When you're looking to land your first or second paying gig, it's easy to mix up the concepts of a job and career. Early on, a job may seem paramount to long-term success, as it is your source of income and likely your first true professional experience. However, a job right after school will likely be unrelated to or far from your lifetime career goals. This distinction might seem confusing. At surface level, the idea of a job and career seem intrinsically similar, but this is not necessarily the case, especially for a young job-hopper still searching for his or her professional calling. It is important to be able to distinguish these two designations when interviewing and considering switching jobs.
Jobs take up a lot of our day-to-day lives. It's easy to get lost in your work and think about it as a permanent situation, but you should maintain perspective. Basically, a job is a position we keep to make enough money to pay the bills. A good job can be part of a rewarding career, but it is merely one component in a larger picture. This means a job might not be somewhere you intent to stay for the long haul, and it might be unrelated to where you see yourself 10 years down the line. With that said, jobs are not the only thing that contribute to a career, and switching jobs will likely take much less work than changing career paths.
A career is the compilation of your work experiences, volunteer opportunities, educational training and other professional accomplishments. Career paths generally follow a chain of job positions that build up to encompass more responsibility. To have a successful career, it is important to constantly consider long-term goals that lead to a position that will ultimately make you happy. Careers are meant to provide more satisfaction and rewards than a job. If you are always looking for new challenges and responsibilities at a particular job, it might be a sign that you could enjoy a career in that field.
It is important to understand this distinction when talking to employers and hiring managers–that way, they can identify your career aspirations. Many employers want to have a general idea of where you see yourself within the company. A common interview question might include, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" or "What are your long-term career goals?" Have answers ready for these types of questions when meeting with a potential employer or interviewing for a new position.
Not sure what to wear for your big interview? That's understandable. In today's working world, you can find a million dress-code designations varying from hipster chic to professional casual to full on business formal. With that said, it's nearly impossible to be overdressed for an interview. The fact is, appearances do matter, and clothing plays a big part in that. You can go out and get a nice haircut, study up on the company and practice answering interview questions with a friend, but if you show up in a dirty T-shirt and ripped jeans those efforts won't make a difference. Remember, it's always better to air on the side of conservatism. That is to say, focus on dressing professionally. Even if you know the company you are interviewing with has a business-casual dress code, wearing a suit won't hurt your chances.
Of course, it's easy to point fingers at professionals that break the standard dress code. For example, the tech world is notorious for having executives that wear hoodies and jeans in the boardroom. Yes, it is true that many businesses are shifting toward a more relaxed style of attire, but how you are expected to dress day-to-day once you've gotten the job is irrelevant to how you dress for an interview. While high school and college settings encourage freedom of expression, an idea that is often emphasized through choices in apparel, there are simple rules when it comes to dressing for an interview. Essentially, employers will initially associate your ability to succeed professionally with your ability to look professional. Here are some tips for dressing appropriately for an interview:
Of course, despite all of this advice, it's also important to research office culture. Learn about a company's dress code policy by researching its website. Be adaptable. If you show up to an interview in a suit, and the hiring manager is wearing a T-shirt and shorts, taking off your jacket might make you appear more relaxed while still exhibiting the fact that you came ready to go. Dress appropriately, prepare properly and demonstrate professionalism.
You think you're nailing the interview, but it's not quite over. The hiring manager has been asking you the tough questions, and you've answered each one confidently and professionally. You had several copies of your resume printed and ready to go. They loved your references, and now the interview is wrapping up.
"Do you have any questions for me?" the hiring manager asks.
This is your moment to shine. Remember that an interview is a two-way street. Asking questions during an interview not only gives you an opportunity to learn about the company, but also provides you the chance to impress employers. Asking Intelligent questions can reveal a lot about your work ethic. In fact, the questions you ask potentially hint at how much you want the job. This is your time to learn specific information about the company, the department and the position. That means you should have several questions prepared before the interview begins. Some of them may get answered during the interview itself, but it's likely you'll still have few more when the interview comes to a close.
