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As students near graduation from college, or are starting back to class, more often than not their thoughts turn financial. Whether they chose a major with an end career in mind or they use their college education as a springboard for new opportunities, all students must consider their return on investment. With the cost of higher education averaging anywhere from $9,000 – $35,000 per year, a lucrative life after graduation is becoming even more important. In a competitive economy, having a profitable degree from a highly sought after field of knowledge could be the key in gaining career success. What degrees bring in the big bucks? We’ve listed some below. All salary information comes from the 2008 NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) salary survey.

Engineering

Not surprisingly, engineering majors in every category earn an average of $60,000 their first year after college. Chemical engineers are paid the most, working for a variety of companies in different fields including manufacturing, healthcare, and business. Chemical engineers design equipment and develop products. Electrical engineers rank second, with an average starting salary of around $55,000. Electrical engineers focus on the design and implementation of equipment used in all aspects of life- automobiles, aircraft, and electrical utilities. Both of these majors apply to a variety of different fields, contributing to the overall success of their earning potential. Mechanical engineers are a close third, with an average starting salary of $54,000. Mechanical engineers are also employed in a number of different industries ranging from agricultural to business.

Computer Science

As our society becomes more and more reliant on the internet and the advancements in computer related technologies and networks, working knowledge of the systems becomes a valuable tool. Computer science majors make an average of $53,000 their first year out of college. This number does include the entrepreneurs who take their computer science background and apply it to business models, advancing technologies and expanding the horizon of development.

Economics

Business markets are highly profitable, and graduates with a thorough knowledge of economics rank high in earnings potential. The average starting salary of a first year economics graduate is around $47,800. Most economics majors work in data research or consulting, and many work for the federal and state governments.

Management Information Systems

Students with an MIS degree work in all facets of business organization. They analyze businesses and contribute to a more efficient management structure. These graduates typically start in the mid $40,000 range their first year after graduation.

Finance and Accounting

Finance and accounting grads have many different options in a plethora of fields. The type of work is varied but always in demand. These positions have very valuable knowledge in intricate areas and generally start at $46,200 their first year out of school.

Business Administration and Management

This is also a lucrative field, as titans of industry are recognized by the efficacy in business management. This major is consistently one of the most popular, and for good reason- business grads can work almost anywhere! The average starting salary is $43,500 for these students, with a chance to accrue more wealth over the length of their employment term.

Keep in mind that a student’s ultimate return on investment is subjective. Yes, these types of degrees offer access to monetarily profitable careers, but it is also important to consider the subjective and completely independent determination of wealth- something that is measured differently by each person.

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Job hunting is not anyone’s favorite thing to do. Neither is writing a resume either, unless you do it for a living. So when you find errors on your resume after you’ve sent it, how important are they?  This just happened to a friend of mine. No sooner had her finger hit ‘send’, did she realize there was a typo in the career summary at the top of page 1. Are those mistakes really going to cause you serious problems?

Well, the answer to that is that it depends.  There are many different types of errors that you might find on a resume, and while some of them are ridiculous, others are so inconsequential that no one will notice.

For example, formatting errors are more noticeable than anything else, and will leave an impression that the person who is submitting the resume doesn’t know what they’re doing. If the resume wasn’t created by you, it will still be the impression given to the employer. Ensure that your resume is properly formatted. In other words, all the edges match up, because looks do count. Pay attention to whether or not bullet points are used in appropriate places, if you have chosen to use them. Make sure everything is consistent. If you are going to capitalize your job title, make sure ALL job titles are capitalized, etc.

How important are errors on a resume? Is your contact info correct? There is a difference between the town names Brookfield and Brookville! Let’s say Person X living at 123 Main in Brookfield lands a job—but their resume says Brookville. When the job offer is mailed to the wrong address and comes back as returned mail, that’s a big problem.

Incorrect information on a resume is also a major resume no-no. Lying about previous experience or schooling is a huge problem. How important are these errors on a resume? More than likely, at some point in time, you will get caught, and your credibility could be ruined. Oh, and you’ll probably be fired, too.

