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Career Corner

Current Career Topics for Mount St. Mary's University Students

You are sitting in a reception room awaiting a hiring manager who will welcome you to an interview. So many things are probably running through your head. Did I remember everything? Am I properly dressed? How will I answer their questions?

Interview questionsIf you are well prepared, there will be no reason to feel uneasy the next time you have a face-to-face interview. One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to compose answers for common interview questions. Also, planning a mock interview with the career center will make you more than ready to take on anything the interviewer may throw at you.

The initial meeting between the employer and you will say many things about yourself and your future with the organization. Will your hiring be a good fit for both parties? How well will you be able to communicate with each other?

There are a few types of interview questions that you can expect to hear in any job interview. This week, we delve into those inquires so that you can conquer common interview questions.

1. Tell me about yourself

When you answer this question, you want to be confident. At the same time, you should not pretend you are someone without flaws. Aim for your answer to be between one and three minutes. If it goes over this amount of time, you are probably going to lose the attention of the interviewer and sound too self-centered. Some things you may want to bring up are where you grew up, education, and relevant work experience. Your answer can be a short version of your resume that focuses on things relevant to the interview.

2. What makes you qualified for this job?

When answering this question, do not focus on things like your GPA and the school you graduated from. The interviewer would much rather hear about your skill set and accomplishments. They want to know what makes you valuable and how you will benefit their organization. For example, you could talk about leadership positions you have held in college. Tell the employer what you have learned from those experiences and how you will apply them to a job.

3. What is your greatest weakness?

This is definitely one of the toughest questions an interviewee can be asked. However, if you anticipate it being asked, you will be more than ready to give a good, thorough answer. Avoid cliché answers like “I work too hard” or “I have trouble leaving tasks unfinished.” If you say something like everyone else would, there is a good chance you will not be remembered. Make your answer truthful and memorable. For example, if you are not a particularly good public speaker, you could say that you are working to improve that area by taking speaking classes. Interviewers want to know that you are self-aware and willing to improve.

 

The answer to this question should always be YES! Show the employer that you are curious and eager to learn more. You could ask “what would be some of my day-to-day responsibilities” or “what are some of the abilities and skills needed to be successful in this position” to name a couple of examples. By doing plenty of research beforehand, you will be able to think of questions specific to the interview.

Of course, these are only a few of the many questions you could be asked. Sometimes, there is no way to predict what questions you will face. That is why the most important thing in an interview is to have a strong sense of who you are, what you have accomplished and what you are capable of doing. With the right amount of confidence and self-awareness, you will do an amazing job at your next face-to-face interview.

This week begins a daily exploration of different federal agencies. Tuesday through Friday, the Career Center will be offering an event that will give students an inside look at these organizations that offer a wide variety of positions.

Even if you think you are not interested in a particular agency, the programs are great for anyone looking for federal employment. These agencies are always in need of individuals who are educated in just about any major, from human resources and bookkeeping to security and other skills. This week will also be a good time to learn about the application process for a job in the federal government, which includes using USAJOBS.gov to find more information and opportunities.

The Career Center will host the US Postal Inspection for their information session on Tuesday, March 24. This event will be held in the Gelles Conference Room from 12pm-2pm. The US Postal Inspection entails far more than just delivering mail. They protect the nation’s mail system from illegal use. This event will be especially intriguing for criminal justice majors. As federal law enforcement officers, postal inspectors carry firearms, make arrests and execute federal search warrants. They are not your average postal workers!

The Secret Service will visit campus on Wednesday, March 25 from 12pm-2pm in Knott Auditorium. This agency is headquartered in Washington, DC with more than 150 locations across the country. The Secret Service carries out a dual mission: to protect national and visiting foreign leaders and conduct criminal investigations.

The NSA (National Security Agency) will be holding their info session on Thursday, March 26 from 2pm-4pm in the O’Hara Dining Room. The NSA is unique because it has government-wide responsibilities. It provides products and services to the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community and other government agencies.

