Your_College_Experience_9e_Ch12 - Preparing for SUCCESS...

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Unformatted text preview: Preparing for SUCCESS Preparing to STUDY Preparing for LIFE In this chapter you will explore Confessions of a COLLEGE STUDENT . . . ‘‘ ’’ BENNETT ROSSELL, 24 University of California, Riverside come to college for many reasons, but for the majority of them a central purpose of college is gaining the knowledge and skills they will need for future employment. Your success in your work life will often depend on whether the profession or career you think you want to pursue is really right for you. But success in the workplace also depends on your ability to do simple things well, such as being on time, being honest, and doing your best. Let’s look at the work experiences of two college students, Sara and John. Sara entered college with thoughts of majoring in the sciences because she enjoyed working in the laboratory at her hometown hospital. Her concern for helping others led her to choose nursing as a major; it was a good career path that combined her two primary interests. Sara sailed through the first two years, excelling in her science classes. During her junior year she began her nursing courses and spent more time observing the practice of nursing in her university’s teaching hospital. After a summer working in various departments of her hometown hospital, Sara made an appointment with a career counselor. She confessed that she did not like being around sick people every day and wanted to change her major but had no idea what she wanted to do. Sara was wise to change her major before she began what would have been a frustrating career as a nurse. John explored several majors during his first two years in college by choosing his elective courses with careers in mind and talking to his friends. He settled on business as a major, focusing on finance. John had high aspirations of working for a Fortune 500 company and earning a six-figure salary within five years of graduation. He performed above average in his academic work, although he was occasionally slack with assignments and frequently missed class. He interned with two prominent companies and eventually accepted a position with a Fortune 500 company. To his surprise, he was fired nine months later because he was frequently late for work and missed important deadlines on two occasions. Although John had high aspirations while he was in college, he somehow never learned, or took seriously, the basic habits of career success. Like Sara and John, students who are planning for careers frequently encounter bumps along the way. Choosing a career is a process of discovery, involving a willingness to remain open to new ideas and experiences. Why begin thinking about your career now? Because many of the decisions you make during your first year in college will have an impact on where you end up after you graduate. In your lifetime, companies have restructured to remain competitive. As a result, major changes have taken place in how we work, where we work, and the ways in which we prepare for work while in college. In many ways, the following characteristics define today’s economy: Global. Increasingly, industries have become multinational, not only moving into overseas markets but also seeking cheaper labor, capital, and resources abroad. Factories around the world built to similar standards can turn out essentially the same products. Your career is bound to be affected by the global economy, even if you never leave the United States. For example, when you call an 800 number for customer service, the person who talks to you might be answering your call in Iowa, Ireland, or India. In his best-selling book The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman reminds his readers that talent has become more important than geography in determining a person’s opportunity in life. College graduates in the United States are now competing for jobs with others around the world who are often willing to work longer hours for less money than American workers. And this is true not only in manufacturing jobs, which are routinely being outsourced to other countries, but also in professional occupations such as medicine and accounting. Unstable. In 2008 and 2009 the world economy suffered a series of events that led to downturns in stock markets, bankruptcies, foreclosures, failing businesses, and lost jobs. Scandals within the highest ranks of major companies and constant mergers and acquisitions of companies have destabilized the workforce. Depending on how long it takes to stabilize the economy in the United States and the rest of the world, your career goals might have to be refocused. Because the global economic situation is changing continuously, it’s important to keep up to date on the economic situation as it relates to your prospective major and career. Innovative. The economy depends on creativity in new products and services to generate consumer interest around the world. Especially in times of economic instability, the flexibility and responsiveness of companies to the changing economic climate will affect their ability to survive. Boundaryless. Teams of workers within an organization need to understand the missions of other teams because they most likely will have to work together. You might be an accountant and find yourself working with the public relations division of your company, or you might be a human resources manager who does training for a number of different divisions and in several different countries. You might even find yourself moved laterally to a unit that has a different function rather than being promoted to a higher position in your organization. Customized. More and more, consumers are demanding