When creating your resume be truthful about where you went to school, what your ranking was, and when you graduated. If you took longer to graduate, you can explain that in an interview.  Past experiences are listed on your resume with the most recent on top and a description of what the job was, using as few words as possible. Many people are too wordy, which is a turn-off to employers looking for potential workers. Keep it straightforward and simple. Cut the fluff words and stick to the point.

Spelling counts for a lot and the spell-check function on your computer can be a valuable tool. Be aware of how to spell the names of personal references properly. When potential employers call to check the references with these people, they don’t wish to be embarrassed by asking for the wrong person due to the name being misspelled. You should always spell-check and proof your work obsessively, or at least 2-3 times. Beware: spell-check doesn’t catch everything. I used to always automatically type “manger” for “manager”. I don’t know why, but I did. Manger is a word so spell-check never caught it. I did though. Luckily there is a cool tool in MS Word (auto correct options) where you add the words you misspell the most and it will automatically correct them (whew!).

Really, how important are errors on a resume? It all depends on the position you are applying for. If you are looking at a small spelling mistake in a sentence, and you are applying at an auto parts store for a cashier position, then it’s probably not a big deal. However, if you are applying as a newspaper editor with that same resume, it is a big deal. In the end, your resume should still be perfect anyway.

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Occasionally I get asked about recruiters, if the client should use one, how companies find them, and what recruiters do for companies. So here is a little article on what recruiters are about.

Making the best use of recruiters is something that almost all major corporations do now. Taking advantage of someone that is trained to sort through people means less hassle for the company—and why not? Less hassle means fewer headaches for those businesses.

Recruiters are people who have been trained specifically to hunt for various corporations to fill empty positions. They place ads in newspapers, online and in magazines to get the attention of any individual that might qualify for a job opening that they might have.

Taking the time to find recruiters who know what they are doing is the first important step for a company. Without excellent recruiters, corporations likely will not end up with the type of people that they want working for them.

Finding the best use of recruiters is up to the corporations that employ them, however, companies need to pick and choose where the need is for new hires in particular. In other words, will the corporation be expanding in Asia and the Western United States? If so, recruiters look for individuals who might have the ability to speak Japanese or Chinese, or are bi-lingual/fluent in other languages.

Another possibility would be if a company has decided to open a whole different operation. For example, Company A typically has been a restaurant chain. Now Company A wants to start some retail stores, and has the means to do it. Using a business plan, Company A will make the best use of recruiters by sending them out in whatever area it defines to find candidates to interview. Company A will have certain guidelines for the recruiters to go by, but the recruiters will pick the potential candidates.

Once the potential candidates are picked, recruiters will typically thin out the crowd somewhat before sending the candidates in for an interview. Recruiters take the time to sit and talk to each candidate for several minutes and are usually tuned in well enough to people that they can spot instantly who would work for the job, and who wouldn’t.

When you have recruiters who are available, it makes life much easier for the corporation. It is one less step that the Human Resources Department has to be concerned with. When there are so many other things that HR people have to do, using recruiters makes their job easier. For large corporations, making use of recruiters on a regular basis is a great benefit and saves them plenty of money. Smaller corporations on the other hand, may not see a benefit except once in a while—perhaps when searching for a new Chief Executive Officer or other high-ranking position.

So here is your little lesson on how recruiters help companies and what that means for you!

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Throughout your career, you are definitely going to encounter a situation where you feel entitled to a salary raise but have not been offered one. Learning how and when to ask for a raise is the first towards taking control of one’s future and career. Unfortunately in these tough economic times, raises are not always freely given, in fact sometimes we feel like we are fighting for it. Capitalizing on successes and highlighting your ability to make a difference can often be parlayed in to raises. The trick is to know when to strike.

