How to Answer: Tell Me About a Challenge You Had to Overcome in the Workplace

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This is a tough question because you’re forced to talk about a difficult time with a complete stranger. Fortunately, it’s also a great opportunity to turn a big challenge into a great accomplishment. In fact, we like to think of it as a related question to “Tell me about an accomplishment you’re proud of.” Why do employers ask this question? It’s because they want to know that they’re hiring someone who has the ability to think on their feet and who is resilient when facing challenges.

When answering this question, start by giving context for the situation and then showing how you worked out a solution to the problem. Try to keep your answer short and focused. After all, the interviewer is really looking for what you took away from the situation and doesn’t need to know the full backstory of what happened. If you need help structuring your answer, remember this acronym: S.T.A.R. It stands for situation, task, action, and result.

Here’s what they each mean and how you can use them effectively.

Situation

First, articulate to your interviewer the situation you were in so that they have context. What was the problem and how did it come up? In one or two sentences, create a clear picture so that hiring manager is able to visualize the challenge. If possible, keep things professional by focusing only on problems that have come up in class or at a previous job.

Say something like: “During my summer internship at a public relations firm, a client suddenly wanted to change an entire campaign strategy two days before launch. The client was unhappy with my team’s first draft, so we were tasked with redoing the entire plan.”

Task

Talk about the task at hand and tell your interviewer what each person was responsible for doing, so that they get a sense of how you fit into the team. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail but do set the scene with one or two sentences about the roles everyone played in the project.

Say something like: “We organized a late-night brainstorm that evening. After hours of work, I asked to take the lead on putting together a new deck. This was challenging because it was my first time putting a deck together and also our one chance to make the client happy again.”

Action

Once you’re done setting the scene, explain the actions involved in overcoming the challenge. Talk about your thought process and the steps you took to solve the problem. Again, one or two sentences is all you need to convey this.

Say something like: “I overcame this challenge by looking at previously successful presentations for the client, analyzing the feedback they gave on our initial presentation and incorporating all of the team’s ideas into the new deck.”

Result

While you should be honest and speak about a true challenge you’ve faced, be sure to end on a positive note so that your interviewer sees you as a proactive problem solver and a team player. Quantify your results if possible. It’s a great way to demonstrate the impact you’ve had on a project or company, and it lets the interviewer know that you’re focused on results.

Say something like: “The client was ultimately thrilled with the fresh plan, and all of the new ideas we included!”

Here’s how to tie this all together:

“During my summer internship at a public relations firm, a client suddenly wanted to change an entire campaign strategy two days before launch. The client was unhappy with my team’s first draft, so we were tasked with redoing the entire plan. We organized a late-night brainstorm that evening. After hours of work, I asked to take the lead on putting together a new deck. This was challenging because it was my first time putting a deck together and also our one chance to make the client happy again. I overcame this challenge by looking at previously successful presentations for the client, analyzing the feedback they gave on our initial presentation and incorporating all of the team’s ideas into the new deck. The client was ultimately thrilled with the fresh plan, and all of the new ideas we included!”

Answering “Tell me about a challenge you’ve overcome” is a great way to show potential employers that you’re able to think on your feet and to solve a problem effectively. This is a skill that interviewers are looking for in all of the candidates they hire and answering this common interview question effectively will serve you well at interviews for both internships and entry-level jobs.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Find an Internship as an Underclassman and find answers to common interview questions such as How Would Your Friends Describe You?.

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Top 10 Skills Employers Want in an Intern

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Internships provide invaluable professional experience and allow you to test the theories and concepts you’ve been introduced to throughout your college career — not to mention they increase your chances of being offered a full-time job later on.

No matter what your major or preferred industry, employers look for a core set of skills and traits when considering applicants for both internships and entry-level jobs. Your prospective supervisor is interested in more than just your GPA, so whether you’re hoping to be a summer intern, planning on honing your time-management skills as an intern during the academic year, or applying for your first job out of college, it’s worth your while to draw attention to the transferable skills you’ve picked up during your courses, community service and extracurricular activities.

