Should I pursue an online degree?


I’m considering enrolling in an online degree program as I haven’t finished my Bachelor’s degree? Should I do it?

– C.S.

My answer in brief: Know if the program is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency before you go. If the program or degree program is not accredited, your degree may not hold weight in the eyes of an employer — and it may hurt you. Especially if you take out student loans to pay for the program.

For instructions on how to review and evaluate whether or not a program is accredited, see my recent post on this on the Career Hub. Note: Many “diploma mills” say they are accredited — and technically they are. The trick is to make sure they are accredited by an agency that is recognized by the Department of Education — and is widely accepted in your field. And always ask if you can speak to a real graduate who is actively working before you enroll.)

Good luck!

 

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Question: Strategies for A Group Phone Interview

 

I've been invited for a phone interview with a search committee: there will be five people on the call. Any tips on how to prepare?

P. L.

Ask for a list of all who are attending.

Show you are present: If there's a staff list with pictures print it out or pull it up online. Let people know you are looking at it as you talk. This may help you break the ice, and it will give you a chance to see how members of the committee act as a group:

Do they talk about their pictures and how they look different? Do they tease each other?

Is there silence?

Customize your questions:

Prepare a question for each person on the interview.

If you want the job, follow up with individual participants.

Follow up quickly with a custom thank you email to each participant. If you have information on their job titles, include a sentence or two that shows you are thinking about how you would interact with them on the job. This is a great opportunity to revisit any particular topics you may not have nailed in the interview — example: You asked my opinion about X; here's a more complete answer to your question.

If you don't have email addresses for each participant, Google *@companyname.com — this will show you how companies assign email addresses — you can figure it out from there.

Don't forget the blind spot — i.e. interviews are always a two way street: The employer picks the candidate, and the candidate gets to decide whether or not they want to work for the employer. You may be so focused on answering their questions that you don't take time to assess whether or not the job is a fit. If you receive an offer — and still haven't figured out whether the job is a fit or met all the players in person, ask if you can meet again before you get started.

Good luck!

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Question: Is it better to have many friends or a few good ones?

My friend Jim and I are having an argument over networking? Jim says it's better to be an open networker on LinkedIn; I say it's better to follow LinkedIn's suggestion — and only connect with people I know well. Which is the better strategy?

– K.L.

There's no right answer. It's up to your own level of comfort, and depends on what purpose you'd like to use your network for.

That said, my personal preference is to only connect with people who know you well. Why? If you get a job lead through a networking contact — and they don't know you well…they cannot vouch for you.

It's not who you know that matters — it is whether or not they are willing to speak up for you.

In my opinion, that's what matters most. "I recommend you for any job that you are qualified for," is a pretty weak reference. So Is "I don't know her."

 

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Question: Are Cover Letters Really Necessary?

Are cover letters worth writing?

One person says no one reads them. Another says the letter is more important than the resume.

– JD

Sometimes looking for jobs is a lot like dating:

Say you have two dates with two different people, both of whom know your food preferences:

Date person #1 remembers that you are a vegetarian, checks out the Zagat rating and books a table at Paul McCartney’s favorite vegetarian restaurant.

Date person #2 takes you to a steak house, when you say you don’t eat meat — tells you there’s a lot on the salad bar.

Which date are you more inclined to prefer? The one who has taken the time to listen and consider your needs, or the one who’s asked you to be flexible.

Cover letters are an opportunity for you to show the kind of date you are:

A good letter shows you’ve taken the time to think through the job — and how your skills line up. It shows how interested you are, that you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with the role.

Like dating, there’s no guarantee your potential employer will take the time to carefully assess your interest. There’s no guarantee you’ll get a call back.

But the more effort you put forward, the more likely it is — at some point in the process — that you will have your interest reciprocated. And a cover letter shows that you can be a good date.

Your thoughts?

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Career 911: What You Can Do to Prepare for Irene (And After-Effects)

As Irene rapidly approaches, here are quick tips to prepare your career for a Hurricane.

The focus is on winds and water now, but we could be talking about unemployment and job loss caused by the storm in a few weeks. I volunteered to help with relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina, helping survivors apply for jobs and search for work months after the storm.

After Katrina, I learned that re-booting your career after a natural disaster can take months depending on your situation. Here are a few critical steps that can exponentially decrease your down-time.

  • Keep all of your forms of original identification with you—and make copies. If you have to evacuate, take your passport and birth certificate with you. You need more than a driver’s license alone to establish identity with the Federal government; at a minimum, make sure you will be able to complete the I-9 Employment Eligibility form required by all U.S. employers.
  • If you use a local email provider, back up your email to a national account (think Yahoo!, Gmail, etc.)

  • If employed, know your company’s emergency contact plan and procedures. Don’t rely on local phone service or e-mail; have a back-up plan for communication so that your employer doesn't think you are a "lost cause."
  • Keep electronic copies of your resume, recommendations, and any job search efforts using secure on-line storage providers. (Again, e-mail accounts that are cloud-based, or with big providers are a safe back-up.)