Federal Agency Week will wrap up on Friday, March 27 with an info session presented by the U.S. Department of Justice/ATF from 11am-1pm in the O’Hara Dining Room. ATF stands for the Bureau of Alcoholic, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. This special branch of the U.S. Department of Justice protects citizens from criminal actions, the illegal use of firearms and the illegal use of alcoholic and tobacco products.

Federal Agency Week is sure to be a great opportunity for all students who choose to attend. Try your best to attend as many of the sessions as you can, even if it is just one or two. The agencies have their own missions and cultures, like any business. Therefore, it is good to get a taste of what these missions and cultures are like as you continually develop your career path.

Not every college or university is fortunate enough to have a week solely dedicated to careers in the federal government. It truly will be a unique opportunity to network face-to-face with federal government professionals who may even be Mount alumni. These people will be able to answer many of the questions you may have about these careers.

Federal Agency

Patriot Hall will be opportunity central on March 18 from 3pm-5pm. Nearly 40 employers will be in attendance at the Career Center’s annual Career Fair. No matter your class year or major, you are welcome and encouraged to attend and explore what this great event has to offer.

blog photoAmong the organizations in attendance will be National Institutes of Health, Frederick Police Department, New York Life Insurance Company, Target Community & Educational Services, the U.S. Department of State and so much more. This event keeps getting bigger each year, and this year will be no exception.

If you decide to take the next step and attend the Career Fair on March 18, it is important that you put your best foot forward. This will begin with your attire.

Men should wear polished shoes, dark socks, and a two-piece suit that is navy, dark gray or black. A white long sleeved dress shirt is also appropriate with a simple tie that matches the color of the suit. Women should also plan on wearing a two-piece suit in navy, dark gray or black. Polished shoes with a 1-1 ½” heel are preferred.

blogTo prepare for the event, check out the list of the employers that will be attending. Research all of the companies you plan on speaking with so you can show that you are prepared and interested. For example, the recruiters with Edward Jones will be impressed if you already know that they are a nationwide investment firm and a leader in the financial services industry. Bring fifteen copies of your resume on heavier bound paper in order to have enough to share with employers.

It is also important to be proud of who you are. Job fairs are an awkward experience for many students. Having to start a conversation with complete strangers who are professionals in a given field is never easy. To defeat your nervous tendencies, accept your uneasy feelings and move forward with a confident and outgoing attitude.

Being prepared is also a good tactic to defeat these uneasy feelings. Create a brief pilot speech that addresses your qualifications and expresses your interest in the position or company. Once you get past the initial introduction stage, the rest will be easy.

While it is important to go into a job fair with a plan, you should also remember to go with the flow. Many times, you will end up really liking a company that you did not research too heavily prior to the event. Remember that many organizations hire a variety of different majors. Do not limit yourself and look to network as much as possible.

Remember that when you are speaking to recruiters, you are having a conversation. This means that both parties should be asking each other questions and answering. Think of both general and specific questions you can ask employers prior to the event. For example, “what kind of entry-level positions exist within your organization?” and “does your organization hire on a continual basis or just certain times of the year?”

In the end, you should approach each conversation with three goals in mind. First, you want to hand off one of your resumes to the employer. Second, you want to receive a business card in return in order to follow up with the employer. Lastly, you want to treat every individual with respect and professionalism. If all of these things happen, you are executing the fundamentals of a job fair.

Take the next step in your career development. Attend the Career Fair and discover all of the opportunities that your Mount education has gained for you.

If you need more assistance or advice for job fairs, proper attire or resumes, be sure to visit the Career Center. The Career Center staff wants nothing more than to see you succeed and find the perfect job or internship.

Next in our series of job application posts comes interviewing. Your cover letter Interview Photoand resume were stellar, and you have been offered an interview as a result. Now it is time for you to meet the employer face-to-face.

Will you be ready for this new and exciting opportunity? Below are some suggestions to help make your next interview run smoothly.

1. Interview Preparation

Whenever you find out the time, date and location of your interview, be sure to write it down. The last thing you want is to forget when and where you will be interviewed.

