Strong Interest Inventory Assessment

The Career Center offers career coaching and assessments by appointment, which now includes the Strong Interest Inventory®. This assessment is available free of charge to patrons with a valid East Baton Rouge Parish library card.

The Strong is a scientifically validated career assessment which can only be administered by a Strong Certified Practitioner.  It is one of the most respected and widely used career planning instruments in the world. The Strong is of value to students deciding on a career path or college major as well as to mid-career professionals contemplating  career fit, change, or realignment.

The Strong will only be administered as part of career coaching. Interested individuals can contact the Career Center at (225) 231-3733 and set up an appointment with a career coach.

Further information about the assessment can be found here.

How to Succeed at a Job Fair

Job fairs are a valuable part of any job seeker’s toolkit. With dozens of employers in one location, job fairs can be an efficient way to make lots of contacts quickly. Yet, if you’re not careful, you could accidentally make a bad impression on dozens of hiring managers at once. Avoid missteps with our Job Fair Success guide.

How to Prepare for a Job Fair

Research the job fair. Find out what companies will be there and what types of positions they’ll be offering. Decide which companies and positions you’re interested in, which shouldn’t be every single one — lack of focus is unattractive to employers. If possible, go ahead and fill out the online applications for any positions you want.

Create and polish your resume. Make certain that your best, most relevant skills and experience are highly emphasized. Employ strategies to cover any problematic details, such as a gap in your work history. Ensure that your resume is easy to read, consistently formatted, and free of grammatical errors. (If you need help putting together a resume, come visit the Career Center!) Finally, print out many, many copies of your resume.

Prepare your outfit. You should dress for a job fair the exact same way you would dress for a job interview.

Practice your 30-second pitch. You will need to introduce yourself to employers at the job fair, briefly detailing what kind of work you’re looking for and what qualifications you possess. For example, “Hello! My name is John Doe, and I’m interested in becoming a delivery driver with your company. I have three years of professional driving experience as a deliveryman for FedEx, and I think I’d make a great addition to your team.”

Get ready for on-the-spot interviews. Most employers won’t have time for in-depth interviews the day of the job fair, but some will. You should be prepared to answer common interview questions, such as, “Tell us about yourself”, “Why do you want to work for us?”, and “Why should we hire you?”

The Day of the Job Fair

Make sure that your outfit and appearance are neat, and that you have plenty of copies of your resume. Plan to get there near the beginning of the job fair — don’t wait until the end. Many employers leave long before the job fair is over. Once you arrive, get a map of the layout of the venue and where employers are located (if one is available) and study it to plan the order in which you’ll approach your target companies.

Make a good first impression on employers. When you go up to a booth, you will introduce yourself to the hiring manager using your 30-second pitch and give him or her your resume. Make sure you’re giving off appropriate body language. Be confident and friendly. Ask the hiring manager what the next steps in the process are, and follow them. Don’t forget to get the hiring manager’s business card before you leave. If they have no card, write yourself a note with the recruiter’s name and company.

They might not actually be hiring right now. Some employers at job fairs don’t have current openings. Instead, they’re using the job fair to expand their pool of applicants, network, and publicize their companies. However, you should still take them seriously, and make a good impression on them because they may have openings in the near future. Even employers that do have current openings will rarely hire someone on the spot during a job fair without a background check and in-depth interview. Don’t expect to be offered a job on the day of the fair — recognize that the fair is often just the first step of the process.

After the Job Fair

Follow up with the employers you met. If you haven’t already done so, fill out the online application for any company from the fair that you’re interested in. Then, email the hiring managers to touch base. Make sure you avoid sounding pushy, demanding, or desperate. Simply say something like, “I enjoyed meeting with you at the job fair yesterday. Everything you said about your company makes it seem like it would be a great fit for me. I just finished your online application, and I look forward to hearing from you.” Attach your resume to the email (rather than making them dig through the stack of resumes from the job fair to find you). You should follow up even with the companies that don’t have openings right now. Just let them know how interested you are in the company and how you hope they’ll keep you in mind for future openings.

The Most Common Job Fair Mistakes

  • Wearing casual clothes (jeans, flip-flops, t-shirts, etc.)
  • Looking ill-groomed (unshaven, wild hair, wrinkled clothes)
  • Having visible tattoos and piercings
  • Bringing children to the job fair
  • Having no resume or not enough copies of your resume
  • Going to every single booth and asking, “What are you hiring for?”
  • Saying nothing at all to the hiring manager other than, “Here’s my resume.”
  • Inappropriate body language when meeting employers (slouching, fidgeting, lack of eye contact, lack of smile, bad handshake, etc.)
  • Being unable to answer hiring managers’ questions about qualifications and skills
  • Not following up after the job fair

Written by Lynnette Lee.