    You can also use StartWire, a free service for job seekers, to keep records on any of the jobs that you have applied to. You can use StartWire to store a copy of your resume – and track the status of any jobs you have applied to. (StartWire actually sends updates on job applications submitted to over 4,100 companies.)

  • If you evacuate and have room, pack at least one professional outfit—even if you don’t need it for interviewing, you will be glad you have it later if your personal belongings are affected by the storm.

This advance work will speed up the process if you need to file claims or apply for new jobs after the storm.

If you need career assistance in preparing your resume and applying for new jobs, keep an eye out for free services and resources. After Katrina, a group called Volunteers for Careers was formed by a network of career professionals and associations to provide free services to hurricane survivors. The organization is dormant for now, but will be reactivated "should critical needs arise." Stay tuned, and I will keep you updated.

Good luck,
Chandlee

P.S. Even if this storm passes you by, these tips can help you in case you are affected later. Two little known facts:

1. According to the Census Bureau, 53% of the U.S. population lives in a county within 50 miles of the coast.

2. Less than 7% of households are ‘Red Cross Ready’ for a disaster or an emergency (Source: Red Cross and Harris Interactive poll, 2007).

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The Mid-Year Job Search: Go More than Skin Deep

When my dad was about two, he managed to send himself down the basement stairs in a stroller, tumbling onto his head and resulting in all kinds of crying. My grandmother “GB” frantically called my grandfather “Doc.” He was flagged down off the golf course.

“Leon, Leon, our son went down the stairs in his stroller.”

“Did he cry?”

“Of course he cried?”

“He’ll be all right, then.”

My dad’s still alive and recovered quickly, but many today would question Doc’s diagnostic methods…After all brain injuries can develop in the minutes and hours after a head injury.

Knowing the right questions to ask in a check up is important in both physicals and job searches: In situations, if you look only at the surface – you may miss the main problem. (Did I mention that Doc was a dermatologist?)

This month’s Career Collective topic looks at the “Mid-Year” Job Search check-up. Here are three commonly asked surface questions that don’t fully get at the true underlying issues.

  1. When I Google you, is there any “digital dirt” that would prevent you from getting hired?If the answer is no, that’s great. But what’s equally important today: Is it easy to see what you are great at professionally? Are your strengths and experiences that align with the job you’ve applied for –visible in 30 seconds?
  2. Is your resume in ship shape?Your gut response may be yes, resume is more than fonts, action verbs, and formatting. Does the resume speak directly to the job you’ve applied for? Are you customizing it so that your experience looks on target for what employers are seeking? Do the skills you are putting forward match your interests in what you want to do as you carry out the job?
  3. How many jobs have you applied for?There’s a common assumption that your odds of getting hired go up when you apply for more jobs. But if you aren’t applying for the right jobs — and ones that you are qualified for — you can actually decrease your chances of getting hired. After all, as in many areas of life, your chances of success can increase when you focus selectively on a few possibilities rather than a universe of opportunities.

What questions are you asking yourself in your mid-year job search? And might a second opinion be helpful to make sure you are looking beneath the surface as well?

 

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To Know or Not To Know: Which is Better

This weekend, I spoke with a job seeker who — three weeks ago — applied for a job listing online for a job that he saw at Borders. He hadn't seen the closing signs, or the news coverage that Borders will be laying off over 10,000 employees nationwide. And even if he had, he knows that companies hire all the time — even if they are laying off people in other departments.

My friend spent over an hour applying for the job, then dropped by last week to discover that they were closing within three days. There were no jobs to be had.

"I'm annoyed. I'm frustrated. But I'm glad I know now that I won't be hearing from them."

There are some aspects of the job search you can't control: It isn't always possible to know when a job is posted — "for real" or when it's posted to comply with internal hiring policies or marketing plans of keeping up appearances.

That said, there are some tried and true — as well as emerging and new — ways that you can ensure you get better feedback on your applications. Wouldn't you rather know than sit and wait to hear? Here are three ways to do this:

1. Follow up.

I recently interviewed Google recruiter Jeff Moore, and learned that — in his opinion — one of the biggest mistakes that candidates for jobs at Google make is not following up and assuming that Google isn't interested. He cautioned, "Don’t take yourself out of the game." He also said he's frequently hired candidates who initially applied for a job he didn't hire them for the first time.

2. Get the inside scoop.

Use your social networks to figure out who you know inside the company, and — if you've got a connection — let them know you've applied. If not, don't be afraid to call the company, anyway. My friend Angela got several interviews simply by figuring out who the hiring manager was for positions, calling at night and leaving a voicemail with a two sentence summary of her skills and experience.

3. Sign up to get feedback. 

Since December, I've been working with StartWire, a free site that helps job seekers organize their job search — and get feedback. One of the secrets not often shared when you apply for jobs, is that many companies actually provide you with updates on the status of your job application — but you have to log back into the website where you applied for the job to get the feedback. StartWire checks this information automatically for you at over 2,600 companies when you tell them where you've applied.

Personally, I think it's better to know when you are in the running for a job — or not — then to sit and play the waiting game. You?

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Want to Write a Cover Letter in Six Tweets?

