.  List projects you were assigned as well as results, and describe both technical and soft skills used to contribute to problem resolution.  

By now you might be thinking your job at the local grocery store is not relevant or important enough to include on your resume, right?  Wrong!  Most employers understand that new graduates have limited work experience in their occupation of study.  Listing other work experience of at least a year or more demonstrates that you have good work habits and that you are dependable and responsible- skills that all employers want but are difficult to teach, on-the-job.
Finally, extra-curricular activities such as athletics, school clubs and volunteer experiences demonstrate leadership, team work, civic-engagement, and a commitment to community –attractive qualities to employers in all industries.

Great- you have a strong resume that summarizes your skills and experience for the job.  Why write a cover letter?     
A cover letter is used to introduce yourself to the employer and explain the reason you are sending your resume (that is, to be considered for a specific job at XYZ Company).  The cover letter also serves as way to showcase skills, experiences, or personal values that set you apart from other candidates.   The main purpose is to motivate the employer to offer you an interview.  Although this seems like a simple concept, make no mistake…cover letters can be challenging to write.  It will be important for you to understand the position and the organization well enough to express why your qualifications are the best fit for the role.
The first and simplest way to do this is to emphasize your skills and experiences that match those in the job description.  You can do this by listing the qualifications word-for-word in your letter; however, you may also want to draw the reader’s attention to how these skills were developed and utilized by referring to your resume. 
You will also want to research the organization and understand their mission, values and work culture, and how the position fits within the overall structure of the company.  In addition to checking the organization’s webpage, consider reaching out to friends or contacts within your network and asking them what they enjoy most about working for XYZ. 
As you learn more about the organization, reflect on your personal beliefs and attributes.  Where do your values align with those of the organization?  Maybe the company sponsors an event for a non-profit where you happen to be a volunteer.  Speak to that connection in your letter.  Remember- you want to persuade the reader to offer you an interview, so point out what makes you uniquely qualified for the position.   
Clearly, you will want to be honest about your qualifications, but DON'T dwell on skills you do not have.  Many employers look for a candidate with the character and personality that fit within their organizational culture and may be willing to train where a candidate lacks experience. 

Finally, close the letter by asking for the interview.  Begin by confidently re-emphasizing your interest and suitability for the position.  Tell the reader how you can be reached and then, thank them for considering your request.
Written by:  Cheryl Redd, Mount Mercy University
Career Services Director

Edited by:  Maureen Fitzgibbon, Grinnell College
Assistant Director of Employer Relations & Employment Counseling


Monday, November 2, 2015

Networking… The Job Search Superpower!

Up, up and away! At some point in our lives we have all thought about having a superpower; for me, it was flying. Something about getting from point A to point B as the crow flies was appealing. We all know that having a superpower is impossible…or is it? 

With the help of technology you can get from point A to point B as the crow flies, and with some help from friends and contacts you can land a job! Networking is a major component of the job search process. If you have not considered developing your networking superpower, I highly suggest you get started. Lou Adler, author of The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired, states that 60% of your job search process should be focused on networking. Networking can be your superpower.

Getting Started
If you think you do not have a network, think again. Networking is as easy as getting to know people. Talking with the parent of a friend who works in the industry you are interested in, meeting an individual who majored in what you are majoring in or researching, and reconnecting with friends on Facebook are all forms of networking. Each person you meet can assist in moving your job search forward. Here are a couple of ways to jump start your networking process

  • Join a professional association. Often these associations will have a student membership and if you join, you have direct access to individuals who are working in the industry in which you would like to work.

  • Seek out alumni from your institution. The alumni office or the career development center will have connections with individuals who love to help students from their alma mater. This kind of student connection makes a lot of sense to alumni, especially if they are unable to support their institution financially. This is a great way for them to feel as though they are giving back.

  • Talk with faculty. The people who teach you are often connected in the field as researchers or consultants and they know other people. Ask for an appointment and pick their brains about professionals in the field that they may be able to connect you with.

  • Family members can be a perfect connection to networking. No one wants to see you succeed more than a member of your family and their professional connections are a great resource to tap into. They can make the introduction and you can take it from there. 

