Fall Term Letter from the Director

Dear Students,

Welcome to the new school year!

Not long ago, I celebrated my one-year K anniversary; I started on September 1st, 2020. When I initially interviewed for my position, I did so virtually. From my first conversation with the search committee chair to my full-day interview, every meeting I had was either on the phone or on Zoom. I did my research on Kalamazoo College, met wonderful people, and still dressed up for an in-person interview, even though I never left my bedroom.

When I was hired, I was living in Florida; I then began my job as CCPD Director while still living there. For two and a half months, I engaged remotely with my new K colleagues. Then, my family and I moved to Michigan. We purchased our Michigan home sight-unseen; our realtor FaceTimed with us several times, but when we arrived in November, we had never physically set foot inside the house. As you might expect, there were unanticipated surprises: unpleasant paint colors that hadn’t been detected from a phone’s camera, inconsistent carpeting throughout, and small fixes that we simply couldn’t have noticed from even several virtual tours. So, we got to work renovating and updating the house. All while I continued to work at K, remotely.

For the next few months, I would continue to work from home and learn about K, meet more amazing colleagues, and strategize with my CCPD colleagues on how best to help students and alumni navigate career and professional development amidst a pandemic that kept us isolated, anxious, and staring at screens all day.

It wasn’t until June of 2021 that I was able to start meeting my coworkers in person. Each day that I went to my physical office, I would run into people I had worked with for nine months, but had never actually met in person. Some people wouldn’t recognize me because I was wearing a mask, and others would stop and say, “You look familiar to me.” I would then frame my face with my hands and say, “Imagine me as a box on Teams. I’m Tricia, the new-ish CCPD Director.” “Oh yeah! So nice to finally meet you,” they’d say. Whenever I’d attend a meeting in person, the meetings always seemed to last a little longer even though I’d been working with my colleagues for months now – all because now, in person, we could engage more spontaneously and more naturally, about life, my transition to K, and of course, work.

Why do I share this with you in my first Letter from the Director of this academic year? Well, because this experience might seem a bit awkward and strange, but it just might be the future of work for many, and even you. Perhaps, long after the pandemic (can’t wait for that!), virtual interviews may just be more common because employers have found that they are efficient, relatively easy, and often cheaper than meeting with someone in person. You might get hired for a job that is 100% remote, hybrid, or one that allows you to work from a distance for a certain period of time, and then relocate so you can work in-person. You might complete all of your new hire training and onboarding virtually. You might not meet your boss or your coworkers until months into your role. And then, when you do, you might be wearing a mask (gosh, I hope not, but who knows?). You may receive multiple job offers (that’s the dream!) and choose the one that is most flexible for you, the one that gives you the option to work from home or allow you to select a customized option.

The world of work is continuing to evolve every day. Industry standards are changing. Hiring managers are choosing different recruitment practices and procedures. Job duties are looking different. And, trying to prepare for this uncertain work environment can make anyone nervous. Believe me: I have been working as a professional in higher education for quite some time, and I still tripped over my words in a Zoom interview; the process of fully virtual engagement is still new to many of us!

But, here is where you, as a Kalamazoo College student, have all the advantage: you are not alone. The Center for Career & Professional Development is here for you, to help you discover your talents, build your professional networks, and connect your K experience in a way that stands out to employers and graduate schools. Can it be intimidating to set up an appointment with an adult to talk about your future? Yes. Might it be scary to think about preparing for a job search, no matter how old you are? Yes. Do you sometimes not even know where to start? Yep. I’ve been there, I get it, and my team and I are here for you.

So, where do you start? Your first step should be into our new Career Studio, which officially opens Week 2. Located in Dewing 004 (the ground floor, or basement level), the Career Studio is staffed by your peers, student Career Ambassadors. They are excited to greet you, get to know you, and provide guidance on major and career exploration, resume reviews, job and internship searches, and so much more. The Studio is open Monday through Friday from 10 am – 2 pm, and you don’t need an appointment; you are welcome to stop by, stay as long as you’d like (until 2 I mean ), and visit frequently. We’re hoping that this space will provide you with a welcoming, calming, and comfortable atmosphere where you can bring your future-focused questions and get some practical advice on steps you can take to get you where you want to go. And feel free to bring a friend, if that makes it easier!