Below are the top 10 skills employers want in an intern:

1. Communication

Communication occurs in a variety of ways, but future employers are primarily interested in your ability to write and speak professionally. You have the opportunity to demonstrate your written skills in your resume and cover letter, and your verbal skills as you supply thoughtful answers to the common interview questions you’ll likely be asked. During your interview, you might mention your experience giving oral presentations (which perhaps was required in some of your classes). The ability to communicate effectively — to translate ideas and convey information — is key in any field, whether it’s with your supervisor, coworkers, or clients, and employers are well aware that it is a valuable skill.

2. Interpersonal

The ability to communicate effectively is often related to one’s ability to relate well to others, or “people skills.” Depending on the industry, you may be interacting with clients and vendors as well as your co-workers and managers. It’s important to be able to build and maintain relationships and be the kind of person team members want in the office with them every day. Interpersonal skills are also important because employers seek individuals who can identify the wants and needs of others and who can recognize and acknowledge the value of differing perspectives.

3. Collaboration

As an intern, you’ll likely collaborate with other interns and company employees. Your ability to communicate and relate well to others is certainly important for collaboration, as is the capacity to work with others toward a common goal. As part of a team, you have to understand your own strengths and weaknesses so you know how you can best contribute, as well as be aware of how you can bring out the best in others.

4. Time Management

If you’ve managed to successfully take a full course load every semester and meet assignment deadlines, to some extent, you’ve already demonstrated time management skills. But as an intern, you’re not going to have a syllabus to tell you when your deadlines are. It’s up to you to organize your time and produce results. Employers want to know that you can prioritize responsibilities and recognize when it’s appropriate to multitask or focus on one particular project at a time.

5. Adaptability

Today’s work culture — whether you’re hoping to intern for a startup or well-established organization — often requires even the most senior level executives to wear multiple hats. As an intern, one day you might find yourself supporting the sales team and the next day performing customer service. While you may have an interest in a particular aspect of an industry, a willingness to become familiar with the different parts of an organization is definitely viewed as an asset (and also increases your exposure within the company).

6. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking refers to your ability to analyze and evaluate a situation or issue and form a judgment. The tendency to think critically can be demonstrated by a willingness to ask questions in order to understand an issue from all possible angles, and to pose creative solutions to challenges. It’s something many of your professors have likely emphasized and is highly valued by employers.

7. Research and Analysis

If you’ve completed any research papers or projects for your coursework (and you likely have), you already have experience with research and analysis. Don’t be shy during your interview for an internship; make it a point to bring up the empirical research you performed for your psychology class and the conclusions you came to about how your fellow students make purchasing decisions in the campus bookstore. As a new member of the organization, you’ll be hit with a lot of new information, and your ability to process that information is a testament to your ability to fulfill whatever role you’re assigned.

8. Initiative

You’ve applied for an internship to gain knowledge of an industry and professional experience, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to offer. During your interview, highlight instances where you’ve taken it upon yourself to contribute or positively affect change. Your potential employer will appreciate the chance to bring someone on board who doesn’t have to wait to receive direction for every task, and who’s willing to assist others with their work.

9. Receptiveness

While taking initiative is important, so is the ability to receive feedback. For example, if you’re asked about a time you made a mistake, you can mention the feedback you received regarding the error and how you responded to it. Your interviewer will want to know that you’re willing and able to address any weaknesses.

10. Technical Proficiency

You certainly won’t be expected to be an expert in whatever platform the company you’re applying to uses, particularly if you’re hoping to intern for a company within a highly specialized industry. But you should know your way around a computer, and your ability to navigate basic productivity software will likely be presumed.

The above are commonly identified skills that employers seek in interns, as well as applicants for entry-level jobs. Be sure to research your particular industry and familiarize yourself with other skills or character traits that may be desirable in your field.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out and find answers to common interview questions such as How Do I Get an Internship?

FIND YOUR NEXT INTERNSHIP ON WAYUP. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR FREE.

5 Tips for Getting an Entry-Level Job Unrelated to Your Major

It’s increasingly common for college seniors to realize that the major they selected years ago and have been working hard towards completing has no direct path into the workforce. For example, if you majored in History, Philosophy, Anthropology, or Art History, you probably don’t have many obvious career paths. Fortunately, there are plenty of recent grads who have gone on to become wildly successful in roles outside of anything their college major focused on.

