Putting Your Best Foot Forward

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CSM Students Get The Real Deal on Career Opportunities

“We call this occupational boot camp,” laughed Tracy Sewell as she described the College of Southern Maryland's “The Real Deal,” a one-day interactive employment workshop held on each of CSM's campuses to help prepare students who will be seeking employment.

“Right now the students are practicing their interview techniques with different members of CSM's staff and faculty. This portion of the day's activities generally runs overtime. It is such a helpful exercise, the students don't want it to stop,” said Sewell, who watched as six “couples” work through nerve-wracking questions such as, “what do you know about this position?” and “how do you see yourself fitting into this organization?”

“I liked the interview portion because the interviewers gave me immediate feedback on my responses and how I could tweak my answers to make them stronger,” said Jennifer Wright, who attends CSM with her sister Naomi.

“Today's activities, particularly the interview and the personal profile, give the students a chance to learn how to articulate who they are. Learning to talk about yourself is awkward and something most of us are not good at but it is a key skill you need to practice when you are looking for a job. Going into an interview you have to be able to communicate the skills you have,” said Lisa Warren, CSM's career services coordinator.

Part of learning how to communicate about your skills is to determine which ones you possess and how they apply to the job you are seeking. The The Real Deal provides the students with a skills checklist that lists nearly 200 transferable job skills the students may have. The workshop proctors help the students whittle the list of skills to the Top Five skills they enjoy using the most. These five, whether knowing how to manage people, compute data or organize tasks, are the skills students should look for when they are approaching job descriptions.

“One of the biggest mistakes you can make is applying for a job you have no interest in,” said Warren, as she conducted the Strength in Skills portion of the workshop. “For example, if the job description lists repetitious tasks as a desired skill and that is something you don't enjoy, don't apply. You are not going to enjoy the position. Instead, use your job skills list to screen for jobs you will enjoy doing on a daily basis,” Warren continued.

After determining their skill set, the students participated in four career workshops focusing on: matching their employee skill set to those requested by employers; how to recognize and develop strong work ethics (employee character traits); knowing and negotiating your salary, and how to develop resumes specific to the position you are trying to obtain.

The students then observed an interview demonstration by CSM Career Services staff. The students, who had been practicing putting their best foot forward all day, laughed appreciatively as CSM's Career Services Specialist Jayne Mignogno interviewed a now less-than-career-ready Warren, who committed such interview faux pas as showing up late, bad-mouthing her current and former employers and answering her cell phone, not once but three times.

At the end of the interview, the students evaluated Warren's performance. “She was confident but she did everything else wrong,” one student offered. “When she talked negatively about her current employer, you could see the interviewer's body language change,” said another student. “Yeah, she lost the job right there,” another student confirmed.

For their final task, the The Real Deal participants practiced their personal profiles. A personal profile is a combination of an employee's Top Five skills, three work ethics currently possessed, and a combination of practical computer, management or office skills. Together, these create a profile introduction employees can use when they meet a prospective employer.

A well-practiced personal profile would flow easily such as, “Hi, my name is John Smith; I'm currently a website developer with Jane Doe Electronics in Smithville. I have experience in ColdFusion, Java Script and multiple software applications. I am looking to move into a web design management preferably with a local defense contractor…”

“You were great. Very confident, and obviously experienced,” said Mike Harrison, a CSM student from Bushwood, to his profile partner. “I've held a number of jobs but today was still a learning experience. I learned that I need to go into my interviews knowing what I expect from an employer in terms of benefits, working conditions and salary and that I have control over how I promote my job qualifications,” Harrison continued.

“The Real Deal provides our students with the opportunity to explore career development skills in a hands-on environment and receive immediate feedback to their questions and observations,” said Sewell, who noted that the Career Services Department is looking to provide more The Real Deal seminars in the future.

“It's applicable to anyone. Are they changing careers, returning to the job market, a member of the military moving into the private sector employment, a recent college grad or someone looking to be semi-retired? The Real Deal allows participants to evaluate themselves and break away from that idea that their last or current job is all they are,” said Warren.

For information on how CSM Career Services can help you prepare for your next job call 301-934-7569 or 301-870-3008, Ext. 7569 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7569 for St. Mary's County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7569 for Calvert County or visit http://www.csmd.edu/CareerServices/.


It's Coming….

Looking for that perfect position? You know the one – flexible hours, engaging work, co-workers who become like family, a boss who gives credit where credit is due, benefits you can actually use. It doesn't have to be a dream. Attend the Tri-County Job Fair 2007 hosted by the College of Southern Maryland at its La Plata campus and explore the best opportunities the region has to offer. From administrative assistant to Fortune 500 your dream career is only one exploratory footstep away.

Tri-County Job Fair 2007
April 5, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
College of Southern Maryland
8730 Mitchell Road, PE Center, La Plata, MD 20646

Take the first step towards your future – attend the Tri-County Job Fair 2007, hosted by the College of Southern Maryland's Career Services department. Career counselors will guide you through a day of resume, interview and presentation tips, new career opportunities, introduction skills and so much more. Meet with over 70 local and regional employers who are looking for employees, such as Calvert Memorial Hospital, Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center and the U.S. Census Bureau, and maybe meet the employer of your dreams. Ginger Kisamore, a human resources specialist will present a free career workshop, entitled “Secrets of the Federal Job Application Process” at noon.

For information call, 301-934-7574 or 301-870-3008, Ext. 7574 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7574 for St. Mary's County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7574 for Calvert County or visit http://www.csmd.edu/CareerServices/.