  • Check out your circle of friends. The parents/older siblings of your friends can be another great resource. Talk with your friends and inquire as to the connections they have and if they are willing to introduce you.

Build Relationships
Now that you have researched and developed a list of potential networking contacts, you need work on building professional relationships. Networking is a two-way street and it is as much about giving back as it is about taking. The networking contact is also interested in you and you need to build that relationship. If you come across an interesting article you think they may be interested in, pass it on to them.

Developing the relationship is simple if you keep these things in mind:

Be authentic – being the real you should be the goal. Don’t try to be someone you think they want you to be.

Be considerate – if the contact is someone you personally know, take time to catch up. If they are a busy professional, get to the point and be respectful of their time.

Ask for advice not a job – keep the pressure off. Professionals are very willing to give advice about how to break into the industry, but asking for a job can make them feel ambushed.

Be specific – do your homework and know what you want. Articulate what you are looking for in a succinct and concise way. What is your overall goal? An insider’s take on the industry? A referral? An introduction to someone in the field?

Keep the Conversation Going
Maintaining a networking contact involves conversations. Along with being a good conversationalist it is important to be a good listener. This may include maintaining eye contact and providing verbal and non-verbal cues that show you are involved and interested. Being a good listener also supplies you with information that you can use to keep the conversation going.

Dig Deeper. Take your time during conversations and don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions that dig a little deeper. For example if one of your contacts mentions that they are beginning a new protocol at work, ask questions about what it involves.

Be appropriate. Certain topics and conversations may be suitable for one event and off limits at another. Always err on the side of caution. If you even suspect that a topic may be inappropriate, chose another “safe” topic instead. Also, be wary of bringing up personal relationships or family issues; you may end up regretting it.

Don’t dominate the conversation. Remember you are developing this relationship to gain information from them, and you can’t do that if you are only talking and not doing any listening.

Respect others and their opinions. You may not always agree with something someone tells you, but it is important to always be respectful and not put anyone down.

Continually Work on Networking!

Remembering these networking tips will assist you in developing the superpower that will be important in assisting you in your job search. Stay positive throughout the process. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen!

Written by:  Bill Minnick, Northwestern College
Director – Career Development Center 

Edited by:  Stacie Hays, Morningside College
Career Counselor, Career Services 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

So…What Am I Supposed to Be Doing? The Four-Year Checklist for Career Development

As a freshman in college, the concept of graduating and entering the workforce seems like a lifetime away. Then you blink, it’s your final semester, and you’re feeling overwhelmed and underprepared for what your career has in store for you.  What you’ll find in this post is a career development checklist, broken down by year into manageable and attainable tasks. If you can stick to this checklist, the anxiety you expected to feel about your career path is gone, and you’re left prepared to enter the workforce with professional skills, knowledge, and confidence. It’s important to start this checklist in the first year, and to gradually build upon it.. Happy planning!
The 1st Year Experience: “Self-Awareness”

The first year is all about exploring the self, and reflecting on what strengths and interests you have that might lead to a potential major and career path

  •  Develop healthy study habits: Utilize Academic Success Centers, Writing Labs, or other on-campus resources to acclimate yourself to the rigor and challenge of college classes.  
  • Do A Career Assessment! Visit Career Services to take an interest profiler or strengths assessment. We use Tools like these can give you clues to guide you in the right direction. 
  • Participate in programming on campus: Get involved on campus! This will help you to learn more about how you want to spend your time, as well as help start to create a network of individuals who may help you along your career journey. 
  • Prepare initial resume: Even if this is just a running list of activities and experiences you’ve had thus far, start documenting everything you do! Volunteering, part-time work, student organizations, coursework, and other experiences all help to start shaping your professional background.
The 2nd Year Experience: “Career Exploration”