products and services tailored to their specific needs. You have probably noticed the seemingly endless varieties of a single brand of shampoo or cereal crowding store shelves. Such market segmentation requires constant adaptation of ideas to identify new products and services as new customer demands emerge. Fast. When computers became popular, people rejoiced because they believed the computer would reduce their workloads. Actually, the reverse happened. Whereas secretaries and other support workers once performed many tasks for executives, now executives design their own PowerPoint presentations and format their own documents. For better or worse, “We want it now” is the cry in the workplace, with product and service delivery time cut to a minimum (the “just-in-time” policy). Being fast requires constant thinking outside the lines to identify new approaches to designing and delivering products. According to Fast Company magazine, the new economy has changed many of the rules about work. Leaders are now expected to teach and encourage others as well as to head up their divisions. Careers frequently zigzag into other areas. People who can anticipate the needs of the marketplace are in demand. Change has become the norm. Workers are being urged to continue their learning, and companies are volunteering to play a critical role in the welfare of all people through sponsorship of worthy causes. As the lines between work and the rest of life continue to blur, workers need to find healthy balance in their lives. Bringing work home might be inevitable at times, but it shouldn’t be the rule. As you work at your job, you’ll be continually enhancing and expanding your skills and competencies. You can accomplish this on your own by taking evening courses or by attending conferences and workshops your employer sends you to. As you prepare for, continue, or change your career, remember the following: You are, more or less, solely responsible for your career. At one time, organizations often provided structured ladders that employees could climb in their moves to higher professional levels. In most cases such ladders have disappeared. Companies might assist you with assessments and information on available positions in the industry, but the ultimate task of creating a career path is yours. To advance your career, you must accept the risks that accompany employment and plan for the future. As organizations continue to restructure, merge, and either grow or downsize in response to economic conditions, you must do your best to prepare for the unexpected. Because you can quickly find yourself unemployed, it will be wise to keep all possible options in mind. A college degree does not guarantee employment. Of course, with a degree, you’ll be able to hunt for more opportunities that are rewarding, financially and otherwise, than if you did not have a degree. But just because you want to work for a certain organization or in a certain field doesn’t mean that there will always be a job for you there. A commitment to lifelong learning will help keep you employable. In college you have been learning a vital skill: how to learn. Gradus, the Latin root of “graduation,” comes from the phrase Gradus ad Parnassum, or “steps to Parnassus,” the home of the Muses. To move toward Parnassus means moving to a higher level of knowledge. Your learning has just begun when you receive your diploma. Now the good news: Hundreds of thousands of graduates find jobs every year, even in recessionary times. Some of them might have to work longer to get where they want to be, but persistence pays off. If you start now, you’ll have time to build a portfolio of academic and co-curricular experiences that will begin to add substance to your career profile. Chapter 1 in this book suggested that you think very seriously about your purpose for being in college. Here are some additional questions to ask yourself as you continue thinking about why you’re at this particular college or university: Am I here to find out who I am and to study a subject that I am truly passionate about, regardless of whether it leads to a career? Am I here to engage in an academic program that provides an array of possibilities when I graduate? Am I here to prepare myself for a graduate program or immediate employment? Am I here to obtain specific training in a field that I am committed to? Am I here to gain specific skills for a job I already have? Remember these six simple, one-word questions. They can help you to prepare for a career and obtain that important first job: Why? Why do you want to be a ? Knowing your goals and values will help you pursue your career with passion and an understanding of what motivates you. When you speak with an interviewer, avoid clichés such as “I’m a people person” or “I like to work with people.” Sooner or later, most people have to work with people. And your interviewer has heard this much too often. Instead, be sure that you have crystallized your actual reasons for following your chosen career path. An interviewer will want to know why you are interested in the job, why it feels right for you at this time in your life, and whether you are committed to this career for the future. Who? Who at your college or university or in your community can help you make career decisions? Network with people who can help you find out what work you want to do. Right now, those people might be instructors in your major, an academic advisor, and perhaps someone at your campus career center. Later, network with others who can help you attain your goal. Someone will almost always know someone else for you to talk to. How? How will you develop the technical and communications skills required for working effectively? Don’t be a technophobe. Learn how to do PowerPoint