Here are 5 actionable tips to help you break in to a role unrelated to your major:

1. Choose the Right Positions

There are quite a few positions out there for recent grads that don’t require specific college degrees. Choosing which ones are the right ones for you can be more of a burden than actually breaking into that field. If you’re not sure how to go about choosing the best positions for you, we have a guide to help you start your search.
Otherwise, figuring out what types of roles you’d excel at or want to excel at can make a world of a difference.

2. Get an Internship

This is the most surefire way to transition into an entry-level role. Internships, by definition, are supposed to provide you with real-world experience in a role. They shouldn’t ever require that you have any existing experience.

Sites like WayUp aren’t only there to help current students find internships. Even if you’ve already graduated, internships can be great opportunities for you. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’ve already graduated that an internship will be easy to get. They’re becoming more competitive all of the time and you’ll want to look at doing some of the other tactics mentioned in these tips if you want to ensure you lock down that internship.

3. Start a Related Side Project

Side projects aren’t just for engineers and designers. If you’re looking to get into marketing, start a blog or some social media accounts that aren’t personal to practice representing a brand.

Another way to get some side project experience is to offer your skills for free. Find a small, local company near you and offer to help them run their social media campaigns for free. Want to learn more about sales? Find a local business with a sales team and ask if you can listen in on some of their calls.

4. Learn to Sell Yourself

Don’t focus solely on your skills. If employers are going to take a chance on a recent grad, they want to know that you’ll be passionate, driven, trustworthy, and respectful. Look back into your life experiences and figure out ways in which you can relate them to the position you’re applying for.

Don’t assume that your coursework is completely irrelevant. You may not immediately see how taking that ‘5th Century Greek Theater’ course could possibly help you excel at a ‘Volunteer Coordinator’, but it just might be your ticket. It’s possible that the morals of the plays were important life lessons to you and show that you can take away nuggets of helpful information from every context. Seek to make every experience an asset.

5. Discover a Mentor

The internet can be a great resource when researching career options or starting a side project. However, there’s another fantastic resource at your immediate disposal: people who are already in the career you’re looking at.

Search on Meetup for individuals or groups related to your career interests and get involved. Meeting people is a great way to learn more about a particular role and gain exposure to what the people in that role (the ones that will be hiring you) are looking for in candidates. If you can, try and get one of them to mentor you. The more you can use their connections to meet other individuals in the field, the better.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Entry-Level Job? and find answers to common interview questions such as Tell me about yourself.

5 Technology Trends You Need to Know to Work in Any Industry

If you’ve been following the news on exciting tech trends like artificial intelligence, then you’re probably aware that emerging technologies are changing the way we work and interact with others. In fact, with things like machine learning and touch commerce becoming increasingly popular across every industry from banking to healthcare, technology is revolutionizing the way we do business and making high-tech approaches an integral part of our lives.

Here are the top five technology trends you need to know to work in any industry.

1. Internet of Things (IOT)

One of the biggest tech trends to emerge in recent years is the Internet of Things. Simply put, the Internet of Things (abbreviated IOT) is the idea that all technological devices can be connected to the internet and to each other in an attempt to create the perfect marriage between the physical and digital worlds. How will this impact you? It depends on your industry. For example, for those who work in marketing, advertising, media or business management, IOT could provide a wealth of information on how consumers engage with products by tracking their interactions with digital devices. In turn, this data could be used to optimize marketing campaigns and user experiences.

How it’s affecting industries: The really cool thing about IOT is that it’s not only changing the way we do business but also the business models we use to do it. For example, pay-per-use models are becoming increasingly popular across all industries as new customer data becomes available.

2. Machine learning

Another exciting emerging technology is machine learning, which is essentially a computer’s ability to learn on its own by analyzing data and tracking repeating patterns. For example, social media platforms use machine learning to get a better understanding of how you’re connected with those in your social network. They do this by analyzing your likes, shares and comments and then prioritizing content from your closest connections, serving you that content first.

How it’s affecting industries: In addition to shaping your day-to-day interactions with friends on social media, machine learning is also changing the way companies do business with customers. Companies like Google are using machine learning on mobile devices which can continue learning even when offline. The result? Machine learning is reshaping the way businesses interact with their customers in a big way by helping them anticipate and meet customer needs more easily.