To prepare, look over common interview questions. The Career Center also has many resources available, such as mock interviews and interviewing workshops, to help you reach your potential.

Another good idea is to read over the company’s website to get a better understanding of their goals and missions. You could really impress the interviewer if you bring up something interesting about their organization during the interview.

2. Day of the Interview

Bring extra copies of your resume, a reference list, something to write on and a pen or pencil. You should also be dressed appropriately for the interview. Women should have skirts no shorter than 1” above the knee. Men should be clean-shaven or neatly trimmed. Your appearance will go a long way in determining whether you are the right candidate for the job.

Arrive 10-15 minutes early to your interview. If you do not know exactly where your interview is located, practice the route ahead of time. It is always better for you to be waiting on your employer rather than the alternative.

3. During the Interview

Experts say that 90% of cues we give off are non-verbal. Make sure your cell phone is off and all of your focus is towards the interviewer. Smile at the employer and offer a firm hand shake whenever you sit down to meet them. Good eye contact will be the key to show the employer that you are engaged in the conversation.

As the interviewer is asking you questions, your first goal will likely be to answer in a way that shows you are qualified for the job. However, it is also important to be as honest as possible when talking about your accomplishments and abilities.

There is no doubt that you will feel a little anxious or nervous while you are being interviewed, but that is okay! The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you can settle in to the interview and show the employer the best of you! Remember, in the interview, you are interviewing the employer as much as they are interviewing you.

4. After the Interview

If the employer asks if you have any questions at the end of the interview, make sure you have a question or two prepared. This will display your true interest in the position.

Follow up with a prompt thank you note after the interview. It is also a good idea to evaluate your performance in the interview.

Regardless of whether you get the position or not, each interview can be a great learning experience that could benefit you in other job searches down the road. The key is to never give up, and continue to seek out new opportunities!

Last week’s post was all about the steps in writing a cover letter. This week, we will shift our focus to the document that follows the cover letter – the resume.

Time is of the essence when an employer reads your resume. According to a study released by the Ladders, an online job-matching service, recruiters spend only 6 seconds reviewing a resume. As a result, following the style and guidelines of resume writing will be crucial in any job search.

The first thing that should appear at the top of your resume is a heading. The heading should include your name, current address, phone number and email address. Your name should be the focal point of the entire document, so be sure to make it large, bold or both.

After the heading comes the objective statement. This statement should clearly tell employers the type of position you are seeking and the skills and experiences you can contribute to the company.

Resume

The objective statement is a controversial aspect of the resume. Some experts say that it is too limiting, and it eliminates other job opportunities within the company that the candidate is unaware of.  Others say that it provides much needed focus to the resume. A career center counselor can help you decide if an objective statement is right for your resume.

For students and recent graduates, the next section of the resume is usually education. This portion of the resume lists the colleges and universities you are attending or have previously attended. It is also important to indicate your major(s), minor(s) and concentration(s). GPA can be included if it is over 3.0.

Next comes the experience section. In this portion of the resume, you should bullet or briefly explain the responsibilities held and skills demonstrated for each position you have formerly held. Pick up a list of resume actions verbs in the Career Center so you can keep your duty descriptions clear and not too wordy.

Skills will follow experiences in your resume. In your skills section, it is good to include computer, customer service and leadership skills if these are applicable to your prior experiences.

Honors and Activities sections can be altered on a case by case basis. For example, if the Dean’s List is your only honor, you might not want to make a specific section for honors. Instead, you could add the Dean’s List to your education section.

So, do you feel you are ready to submit your resume? Think again! Have a peer look over your resume beforehand. Bring it to the Career Center so it can be critiqued by a professional. Do not let simple grammatical or mechanical mistakes prevent you from being offered an interview.

A cover letter can make or break the opportunity to be offered an interview. If you write a great cover letter, it can grant you an interview that your resume alone would not give you. If you write a poor cover letter, the greatness of your resume and experiences could be overlooked by the flaws of the initial letter.