General question ideas
Questions about company culture, tasks relevant to the position and who you will be working with directly are usually appropriate during an interview. Some ideas for general questions include:
These questions are a good starting point, but remember to ask questions that are relevant to the position for which you're applying. Read through the job description several times and research the company online before going in for an interview.
Questions to avoid asking
Despite the fact that we are taught in school that there is no such thing as a bad question, there are several types of questions to avoid during interviews.
For decades, business professionals have claimed to be able to tell a lot about a person from the way he or she shakes hands. Part of this is due to the situation normally surrounding this gesture. A handshake normally takes place when you're first meeting someone who is, in many cases, a professional such as a potential employer. During this first encounter, hiring managers might make conjectures about your personality simply by paying attention to things like eye contact, the tone of your voice and your overall appearance. Therefore, it is no surprise that a handshake can be a pivotal part of this initial meeting. What does your handshake say about you? Here is a basic guide to handshake etiquette:
Go with age-old advice
The classic advice for an American handshake is still the norm. Extend your right hand, grasp the other person's hand firmly, shake two or three times, and release. This may seem simple, but people struggle to correctly perform the age-old handshake all the time. Part of the reason for this might be due to a lack of practice or external factors such as stress, anxiety or frustration. There are a number of bad handshake forms that have developed monikers over time. Some of them include:
Be aware of your posture
Remember that a good handshake is accompanied by proper posture and clear eye contact. The handshake is social gesture meant to mutually symbolize respect and professionalism. Standing indifferently and offering an employer a dead fish handshake might cause them to believe you don't take the job seriously. A jittery disposition accompanied by sweaty palms, on the other hand, might convey nervousness. Handshakes should always be given standing up, so stand when first meeting someone. Remember not to slouch or leave your other hand in your pocket.
Congratulations on graduating! Finishing up school is a major accomplishment that deserves praise. However, now is not the time to stagnate in front of the television for months on end. What, do you think you're Dustin Hoffman or something? Pish posh. The job market is competitive, and it's time to start hunting. Put on your safari gear, and go out and bag that career lion! Here are some job-hunting tips for recent graduates:
Aim for quality not quantity
Many young job seekers tend to send out a high quantity of resumes, figuring a high volume strategy increases their odds of getting an interview. This has become increasingly easy to do as employers now post job listings online and over social media. However, sending out hundreds of uniform resumes will likely mean you get lost in the virtual pile. Instead, find positions you feel especially fit for, and then take the time to apply with a well-researched cover letter and job-specific resume.
Utilize your network of school alumni
Four years of social networking doesn't end at graduation. Find alumni from your alma mater who have similar interests, and ask for career advice. A good way to network is by setting up informational interviews, i.e., meetings in which you ask a professional or mentor about his or her career experience to glean insights. Informational interviews are not a time to ask for a job, rather they are an opportunity to demonstrate your interest in a particular profession. Contact your college career office for additional resources.
Do your research
Many freshly graduated job seekers go into interviews unprepared. Hiring managers are looking for ambitious and articulate young professionals who have researched the position for which they are interviewing. This means being prepared for common interview questions, as well as having an understanding of the qualifications and expectations of the position.
After applying for a job, it is important to follow up to keep track of your application status. A phone call or email inquiring about the hiring timeline and reexpressing your interest in the position will go a long way. Doing so also will help an employer remember your name, which can potentially encourage them to give your resume a second look.
Network in person
Don't rely solely on social networking on the Internet when trying to expand your network. Face-to-face interactions give you an opportunity to demonstrate confidence and interest in the company.
Nervous about going in for a job interview? You can relax knowing you can prepare for many of the most common questions. Though it's impossible to know exactly what an interviewer will ask you, employers across many job fields ask various standard questions to get a general feeling of a candidates's work experience, personality and future goals. Go into an interview with answers to these inquiries prepared to reduce your anxiety and build your confidence:
What can you tell me about the company?
