The Career Doctor: Career Advice for All
A Career College and Job-Search Advice Column
Dr. Randall Hansen a nationally recognized career expert is the Career Doctor. Discover more about Dr. Hansen read about the purpose of this column and find previous issues of this column at the home of The Career Doctor.
If you have any college career or job-related questions or comments that Dr. Hansen could provide valuable assistance with please feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Hansen writes this column on a biweekly basis.
Note: Readers can find other columns from this year in Current Year Archives of The Career Doctor Q&A.
In This Issue (02/11/05):
- Achieving job-search success at career fairs
- Making a decision about hair style before job-hunting
- Networking techniques for shy job-seekers
- Dealing with a job pay range that is too low
|Q:||Susie writes: I’m attending a career fair next week and really want to know the best way to prepare as this is my first one and I want to be successful at it.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Career fairs are pretty cool events because both employers and job-seekers are there for a very clear purpose. Employers are trying to gather and screen a large pool of applicants and job-seekers are there to seek new opportunities (either directly or through networking).
There are activities you should be doing before during and after the fair.
Before the event get information on the organizations attending the career fair choose the ones that most interest you and conduct research so that you know a little something about all of them. Polish your resume; I even suggest making a specific version for each targeted organization. Work on your interviewing skills by reviewing common interviewing questions and/or conducting mock interviews. Whenever possible get one nice suit for interviewing — in a conservative style and color. Oh and if you are prone to sweaty palms be sure to pack a handkerchief or something else (other than your suit) to wipe your hand. Finally work on your elevator speech — a 15 to 30 second mini-bio that explains who you are what makes you unique and the benefits you will provide. Finally whenever possible try and get a good night’s sleep the night before.
At the event first survey the layout of the fair and then head to your top organizations. As you approach the recruiter remember to smile make direct eye contact and offer a dry and firm (but not crushing) handshake. Your goal in the short time you have is to build rapport with the recruiter — so that you will be positively remembered out of the hundreds of candidates — but remember that you also need to gather more information to judge whether the organization is right for you. Do not overstay your welcome; if you see the recruiter looking over your shoulder at the line behind you it’s probably time to move on. Make sure you get a business card — or at least key contact information (including the proper spelling of the recruiter’s name). And if you really want to stand out ask the recruiter if there is anything you can do for him or her such as getting a beverage from the refreshment area; thoughtfulness is a powerful thing.
After the event sort through your business cards and other contact information and write thank you notes or emails. And don’t forget to follow-up with each recruiter about two weeks later to see where things stand. Because you may have a number of contacts you might want to consider developing a system — such as a job lead log — so that you have everything right in front of you.
Get more details of all these activities in my Career Fair Checklist published on Quintessential Careers.
Find lots of career fair articles and tools in this section of Quintessential Careers: Job Expo and Career Fair Resources.
|Q:||Craig writes: I am a 21 year-old African-American and I am in my senior year of college. This year I will start interviewing for jobs in the field of electrical engineering. My hair is in a braided fashion and I am wondering if it would be to my benefit to cut my hair off or leave it as it is? Please respond when you get the chance.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: First let me tell you this funny anecdote. A clean-cut student walked into my office last month at the beginning of the semester and asked to speak with me. Not recognizing him I gave him my yes-we-can-talk-but-only-for-a-moment look because I was in the middle of a project. He chuckled and told me his name — one of my advisees since he was a first-year student. But he was one of these guys who had long shaggy surfer hair and often wore a ball cap. I had to do about a triple take before I recognized him. And to his credit he said he cleaned up because he knew appearance mattered in job-hunting. First impressions are critical.
So that’s the moral of the story. If your braids are tight and the rest of your appearance is sharp I would think keeping your hair as is would work. I think braids often look sharp. Of course I am also a firm believer in erring on the side of conservatism so not being able to see your hair I would probably recommend cutting it. You can always grow it back if the company culture allows it.
Better check with your professors and the career services office and solicit their advice. If you have a mentor or former boss get those opinions.
Bottomline never give a reason for an employer to reject you.
Get more ‘dress for success’ resources in this article published on Quintessential Careers: When Job-Hunting: Dress for Success.
|Q:|| Josette writes: I’ve read many articles that networking is the most effective job search tool. I really want to change careers but I don’t know how to go about networking. I’ve been stuck in low end low paying jobs because I don’t know how to network. I want to get out of the dead end rut badly. Currently I’m a temporary clerical worker.
I want to network badly but it’s hard for me because I’m not a very outgoing person. Where do I start? What’s the best way for a person who’s not very outgoing to start a network?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: My partner Katharine Hansen is an introvert — which some people find strange when they discover she’s written a book on the subject. Anyone can do networking. Is it easier for extraverts? Of course it is but it’s not their exclusive domain.
(By the way her book A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market has an entire chapter on networking for the shy.)
Before I begin let’s start with refocusing networking. Networking is simply about building relationships with other people. It’s about establishing rapport and building a mutually beneficial relationship.
So let me offer you some tips — tips for all the shy job-seekers out there — on becoming better at networking.
First start off networking in a comfortable setting with people you know. Perhaps a community or religious group. A professional group is another option but since you say you’re stuck in a low-end job I am guessing you may not currently be a member of a professional group.
Second consider doing some networking via the written word. Email and postal notes to former colleagues professors and alumni are a great way to re-establish connections and build a network.
Third when you know you are attending a networking event prepare ahead of time. Use your strengths. Many introverts are great listeners so stop worrying about dominating the conversation with witty stories and instead prepare a couple of questions. All an extravert needs is one question to keep the conversation going for a while! Ask questions such as ‘what kind of work do you do?’ or ‘what are some of the favorite parts of your job’ or ‘tell me more about your company.’
Fourth work on your body language. Often introverts avoid eye contact and appear disinterested ‘ so you should make sure you are sending the right non-verbal messages.
Fifth set goals for yourself — small networking steps first — and then celebrate each goal you achieve.
Learn more in about networking techniques in the networking section of Quintessential Careers.
|Q:||Karen writes: I had an interview yesterday… and during the interview I was told they would be calling some applicants back for a second interview next week…When I was told the pay range of my position I did not speak up then that I felt it was too low for my skills and ask if it was negotiable…If I am called back for the second interview or they just call to offer the position to me how do I handle this…The pay range was between $8 and $10…I believe I’m worth at least $12 an hour starting out… What should I do?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: The general rule-of-thumb with salary negotiation is to put off any salary discussions until as late in the process as possible — to the point where you become the chosen candidate and thus have more bargaining power than earlier in the process.
That said you also need to have realistic expectations about what the employer is willing or able to pay. It’s been my experience that employers do not pay workers in a given job classification more than the top of the range ‘ that’s why they have pay ranges and job levels.
So here’s what you need to do. You need to do a little research and find out — if possible — the exact pay range for this job. If they usually start at $8 to $10 but the real range is $8 to $14 then you certainly have room within the range to make your case. If however the range for the job is that small from $8 to $10 then it is extremely unlikely you are going to get anything above the top limit.
You may also need to factor in other non-salary issues. For example if the company offers a generous benefits package to employees that may well make up for the lost $2 an hour especially given the high cost of health benefits. You could also look into other options such as a shorter raise review window the possibility of bonuses or other additional perks.
Learn more in the Salary Negotiation and Job Offer Tutorial published on Quintessential Careers.