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10 Tips for Job Seekers

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“January and February are always big months for hiring, regardless of what’s happening with the economy. Companies have new budgets, new positions, and a need for workers”. – SaltMoney.org. With this in mind, you may find yourself gearing up for your last semester and preparing for spring graduation.  How do you stand out from other applicants? What is proper interviewing etiquette?  Below are 10 quick tips for you to keep in mind during interviewing season:

  1. Clean up your social media – Performing a social media cleanup is an important step in the job search process. Employers can, and will, check social media outlets prior to interviewing candidates. Remember, what you post online is a part of your personal brand and proper online etiquette is a must.  Review your personal accounts before you begin sending out resumes and filling out job applications. Taking down those Aggieville and spring break pictures may not be such a bad idea…
  1. Build your network – Your network is already bigger than you think! Reach out to professors, family members, or those you have met within your industry. Do not hesitate to ask for a hand; at some point, we have all had to ask for assistance. In fact, most people are happy to help.
  1. Start applying now – Many students make the mistake of starting the job search process too late. It is important to allow yourself time to send out resumes, attend initial and follow-up interviews, and potentially finalize salary offers and prepare for relocation.
  1. Target your resume and cover letter – Do not make the mistake of generalizing your cover letter and resume. Customization is key in standing out from other applicants.  Prepare these documents to reflect the skills and knowledge required for each and every position you apply to.
  1. Be confident – Be confident in your skills, experience, and education. Be ready to answer questions honestly about your strengths and weaknesses, and be able to cite examples of when your skills were put to the test. Remember, millennials (anyone born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s) have been dubbed an entitled generation, so be sure to remain self-aware.
  1. Know the company – Job seekers often only glance at the company website before their interview. Take time to review the company website in depth.  Know what the company stands for, who they are, and have a firm understanding of what the company does.
  1. Show appreciation to the interviewer –Young applicants also often fail to conclude an interview with an expression of gratitude for the interviewer’s time. Always thank the interviewer in person, make it clear you would consider it a privilege to work at the company, and ask about the next step in the process. Then, follow up with a handwritten thank-you note or email that references specifics discussed in the interview. – According to Forbes.
  1. Don’t give up – The job search process can be timely and frustrating. Continue searching and applying until you find the job that is right for you!
  1. Take advantage of campus opportunities – Kansas State University campus hosts a variety of job fairs, interview and resume workshops, and many other opportunities to sharpen your skills, and facilitate job searches. Be mindful of these great opportunities and check out upcoming ones through Career & Employment Services.
  1. Visit Powercat Financial Counseling – PFC offers peer-to-peer financial counseling for students transitioning from school to work. A trained counselor can review your job offer packet and answer questions regarding your finances and benefits offered as you prepare to enter in to the workforce.

Good luck as you begin the journey towards your future and congratulations for getting this far!

Emily Koochel
Graduate Assistant
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.ksu.edu./pfc

When Is The Best Time To Negotiate Your Salary?

An employer ask you to take a seat and you start talking about the job as he looks over your resume. You are thinking really hard about all your qualifications that will get you this job. The employer then ask what sort of salary are you looking for. Is this the right time to tell him what you want to be paid? The answer is no, not just yet.

First, think of when you go to the store and you are looking at clothing.  Think about when you first see something you want! You are very interested and you have to buy it. What stops you? For most people, it is the price tag.  What happens when the retailer asks you to try it on before you see the price? Most people that see the merchandise on them before they see the price tag are more than likely to buy it. This is the same thing with employers: you want them to commit to liking you before you talk about how much you are worth. Don’t let them screen you out because you are over their budget.

The employer asked early on in the conversation how much you are wanting to get paid, so what do you say?  To postpone the salary talk until you have been offered the job reply, “I’m sure we can come to a good salary agreement if I am the right person for the job, so let’s first agree on whether I am.” Or: “Salary? Well, so far the job seems to have the right amount of responsibility for me, and I am sure you pay a fair salary, don’t you?” (What can they say here?) “So let’s hold off on the salary talk until you know you want me. What other areas should we discuss now?”

You may think this seems bad that you are trying to avoid the employer’s question, but think of it from the glass half full side instead of half empty. The employer may be impressed that you’re wanting to make sure you are a good fit before you talk about how much you want to be paid. The more qualifications the employer knows you have, the more he is willing to pay you. So by postponing the salary talk until you have been told you are the right person, you will not get screened out and their salary offer may go up.

Resource:  Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute

Tyler Larson
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

PAR – The New Kind of Résumé

Preparing for life after college is very important for your financial situation. You also will need to find a company that you really fit well with. This will help you motivate yourself to work harder and possibly get promoted. If you want to prepare yourself to receive a good paying job you will need to have a good résumé.

Most résumés just give a brief description that tells the employer where you worked and any other activities in which you have been involved. This is a problem because your potential future employer will not know how well you did those things.

The best way to build a résumé is to us the PAR method. PAR stands for problem, action and result. This type of résumé will show what difficulties you faced in your previous job, what you did about them, and what the results were. This will go smoothly with an interview especially if it is a behavioral interview. In these interviews they will ask you about “a time when…” and want you to explain the situation, what action you took to handle that situation, and finally what the end result was. If your résumé is already set up like this you will be one step ahead of the competition. PAR formatting for résumés give employers a good high-level look at you before you even meet. Here is a breakdown of each stage.

Problem

You will need to write about an obstacle or challenge you have previously faced in your life. Have enough context to paint a picture of the situation and even having goals that were planned for the situation will help. Some potential problems could be facing a really tight deadline, being down to half a team for the project, or handling an angry customer.