The world looks different today than it did a year ago. And figuring out who you are is never easy, especially when we’ve all been so isolated from the human engagement and interaction that we were used to. But, instead of putting it off until later, why not get ahead of it? Why not give the Studio a try? Why not start now, with the help of your friends in the CCPD? You will find that your dreams, your skills, and your insights are just what this changing world needs right now.

See you soon,
Tricia

In-person meetings in the time of COVID-19

Handshakes? Masks? Social distancing? What is proper etiquette? Experts agree: public health is more important than traditional U.S. cultural norms. And… you still want to know how to make your best first impression. Whether you are heading to a networking event or interviewing for a job or internship— the return to the possibility of in-person events brings new challenges on top of typical nerves. Here’s what you need to know:

Door sign that states "Handshake free zone".

Ask about COVID-19 etiquette in advance of interviews

Certain normal pleasantries like handshakes may be out and replaced with a friendly nod or wave. The interviewer might ask you to wash or sanitize your hands before the interview begins. Knowing this information beforehand will help you come across as prepared and professional. If you don’t know the expectations, decide on what feels comfortable to you: nodding, waving, and bowing are all ways to acknowledge meeting someone for the first time without touching them. If meeting in person feels awkward, it’s fine to call out that awkwardness. “It’s so nice to meet you— I’d shake your hand, but of course the pandemic makes that awkward.” Then, move on to more relevant conversation.

Be prepared to discuss the pandemic

The pandemic is not a topic that can or should be avoided in conversation. Be prepared for comments about it (and questions!) to come up. Think about how you might answer questions about how you’ve been handling the chaos. Note that people you meet likely have a wide variety of experiences and an even wider sense of how much they do or do not want to share (as do you!). Preparing in advance and practicing deflecting inquiries that feel uncomfortable will go a long way. How might you answer some of these newly common interview questions?

Keep your face covered

Face masks are the new normal in situations with new people or large gatherings (recommended by the CDC and may be required by the hosts). Despite our collective experience, they still make expressing enthusiasm more difficult. Body language has become more important, including nodding, making hand gestures, facing your body towards the person you’re talking to, and making eye contact. Practice enunciating and speak slower than normal to ensure that you don’t have to keep repeating yourself. And, when awkwardness surrounding masks inevitably comes up (“Sorry, what was that you said?”) remember that it is happening to everyone; don’t let it derail your confidence.

Keep your distance

Pre-pandemic, conversations between folks were often closer than 6-feet. Take note of where others are standing/sitting, and be mindful of your own comfort level with physical distance. Again, it may still feel awkward, but it is collectively awkward. You may need to speak a little louder than normal.

Practice

New problems need new solutions. Use the CCPD’s 24/7 Big Interview platform to set yourself up for success. Then meet with a career coach for a mock interview to feel most prepared.

Spring Term Letter from the Director

Welcome to Spring Term! In the latest installment of my quarterly letter from the director, I wish to share three things with you: hope, insight, and a call to action.

First off, I am hopeful. More hopeful than perhaps I’ve been since the pandemic began. I’m hopeful because a mass vaccination plan is in the works, meaning we are getting close to whatever our collective ‘new normal’ will be. I’m hopeful because businesses are slowly but surely starting to reawaken, redevelop, and reimagine new opportunities. And that translates to plans for more internships, more jobs, more hiring, and an overall recalibration of the world of work.