Don’t let your cover letter be a hindrance in your job search! Below are 10 easy steps to make sure your cover letter sets you apart from the rest.

Step 1: Review your resume

The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce your resume. Therefore, you should have a strong hold on what is written in your resume before you begin to write a cover letter.

Step 2: Think about making a good first impression

This will be the first time your potential employer shapes an opinion of who you are and what you bring to their organization. Capture their attention immediately and use the cover letter to encourage him/her to read your resume.

Step 3: Address your letter to a real person

Be sure to get a name or position title of the person you are writing to. If you do not know who you are addressing in the letter, jump into the body of the letter. Do not use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom it May Concern.”

Step 4: Do not repeat what is said in your resume

Cover letters are not resumes in essay format. Cover letters add new information that would not be found on your resume like personal traits, work habits, and why you are interested in the job.

Step 5: Keep it brief

A cover letter should be three to four paragraphs at the most. It should not exceed one page, and preferably, not more than three quarters of a page. A cover letter should be clear, concise, and convincing.

Step 6: Show experience in your first sentence

Do not start your letter with a generic sentence such as, “Hello, my name is Jane Doe, and I am applying for this position as a summer intern.” An introduction like this makes you sound very inexperienced. Spice it up a little and explain how your hard work and dedication in this field makes you a great candidate.

Step 7: Write your first paragraph

In the first paragraph, tell the employer why you are writing to them and any personal contacts that have referred you for the position. Also state how you resonate with the company or opportunity.

Step 8: Write paragraphs two and three

Do not tell the employer what you want. Tell them why they should want you. Make sure the employer knows all the knowledge, skills, and experience you can bring to the organization. While your needs are also important in the job search, it is not what an employer is looking for in a cover letter.

Step 9: Finish with a “Call to Action” Statement

In the last paragraph of your cover letter, it is very important that you inform the reader when you will be following up with them. Give an exact date and how you will be contacting them.

Step 10: Send as a PDF

To ensure there are no formatting issues, send your cover letter and resume as a PDF.

For more details on formatting a cover letter, be sure to visit the Career Center!

“You’re gonna miss this. You’re gonna want this back. You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.”

Over winter break, I heard these lyrics from Trace Adkins’s popular song playing on the radio. It was at that moment when I realized how much time has gone by. It feels like just the other day when I was beginning my new life as a college student.

Now, I am a second semester junior, and the future is coming faster than ever. Luckily for students like me, there is a great resource available to make this transition easier – the Career Center.

Hello, my name is Josh Karlheim, and I am the new journalism intern at the Career Center. I am a double major in Communications and Accounting, but I have recently become very interested in student affairs. When I heard about this position in the Career Center, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to develop my writing skills while getting an inside look at higher education.

There is a lot to look forward to this spring in the Career Center. The Mount’s hub of career development will continue to help students and alumni find their vocation through career counseling, educational programming and employer services. A countless number of career events will begin this week and continue throughout the semester.

In our increasing tech savvy world, a LinkedIn account can be very useful in job searches. On February 24, Mount alumnus and PayPal senior recruiter Kevin Dunn will be on campus for a LinkedIn seminar.

Free professional photos and pizza will be available for all those who are interested. If you do not have a LinkedIn account or you want to make your account more effective, this will be one event you do not want to miss.

Ever dream of working for the FBI, Secret Service, US Postal Inspection or NSA? If so, you can look forward to an entire week devoted to these careers. Federal Agency Week will be March 23-27, and it will include several information sessions with these federal agencies.

The second half of the semester will include two important events: the career fair and the etiquette dinner. The career fair, one of the biggest events every year, will be held on March 18. This semester’s programming will wrap up with the etiquette dinner on April 16. It will be led by well-known author and career specialist, Mike True.

Of course, these are only a few of the many events that the Career Center will be hosting this spring. Many other workshops, information sessions and on-campus recruitments will also be offered. Watch your email and the TVs on campus for more information or head online to http://www.msmary.edu/student-life/career-center/calendar_career_center.