Success Story: Suzanne

Meet Suzanne, a former Career Center client who was kind enough to share the story of her successful experience with us.

Suzanne came to the Career Center about a year ago, shortly after leaving her job as an office manager for a local grocery store. Suzanne had been with the same company for many years, working her way up through increasingly higher-level positions, so she had little experience with job searching and felt some anxiety about the process. As she put it, “The thought of updating my resume scared the bejeezus out of me. I’m not good at words. I really didn’t know what to say.”

Suzanne came to the Career Center, and staff worked with her on updating her resume. We began by discussing her situation and helping her choose one of our free downloadable resume templates. We discussed her previous work experience and asked questions to discover her best and most relevant accomplishments. Next, we assisted with finding eloquent ways to describe Suzanne’s work history and skills. Finally, we proofread the document for grammatical and formatting errors. Suzanne reflected positively on the experience, saying, “By the end of the process, I looked good on paper. And the whole thing was not nearly as scary or challenging as I’d thought it would be.”

Suzanne immediately used her new resume to apply for several positions online. Two days later, she was contacted by a recruiter to set up a job interview. It was for a position as a customer service representative with a medical equipment company. Suzanne went in for an interview the next day and was offered the job the following week. Later, Suzanne spoke again with the recruiter, who confided that he had found her resume very impressive.

Suzanne feels extremely happy in her new employment and is grateful to the Career Center for its assistance. In her own words, “I’ve been at this new job for a year now, and I absolutely love it — it’s a great place to work. And I know that if it wasn’t for the Career Center, I would have been lost and confused and would never have gotten a new job so quickly.”

Written by Lynnette Lee.

Tech Talk: Career Cruising, Part 1

Career Cruising is a database that’s a very user-friendly one-stop-shop for all things related to college, career, and job search information. All you need is an East Baton Rouge Parish Library card and a computer with internet connection. Want to find out which university in your area offers a criminal justice major? Career Cruising can do that for you. Want to find careers that don’t need a 4-year degree but pay more than $60,000 a year? Career Cruising can do that (it identifies 20 occupations for these criteria, among them commercial driver, energy auditor, landman, and mortgage broker). Want to know exactly what an actuary does and what it takes to become one? Yes, Career Cruising has that information too. Need to find scholarships to pay for college? Again, check Career Cruising.

You can access the database through the EBRPL Digital Library, which will take you to the Career Cruising home page.

Career Cruising presents ample information divided into five tabs: Assessments, Careers, Education, Financial Aid, and Employment.

You can browse all information without creating an account (except for the assessments and the resume builder — for those you will need an account). While you can use most functions without an account, the database will not save any of your activities and you will have to start over the next time you access Career Cruising. It’s better to create a “My Plan” account with Career Cruising to save your assessments, education plans, and searches. This way you can come back, view your earlier activity, and continue where you left off at any time.

Now you are ready to plan your college or career journey. Not sure about your skills and interests? Start with an assessment. You can take the “Matchmaker & My Skills,” which assesses your interests and matches them with occupations, or the “Learning Styles Inventory,” which measures how you learn best and retain information most efficiently — valuable information for planning your further education.

You can either use your assessment results to research matching careers or skip assessments and  jump into the careers tab right away. The careers section is such a treasure trove of easily accessible information that we will explore it in more depth in a future post. For now, here is an overview of the kind of information you can search for.

You can search for occupations alphabetically or by school subject, which will present you with careers related to your favorite school subject. You can also look at occupations by career cluster and by industries, and there is a separate section with explanations of military careers. Additionally, the Career Selector is a tool that lets you choose specific criteria, such as salary, core tasks, and education level, and matches those to occupations that fit your criteria.

The education section is also a one-stop-shop. You can search for universities by region or by major. You can conduct side-by-side comparisons of schools in terms of majors, size, cost, etc. And the database can give you a planning timeline by major, which will tell you which classes you should take in high school to best prepare you for your chosen major.

Now that you’ve chosen a college, you are ready to find scholarships. Use the Financial Aid tab to search among thousands of scholarship opportunities. You can use the alphabetical index to search according to scholarship name. Or you can use the Financial Aid Selector and search according to your specified criteria. For either search method, the result will give you a full scholarship profile and a link to the respective website. The site also features information about  the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Last but not least, Career Cruising can help with your job search. Under the Employment tab you will find links to information about job search skills such as cover letter writing, interview preparation, resume writing, etc.  There is a job search feature that links you to www.indeed.com, a job postings aggregator that helps you find open positions in your field and location. To help you write a winning resume, Career Cruising also features a “Build My Resume” tool.