With that comes my insight: keep forging ahead. The path toward the other side of the pandemic is going to be hard; it might feel harder than when we first started because we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve spoken with many students who feel unsure about how to think about their lives after K, given all that they’ve had to carry over the course of the past year, personally, academically, emotionally, financially – the list goes on and on. I do not profess to assume the extent to which you have struggled: some of you have lost loved ones to Covid, many of you are deeply impacted by xenophobic hatred, and others are experiencing mental health challenges that were exacerbated by the weight of it all. I hear you, I see you, and I empathize with you. But this K community is here for you: you are fortunate to be at a place that cares for you, deeply. As a still new-ish member of this community myself, I can attest to this care and concern. We all believe in you: we want you to thrive, and to succeed.

To succeed, you must not remain complacent – this is my call to action. No matter whether you are a first-year student lamenting the unexpectedness of an entirely virtual first college year, or a graduating senior nervously trying to find their way into a still-uncertain job market in constant flux, please be vigilant. It is never too late to set up an appointment with a Career Coach – they are here to help you figure out answers to questions you’re not even sure you know to ask yet. It is never too late to attend a virtual networking event – we post opportunities all the time in Handshake for you to consider. It is never too late to apply for a part-time or full-time job, or internship – there are close to 10,000 different opportunities available in Handshake right now! It is never too late to do something.

And, to our graduating seniors: please know that the CCPD is working to reach out to each of you. You likely saw an invitation to complete the First-Destination Survey. Your responses will help us connect you with alumni, resources, and opportunities that align with your individual post-K goals. We know that some of you may have landed that dream job or gotten into your top-choice grad school (hooray!!), but for those of you who haven’t, know that you are not alone – and there’s still time! My team and I are planning a Senior Week (during Week 8) devoted to launching your life after K. You’ll soon see more about this weeklong series of events and resource-sharing, tailored specifically to seniors, so please take advantage of all the career-related guidance that’s coming your way!

All in all, I encourage you to hang on a little longer as you think about the future. What can you look forward to? What brings you joy? What items on your to-do list are *somewhat* exciting? If you’ve never thought about including the Career Center (or your advisor, your mentor, your supervisor, or another staff member) in any of these thoughts, maybe now’s the time! As we look to the Spring for rejuvenation, renewal, and expectation, know that my team and I are here to champion you toward your next step.

How can we help?

With continued gratitude, optimism, and encouragement,

Tricia

Beware of Job Scams

by Valerie Miller

As if coping with a pandemic and an uncertain job market aren’t enough, you also need to be on the lookout for job scams. The Muse reports Job Scams Are on the Rise and you’ll find hundreds of other articles about employment scams online. Read more on our website Job Scams: Advice from the National Association for Colleges and Employers.

What is a job scam? Here is a description provided by the Better Business Bureau (BBB):

Employment scams typically occur when job applicants are led to believe they are applying or have just been hired for a promising new job, but they have actually fallen for a scam. This can mean giving personal information that can be used for identity theft or sending money for “training” or “equipment.” In another variation, the victim may be “overpaid” with a fake check and asked to wire back the difference.

Scam alert signs

According to the BBB’s 2020 Employment Scams Report, victims found these jobs on Indeed, LinkedIn, Facebook, Ziprecruiter, Craigslist, and other sites, and the median reported loss was $1000. The most common duties in these job descriptions include: 

  • Reshipping of packages 
  • Envelope stuffing 
  • Product assembly
  • Mystery shopping

And, these are only a few examples of job scams that continue to emerge. What can you do to avoid falling for one of these scams? Listen to your gut, use your critical thinking skills, and do your research before pursuing or accepting opportunities. 

Take a look at how they attract victims.

Work from home!

Flexible hours!

This may seem benign, particularly since many companies are hiring more remote workers due to the pandemic, but the BBB reported that 53% of employment scam victims pursued an opportunity because they could work from home. Remain vigilant when considering work-from-home jobs

No experience necessary!

Earn a generous salary!

Even if these exact phrases do not appear in a job posting, you may notice that the skills required are minimal while the pay is high. Be on the lookout for opportunities that appear to be too good to be true.

We want you!

In 80% of employment scams reported to the BBB Scam Tracker, the scammer initiated contact, often by email or text. While it’s nice to be wanted, proceed with caution if you are contacted about a job out of the blue. If it sounds like it might be real, ask for a link to a job posting on the company website. Don’t provide personal information, including your résumé, until you’ve researched the legitimacy of the company and the opportunity.