3. Virtual reality (VR)

Remember watching movies about virtual reality and thinking how cool it would be if it was actually like that in real life? Well, it’s about to be. Although VR has been around since the 1950s, until recently the technology wasn’t able to deliver the fully immersive digital experience users have been craving. That’s about to change with recent improvements to both hardware and programming, and the effects are going to be felt across almost every industry from retail to education.

How it’s affecting industries: Virtual reality has been a popular component of video games for several years and this trend is continuing to expand. In addition to video games, VR is likely to affect companies across the board as they adopt the technology to help them engage customers more effectively and optimize their sales and marketing efforts. It’s also a potentially useful tool for learning and is increasingly being adopted by educational organizations.

4. Touch commerce

Being able to buy anything you want with the touch of a finger may have seemed like a fantasy a few years ago, but it’s now a reality. Merging touchscreen technology with one-click shopping, touch commerce allows consumers to buy products easily from their phones. After linking their payment information to a general account and enabling the feature, customers are able to buy everything from clothes to furniture with just a fingerprint.

How it’s affecting industries: This is one of the biggest things to hit eCommerce in recent years with purchases of this type expected to increase by 150% this year alone and retailers in almost every industry anticipating an increase in sales directly related to this new technology.

5. Cognitive Technology

Cognitive technology is in the same vein as machine learning and virtual reality except that it’s a broader concept. For example, the cognitive technology umbrella includes things like natural language processing (NLP) and speech recognition. Combined, these different technologies are able to automate and optimize a lot of tasks that were previously done by people, including certain aspects of accounting and analytics.

How it’s affecting industries: Although cognitive technologies have a broad range of applications, one of the industry sectors most affected by this trend initially will be the software sector. Automated analysis of user data and experiences will be particularly useful for software companies hoping to scale.

With emerging technologies changing professional industries including banking, eCommerce, healthcare and education, staying up to date on the latest trends will give you a better understanding of your chosen industry and make you a more competitive candidate. Best of all, this knowledge might open up new doors within your field and others.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as Top 10 Things You Should Look For in a Company and find answers to common interview questions such as How to Answer: What Are Your Strengths?

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How to Answer: What Are Your Salary Expectations?

Being fully prepared for the interview process means knowing what questions to anticipate. One of those questions is, “What are your salary expectations?” You won’t encounter this question during an internship interview, but it’s likely to come up if you’re interviewing for an entry-level job. Why do employers ask this? If you’re a recent college grad, it’s because they want to make sure that you have a sense of the industry you’re trying to enter and are coming into the job with realistic expectations.

Entry-level salaries vary by job type and industry, so knowing as much as possible about your field is extremely important when preparing to answer this question. Another thing to note is that entry-level salaries are most often not open to negotiation.

Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to answer.

When it’s not appropriate to negotiate.

“If you’re recruited into a formal entry-level program (a program where a class of people starts together and trains together) the answer is likely going to be no to a salary negotiation,” explains Liane Hajduch, a former campus recruiter for RBC Capital Markets.

This includes fields like investment banking, consulting and engineering, all of which have structured salaries for entry-level jobs. If you’re entering one of those industries, it’s best not to negotiate! However, you should still come into the interview knowing the salary range for the position and having a clear sense of what to expect if you’re offered the job.

Say something like: “I expect to be paid a salary that is commensurate with the industry standard for an entry-level candidate joining this position.”

Pro tip: Sites like Payscale and Glassdoor offer a lot of information about salary ranges and can give you additional insights about a company including the average salary by job type.

When it is appropriate to negotiate.

If you’re entering a more creative field (think media or marketing) and have previous relevant experience, then negotiation might be possible. “I recommend doing your research on the industry and what similar entry-level hires are being paid,” explains Hajduch. “If you know your worth, and you have data to prove it, you’ll have a much stronger case than if you make it subjective or emotional.”

Once you’ve done the research and know the range for the position, be ready to show the interviewer that you have the skills and commitment to deserve the highest salary within that range.

Say something like: “I know the average salary for this type of entry-level position is in the $35,000-$40,000 range. I think that I would be a great fit for the role due to my past internship experience and I am expecting a salary within that range.”

Answering “What are your salary expectations?” effectively is easy if you come into the conversation prepared and with some solid research under your belt. Be confident and straightforward, but also remember that flexibility will go a long way toward making a good impression on the interviewer and the company.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as When to Start Applying for a Summer Internship and find answers to common interview questions such as Why Do You Want to Work Here?