First, decide just when to ask for a raise. This can be tricky. Many employees opt to only ask for a raise on a yearly basis, but it is possible and sometimes even suggested, to ask for raises on a more frequent basis. When trying to determine the best time to ask for a raise, consider the following:

  1. Is your employer financially secure? Even if your company announce it’s earnings from the rooftop, it is generally possible to determine if they are secure or experiencing cash flow difficulties. Obviously asking for a raise when a company is strapped for cash is not a great idea.
  2. Has your employer recently won new business, reached a sales goal or other milestone? If so, it is often best to ask for a raise as soon as possible – especially if you contributed to the success.
  3. Have you recently done something to change your company in a positive way? Finishing a large project, winning a new client or developing a helpful program for the company can make you shine and is the best way to successfully ask for a raise.

Once you have determined the perfect time to ask for a raise, you next need to learn how to do so in an appropriate manner that is professional but also persuasive (minus the chocolates and sucking up). Remember to keep all communications regarding your request positive, and be prepared for a ‘no’ or an offer that is less than you expected.

When asking for a raise, remember that your best weapon is your record of successful accomplishments. Properly documenting and presenting them is critical towards a successful request. Carefully and concisely outlining your accomplishments as well as your growth is the first step towards asking for a raise.

Finally, always remember that professionalism is key. Because of this, it is vital that an employee not ignore the management structure of their organization. Every employee should first approach their manager or supervisor with their salary raise increase request. Jumping ahead is little more than stepping on the toes of the manager and will likely not result in a raise.

If you are not satisfied with cost of living or non-existent raises, don’t be afraid to approach your manager about your needs. An employee who recognizes their strengths and contributions and is willing to learn and grow is an asset to any organization – raises simply make sense. Find the best time to present your request and documentation and you will likely see your salary increase.

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Problems arise when you have to decide how to let go of an employee who has become your friend. This is not a pretty situation by any means, because it may end up costing you a friendship that you would like to keep.

If you are in a management or leadership position, there will come a time when you will have to let go of an employee who has become your friend. And it stinks… no getting around it. You will have to develop a thick ‘outer shell’ for the experience, which you may not like. However, by using some guidelines, the process will hopefully be easier on you—and possibly the employee as well. With a little luck, you may be able to save the friendship.

Take the employee/friend off into a room where you cannot be interrupted, and stay calm. Offer a drink (preferably alcoholic, but since you are at work, you probably shouldn’t), and sit down.  Do not take a drink for yourself—your hands will be occupied, but the drink will give them something to occupy their hands.

Explain that the two of you need to have a talk, and bring out any documentation, such as performance reviews, that you may have to back you up. When the friend/employee hears the words “we need to have a talk,” be prepared for them to automatically become defensive.

In my opinion, workplace relationships should consist of regular reviews—whether they are quarterly, annually or based on a different time period, it doesn’t matter. Using these reviews as a method to help back you up when having to let your friend go makes the process easier—you have documentation. Reviews are summaries of an employee’s performance, and if done properly, will help you when if it is time to let go of the employee/friend. Pay increases, behavior issues, as well as timeliness, and a variety of other things.

When it comes time to actually let go of an employee who has become a friend from their job, you will have to have a good reason why. Don’t come up with an excuse—be truthful.

If there are too many employees on the payroll, and your friend happens to be one of the newest ones, and budget cuts are happening, it’s just a fact of life. They must go. Serious behavior issues are a simple (but uncomfortable) reason to get rid of your friend. For example, has it been proven that this person sexually harassed another employee? That can bring on a lawsuit that you don’t want, so be careful.

Be fair though, and listen to the employee/friend’s objections. If they offer a solution to the situation that you had not considered, tell them you will take it under advisement. Then think about it for a specific amount of time. If it still doesn’t work for you, the firing stands.

During the process of letting the employee go, above all stay calm. Don’t yell, but be firm and truthful. Make sure that you empathize with them. Letting go of an employee that has become your friend is not easy, but sometimes necessary.

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Although the Internet has been a boon to networking over the past decade or so, there is something to be said for a face-to-face networking over business lunches or trade shows. Adding a personal touch that might be missing from cold emails and Twitter, a lunch with a colleague can be an invaluable tool for you to use for everything from job leads to getting advice about a venture or idea. Trade shows offer the chance to speak with peers in your field. They know that you are interested in finding a place of employment.