We want you now!

If you apply for a position and hear back immediately (within a day) or if you are offered a job without going through a formal hiring process, it’s probably not legitimate. Even if the process includes what appear to be traditional hiring steps (phone interviews and offer letters), if the recruiter seems overly anxious to hire you and get you started, proceed with caution.

Consider these questions before applying for a job or responding to a recruiter:

  • Does the recruiter actually work for the company they say they work for? 
    • Are they listed on the company website? 
    • Does their email address include a legitimate company domain?  (not Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) 
  • Can you find the recruiter on LinkedIn? If so, does the profile look like it belongs to a real person?
  • How professional is the communication from the recruiter?
    • Are they texting you or contacting you through social media instead of email?
    • Is their communication free of typos, spelling, or grammatical errors?
    • Do they include a professional signature in their emails?
  • Is the position with a legitimate company?
    • What does the Better Business Bureau report about this employer?
    • Does the company have a website? How developed is the website?
    • Was the website only recently created, and is it associated with a legitimate physical address? (search for the domain at https://lookup.icann.org/
  • What exactly will you be doing? Be wary of vague job descriptions.

Before accepting a job and providing any sensitive information (social security number, bank routing numbers for direct deposit, etc), be sure you understand the nature of the job.

Do not accept the job if they ask you to:

  • Pay fees for training, products or start-up kits.
  • Cash a check and/or send them money.
  • Help process payments or transfer funds using your personal bank account.

While we vet each employer before approving them in Handshake, we can’t guarantee that job scams won’t get through. Here are additional tips from various websites, including Handshake:

If you have any concerns about the legitimacy of an employer, a recruiter or a job, please don’t hesitate to contact the CCPD at career@kzoo.edu

Spring Clean Your Social Media Life: This Is The Way

It’s safe to say that since The Mandalorian busted on the scene in late 2019, most of us have been a little obsessed with it. Over the past year and change The Child has been a cultural nexus. Appearing in memes, music, gifs, toys, and clothing items, he has been a much-needed distraction and source of joy during this pandemic. Unfortunately, Grogu has recently lost one of his protectors. 

ICYMI, last week Disney announced that the actor who played Cara Dune on The Mandalorian, Gina Carano, was released from her contract and would no longer be a part of The Mandalorian moving forward. However, for anybody paying attention, the move came as no surprise. 

Carano has spent much of 2020 using her social media accounts to spread misinformation about voter fraud, she has made fun of mask mandates, encouraged businesses and churches to open during a pandemic in violation of safety guidelines, and has “joked” about pronoun usage, making fun at transgender people. The straw that seemingly broke the camels back was when Carano created a now-deleted post on her Instagram, comparing how Jewish people were killed in Nazi Germany to how republicans are treated in America today. 

Baby Yoda (Grogu) and Mando from The Mandalorian television show.
Grogu (AKA “The Child” AKA “Baby Yoda) and Mando – The Mandalorian

While her views are offensive, harmful, and illogical, the fact that she was fired because of her social media usage is interesting and worth discussing as a large number of the senior class is preparing to join the workforce most of whom are active social media users. 

Here’s a Spring Break to-do list for your social media presence:

  1. Review your online presence. Start by Googling your name, including nicknames and permutations with any middle names and/or initials. You might also want to include your home city or schools you attended. See if you can find your social media accounts: what are the top posts that show up? Look them over as if you were a prospective employer. Are you confident in what they will see?
  2. Do some spring cleaning. Sure, it’s 19°F and snowing… but it’s the thought that counts. Go through your social media and Marie Kondo everything that might give an employer a reason to pass over your application. Consider deleting or making private anything that includes heavy profanity, provocative content, or anything illegal. Consider the organizations to which you are applying and their brands and reputations. Engaging in social activities during the pandemic (particularly unmasked indoors), discriminatory comments (racist, sexist, homophobic, etc), excessive political views, spreading misinformation could be a turnoff. Even drinking alcohol and/or using marijuana (where it is legal) could be a potential hindrance. Decide what you’re comfortable sharing and delete anything that doesn’t fit the image you want as your first impression.  
  3. Keep an eye on your friends and tags. Just because you’ve gone through the steps of cleaning up your profile doesn’t mean that your friends have. You might get tagged in a post or photo that you might not want a prospective employer to see. If you find a post like this, try talking to your friends to either untag you or make it private. Create a free Google alert that will send you an email anytime when your name (or someone with a similar name) has something new posted on the web to help you stay vigilant. 
  4. Check your privacy settings. Even if you’ve done this in the past, it’s always a good idea to re-check them occasionally as platforms get updated, settings change and it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks. You can likely limit what people can share about you, tag you in, or limit what kind of posts people who aren’t your followers or friends can see.
  1. When in, doubt, just don’t.  There is an old adage that goes, “Discretion is the better part of valor”. When it comes to managing your social media during a job search, if you ever have to wonder if what you are about to post might get you in trouble, just don’t post it. Sometimes it’s just better to be safe than sorry. 

Chemistry Connections

I want to share how excited I was to be a part of the planning group for our 4th annual Kalamazoo American Chemical Society (KACS) networking event, co-sponsored by Kalamazoo College and KACS. Over the past several years, we gathered in person in the Hicks Banquet Rooms on campus. Given the enthusiasm of wanting to continue this type of program, we shifted to the virtual format and I am happy to report it was a success!

On January 26th, Dr. Blakely Tresca and Dr. Jeffrey Bartz led this award-winning program virtually using Zoom. Participants met in this virtual space to talk about their shared interests in the chemistry field. Zoom breakout rooms provided one-on-one meeting space for students to ask specific questions based on mentors’ career paths. Industry professionals served as mentors and talked about their professional pursuits.

“I started attending the yearly KACS Speed Networking event as a freshman and it was helpful in making meaningful connections and learning more about what I could do with my chemistry degree. Currently, as a senior, I am planning to attend chemistry graduate school in the fall, and being able to talk to Ph.D. scientists has given me a perspective of what I could do with a Ph.D. I’m thankful for having the opportunity to attend the speed networking events during my time at K and for the impact it has made to my career.” – Subi Thakali, K’21, Chemistry​

“The KACS Speed Networking event was a great experience that helped me develop professional communication skills and provided me with the opportunity to make real connections with mentors throughout many different fields of chemistry. Additionally, the conversations I had with the mentors were fascinating and inspiring… these conversations made lasting connections that could be very helpful in the future.” – Marissa Dolorfino, K’23, Spanish and Chemistry

In between the student/mentor conversations, K Chemistry faculty, Ed Thomas (local American Chemical Society President, and Dr. Tricia Zelaya-Leon (our CCPD Director) made announcements and shared resources. Dr. Ben Maxey also spoke, highlighting Pfizer’s lead in the global development of the COVID vaccine.

Group planning members Dr. Tomasz Respondek (Principal Scientist, Zoetis Inc.) and Dr. Lucas Chadwick, K’95 (Sr. Scientist, Bell’s Brewery), lead outreach efforts.

We are hopeful that these area industry professional mentors and students will continue their conversations, well-beyond this event.

Jacqueline A. Srodes
Assistant Director, Center for Career and Professional Development
Kalamazoo College

Winter Term Letter from the Director

Happy New Year, everyone!

Typically, the start of a new year brings with it the excitement of renewal, recalibration, and resolution. Unfortunately, January 1st, 2021 came in with that hope and then, just a few days later, our country saw a violent uprising at our nation’s Capitol. Some were shocked by the events that unfolded, while others saw it as an outcome of years of racial inequity and mounting civil unrest. Now, more than ever, we as a populace, find ourselves uncertain, anxious, and exhausted.