How to Set Great Internship or Job Goals

Goals are critical to succeeding at your internship or entry-level job for several reasons.

  1. They help you focus on what matters and avoid spending time on fruitless endeavors.
  2. They enable you to track your progress and ensure you’re having the impact you want to have.
  3. They help you align expectations with your manager and stay on the same page.
  4. They allow you to document and demonstrate your effort and impact at the company, which can help you get a raise, promotion, or recommendation.

What Makes a Good Internship or Entry-Level Goal?

First, all goals should be several things:

  1. In your direct control.
    There’s no point in holding yourself accountable for things you can’t control. For example, if you’re in a social media marketing role, you should create a goal around growing the number of engaged followers by 50% instead of a goal to increase the revenue you get from each social media follower.
  2. Measurable.
    Avoid vague goals like “Grow our brand awareness.”. You’ll never know when you achieve vague goals. The easiest way to make goals measurable is to ensure there are numbers attached to them.
  3. Ambitious.
    Your goals should push you. They shouldn’t be easily accomplished. Goals don’t exist to make you feel accomplished. They exist to help you accomplish great things.

In addition, internship goals should have a specific focus on learning. That learning focus can be on you learning whether you want to pursue a career similar to the internship, learning a specific skill, or learning to succeed in a particular professional environment.

Good entry-level job goals aren’t so different in that there should be an emphasis on learning. However, learning cannot be the only goal as your impact is critical to your ability to maintain your career.

How to Choose Your Goals

Setting the best, achievable goals for your internship or entry-level job largely depends on knowing what you want, what you’re capable of, what your role will enable you to reasonably do, and what the company is trying to do. When setting your goals, it’s important to ask yourself a few key questions.

First, ask yourself why you accepted this internship or job. This should help you figure out what you should try and learn from it. Understanding your own personal motivation for taking the job should help you set a good personal learning goal.

Second, consider what the company is trying to do. Your goals should benefit you and the company. If your goals don’t align with the company’s goals, then your efforts likely won’t have any impact on the company’s success and you won’t be able to demonstrate your value to the company.

Third, ask yourself what type of impact you’d like to have on the company. What would you be most proud of achieving?

Fourth, examine the responsibilities of the role you have at the company and determine what your role will enable you to achieve. If you’re a sales intern, you probably won’t be super successful at helping the company achieve their engineering-related goals.

Setting the Scope of Your Goals

If you’re a summer intern, you probably shouldn’t have a yearly goal. Instead, you should set a goal for your summer internship.

Entry-level employees should start by trying to set 5 year goals. If you have absolutely no idea where you’d like to be in 5 years and what you’d like to be doing, that’s totally fine; start with 1 year goals instead. From those 1 year goals work backwards into quarterly and monthly goals. Some companies set quarterly goals and some set monthly goals. The scope of your goals should match with your company’s scope.

Internship Goal Examples

  1. Grow Twitter followers by 25% by the end of summer.

    Social Media Marketing Intern

  2. Demo 5 new accounts each week.

    Sales Intern

  3. Write 10 new articles each month.

    Content Marketing Intern

  4. Learn Ruby on Rails and deploy 1 new feature by the end of summer.

    Software Engineering Intern

  5. Have coffee with 1 full-time employee each week.

    Anyone

Entry-Level Job Goal Examples

  1. Create 2 new icons and add them to the icon font each month.

    Visual Designer

  2. Reduce expenses each quarter by 5%.

    Financial Analyst

  3. Retain 80% of part-time volunteers each quarter.

    Non-Profit Volunteer Coordinator

  4. Shadow a different person in their role at the company each month.

    Anyone

Tracking Your Progress

Once you have your goals set, you’ll need to be diligent about tracking your progress. A good rule of thumb is to check in on your status one time dimension below the scope of your goals. For example, you should check on your progress towards any yearly goals every quarter. You should check on any quarterly goals every month. You should check on any monthly goals every week.

Keep track of your progress somewhere digital (a spreadsheet or Google doc are good options). It’s not only important to know whether or not you’re making good progress, but at what rate you’re making progress. This can help you tie the progress to specific actions you took.