presentations, build web pages, and create Excel spreadsheets. Take a speech course. Work on improving your writing. Even if you think your future job doesn’t require these skills, you’ll be more marketable with them. What? What opportunities are available in your preferred career fields? Be aware of the range of job options an employer presents, as well as such threats as a company’s decision to outsource certain jobs—that is, contracting with an external organization to perform particular functions at a lower cost. Clearly understand the employment requirements for the career field you have chosen. Know what training you will need to remain and move up in your chosen profession. Where? Where will your preferred career path take you? Will you be required to travel or live in a certain part of the country or the world? Or will job success require that you stay in one location? Although job requirements may change over the course of your lifetime, try to achieve a balance between your personal values and preferences and the predictable requirements of the career you are pursuing. When? When will you need to start looking for your first job? Certain professions, such as teaching, tend to hire new employees at certain times of the year, generally spring or summer. Determine whether seasonal hiring is common for your preferred career. Some students are sure about their major when they enter college, but many others are at a loss. Either way, it’s okay. At some point, you might ask yourself: Why am I in college? Although it sounds like an easy question to answer, it’s not. Many students would immediately respond, “So I can get a good job or education for a specific career.” Yet most majors do not lead to a specific career path or job. You actually can enter most career paths from any number of academic majors. Marketing, a common undergraduate business major, is a field that recruits from a wide variety of majors, including advertising, communications, and psychology. Sociology majors find jobs in law enforcement, teaching, and public service. Today, English majors are designing web pages, philosophy majors are developing logic codes for operating systems, and history majors are sales representatives and business managers. You do not have to major in science to gain admittance to medical school. Of course, you do have to take the required science and math courses, but medical schools seek applicants with diverse backgrounds. Only a few technical or professional fields, such as accounting, nursing, and engineering, are tied to specific majors. Exploring your interests is the best way to choose an academic major. If you’re still not sure, take the advice of Patrick Combs, author of Major in Success, who recommends that you major in a subject about which you are really passionate. Most advisors would agree. Some students will find they’re not ready to select an academic major in the first year. You can use your first year and even your second year to explore your interests and find out how they might connect to various academic programs. Over time, you might make different choices than you would have during your first year. You can major in almost anything. As this chapter emphasizes, it is how you integrate your classes with your extracurricular activities and work experience that prepares you for a successful transition to your career. Try a major you think you’ll like, and see what develops. But keep an open mind, and don’t pin all your hopes on finding a career in that major alone. Your major and your career ultimately have to fit your overall life goals, purposes, values, and beliefs. John Holland, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University, developed a number of tools and concepts that can help you organize the various dimensions of yourself so that you can identify potential career choices (see Table 12.1). Holland separates people into six general categories based on differences in their interests, skills, values, and personality characteristics—in short, their preferred approaches to life. Holland’s system organizes career fields into the same six categories. Career fields are grouped according to what a particular career field requires of a person (the skills and personality characteristics most commonly associated with success in those fields) and what rewards those fields provide (interests and values most commonly associated with satisfaction). Realistic Investigative Conventional Enterprising Artistic Social Your career choices ultimately will involve a complex assessment of the factors that are most important to you. To display the relationship between career fields and the potential conflicts people face as they consider them, Holland’s model is commonly presented in a hexagonal shape (Figure 12.1). The closer the types, the closer the relationships among the career fields; the farther apart the types, the more conflict between the career fields. For instance, individuals with “conventional” and “realistic” characteristics will find many similar characteristics in their career fields. However, careers preferred by “investigative” individuals will have little in common with careers chosen by individuals who are “enterprising.” Holland’s model can help you address the problem of career choice in two ways. First, you can begin to identify many career fields that are consistent with what you know about yourself. Once you have identified potential fields, you can use the career library at your college to get more information about those fields, such as daily activities for specific jobs, interests and abilities required, preparation required for entry, working conditions, salary and benefits, and employment outlook. Second, you can begin to identify the harmony or conflicts