No matter your major, interests or career goals, the Career Center is here to help you in any step of the process. If you have any questions regarding programming this spring, be sure to contact the Career Center at 301-447-5202, or come to the office in Upper McGowan.

Life is a journey. The Career Center is here to help you embrace your climb to the top of the mountain and enjoy the view when you arrive.

It is hard to believe this semester is coming to an end.  As a graduating Mount Senior, I realized that there were many action steps I’ve taken throughout my time here to make it enjoyable both with friends and academically.  The Career Center also offers action step cards for each year, which may help guide personal career efforts to be prepared for when it is time to move on from The Mount.  These cards can be found in the Career Center or on the Career Center portion of the Mount website.  Here are some of my action steps I took during my time at The Mount, maybe they can help you think about your own action steps you would like to take.  

Freshman year: Make sure to keep up with all your Veritas Program assignments, both class-wise and portfolio wise.  Even though there is a resume workshop during orientation, make an appointment with the Career Center to build your resume.  The first semester of freshman year can be very challenging.  You are in a new environment, away from family and friends, and you are trying to adjust while trying to perform well in school.  An important thing to remember is that The Mount offers you a support system on campus with faculty, staff, and new friends you make.  One of the best things about attending The Mount is living out the community pillar. 

Sophomore year: Continue to work and build on all the things from your freshman year.  It is a good time to prepare or update your resume.  Meet with your academic advisor to discuss what major you want to declare.  Remember, you have until spring semester to do declare your major.  Many students come in with an undecided major, which can be helpful in discovering what major fits best.  Taking a self-assessment of FOCUS also really helps many students.

Junior year:  For many students, junior year is one of the hardest years at The Mount.  There are many academic and career challenges.  Junior year makes you realize that you only have one year left until graduation.  Take time to reflect about what you want as a career and what your last memories at The Mount to be.   By this time, you should be more confident with your resume and you should have an understanding of how to write a good cover letter.  Begin to research jobs or schools you want to attend after graduation.  Also, learn the application process of either the jobs or schools you wish to attend.  Get ready to prepare yourself for any standardized tests needed too.

Senior year: Senior year is the time to really focus on your resume and whether you want to extend your education after graduation or apply for jobs.  Check College Central Network for updates on jobs, internships, and networking opportunities.  Regularly check the Career Center website and your email about internships, jobs, and events.   The Career Center has resources and information on the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT tests.   Finalize your resume and post it on College Central Network.  Reflect on what type of job you could see yourself in and the location you would like to live.  Be sure to make an appointment with the Career Center to discuss your plans and to work on interviewing skills through a mock interview.  Take advantage of your last opportunities to easily network with Mount alumni and potential employers.  With graduation on your mind, do not forget to stay connected with professionals in your area of interest. 

On behalf of the Career Center, I would like to take this time to thank anyone who has participated in Career Center events during the fall semester.  The Career Center will have many insightful events in the spring semester where you can come join and participate.  Planning for career development can be very cumbersome, but it can be less cumbersome if you do it as small pieces at a time.  The Career Center helps you do this while helping you discover your future.  Do not forget that there will be great opportunities to further your career development during the spring semester, especially through the Career Fair, the flagship event of the Career Center, taking place at the Mount on Wednesday, March 18, 2015.  Have a great break and see you in the spring!

Being given an opportunity at a new internship or job is always exciting.  As you begin a new chapter in your life, there are many hurdles that you must overcome at your new opportunity.   One of them is maintaining a professional relationship in the workplace.  This article will give you insightful tips of the dos and don’ts of relationships at the workplace.

DO: It is always important to remember that you are at work.  You should carry yourself in a professional manner at all times, because you never know who you are going to meet.  One of the key things is being polite to all of your coworkers.  This can be a challenge because it is within our human nature that we are not going to get along with everyone we meet.  Remember to be respectful of everyone’s opinions, even when you do not agree with them.  Also, it is sometimes best to remain quiet if you having nothing nice to say.