Research the company's website before the interview to help prep for this question. It's important to have an understanding of a company's missions and values to demonstrate your interest in the position, but don't stop there. Consider how the position for which you are interviewing is important to you. Furthermore, be able to convey why you want to work with the company and how its mission aligns with your specific career goals. Use buzzwords from the website to emphasize relevant skills.
What are your strengths/weaknesses?
When answering this type of question it is important to be honest and accurate. Interviewers are looking for you to demonstrate self-awareness and tangible ability. Embellishing your strengths can potentially look arrogant, and ignoring your weaknesses comes off as dishonest. However, don't let your shortcomings ruin your chances either. Instead, be candid about weaknesses but also discuss how you are working to strengthen yourself.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This question gives you an opportunity to showcase ambition. Employers want to see that you have thought about the future and are looking to take on new challenges. Though no employer expects a definitive answer to this inquiry, vague or unthoughtful answers will potentially make you look flaky and unmotivated. Employers desire to hire on new talent who want to continually grow, so be able to discuss your long-term career and educational goals.
Do you have any questions about the position?
When an employer asks you this, it is an opportunity to learn more about the position. Ask questions that demonstrate your research and interest in working for the company. Avoid too many questions about salary or benefits, and instead try to learn as much about the specifics of your role in the company if you are hired. Ask about the typical work day, the short and long term goals for the position and office culture.
Struggling to make your resume stand out from the pile? Part of the problem might be that it is never even being viewed by a human being. Modern computer programs called applicant tracking systems (ATSs) give employers the ability to search resumes based on keywords. Although you might be able to explain a job duties from past jobs ten different ways, only one of them might get noticed on a resume due to simple vocabulary.
As job seekers now have the ability to apply for a multitude of positions online at a fast rate, employers are exposed to larger stacks of resumes and need a way of efficiently identifying qualified candidates. That's where keywords come into play. These buzzwords are often used regularly throughout a job description and relate directly to the position. Hence, it would be unsurprising if a keyword for a marketing position included "marketing" or "marketed". Using keywords on your resume will increase your chances of separating it from the hoi polloi. Here's a basic guide to making the most of keywords on your resume:
Use industry-specific language
If you are applying for several jobs in one industry, find words that are used commonly throughout a number of position descriptions. For example, if you are applying for a job with a book publisher, using common terms that are found across editing, marketing and production positions in that industry will ensure your resume likely has at least one keyword used by a publisher's ATS. However, this is just a general way of catering your resume to an industry overall, dig deeper by finding keywords that are pertinent to a specific position that will individualize your resume to fit the job title for which you're applying.
Use LinkedIn as a jumping off point
View profiles on LinkedIn of professionals who are currently in a similar role to the one for which you're applying. Find words that commonly appear throughout their profiles and utilize the terms as keywords for your resume. LinkedIn is also a solid platform for researching the different ways professionals label and define their job titles.
Include job functions
Remember that an ATS only searches resumes based on keywords and nothing else. Therefore, it is important to include various past job functions that might seem implicit. That is to say, if you have previously worked as an editor, it might be implied that you have a strong grasp of AP style, but if an ATS is using AP as a keyword, it won't be able to make that leap solely based on your previous job title.
If you're still in school, consider taking a stab at a part- or full-time summer job. Though the three-month break might seem like the perfect opportunity to waste away by the pool, building up professional skills early on has been proven effective in leading to long term employment. Seasonal jobs give students a chance to develop job-hunting skills, learn productive work habits and gain financial insights. It probably sounds silly that so much information could be gleaned from spending a few months mowing lawns or working at an ice cream shop, but this type of experience will get you noticed when it's time to join the workforce full time.