Here at the CCPD, we continue to be here to support you in your pursuits, both personal and professional. If you are like so many college students, you are feeling overwhelmed with academic work, trying to maintain a social life, and feeling the tension between seeing the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel and still not knowing when life might return to some semblance of normal. Oh, and add to that the ongoing search for internships and jobs, preparation for graduate school, all in the midst of an ever-evolving and chaotic job market.

I know it’s a lot. But my biggest piece of advice to you is to PERSEVERE. When we find ourselves in a crisis, it is easy to disengage, to give up, and to do nothing. I implore you to fight that urge. My team and I stand at the ready to meet with you, to listen to you, and to help you create a manageable professional development plan, one that starts small and can be customized to your goals over time. Simply setting up an appointment with us (via Handshake) or popping into our drop-in hours (via Microsoft Teams) can help you feel like you’re making some progress toward your goals.

The CCPD’s mission is “to educate and empower Kalamazoo College students and alumni to discover their talents, build their professional networks, and apply their learning to meaningful lives after K.” This process of discovery, building, and application is just that: a process. It takes time and it takes work. But, with one-on-one, personalized support from the CCPD team, know that we care about you and your goals. We exist to guide you along this journey!

This Winter Term, renew your excitement for being a student at K. Recalibrate your goals. And resolve to not give up, no matter how overwhelming things get. The Center for Career & Professional Development is your destination for career resources, supportive Career Coaches, and most importantly, hope. Let us move forward with you.

In solidarity,

Dr. Z

Masking Up The Interview

“I wear a mask. And that mask, it’s not to hide who I am, but to create what I am.” – Batman

Superheroes wear masks. That’s what I told my son as we walked to his first day of kindergarten. We had been preparing by wearing the mask around the house. But, since he hadn’t been inside a building other than our house in several months, he didn’t have much experience.

Us adults? We’ve all had plenty of time to get used to wearing masks. However, we might not have thought about how they might impact our job search— especially when it comes to in-person interviews.

Lego Batman

It’s important to take mask-wearing seriously. And even more important to do so in an interview, since you may be in close contact. Keep these tips in mind:

  1. Wear the mask properly. A properly worn mask must be worn over the nose and over the chin. Anything below the nose and above the chin puts you and the interviewer at risk. It is important to keep in mind that you are wearing a mask for your protection and for the employers’ protection. If you are both wearing masks, the chance of spreading infection decreases significantly. 
  2. Practice. Make sure you can be heard clearly and that you can articulate through the mask without sounding muffled. Practice at home in front of a mirror, record yourself, or practice by speaking to someone directly while wearing it. While half of your face is covered, be sure to practice an appropriate tone of voice, projection, and articulation.
  3. Notice your non-verbal cues. Facial expressions are harder to read. Consider the story your eyes are telling. Worry less about using hand gestures to help get your point across. Be mindful of your overall body language.
  4. Safety first. Safety should always be the first priority when considering what mask to wear to an interview. Coordinating with your interview attire may be of interest, but is secondary to function. Refer to CDC guidance on appropriate masks types and usage.
  5. Plan your specific mask choice. Don’t just grab a mask last-minute. Consider your options. Is your mask visibly clean? Do you want it to match your interview outfit? Do you want it to make a creative/artistic statement? Will your political or social affiliation, sarcastic comment, etc. help or hurt you in this particular situation? Answers to these vary by individual— think critically ahead of time and go with your gut. We recommend keeping things professional at all times.

CONCLUSION

“The mask is not for you, it’s to protect the people you care about.” (Batman, of course.)

In-person interviewing in the time of COVID-19 takes extra planning and precautions. Keep mindful that the interviewers themselves are also relatively new to this, and everyone is likely to give grace regarding the slightly awkward realities that inevitably happen.

Questions to Ask to Assess an Organization’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

As you become more engaged in racial justice and social impact, you may become increasingly conscious of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) during your job search activities. You may want to know if a potential employer values DEI.

“Conscious job seeking is searching for employment or contractor opportunities that align with your vision, mission, values, and goals,” explains Chelsea C. Williams, founder and CEO of College Code.

