Ask an Expert: Lesli Somerset

Ask an Expert is PULSE’s advice column featuring the perspectives of Chatham faculty, staff, and community members. In each column, our resident experts will tackle a new conundrum that they’re uniquely qualified to solve or, at least, provide insight on. In this edition, Lesli Somerset, Assistant Director of Career Development, tackles the scariest aspects of getting a job: cover letters, interviews, and salary negotiations, oh my!


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  1. How can I write a cover letter that stands out?

Cover letters can be difficult to start. Essentially, you are writing a paper without a prompt. However, once you realize how this brief writing sample can work in your favor, you will have no trouble wooing an employer. The biggest mistake that many job applicants make is using their cover letters to simply repeat the information on their resume. The purpose of the cover letter is to explain to an employer why you are a good fit for their position and company. To do this successfully, you want to pull out key qualifications from the position and describe to an employer how you have successfully demonstrated them in your current and previous work. Job candidates should also consider throwing something in to demonstrate that they have done their research. For example, if a company notes that they value community engagement, throwing in a line about how you practice community engagement will only help you.

2. I get so nervous before job interviews! How can I calm my nerves and feel more confident?

It’s 100% normal to be nervous before an interview but a few small tips can take your interviewing skills to the next level. Always remember to smile when answering questions. Your personality does matter during an interview and smiling makes your presence more inviting and can help to control your tone. Bring a padfolio to your interview so that you can take notes. The night before, write a few encouraging words to yourself at the top of the page. In moments of doubt, glance at your notebook and feel your confidence go up. Lastly, be sure to come to Career Development to do a mock interview. Whether your appointment is in person or virtual, we can give you tips on how to give an A+ interview. Being a confident interviewee takes practice, so remember it’s okay to fake it till you make it.

3. How should I negotiate?

The first step in negotiating is recognizing that many hiring managers expect this. You will not insult them if you choose to negotiate your salary. Be sure to research the salary range for the position, cost of living in the area, and how your skills and experience compare to the minimum qualifications. Use tools like glassdoor.com and payscale.com to gather some of this information. When you are ready to request additional money or benefits, take a deep breath and approach the conversation with poise and confidence.

4. Should I have a LinkedIn account?

LinkedIn is a great tool with a plethora of benefits. This social network allows users to develop and maintain strong networks, research positions and companies, publish blogs and videos, and intentionally search for jobs (just to name a few). Whether you are looking for a job or looking to hire a candidate, LinkedIn can provide you the branding power to aid in success.

Lesli Somerset serves as the Assistant Director of Career Development, where she manages the internship program and office outreach. She is a 2x graduate from Slippery Rock University where she earned a BS in Psychology and an MA in Student Affairs and Higher Education.


Want to Ask an Expert?

1. Email communications@chatham.edu with the subject line: ‘Ask an Expert.’
2. Ask your question in the body of the email.
3. We’ll find a qualified expert to tackle it!