in your career choices. This will help you to analyze the reasons for your career decisions and be more confident as you make choices. Never feel you have to make a decision based on the results of only one assessment. Career choices are complex and involve many factors; furthermore, these decisions are reversible. Take time to talk your interests over with a career counselor. Another helpful approach is to shadow an individual in the occupation that interests you to obtain a better understanding of what the occupation entails in terms of skills, commitment, and opportunity. Some people have a definite self-image when they enter college, but most of us are still in the process of defining (or redefining) ourselves throughout life. We can look at ourselves in several useful ways with respect to possible careers: Values. Today, more than ever, knowing your core values (your most important beliefs) will be important in shaping your career path. In a faltering and unpredictable economy, having a strong rudder will help you steer through the turbulent times. Interests. Your interests will develop from experiences and beliefs and can continue to develop and change throughout your life. You might be interested in writing for the college newspaper because you wrote for your high school paper. It’s not unusual to enter Psych 101 with a great interest in psychology and realize halfway through the course that psychology is not what you imagined. Skills. The ability to do something well can usually be improved with practice. Aptitudes. Your inherent strengths, or aptitudes, are often part of your biological heritage or the result of early training. Each of us has aptitudes we can build on. Personality. Your personality makes you who you are and can’t be ignored when you make career decisions. The quiet, orderly, calm, detail-oriented person will probably make a different work choice than the aggressive, outgoing, argumentative person will. Life goals and work values. Each of us defines success and satisfaction in our own way. The process is complex and very personal. Two factors influence our conclusions about success and happiness: knowing that we are achieving the life goals we’ve set for ourselves and finding that we gain satisfaction from what we’re receiving from our work. If your values conflict with the organizational values where you work, you might be in for trouble. The process of making a career choice begins with creating a career plan. A good career plan should eventually include: Researching possible occupations that match your skills, interests, and academic major Building on your strengths and developing your weaker skills Preparing a marketing strategy that sells you as a valued member of a professional team Writing a convincing résumé and cover letter Table 12.2 on page 226 provides a guide to what you should be doing during each year of college. If you are in a two-year associate degree program, you will have to do more during your second year than this table suggests. You might proceed through these steps at a different pace than your friends will, and that’s okay. What you want is to develop your qualifications, make good choices, and take advantage of any opportunities on campus to learn more about the career search. Keep your goals in mind as you select courses and seek employment, but also keep an eye out for unique opportunities. The route you think you want to take might not be the best one for you. Some students at two-year colleges pursue technical or professional degrees that prepare them for employment after two years. Others are planning to transfer to a four-year college or university. If you are a student attending a two-year college and plan to transfer to complete a four-year degree, you might find that once you get to the four-year institution, you have less time to make adjustments in your course work and career opportunities. A major stumbling block is that transfers often arrive on their new campus with enough credits to declare a major; at this point, changing your major again can be costly, because it will mean adding time, and therefore expense, before graduation. Consider these early steps during your first three terms at your two-year college: Take a career interest inventory, and begin focusing on the career paths that most interest you. Visit with a career counselor to develop a short-term strategy to test your career interests. Enroll in a career decision-making class. Shadow a professional in the occupation(s) that you wish to enter. Attend a local career fair to learn about potential job opportunities. Another consideration for students at community colleges is to determine whether transferring to another institution is necessary at all. More and more community colleges are offering bachelor’s degrees. Check out your opportunities for advanced education right where you are. During your last term at your two-year college, consider these options: Determine what academic majors best match your occupational interests. Investigate whether the college or university you will attend next has the majors you need and whether there are any prerequisite requirements you will have to meet before you can enroll in your chosen major. If you find you do not have a clear career focus by the time you transfer, meet again with the college’s career advisor. Visit the campus to which you are transferring before you register. Meet with both a career advisor and an academic advisor there as soon as possible. Now that you have a handle on your interests, it’s time to test the waters. Your campus has a variety of activities and programs in which you can participate to confirm those interests and your values and gain valuable skills. Here are some examples: Volunteer/service learning. Some