According to Williams, students using conscious job seeking change their mindset from just getting a job to actually seeking an opportunity that aligns with their “big picture.”

Although DEI is not an important value for every student, for those who believe it matters, it is important to ensure that they are working within a company whose values match theirs. Williams says that a company that truly values DEI:

  • Has made commitments to foster a safe and healthy work environment;
  • Is taking actionable steps to improve representation across all levels and titles;
  • Holds leaders, managers, and employees accountable for actions and behaviors; and
  • Has sought to center equity through all aspects of the employee process—recruitment, training and development, promotions, pay, benefits, and more.

You can assess an organization’s commitment to DEI, in part, by asking potential employers questions that can help you to differentiate between organizations that have taken performative steps in this area and others that are truly committed to advancing DEI and have made progress.   

“Asking questions will often provide students with an understanding of where the company is in their DEI journey,” Williams notes.

Williams offers a list of thoughtful questions that students might ask recruiters during interviews or other interactions to assess their organizations’ DEI priority and commitment:

  • How does your organization define diversity? What lenses of diversity has your organization made a direct commitment toward?
  • Does your organization have a chief diversity officer (CDO) or a designated leader to drive DEI and engage internal and external stakeholders? 
  • What social causes does your organization support?
  • Does your organization actively support diverse suppliers, contractors, and small businesses?
  • Has your organization made any formal commitments in support of racial equity?
  • How does your organization center diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging?
  • Does your organization offer any formal employee training around biases, anti-racism, or general DEI?
  • How has your organization prioritized executive accountability toward DEI advancement?
  • Does your organization have any affinity groups or committees to support diverse populations? If so, how do these groups contribute to the culture of the organization?
  • Does your organization complete annual compensation equity analysis?
  • What resources has your organization provided to its employees in support of COVID-19 and racial injustices?

The answers you receive could help you make a decision about which employers to pursue employment with and those with which, perhaps, to end the recruiting process because their values do not align.

“Students are looking for authenticity and progress from employers,” Williams explains. “An organization may not check of all their boxes around DEI, but maybe it has made the commitment to do and be better. That’s wonderful!”

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Considering an Opportunity to Work as an Independent Contractor?

Working as an independent contractor can be a rewarding and satisfying career option. It is important to understand the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved with any working relationship.

While your career services office can provide general guidance on working as an independent contractor, this area of employment law is complicated, and laws vary by state; questions about specific situations should be addressed to legal counsel. Before signing any agreement with a company or organization, you should fully understand the terms of the contract.

road sign marking employed vs independent choices

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Question: What would my employment status be as an independent contractor?

Answer: There is a fundamental difference between being employed on a full-time regular basis by an employer and engaging in an independent contractor relationship.

A typical full-time employment relationship includes being placed on the employer’s payroll in which income earned is subject to taxes and the employer withholds those taxes from the employee’s paycheck. All income earned during the course of a calendar/tax year is reported by the employer to the employee and to the government on the form W-2. In addition, employees may be entitled to other benefits of employment, such as health insurance, vacation and sick time, and so forth.

There are two scenarios in which a company may form a relationship with an independent contractor: 1) The company may work directly with the contractor to negotiate and sign terms for work and pay; or 2) a company may hire a contractor through a third party. Either way, independent contractors are effectively self-employed.

Independent contractors should enter into a contracted agreement to provide services to a client in exchange for a fee (lump sum, hourly, weekly, monthly, piecemeal, per assignment, or some other arrangement). Independent contractors are not placed on an employer’s payroll; instead, the independent contractor typically invoices the client for work performed, and the client pays the independent contractor directly. The client does not withhold taxes from the payment, and the independent contractor is responsible for satisfying all tax obligations. All income earned during the course of a calendar/tax year is reported to the independent contractor and to the federal government by the client on Form 1099.

Most organizations are careful to distinguish independent contractors from employees. The federal government has adopted common law principles to determine an independent contractor relationship for federal income tax purposes. (Please refer to “Relationships Between Workers and Hiring Organizations” to determine the difference.) Courts in different jurisdictions may apply different tests for making the determination between contractor and employee, and there may also be local and state tax considerations.