People are more apt to share more personal details, and are definitely better able to read you as a person when sitting across from you at a business lunch, or spending a little time with you at a trade show. The chance to understand a person’s inflections, and gauge their sense of humor (or lack thereof), their personal foibles and idiosyncrasies or how much you might even want to engage with them outside the business milieu can only be had in a face-to-face encounter.

There are certain protocols involved when you are considering networking through business lunches or trade shows. Some are common courtesy: such as not interrupting a vendor while he’s currently dealing with a peer or customer. Wait for your opportunity to introduce yourself with a firm handshake and a business card, and get to know the person a little bit before you dive right into a lunch invitation. You might find that after a little personal interaction that you are no longer interested in getting to know someone better, or it might cement in your mind that this is someone to get on your side. Be interested in their products or sales pitch (it’s a hard, sometimes thankless job working a trade show), and ask pertinent questions.

Know that once you’ve proffered a lunch invitation to a potential networking connection, he or she may not want to talk business. Trade shows often carry with them grueling schedules, and lunch may be one of your new contact’s only break in the day.

You might consider making initial contact through the trade show venue, then following up with a lunch invitation. Be sure to let your contact know the agenda of lunch; don’t lull them into thinking a personal relationship or friendship is on the table when you’re really looking for a networking or job opportunity. Be sure to propose a firm date and time, with the offer of alternatives available. When you are networking through business lunches or trade shows do not invite anyone other than the main person (i.e., don’t show up with coworkers, or your girlfriend). Be prompt, be appropriately dressed, be courteous, and thank your invitee for their time. Once you have had lunch, remember, it is up to you to pick up the check, even if they insist. You certainly wouldn’t be impressed if you were invited to lunch and were expected to either pay or go halves; neither will they.

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It seems unbelievable to me that Americans are still faced with employment discrimination when we there are so many other options available. While once rampant discrimination was perpetrated based on race, sex or religious affiliation, today one of the worst forms of discrimination is discrimination against primary caregivers (a.k.a. parents and children of sick/aging parents). Many people do not realize that there are several different kinds of primary caregiver discrimination. Learning the different types of discrimination that are practiced against primary caregivers is the best way to learn how to prevent it.

In some cases, there are laws that help prevent primary caregiver discrimination. These laws often include not only those who care of their children, but also those who care for a sick or aging parent as well a sick spouse. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed. Under this act, specifically Title VII, primary caregiver discrimination is declared illegal. The law gives primary caregivers protection without declaring them a ‘protected class.’

It is also true that women are the primary targets of this type of discrimination. This is because gender stereotyping is still rearing its ugly head, making many people assume that only women can be primary caregivers. This stereotyping can lead to an additional kind of discrimination against women. Some companies will refuse to hire young married women – specifically because there is a high chance that those same young women will soon have children and thus become a primary caregiver.

Preventing discrimination against primary caregivers is a tricky matter. The truth is no company would refuse to hire a primary caregiver and give that as the cause. Instead they will site lack of experience or even too much experience. Companies that have successfully implemented a program of primary caregiver discrimination prevention have typically taken one step: they disallow interviewers or hiring managers from asking questions designed to determine if a particular candidate is or will become a primary caregiver.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC has developed a list of guidelines specifically aimed at preventing discrimination against primary caregivers. These are merely guidelines and not legally binding, but it’s still important to know and perhaps implementing a similar program might ensure that a company is not actively discriminating. The following is what the list includes:

  1. Develop a list of qualifications for each open position
  2. Focus only on a candidates abilities, strengths and weaknesses
  3. Actively recruit primary caregivers
  4. Engage in careful review programs to monitor performance and compensation evaluations
  5. Whenever possible offer flex time as an option for employees

Remember: an employer IS NOT ALLOWED TO discriminate against primary caregivers. Because of the prevalence of lawsuits, employers are recommended to follow the guidelines set forth by the EEOC and to actively monitor their hiring practices as well as the terms and conditions of employment. Primary caregiver discrimination is still a problem today, but it doesn’t have to be.

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