Assessing Your Impact

The final, and perhaps the most critical part, of effectively using goals in your internship or entry-level job is to ensure that you take time to reflect on the goals you set. You may have achieved them, or you may not have. Regardless, you should take time to think about:

  1. Did this goal actually measure the impact that you had? Was it a good goal?
  2. Why did you or did you not meet your goal?
  3. Was this goal effective in motivating you?
  4. Should you use this goal again?

Now that you know why goals are a critical part of any internship or entry-level job and how to set good ones, go use your new knowledge! Your manager will be impressed. We promise.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Internship? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

How to Apply to Internships Online and Not Get Lost in The Black Hole

“A black hole is a region of space-time from which it is impossible to escape.”
Stephen Hawkins

One of the biggest questions we hear from students is what happens to my application after I hit submit?  Does it ever reach a college recruiter’s desk, does it ever get read or is it simply launched out into space?  In the HR world this is referred to as the applicant black hole, because once you send an application online into it’s very easy for it to disappear into space.

This problem exists for a number of reasons but the fact is that fewer than 5% of employers follow-up with every applicant they receive and even fewer communicate the real reasons about why they made the choice they did.

While it might seem easy to blame companies for not doing a better job of responding, the reality is that most HR managers receive hundreds of applications every week and are over worked reviewing them — so it’s up to you to stand out. By understanding a bit more about how the online application process works, you can figure out how to navigate this abyss and make sure you emerge on the other side with your ideal internship.
Where do all the resumes go?

As you can probably guess, applications for internships rarely follow the same path. Some employers ask you to apply directly to their email inbox. Others ask for you to apply using a job website like Taleo or WayUp so that they can save the applications in a database online and share them with other employees in the office.

Depending on the size of the employer and how they are accepting applications you need to think up the best strategy to make sure you don’t get overlooked when it comes to decision time. For example, if you’re given a contact name or email address, do some research on the individual and customize your application materials to them personally.

Building a better rocket ship!

The other important skill to develop when applying for internships online is to learn how to make your application stand out among the competition.

Here are 5 tips to help:

1.) Follow-Up!

The biggest piece of advice we can recommend to avoid getting ignored is to follow-up consistently with an employer after you submit an application. This is an art not a science, but most students are way too hesitant to follow-up with employers even if just to ask what the time frame is on responding or to remind them that you have applied. For best practices see our guide on how to follow-up with employers.

2.) Remove all typos from your resume.

Another reason you may not hear back from employers is because they tossed out your resume at first sight. Even if you have one typo on your resume, it shows an employer a lack of professionalism and attention to detail. In fact almost 50% of employers stop reading a resume if they see just one typo! So double check your resume and check out our resume guide for extra help.

3.) Be unique.

As an employer who has hired many students I can safely say, my job is a lot easier when a particular student breaks the mold by standing out. Don’t just spam employers with a standard cover letter, take the extra hour to write something and make a unique cover letter. If the employer has a twitter account tweet at them about how excited you are. If they are coming to your school for a career fair, go and introduce yourself to the recruiting staff and start building a relationship. Your hard work will pay off when it comes to decision time.

4.) Don’t use scammy websites to apply for positions!

Top job boards like your Career Center website or WayUp work hard to make sure every position that is online is up to date and is a high quality position. If you are finding positions by doing a Google search or on Craigslist, you may find some great opportunities but as a rule of thumb the further you go from trusted sites the more likely you are to be applying to a position that has either already closed or doesn’t exist altogether.

5.) Don’t get discouraged.

Last but not least don’t get discouraged. A lot of employers are getting overwhelmed with applications in the current down economy, so even if you are over qualified for a position you simply might not hear back. If you keep at it and keep improving your application skills such as following-up, being unique, and using top job boards, you are going to start getting interviews and eventually find a position you’re excited about.

If you have any questions about the black hole or how to avoid it, feel free to comment or send us emails to support@wayup.com and we are happy to help.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Internship? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

What Is Supply Chain Management?

If you’ve ever heard of supply chain management, you might be wondering exactly what it is and how it fits into other areas of business. To find out the answer, we recently sat down with Dr. Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky. She’s the president of Process & Strategy Solutions, and she gave us some great insights into supply chains and how they impact the economy.

Here’s what she had to say about working in supply chain management.

What exactly is supply chain management?