My junior year of high school, I drove a tank car that I tried to hide in the parking lot. It had a sticker on the back of the Boynton bears saying, “My other car is a Rolls.” It belonged to my parents, and was almost as old as I was. It was the medium-size model of a Chevrolet station wagon, but it occupied a city block more than a full lane when I drove down the street. The car was an eyesore, and refused to be hidden. People noticed it.

Station_wagon

Just as you pay more for gas if you have a big car, you may pay the price if you apply for jobs with a very long cover letter. It’s quite possible that no one will read your work.

I’m going to borrow a writing style I’ve adapted from Twitter, and teach you how to write a cover letter in seven six tweets (messages of 140 characters or less). This is my gift to you because writing a cover letter is like going to the dentist no one likes to write cover letters.

(T1) Objective:  Write cover letter with the employer in mind, focus on their needs–not yours.Answer four questions, they want to know:

  1. (T2) Where did you find my listing? Do you know anyone here? Recruiters care about hiring and marketing. Let them know how you found them.
  2. (T3) What position are you applying for? How do your skills and experience align with the position? 
  3. (T4) Why this opportunity? Why do you want to work here–and in this job? Share knowledge. Show that you’ve done homework. 
  4. (T5) How can I follow-up with you?


(T6) These are the essentials. Your letter should be clear, concise and address each topic. Suggested format: write a paragraph on each point.

Practice writing a letter in this format a few times, and you’ll find that you have a cover letter that almost writes itself. Have a hard time with addressing the line up between skills and a job? Get help from someone else–a career counselor, a hiring manager, or someone who enjoys the process…You can even contact me.

After you’ve done this a few times, you should have the format down. (
There’s also an alternative version of this in the book I wrote, The Twitter Job Search Guide, as well as suggestions on how to write your resume in tweets.)

To Your Success,
Chandlee

 

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What’s On Your Summer Motivation List?

“Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?”

– Winnie the Pooh 3065946839_959bbe03ff_m

Searching for a job in the summer may be tougher than searching for a job in Winter. In our part of the world, the weather is nice and much of the world’s on vacation — including hiring decision makers.

As June unemployment numbers indicated, there’s a little less hiring going on.

Which doesn’t exactly make it easy for those who are looking for work. Less activity on the hiring front makes it more challenging to motivate to keep up the momentum of a job search.

Enter summer reading, that time trusted practice of sitting in a lawn chair with a cold drink and a very good book.

In my experience, a very good “Sustaining” book can be — as Milne and Winnie the Pooh suggest —  help and comfort to those who find themselves wedged in great tightness in the job search.

My favorite books are chock full of positive stories. Not exactly along the lines of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” but stories that show how people respond to setbacks — and triumph in the end.

Not quite PollyAnna, but full of silver linings.

I’ll tell you my favorite books if you’ll tell me yours…Share.

Cross-posted on Career Hub. Illustration courtesy of Peacay.

 

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We Get By With a Little Rec from our Friends (& By Getting There First)

Each month, I participate in the Career Collective with a group of colleagues who blog about a common topic related to career development and job search. Up this month: The topic of social media and how to use it for job search.

 

It’s hard to believe, but it was less than four years ago – in 2007 – that I first heard the term “social media.” And at first, I didn’t even hear about “social media;” I saw a poster for a panel on new media at the New School in New York, and I wondered what it was all about. (I don’t think I need to tell you that I wasn’t one of the ones who got an e-mail from LinkedIn for being a member of the “first million users” club.)

 

I missed the panel, so I signed up to organize a panel later that year – at the time I was working in a career services office for students. And I was curious – what was new media? What was this thing people were referring to as social media?

One of the panelists who participated on the panel worked for Nickelodeon gave a description of “new media” versus “old media” that I’ve never quite forgotten:

 

“Old media,” she said “is like flipping through television using your remote control. It’s passive. Like sitting on the couch.”

 

“New media,” or “social media…is about open engagement. It’s about leaning forward. Participating in conversations, and having something to say.”

 

To me, that says it all.

 

Since December, I’ve been collaborating with StartWire, a new site that helps close the loop for job seekers by providing feedback and automatic updates on your job application status. My StartWire colleagues share my interest in how hiring works, and how employers make decisions.  StartWire features include tools that help you leverage your LinkedIn and Facebook connections to get referred for jobs of interest, as well as a way to share your job search activity with friends who may be able to help.

I’m probably not telling you anything new when I say “we get by with a little rec” from our friends, but here’s a new piece of data that shows just how competitive the hiring landscape is. Recently, StartWire evaluated 6,600 hires made in 2010 across ten different industries and found something interesting: roughly 50% of successful job seekers applied within the first week a position was listed. To me, this is a conversation we don’t often have in conversations about social media and job search: in talking about the best ways to apply, we often don’t emphasize the sheer importance of being first in line.

It’s important to be top of mind in the hiring process – whether you get there through an introduction by a friend or by applying early; you want to be thought of. Social media can help you build a presence, pass a quick “Google search” on your name, and showcase your knowledge and level of engagement in your field. It can help you bridge the gap between job listing and interview list, between being a face in the crowd and a name to remember.

How are you leaning forward in your job search, and how can we help you close the gap between what you want to do and where you are?

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