Question: Who might I work for as an independent contractor? 

Answer: Many organizations, large and small, engage the services of independent contractors. You’ll find that independent contractors work in a wide variety of industries, such as consumer products, transportation, technology, manufacturing, real estate, journalism, education abroad, and so forth. The “gig” economy is growing and is defined as a “labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.”

Question: How will I be paid? 

Answer: Organizations typically disclose the terms and conditions of payment through a written agreement directly with the independent contractor. The agreement should describe how and when payment will be made. The payment terms should be spelled out clearly in writing and agreed to by all parties before work is performed. The agreement should also explain how payment disputes may be settled. (Note: Generally, any dispute involving payment would be resolved either independently or through potential litigation to collect amounts that are due.)

Before signing any agreement, you should fully understand all of the terms and conditions of the contract. Your career services office may be helpful in understanding an agreement. However, consultation with an attorney may be necessary for full understanding of a contract.

Question: Are independent contractors eligible for benefits offered by an employer to its employees? 

Answer: Independent contractors are generally not eligible for benefits the client makes available to its employees. Independent contractors are responsible for their own benefits such as health insurance and retirement benefits. Independent contractors are also required to pay all taxes associated with the 1099 payments made to them by the client.

Question: Are there risks and responsibilities associated with being an independent contractor rather than an employee? 

Answer: The independent contractor generally assumes all responsibility for tax obligations, acquire their own benefits, manage billing and collections, maintain appropriate licensing and insurance, and accept legal responsibilities and exposure associated with performing the job.

Question: Am I protected by the same employment laws as an employee?

Answer: In general, independent contractors are not protected by employment laws since they are self-employed, depending on the state where the contractor performs its services. For example, laws that provide for a safe work environment that is free from health risks, harassment, or discrimination protect the rights of employees but may exclude independent contractors depending on state specific laws and regulations. This underscores the critical importance of a written agreement that spells out how the relationship will function, what the expectations are on both sides, and how payment and work performance will be handled. Claims for workers’ compensation are also generally available only to employees, so if you are injured at work you may be prohibited from filing such a claim.

Question:What kind of investment might I be expected to make?

Answer: Independent contractors who sell the products and/or services of a client will likely be required to learn the client’s product and/or services. This may involve an investment by the independent contractor both in time and expense. The time investment may include taking weeks or months to be trained in product knowledge, and this time may be without income, depending on the terms of the contract.

Some positions require independent contractors to purchase goods and/or services, which the contractor then sells to customers. (It is important to understand up front if unsold inventory can be returned after a specific period of time or if the independent contractor assumes the loss. This should be stipulated in the agreement.) The independent contractor may also be expected to incur other related expenses, such as securing licensing, where applicable.

Be wary of arrangements where compensation is based on recruiting others to sell products rather than on your ability to provide goods and services to a customer. Fully understand any training or support fees prior to signing any contract.

Question: What if a client is unhappy with the quality of my work or the products or services we are selling?

Answer: The independent contractor is usually accountable for satisfying specific performance expectations, including delivering customer service. Your agreement as an independent contractor should clearly define how you should handle any customer-related complaints, e.g., returning defective products, doing a job over, and so forth.

Question: What do I do if a client wants me to sign an agreement immediately?

Answer: As with any agreement, if someone does not want to give you adequate time to think it over or consult with others, you should proceed with caution. Ask for more time to consider the opportunity and to discuss it with a trusted professional before you sign any documents. Your career services office may be helpful in understanding an agreement. However, consultation with an attorney may be necessary for a full understanding of a contract.

Question:If I am an international student, what should I be aware of?

Answer: Be cautious. Check with your career center, office of international affairs resources first and, perhaps, an immigration attorney. Know your work authorization status and be transparent when working with the employer in securing the needed documents in a timely manner.

Reviewed and revised by the 2020 Principles for Ethical Professional Practice Committee.