instructors build service learning into their courses. Service learning allows you to apply academic theories and ideas to actual practice. Volunteering outside of class is also a valuable way to encounter different life situations and to gain work knowledge in areas such as teaching, health services, counseling, and tax preparation. A little time spent each week can provide immense personal and professional rewards. Study abroad. If possible, spend a term taking courses in another country so you can learn about a different culture, experience new traditions, and practice a different pace of life. Some study-abroad programs also include options for both work and service learning experiences. If this interests you, find out how financial aid applies to study abroad. Internships and co-ops. Many employers now expect these work experiences. They want to see that you have experience in the professional workplace and have gained an understanding of the skills and competencies necessary to succeed. Check with your academic department and your career center to find out what internships are available in your major. Many majors offer academic credit for internships. Remember that with an internship on your résumé, you’ll be a step ahead of students who ignore this valuable experience. On-campus employment. On-campus jobs might not provide as much income as offcampus jobs, but on-campus jobs give you a chance to practice good work habits. On-campus employment also brings you into contact with faculty members and other academic professionals whom you can later consult as mentors or ask for those all-important reference letters. Student projects/competitions. In many fields, students engage in competitions based on what they have learned in the classroom. Civil engineers build concrete canoes, and marketing majors develop campaign strategies, for example. They might compete against teams from other colleges or universities. In the process, they learn teamwork, communication, and applied problem-solving skills. Research. An excellent way to extend your academic learning is to work with a faculty member on a research project. Research extends your critical thinking skills and provides insight into a subject above and beyond your books and class notes. One of the many important purposes and outcomes of your college experience is the acquisition of a combination of knowledge and skills. Two types of skills are essential to employment and to life: content skills and transferable skills. Content skills, often referred to as cognitive, intellectual, or “hard” skills, are acquired as you gain mastery in your academic field. They include writing proficiency, computer literacy, and foreign language skills. Computing knowledge and ability are now perceived as core skills that are equal in importance to reading, writing, and mathematics. In fact, employers’ expectations regarding computer knowledge and application continue to rise. Content skills include specific types of information, facts, principles, and rules. For instance, perhaps you have knowledge of civil engineering related to dam construction, or you have extensive experience working with telescopes. Maybe your work in the library and study of library science have trained you in several library databases. Or you might know the most common clinical diagnoses in psychology. We often forget some of the preparation we have gained that augments our mastery of specific academic material, especially statistics, research methods, foreign language aptitude, and computer literacy. You can apply all of this specific knowledge to jobs in a particular field or occupation. Certain types of employers will expect extensive knowledge in your academic major before they will consider hiring you; for example, to get a job in accounting, you must demonstrate knowledge of that field. However, for most college students it’s sufficient to have some fundamental knowledge. You will learn more on the job as you move from entry-level jobs to more advanced positions. Transferable skills are skills that are general and apply to or transfer to a variety of settings. By category, these transferable skills are as follows: Communication skills that demonstrate solid oral and listening abilities in addition to a good foundation in the basic content skill of writing Presentation skills, including the ability to justify and persuade as well as the ability to respond to questions and serious critiques of your presentation material Leadership skills, or the ability to take charge or relinquish control according to the needs of the organization Team skills, or the ability to work collaboratively with different people while maintaining autonomous control over some assignments Interpersonal abilities that allow you to relate to others, inspire others to participate, or ease conflict between coworkers Personal traits, including showing initiative and motivation, being adaptable to change, having a work ethic, being reliable and honest, possessing integrity, knowing how to plan and organize multiple tasks, and being able to respond positively to customer concerns Critical thinking and problem solving, or the ability to identify problems and their solutions by integrating information from a variety of sources and effectively weighing alternatives A willingness to learn quickly and continuously Transferable skills are valuable to many kinds of employers and professions. They give you flexibility in your career planning. You can gain transferable skills through a variety of activities. For example, volunteer work, study abroad, involvement in a student professional organization or club, and the pursuit of hobbies or interests can all build teamwork, leadership, interpersonal awareness, and effective communication