Supply chain management is not a new concept. But it’s definitely a concept that has changed in recent years. At its core, it boils down to satisfying customer demands and finding the most efficient ways to get a product from the manufacturer to the consumer. For example, when you buy a phone, a supply chain is responsible for manufacturing that phone and for all of the steps involved in getting it delivered to you.

In recent years, supply chains have become more complex, and this has led to new challenges. “Companies used to think they had basically one supply chain,” Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky explains. “Now, because there is such an abundance of supply, we create supply chains to satisfy what customers value.”

What this means is that companies require more processes in order to serve their customers better. The good news? With increased demands come increased opportunities for employment and career development.

What types of jobs are involved in supply chain management?

Supply chain management includes everything from data analysis to transportation management. The key to finding a role that’s a good fit is knowing where your interests lie. You then have to develop skill sets to match them.

Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky recommends doing this by identifying what you’re passionate about. “What do you find yourself coming back to?” she asks. Whether that’s working with data, developing processes, or working closely with other people, supply chain management involves all sorts of career options that could work for you.

Is supply chain management a cross-functional industry?

Because a supply chain has so many moving pieces, working in supply chain management absolutely involves some degree of cross-functionality. Although there is some variation depending on the role you pick — for example, a data analyst will likely have a less cross-functional position than a transportation manager — most roles in the industry do rely on team-oriented processes to deliver results.

Is supply chain management a good field for recent grads?

“Globalization has opened up more competition, leading to increased supply chain requirements,” Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky explains. As a result, there are now increased demands that can’t be met by the existing older workforce. “Baby boomers are leaving the workforce and few are being trained to take their places. On top of that, many were or are in legacy jobs that need to be updated for today’s realities,” she emphasizes. Because of these gaps, there is an immediate need for fresh talent to enter the field, not only to fill existing positions but also to help create new ones.

Working in supply chain management is an exciting chance to learn about the processes that power a consumer-driven economy. It’s also a great opportunity to participate in a field that is rapidly changing and evolving to serve a new generation of consumers. If turning that opportunity into action sounds like an exciting prospect, then supply chain management might just be for you.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as Top 10 Things You Should Look for In a Company and find answers to common interview questions such as Are You Willing to Travel?

Top 10 Things You Should Look For In a Company

Whether you’re looking for a paid or unpaid internship or an entry-level job, finding a great position goes way beyond the job description. From company culture to opportunities for growth, there are several things you should keep in mind when deciding between potential employers.

Here are the top things to look for in a company.

1. Do the company’s values align with yours?

One of the most important things to consider when researching potential employers is how their values align with yours. This is because working for a company is about a lot more than just the hours you put in each day. It’s about knowing that the company values some of the same things you do (like honesty, integrity and hard work) and understanding how those values match up with your own. Whether it’s finding a company with a model you admire or one that takes environmental action seriously and donates money to prevent global warming, you should feel that you and your potential employer stand for the same things and that you can build a lasting relationship.

2. Does the company culture fit your personality?

Many employers list cultural fit as the most important thing they look for when interviewing candidates, and you should put this at the top of your list too. For example, if you’re more comfortable in a relaxed environment than a conservative one, then a company with a corporate culture might not be a great fit for you. Before you sign that offer letter, take the time to assess how you’d fit in at the company and how the company culture would fit you.

3. Are the team members people you’d love to work with?

Whether it’s an internship or a full-time job, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your new co-workers so it’s important to make sure that they’re people you’d like to work with. This goes hand-in-hand with cultural fit and it’s something you should be aware of when considering a new opportunity. The average American spends around one-third of each weekday at work, so having co-workers you get along with is a key part of being happy at your job.

4. Will you be offered opportunities to learn?

Having the chance to learn new things is important in any position, but it’s especially important during the early stages of your career. For that reason, finding an internship or full-time job that allows you to learn as much as possible is key to the development of your career.

5. Is there room for growth within the company?

In addition to offering you opportunities to learn about the industry, a great company should also offer opportunities for advancement within the organization. This is even more important in the case of internships and entry-level jobs because the opportunity for a promotion (or a full-time job) is a great incentive to learn as much as possible and prove your commitment to the team. The exception to this is if you’re not looking for a long-term opportunity but are looking to gain experience for a year or two before going to grad school.