There is such a wealth of information in this database that this article can only scratch the surface.  Career Cruising is intuitive and user-friendly, so you will do fine just logging on and browsing the site. However, we will follow up with future posts elaborating on each section of this database.

Written by Anne Nowak.

The Job Interview: Body Language

Savvy job seekers know that, in order to be prepared for job interviews, they need to formulate and practice answers to common interview questions. Yet even the most polished answers will get you nowhere if your body language is problematic. Studies estimate that about 65% of all communication is nonverbal – which means that hiring managers are evaluating you on much more than the content of your answers. Make sure that your body is projecting the same message as your words with these tips.

A tall confident posture

Do not slouch. A slumped-over posture sends one of two messages; it says either “I’m scared” or “I’m bored.” These are not ideas you want to evoke during your interview! Your stance should project confidence and enthusiasm. Stand and sit tall, with your chest out, shoulders back, and head held high. Pretend that there is a broomstick taped to your spine. (Some people also find it helpful to make sure that their backs never touch the backs of their chairs.) For most people, this will not come naturally or feel comfortable at first, so practice it until you become used to it.

Practicing good posture will not only make you look more confident, it will actually make you feel more confident. Holding a tall powerful stance for as little as two minutes can cause a spike in your body’s testosteronelevel  and a drop in your body’s cortisol (the stress hormone) level. Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on power poses for more information on this phenomenon.

A pleasant facial expression

One of your major goals in the interview should be to make the interviewers like you. After all, they will have to work daily with whomever they hire — so why would they hire someone unlikeable? One of the easiest ways to be seen as friendly and approachable is to have a pleasant facial expression. Smile a lot. Look enthusiastic and happy to be there. Keep a friendly light in your eyes at all times. This is harder than it sounds — after all, an interview is a high-pressure environment in which you’ll be concentrating intensely. In these circumstances, people tend to frown or scowl. Be aware of this issue, and practice with a mirror if you’re having trouble maintaining that pleasant face.

Steady eye contact

The eyes are the windows to your soul — and if your interviewers can’t see yours, they’re not going to feel any connection to you. Even more troubling is the fact that by avoiding eye contact, you come across as not confident or even untrustworthy. No one will believe what you have to say if you can’t meet their eyes while saying it. From your perspective, maintaining good eye contact may seem difficult and uncomfortable because you may feel shy bragging about yourself to strangers. Overcome this tendency by practicing with a friend or with a mirror. Make sure that you can maintain good eye contact both while listening (to show that you’re paying attention) and while speaking (to project confidence). Additionally, f you are interviewed by multiple people, try to divide your eye contact evenly between them.

However, this can be carried too far. If you stare down your interviewers while barely blinking, you will come across as intimidating or creepy. Find a good balance.

Clear vocal tone and enunciation

It sounds simple, but many people forget that your answers don’t count for anything if the interviewers can’t hear or understand you. Make sure that you speak loudly, precisely, and slowly enough to be clearly understood. Do not allow your nerves to make you whisper, mumble, or yammer.

Proper placement of arms and legs

When you sit, your feet should either be placed firmly on the ground in front of you, or crossed at the ankle (not the knee). Anything else looks too casual. Make sure that your arms show an open stance — not crossed or closing off your body in a way that would indicate hostility, boredom, or fear. Your hands may be placed in your lap, on the armrests of your chair, or on the table in front of you.

A good handshake

Don’t let yourself go to either extreme in terms of pressure — a “limp fish” handshake looks unconfident, but an “arm wrestler” handshake is too aggressive. If possible, try to make sure that your hands are not clammy, sweaty, sticky, or freezing.

No fidgeting

You can use your hands to gesture and emphasize within reason — don’t look like a choir conductor. However, you should endeavor not to make any mindless, purposeless movements. No jiggling of your leg, tapping your pen, swinging in your chair, etc. In addition to making you look nervous, these types of movements are very distracting and can be annoying to others. If you tend to fidget, plan accordingly and remove temptation as much as possible. Keep your hair pulled back so you can’t twirl it. Paint your nails so you won’t bite them. Don’t wear jewelry, bring a click pen, or have gum in your mouth for the interview. And practice sitting absolutely still for several minutes at a time.

Further Review

Below are some of the relevant items from the Career Center collection that are available for check out. You can check availability and place a hold via the East Baton Rouge Parish Library‘s online catalog.

  • The Body Language Handbook: How to Read Everyone’s Hidden Thoughts and Intentions by Gregory Hartley (book)
  • Good First Impressions: Proven Tips and Techniques for Successful Job Interviews by JISTWorks (DVD)
  • Words, Camera, Action! How Body Language, Tone, and Words Affect Communication by Linx Educational (DVD)

Written by Lynnette Lee.