abilities. Internships and career-related work are also valuable opportunities to practice these skills in the real world. While employers expect skills and related work experience from today’s college graduates, they also have begun to focus on additional key competencies that are critical for success in today’s economy: Integrity. Your employment will depend on your being able to act in an ethical manner at work and in the community. Innovation. You should also be able to evaluate, synthesize, and create knowledge that will lead to new products and services. Employers seek individuals who are willing to take some risks and explore innovative and better ways to deliver products and services. Initiative. A great employee is able to recognize the need to take action, such as helping a team member, approaching a new client, or taking on assignments without being asked. Employers don’t want employees who will wait passively for a supervisor to provide work assignments; they want people who will see what has to be done and do it. Commitment. Both employers and graduate schools look for a candidate’s commitment to learning. They want you to express what you really love to study and are willing to learn on your own initiative. The best foundation for this competency is to be engaged in an academic program in which you wake up every morning eager to go to class. Do you hope to get a job while you are in college? Before you do, be really honest with yourself: Is this something you must do to pay for college? Is it something you want to do to maintain your lifestyle and acquire things you want? Or is it a combination of both? Most students work in paid jobs. Here are some things you should know about working in college. Paid work can support the attainment of your college goals, provide you with the financial means to complete college, and help you structure your time so that you are a much better time manager. It can help you meet people who will later serve as important references for graduate school and/or employment. However, working too much can interfere with your college success, your ability to attend class, your homework, and your participation in many other valuable parts of college life, such as group study, foreign study and travel, and group activities. Take some time to determine how much you need to work, and stay within reasonable limits. Stated very simply, students who work in paid jobs more than fifteen hours a week have a lower chance of success in college. Students who work on campus are more likely to graduate from college than are students who work off campus. If you want or need to work, explore on-campus opportunities as soon as (or even before) you arrive at college. If you have a work-study award, a form of federal financial aid that covers a portion of college costs in return for oncampus employment, check with your student employment office for a listing of possible campus jobs for work-study students. Your career center can tell you how to access your college’s online employment system. College employment systems generally channel all jobs collected from faculty, advisors, and career counselors into one database, so it is convenient for you to identify the sorts of jobs you are looking for. Many campuses offer an on-campus job fair early in the fall term. Even if you might not be interested at the time, a visit to the job fair will give you a great idea of the range and type of jobs available on campus. You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that there are more opportunities than washing dishes in the cafeteria. Job fairs usually include off-campus community employers as well, in part because your institution must spend some of the work-study funds it receives in supporting off-campus work by students. The best places to start looking for off-campus jobs are your campus career center and your financial aid office. They might well have listings or websites with off-campus employment opportunities. Feel free to speak to a career counselor for suggestions. You can also use the following job-search strategies: Learn the names of the major employers in your college’s geographic area: manufacturers, service industries, resorts, and so on. Once you know who the major employers are, check them out, visit their websites, and learn the details. Check out the website for the agency in your state that collects and disseminates information about available employment opportunities. Find out whether this agency has an office in the community where you are attending college. Visit employment agencies, particularly those that seek part-time, temporary workers. This is a convenient, low-risk (for both you and the employer) way to “shop” for a job and to obtain flexible, short-term, low-commitment employment. Visit online job boards, and look at the classified ads in the local newspaper, either in print or online. Don’t forget the classifieds in the national press. Some national firms will have jobs that can be done part-time in your area or even from your own living space. Check your campus student newspaper. Employers who favor hiring college students often advertise there. Be cautious about work opportunities that seem unrealistic, such as those offering big salaries for working at home, or those that ask you to pay an up-front fee for a job. Be aware that many jobs are never posted. Employers find it easier to hire people who are recommended to them by current employees, friends, or the person vacating the position. Faculty members often hire students for their research labs based on performance in the classroom. Realize that who you know is important. Your friends who already work on campus or who have had an internship can be the best people to help you when you are ready