The sophomore year is about diving into career exploration and learning about work environments that you can envision for your future.
  • Meet with advisor/internship coordinator in your department:  Your academic advisor or Career Services advisor can be a great resource if you’re concerned about what careers are right for you within you major, or if graduate/professional school is something you need to start considering. 
  • Research internships: Does your major require an internship? Strongly encourage an internship? Start to think about opportunities you may want to take advantage of regarding experiential learning.  
  • Update resume, develop general cover letter: Now is a great time to visit Career Services and start putting together your resume into a clean, professional format; start to organize your information into a document that showcases your knowledge, skills, accomplishments, and abilities.  
  • Participate in an informational interview, job shadow, or observation hours: Some Career Centers host informational interviews for students interested in learning more about a career path or position. These along with job shadows or observation experiences allow you to ask a professional about the field, and can help you decide whether or not your major and current path is right for you!  
  • Participate in an Interview Day/Career Fair:  Even if you’re not quite ready to apply for jobs, it is never too early to start to network and connect. Attend a campus event like a Career Fair or Interview Day to introduce yourself to professionals in your field, and learn about what they are looking for in recent graduates. Who knows, maybe they’ll remember you when it comes time to apply!  
  • Maintain a part-time/summer job: Ideally, seek out a part-time job related to your major, but any job can help you build your transferable skills.  
  • Volunteer in an area of interest: Whether this is on your own or with a group of students, you’ll gain a sense of fulfillment, connect with local community members, not to mention gain experiences to talk about in a job interview.
The 3rd Year Experience: “Getting in the Field”
The third year is all about experiential learning and building upon your career-related skills. In today’s job market, it’s crucial that you have not only a degree but experience when you go to apply for jobs.
  • Continue to…update resume & cover letter:  Have Career Services look over your document. You never know when an employer may ask to see it! 
  • Identify references for potential job applications: Remember that networking you’ve been doing through information interviews, job shadows, and other involvement? Now is a good time to identify 3-5 faculty, staff members, supervisors, or other professionals who would serve as references for you during your job or internship search. 
  • Complete one (or several) mock interviews: Interviewing is a skill that only improves with practice. Sit down with professionals in your field to complete a mock interview for feedback on improving your resume, communication style, and confidence; continue connecting with professionals in your field. 
  • Pursue experiential learning: By now, You should be pursuing or obtaining an internship. This experience builds your knowledge, confidence, and connections!  
  • Establish your online professional presence: What professional organizations are popular and active within your desired career field? Join them! Speaking of networking, if you haven’t already, create your LinkedIn profile. Employers are utilizing this social networking tool more than ever.
The 4th Year Experience: “Acting on Your Decision” 
You’ve made it to your fourth year! If you’ve gone through the first three checklists, you should be in great shape as you check off the final items in preparing to enter the working world. Soon, it will be time to put all that planning into action.
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  • Continue to…participate in mock interviews: Practice makes perfect.  
  • Continue to…engage in on and off-campus event: Stay connected on campus and in the community by attending Career Fairs, networking events, speakers, presentations, workshops, etc. 
  • Continue to…pursue internships: If you’ve not yet completed one, you still have time. And remember: there is no rule that you cannot consider a second internship. More experience leads to more developed skills sets and knowledge! 
  • Finalize that resume: make your resume to at least three professionals (Career Services, faculty, etc.) to review. Everyone has his or her own stylistic opinion, and will offer your different feedback. 
  • Begin job search 6 months before graduation: Even if you’re not ready to apply for positions, start looking at the job market to see what’s available. Think about geographical location, research specific companies, and pay attention to trends in your career field.  
  • Seek leadership roles in your student activities/involvement:  Remain actively engaged on campus and take on roles with more responsibility and leadership within student organizations or events.  
  • Make final decisions about graduate or professional school:  Finalize all application materials, take your entrance exams, and continue having active conversations with prospective schools.  
  • NETWORK!! Seek out any type of networking opportunity you can. Sometimes, the connections you have make all the difference when it comes time to job search. Reach out to the individuals you’ve selected as references, and maintain relationships with faculty, staff, and alumni.

Ready to put all that planning into action? Go get ‘em!  

Written by:  Anne Funke, University of Dubuque
Career Service Program Assistant – Advising and Career Center 

Edited by:  Catharine Craig, Graceland University
Director of Career, Academic and Personal Counseling Services 


California State University – Fullerton. Four Year Checklist. [Retrieved July, 2015].
Johnson, L. (2013). Undergraduate Career Development Checklist. Career Services, University of Dubuque, Dubuque, IA.
University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Career Planning Checklist. [Retrieved July, 2015].