(Nailing The Job Interview)[caption id="attachment_77" align="alignright" width="290" caption="Land the job interview by following these simple steps."][/caption] Everyone knows that the job interview is essential for receiving a job offer. But did you know that almost 50% of the reason you do or don't receive an offer happens without you even saying a word? Shocked? Don't be. A job interview is little more than a date with serious financial consequences should you make a mistake. But, unlike a date, you may not a second chance to correct it! Let's start with the obvious, be on time for your interview. In fact, be early! No more than ten minutes and no less than five. This sets the tone that you take the position and yourself seriously enough that you came prepared. By giving yourself time, you can give yourself five minutes to mentally prepare for the interview and reduce that "I just ran from the subway" look. Come prepared, no matter how many copies of your resume the interviewer may have, they'll always expect you to bring another. So, unless you're the former CEO of GE and your reputation proceeds you, bring a couple of copies along. And along this line, cell phones belong on silent. This should be a no brainer, but just in case... Before the interview, research the company including their financial history. You should not only come to the interview prepared with factoids about the company, but well aware of any SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission) scandals or business mergers which may affect your potential job security. Until you're 100% sure of the office atmosphere, dress conservatively. Even if your future boss is wearing cargos and a skater tee, you need to show that you can meet the mark of corporate life. Remember, it's always better for your boss to tell you that you can dress down than for your interviewer to tell you that you're under dressed. Save benefits questions until you are nearing the salary negotiation segment of the job application process. Although everyone and their mom knows that benefits are a key reason that people work (second to the salary) most interviewers see it as a sign of greed or lack of dedication to flub and ask this question in advance. Don't give way to nervous ticks. Sure, interviewing can be nerve racking, but you don't put your best foot forward when you tap your fingers/feet, stammer uncontrollably or ramble on with one answer. Stay calm, take a couple of breaths and then speak. And don't be afraid to pipe up. If you feel that the interviewer neglected to mention a feat of yours that you feel is related to the job in question, say something. Tactfully say something like "I noticed that you're interested in this skill and my experience in/at _____ is a perfect example of this. It's your future, don't let someone else control it. Be witty but don't shoot yourself in the foot. Everyone loves a sense of humor, but some humor is best left alone, such as explicit subjects. Likewise "smart" responses such as "I'm here for your job" when asked "to what job are you applying?" is never an appropriate response. Don't every say this...EVER! So, even though we can't do the job interview for you, we can definitely make sure that some of the basic things that are within your control are covered. Now all you have to do is make sure that you answer questions the right way and present a winning image that makes employers want to hire you.
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
(The Duality of the Internship)[caption id="attachment_80" align="alignright" width="281" caption="How the internship can help your career chances. "][/caption] "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This is probably one of the most often asked questions in our educational lives. And, as we continued to change our minds on our career path, so changed the job market. So, what's a "wet-behind-the-ears" college undergraduate to do? First, you need to understand the new changes in the job market and how it can affect your prospects of finding and keeping an upwardly mobile path to a rewarding career. Keep in mind that this isn't our parents' job market. If recent national labor shake-ups haven't proven it already, job stability is practically a thing of the past. Now days, companies downsize to curb soaring benefit costs, meaning that new recruits have to be extremely bright with a vast amount of resources or possess a strong degree of ingenuity to make themselves indispensable. "So what resources should I have?" you ask. If conventional jobs are where your heart lies, consider an "internship". Internships give you "real world experience", making you more desirable to corporations. But beware, they can be a double-edged sword. For businesses, an internship can be synonymous with free/sweat shop labor. Yes, there is the potential to learn, and be offered a full time position. But, just as often, you'll hear horror stories of interns never being offered a permanent (and salaried) job even after working months with no pay while giving companies cutting edge ideas. How can you actually make your internship work for you? Keep tabs on "innovative" suggestions or projects you undertake that help the company achieve an edge. Don't be shy; pipe up and let your superiors know about your contributions. This will come in handy when making your pitch for a full time position, or when you ask for reference letters. If you feel like you've found your dream job, but are relegated to hard hitting decisions like "How do you like your coffee", suggest that you're ready to prove yourself. Instead of fuming on the inside, approach your boss after about two months. During this time, you'll have proven that you can comprehend the basics like showing up to work on time and that you understand the office flow. Start with trying to take on small projects like following up with customer service on smaller accounts, or phone interfacing. Little by little, you can make your employer rely on you, and likewise prove a stronger case for a salaried job. (FYI: If you did grunt work as an intern in college don't be ashamed to object to grunt work in a salaried position.) Another word of caution, if you're post-college consider internships with caution. Internships can be the kiss of career death for older applicants. The undergrad applicant who interns at the same office will sometimes be given preferential treatment when the time comes to offer a salaried position. Their employer may give them a low salary but hire them on anyway because their internship is viewed as a rite of passage. And in their naiveté, the fresh college grad won't realize that they're barely surviving financially. An older individual may find it impossible to request a salaried job from that same employer. The older intern understands the financial demands but opted for an internship anyway. As a result, their employer may have little to no sympathy for that intern. In contrast, if you're still in college, don't be afraid to intern in fields that are completely unrelated to your major. Often, your first job out of college may have little to do with your actual degree. But, if you know how to apply core principles to any job sector, you'll be perceived as "well rounded" - i.e. more desirable to employers. By taking a salad buffet approach to internships while in college, you might actually save yourself from the "entry level 5". In other words, go through your "figuring it out stage" while your financial responsibilities are almost non-existent. This way you'll avoid bouncing from sector to sector within your first five years out of college while trying to maintain a sense of financial stability.