to search for your job. In fact, nearly 50 percent of all student jobs are found through family and friends. College students often view the choice of a career as a monumental and irreversible decision. But in its broadest sense, a career is the sum of the decisions you make over a lifetime. There is no one right occupation just waiting to be BABYSITTER AVAILABLE I cook, I clean, I do dishes. Early childhood education major available every weekday after 1 pm and anytime on weekends for... ...childcare ...homework help ...chores $15 per hour ***References available upon request ***Babysitting*** Allison (415)555-6454 ***Babysitting*** Allison (415)555-6454 ***Babysitting*** Allison (415)555-6454 ***Babysitting*** Allison (415)555-6454 ***Babysitting*** Allison (415)555-6454 ***Babysitting*** Allison (415)555-6454 ***Babysitting*** Allison (415)555-6454 ***Babysitting*** Allison (415)555-6454 ***Babysitting*** Allison (415)555-6454 ***Babysitting*** Allison (415)555-6454 discovered. Rather, there are many career choices you might find fulfilling and satisfying. The question to consider is: What is the best choice for me now? Before you finish college, you’ll need a résumé, whether it’s for a part-time job, for an internship or co-op position, or to show to a professor who agrees to write a letter of recommendation for you. Typically, there are two types of résumés; one is written in chronological format; the other is organized by skills. Generally, choose the chronological résumé if you have related job experience, and choose the skills résumé if you can group skills from a number of jobs or projects under several meaningful categories. Try for one page, but if you have a number of outstanding things to say that won’t fit on a single page, add a second page. When sending a cover letter, heed the following suggestions: Find out whom to contact. It’s not the same in all fields. If you were seeking a marketing position at an advertising agency, you would write to the director of account services. If you were approaching General Motors regarding a position in the engineering department, you might write either the director of human resources for the entire company or a special human resources director in charge of engineering. Your academic advisor or career counselor can help you address your letter to the right person. So can the Internet. Get the most recent name and address. Advisors or career counselors can guide you to references in your campus or career library. Never write, “To whom it may concern.” Use the proper formats for date, address, and salutation. The first year of college might not seem like a time to be concerned about interviews. However, students often find themselves in interview situations soon after arriving on campus. They might be vying for positions on the student residence governing board, finding an on-campus job, competing for a second-year scholarship, applying for a residence hall assistant position, choosing a summer job opportunity, or being selected for an internship or as a research assistant. Preparing for an interview begins the moment you arrive on campus because the interview is about you and how college has changed you. Students who haven’t clarified their sense of purpose or who have taken only a little time to reflect on who they are and how they have changed can feel lost in an interview. The purpose of the interview is to exchange information. The interviewer’s goal is to evaluate you on your abilities and competencies in terms of what the company is seeking. For you, the interview is an opportunity to learn more about the employer and whether the job would be a good fit with your aptitudes and preferences. Ideally, you will want to find a match between your interests and abilities and the position or experience you are seeking. Here are some important tips as you prepare for an interview: Check with a career counselor to find out whether you can attend a mock interview. Usually designed only for seniors as they prep for their on-campus interviews, mock interviews help students strategize and feel comfortable in interview situations. Even if a mock interview session is not available, the career center can offer tips on handling an interview situation. Check your career center website for sample interview questions so that you can practice before an interview. Understand the nature of the behavioral interview. In a behavioral interview, the interviewer assumes that your past experiences are good predictors of your future abilities and performance. Interviewers want to hear stories about things you have done that can help them assess your skills and behaviors. Often, there is not a right or wrong answer. Answering a behavioral question can be hard. A method used at Michigan State University and other campuses to help students think through possible answers is the PARK method, which helps to focus on the most relevant aspects of your experience. P: The problem or situation (What happened?) A: The actions you took (What did you do?) R: The results or outcomes (What was the result of the actions you took?) K: The knowledge you gained and applied through the experience (What did you learn? How did you apply it?) Dress appropriately. Dress codes vary depending on the location of the interview and the type of interview (e.g., professional, student focused). First impressions matter, so as a rule of thumb, always dress neatly and conservatively. You can be somewhat casual for some types of employers, but it is better to dress too professionally than too informally. Wired WINDOW Where to go FOR HELP . . . Chapter REVIEW . . . One-Minute PAPER . . . Applying What You’ve LEARNED . . . Building Your PORTFOLIO . . . ‘‘ ’’ ...
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