6. Will your managers make you feel appreciated?

Feeling appreciated is an important part of any life experience, but it’s especially important in your working life. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that there should be company-sponsored happy hours or free weekly lunches, it does mean that your employer should make you feel valued by offering positive feedback and supporting your efforts to learn and improve.

7. Does the company offer security and stability?

One of the most important things a company can offer its employees is a secure and stable environment. This doesn’t just mean a regular paycheck (although that’s part of it), but also a proven history of steady success and a sense of job security. Although it’s unrealistic to expect smooth sailing all the time, a solid track record is a great indication that the company can provide you with the type of environment you need to succeed.

8. Does the company set you up for success?

Although a lot of your professional success will depend on you, there are several things an employer can do to set you for a great outcome. This includes everything from in-depth training to goal setting and regular feedback, factors that are especially important as your begin your career.

9. Will your role teach your transferrable skills?

In addition to offering training for your current role, a great company will set you up for future success by teaching you transferrable skills that you can use in your next position. When applying for a job, ask yourself what you can learn from the role and don’t be afraid to discuss training opportunities and skill building during your interview.

10. Will you be challenged in a positive way?

Being challenged to learn and to grow is one of the key markers of a great company. In fact, getting out of your company zone is one of the best ways to learn new skills and to find out who you are as a professional. Look for companies that make you feel enthusiastic about taking on new challenges and offer the support you need to turn those challenges into wins.

Whether you’re embarking on your first job search or your fifth, finding a company that will provide you with great opportunities requires some research. By following these tips, you’ll be sure to find the right fit and to give yourself the best chance of success.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How Much Should I be Paid at an Entry-Level Job? and find answers to common interview questions such as What’s Your Dream Job?

How to Answer: Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake

Although no one likes talking about their mistakes, being able to discuss your past mistakes in a job interview can actually be a great way of impressing the interviewer. So when you encounter a question like, “Tell me about a time you made a mistake,” during an interview for an internship or entry-level job, you should focus on how you dealt with the mistake and what you were able to learn from it. When the hiring manager asks this question, it’s not because they’re trying to trip you up; rather, it’s a chance for the interviewer to see that you are able to acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them, two very important qualities. An employer would rather hire candidates who admit and grow from their mistakes than those who think they never make any.

As with any frequently asked question, it’s important to make sure you have an answer prepared before you go in for the job interview. These tips will help you describe a time you made a mistake in a way that will make it clear you’re the right person for the job.

Be honest

It’s important to be able to admit that you’re capable of making mistakes (as we all are), and that you’re willing and able to admit it. Therefore, you should refer to an actual mistake you made instead of attempting to appear that you don’t make any.

Take responsibility

It’s tempting to catalog how other people’s actions led to your error. But if you spend time during your interview talking about all the ways in which others — or the company itself — failed, you’re not actually admitting you made a mistake. Instead of pointing the finger at others, acknowledge the role you played. Your answer should be related to work; the interviewer doesn’t want to hear about the argument you had with your parents. Nor do you want to reveal any mistakes that could indicate a lack of professionalism on your part. Stick with school or work-related issues that stemmed from a true oversight or misunderstanding:

Highlight the resolution

Make sure to spend time discussing how you addressed the problem and outline the concrete steps to took to rectify it. The interviewer will want to know how you handle complications.

Emphasize lessons learned

Demonstrate that the mistake you made was not in vain. The interviewer wants to know that you can learn from your mistakes and take action to make sure they don’t happen again. By concluding the story of your mistake with what you learned, you can frame the incident in a positive light and show that you’re able to grow from your mistakes.

Say something like: “At my previous internship, I underestimated the amount of time I would need to work on a presentation for a team meeting. I was still getting used to the workflow in a busy office so I didn’t realize that I would need an extra few hours to put a deck together. Luckily, I managed to catch the mistake before the presentation was due to take place and asked my manager for help to complete it in time. It was a valuable lesson in time management and I’ve become better at prioritization and mapping out my schedule as a result of that experience.”

While it can be awkward to discuss mistakes you’ve made, your ability to do so is an asset. Interviewers know it’s a difficult question, and that’s why the right response will signal that you’re the right candidate for the job.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Dress for a Job Interview at a Nonprofit and find answers to common interview questions such as What Motivates You?