DO NOT: Share too much information about your personal life.  It is good to friendly and cordial, but don’t divulge every aspect of your life outside of work.  Sharing too much about your personal life to new people can make them feel very uncomfortable.   Another way to carry yourself in a professional manner is to not use vulgar language.

One big DO NOT in a professional setting is do not decrease your professional effectiveness through excessive drinking or similar behaviors.  Many times, if you are over the age of 21, alcohol will be served and offered at business events or dinners.  Sometimes, it is accepted to have a drink at these times, but remember to have self control.  Limit yourself to only one drink.  If you know you have no self control when it comes to alcohol, decline all drinks.

Through your time in an internship or job, you may grow closer to some colleagues.  A coworker may ask you to spend time together after work.  You may start to ask yourself if this is ok.  It usually is acceptable to make friends at work and to spend time with them outside of work, but it is up to your discretion.  Some people prefer not to socialize because they like to keep their personal and work life separate.  There is a balance that you need to find when having work relationships and personal friendships.  This balance is not the same for everyone.   It has a lot to do with self reflection and knowing what you want in your workplace. 

Above everything else, always treat others with dignity, respect, and professionalism.  These three things can mean a lot in building trust and understanding.  In working for a company, you and your coworkers are all on the same team.  Therefore, always put your best foot forward in building safe, productive, and inclusive environments.

There are now various ways to connect to employers about potential jobs or internships online.  One of the somewhat new ways is to connect online through the site LinkedIn.  According to LinkedIn, it is a way for you to:

  • “Build your professional identity online and stay in touch with colleagues and classmates.”

  • “Discover professional opportunities, business deals, and new ventures.”

  • “Get the latest news, inspiration, and insights you need to be great at what you do.”

LinkedIn is one of the tools that you can use to build and visualize your personalized professional network.  You can also use LinkedIn to build your personal brand.  With your personal brand you can market your skills and experiences to potential employers. 

Making a well informed and professional LinkedIn profile page can be challenging.  Here is an easy five step list to achieving an impressive LinkedIn profile.

Step One: Make sure that your profile picture is professional.  You should be wearing business attire or business casual with a plain or office setting background.  A good rule to remember is that you want your profile picture to be from the waist up.  Leave the selfies for other social media sites.

Step Two: Leave the numbers game for Twitter.   LinkedIn is not a popularity contest.  Professionals viewing your profile will not think that you are more experienced based on more connections.  Build your LinkedIn connections based on people you are certain that will be helpful and supportive of your career development.  With your connections, remember to take it slow.  After meeting someone in the professional world it is not a good idea to ask to be their connection an hour after meeting them.  Do not be afraid to reach out after meeting a business professional, just give it some time.  When connecting with them, leave a thoughtful note that will make you stand out. 

Step Three: Remember to set your privacy settings accordingly.  For example, if you do not want others to see what groups you are following, it can be hidden from your profile.  It is a good idea to hide when you have applied to one company, but are following their main competitor on LinkedIn.  

Step Four: Unlike other social media sites, you are notified when someone has viewed your profile and vice versa.  Do not be shy about the fact that you can see who has viewed your profile and vice versa.  Feel free to browse profiles to see if there are any opportunities which fit for you.  Although you may see this as “creeping,” try not to see it in that way.  LinkedIn is about networking and finding opportunities. 

Step Five: Express yourself on your LinkedIn page.  Don’t be afraid to have a thorough profile of education, experiences, and skills.  LinkedIn gives you the ability to show these things on your profile, but it allows you to also make it more personal.  You can outline your experiences and skills in the first person.  Sometimes, professionals will add a personal story of their career development journey to their profile.

Wonderful!  These five steps can help you build a great network of connections and an outstanding LinkedIn profile page.  The Career Center is also here to help you build your LinkedIn profile.  Be aware of upcoming events focused on social media or LinkedIn in the spring semester, including a LinkedIn workshop on February 9, 2015.

 
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