While the percentage of young people working summer jobs has decreased over the past decade, employers are now looking to raise those numbers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of young adults ages 16 to 24 increased by more than 17 million jobs over the summer of 2013, showing that the season is a popular one for students to work. Don't miss out on the opportunity to earn experience as soon as possible. Even as the season moves forward, many employers continue to look for workers.
Networking in the summertime
Summer is the perfect time to get out and begin networking, especially for young people hoping to land their first job or internship. Barbecues, golf outings and other summer events are great venues for meeting professionals and making connections. Talk to everyone you meet while out this summer. However, remember these events are also time to blow off steam, so don't be pushy or too forward. Build long-lasting relationships that can become more professional later on.
Turn a summer job into a year round one
If you're a camp counselor you might not be able to swing this one, but many employers will hold onto summer workers into the fall. Even if an employer can't take you on year round after the season's end, odds are they might have a spot for you next summer when they look at hiring again. Some employers will likely need continued help though, and that means you'll keep getting a steady paycheck – there's nothing like maintaining a flow of cold hard cash!
Learn new skills
Summer jobs are a great way to learn basic professional skills such as time management, accounting and customer service. Having tangible examples of these abilities will be a huge asset when it comes time to start job hunting for a career.
Building up an arsenal of contacts across a hodgepodge of social media is a great way to help you land a job. Networking has gone to the digital sphere, and believe it or not, all those Twitter followers might be your ticket to getting hired. However, the opposite is also true. Sure you might have nailed the job interview, but when the hiring manager Googles you and finds pictures of you doing naked keg stands on Facebook, that opportunity might just fly out the window.
The Internet has become a pivotal tool for job hunters and employers alike, but sometimes it can feel like a desolate wasteland that is only useful for highlighting your most embarrassing moments. The tragic part is (in regard to social networking at least) most of your dirty laundry could probably be deleted or made private. If you just got out of high school or college, put yourself in the shoes of the person looking to hire you. Consider how they're viewing the pictures of you tagging an abandoned warehouse or the tweet in which you made a vulgar joke. Here are some tips for managing a variety of social media sites while job hunting:
Let's start with the obvious. Control your privacy settings to monitor the way employers view your Timeline. Once you have a handle on what people can see, clean up any potentially jeopardizing material. There are plenty of ways around privacy settings, and some employers will simply ask for access to your profile anyway. Remove any risque pictures or inappropriate material. Those beer pong pics might have been a lot of fun to share in college, but they're a major deterrent in the professional world.
Facebook also has space to list your education, previous job titles and professional skills. Showcase your accomplishments so employers can glean professional experience off your profile. Take advantage of the social network you've built on Facebook to inform contacts that you're looking for a job.
Twitter is a great place to develop a personal brand. Tweet often and engage with other users. Twitter is one of the top social media destinations for employers to communicate company updates, so figure out who to follow in your industry. Use Twitter as an open space to share news, talk with colleagues and exhibit a resume. Building a professional reputation on Twitter takes consistency and patience. Tweet links to field-relevant articles, ask questions of people you look up to and develop a personal voice.
Don't use LinkedIn simply as a digital location to copy and paste your resume. Take advantage of LinkedIn by contacting professionals you admire and sharing job news. Remember that LinkedIn is first and foremost a place for professional networking, so it's perhaps the best social media for acquainting yourself with professionals you don't know personally. Make your profile robust, which can be done by seeking out and providing recommendations. Look up hiring managers on Twitter and LinkedIn before going in for interview.
Your resume is a great place to include links to your Twitter handle and LinkedIn profile. Of course, this means that you should be regularly updating and editing your online profiles. If you apply for jobs online, most applications include additional space to add these links. Many employers even request them. This is why it's important to manage and maintain your social media: because employers want to see that you are engaged and professional. There's not really a way to fake being a regular user if you are in fact inconsistent. If you ignore Twitter for six months and then suddenly tweet a lot after applying for a marketing position, all an employer has to do is look up your Twitter handle to see that you're inconsistent.