Action

This section will show the details of the actions you took in that specific challenge. You will want to list what you did to solve the problem or complete the goal. The more you can bring out your talents the better it will look. Make sure to use action words to make yourself stand out.

Result

In the result stage you will want to tell the employer the results of the situation. Use quantitative measurements if possible and include positive outcomes. It is okay to share negative outcomes, but be sure to describe how you will improve or do something different the next time.

Armani Williams
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Top 5 Hidden Costs of Your First Job

1. Clothing

Your favorite jeans and college t-shirt work great when you’re heading to class, but once you enter the workforce you may have to beef up your wardrobe. Depending on the industry you go into you may be required to wear business professional or business casual attire every day. Purchasing these types of clothing doesn’t always come cheap.  About.com estimates that men will spend $125 a month on their professional work wardrobe. That totals up to $1500 annually.

2. Transportation

Depending on what city you work and reside in, other costs of your commute may arise. After you graduate you may need to upgrade your vehicle which will increase costs of auto insurance, loan payments, etc. Transportation costs may also include stress and time away from family or other activities depending on the distance or traffic of your daily commute.

3. Eating out

Even though you may plan on bringing lunch to work most days, you may be obligated to go out to lunch. Many employees treat lunch as a time to network with clients or discuss business. Spending a minimum of $20 a week on business lunches or dinners can end up costing you $1,040 a year. This being a low estimate increasing lunch outings can really add up over time and end up decreasing the amount of money you have to spend on other discretionary items.

4. Travel

With some jobs you may be required to travel. Whether this means traveling locally to meet clients, or traveling across the country, these costs can reduce your discretionary income.  Many firms will reimburse you for travel expenses, but you may have to pay the upfront cost. There are also expenses associated with traveling that your firm may not compensate you for such as time away from your family, meals, and traveling essentials.

5. Taxes

Most people don’t consider taxes when they enter their first job but it is something to be aware of. When you earn more money you may be pushed into a higher tax bracket. This is especially true for students entering their first job who have formerly filed as dependents of their parents. In 2012 those filing as Single on their tax return earning $8,700 to $35,350 were taxed at a rate of 15%. If you earned $30,000 last year you would have been taxed roughly $4,500. As your income increases your tax bracket increases, which means you may end up forking a good chunk of your income over to Uncle Sam.

 

Although that new job offer may sound great, it is always good to look into the hidden costs. Comparing these costs and your compensation is a great way to find out if you need to further negotiate your salary. When looking at an offered salary it is important to analyze the extra costs that take away from your discretionary income in order to accurately evaluate the offer. Budgeting for these extra expenses can help you in not being caught off guard when they arise.

 

Sydney A. Henderson
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Evaluating Employee Benefits and Perks

When considering a job offer, many people think the most important factor is the salary. Actually, it is just as critical to analyze the ‘secret’ money – benefits and perks that are offered by an employer. Some benefits to consider include a comfortable and casual work environment, flexible work schedules, an option to telecommute, gym memberships, tuition reimbursement, and a casual dress code.

Typical Employee Benefit Packages

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of annual paid holidays is 10.  Paid leave time also can include sick and maternity leave. Almost half of medium and large employers offered either a defined benefit or a defined contribution pension plan. But they may have some requirements. For example, you can join the plan after working a required number of years for the company. Or you must work for the company a certain number of years before you become “vested” and own the company contribution portion of your plan.

Every company has different requirements when they offer health insurance.  Some may require an initial premium payment  after which, the policy itself will cover you and your family.  Be sure when making insurance selections that you know whether or not the plan will include dental, vision or disability coverage and whether or not there will be any out-of-pocket expenses. Life insurance is also a common benefit associated with most insurance solutions. Employers usually provide an amount equal to a percentage of your annual salary for insurance needs with an additional option to purchase life insurance when necessary.

How to Evaluate Perks

Employers believe that an advantageous way to attract top employee talent is offering perks and benefits outside of the initial base salary. However, not all benefits are necessarily the best fit for you. The true value of perks being offered from the employer should be determined not by the overall quantity or dollar value, but by the benefits that make a true impact on the lifestyle you live. As an example, if living an active healthy lifestyle is important for you as an employee, it may be valuable to look for companies that offer gym memberships to employees. An extreme example of this would be looking for companies that have a gym inside of the office as this perk is becoming more and more popular in the modern day workplace.  Another example of perks would be companies that offer a flexible work schedule. If you are not a morning person, being able to come in later and be more productive creates a win-win situation for both parties! Just remember, when a company is a better fit for you, you are also a better fit for them.

 

Angela Li
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-skate.edu/pfc

Behavior Based Interviews

An employer’s ultimate hiring decision is based not just on your qualifications, but the employer’s total impression of you. Since a large bulk of this impression is going to be formed during your interview, it is important to adequately prepare for the types of questions that you might be asked.

Behavior based interviews are the direction that most companies are headed in regards to their interview process. A behavioral based interview focuses on discovering how the interviewee acted in a very specific employment-related situation (ex. tell me about a time when you had to deliver an uncomfortable message to someone?).

From my own experiences with talking to employers, there are three main things that interviewers are looking for in your answer to these questions. Tailoring your answers to fit this structure will increase the quality of your answers and help you leave a better impression on employers.

1. Situation – This is your chance to frame up the challenge situation/challenge that you were facing. Try to be as specific as possible with your answer – interviewers don’t want to hear a generalized description of your past experiences
2. Action – Describe the contribution/action that you made in this particular situation. Be sure to focus specifically on yourself here and not the collective actions of a group or team.
3. Result – Briefly describe the outcome of your actions. What did you accomplish?

As you prepare to graduate and begin your interview process, don’t forget to practice this technique. Concentrating on these three items will help your answer stay focused and professional. Good luck!

Ryan Ehart
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

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