You’re well into your college career, and it hits you… you haven’t started prepping for the job search. While classes consume you and finals creep around every corner, there’s always one thing lurking: your future.
For those who are just getting started on their career path, starting the job search can be overwhelming and difficult to start. We’ve put together some tips on how to handle the beginning stages of branding yourself in preparation for your future.
STEP 1: RESUME
A resume should be one of the first places you begin. If you don’t have a clear picture of what you have done, you won’t know what you’re qualified for or what you’re missing in your experience. Building a resume (even if you don’t have a job to apply for just yet) can help you realize who you are, what you’ve done, what you still need to do and what your career goals are. Here are some helpful tips on how to start a resume:
- Keep it to ONE page. If you’re in school still studying the thing you’re trying to go in to, you don’t have nearly enough experience to make your resume more than one page. Fit it all into one clean and concise page that won’t bore a hiring manager. You can keep track of everything you’ve done on a master resume to keep things organized and to use down the road to pick and pull things on to a single page resume when the time comes.
- Include a header at the top with your name, contact info and social media/website links. Don’t include your address—it’ll save space. Use that space to include your online portfolio, LinkedIn, professional Twitter, podcast site—whatever is relevant and professional.
- Start with your education section if you’re still in school or have just graduated. Your GPA isn’t needed unless it’s pretty high. Keep it simple.
- The next section should be related to your skills. A skills section should have technical skills—these are the ones you learned in your Reynolds School classes like Adobe, Microsoft, HTML, photography and other programs.
- Put an experience section. This is where the softer skills go such as being a leader, working in teams, taking direction, and so on. These skills can be shown through the use of bullet points that give a detailed description of one skill. Think of the skill. Write a statement that starts with the verb. Add detail.
Ex: Provided coverage and while meeting deadlines for breaking news for print and online media.
Final resume tips: Avoid all pronouns (I/me/my). Avoid crazy designs, unless they don’t get in the way of the message (if it’s distracting—cut it out). Keep all formatting consistent. Match fonts, margin sizes, alignments, etc. Have at least three sets of eyes—other than your own—to look over it before you send it to anyone.
STEP 2: COVER LETTER
So you have a resume and you’re ready to apply for a job or internship related to your field! But you realize there’s an optional “cover letter” or “letter of intent” section. You’re in luck because the cover letter is a short business letter that tells the hiring manager a little bit more about you that you might not put in the resume.
If you have a one-page resume that you had to eliminate experiences from, a good place to share those experiences is in the cover letter. It’s a sneaky way of giving them more information about you that they can’t find anywhere else. Where do you start?
- Write it in business-letter format. That means start with your name, contact info and address followed by the date written and their name, contact info (including business or organization’s name) and address. Address the hiring manager by their name if you know it but if you don’t, on the next time simply say “To whom it may concern:” or “Dear hiring manager:” with a colon instead of a comma. Make sure your whole letter is left indented and the paragraphs have no indents.
- Your first paragraph should be a simple introduction. Introduce yourself, what degree you are seeking and what position of theirs you are applying for. Answer the question “why should they hire me?” in the first paragraph by thinking of the three things that are awesome about you.
Ex: I am a great fit for this position because of my extensive experience in videography, attention to detail and ability to meet deadlines.
- Explain your skills that you mentioned in your introduction in the second paragraph. If you say you have a strong ability to meet deadlines, explain where you got that skill.
Ex: While I was an intern for X Company, I would often juggle several assignments at a time. These tasks all held different deadlines, which I learned how to prioritize effectively.
- Keep it short and conclude after explaining your things. The third paragraph should be a two or three sentence conclusion that thanks them and puts an interview idea in their mind.
Ex: Thank you for your time and consideration of my application. I look forward to hearing back from you in order to schedule an in-person interview. Should you have any other questions regarding my skills or qualifications, please do not hesitate to ask.
STEP 3: LINKEDIN
So you’ve mastered the resume and cover letter techniques, but you’re still not landing any cool positions? Check your online presence and see what you can work on.
Yes, employers will google you. They will look at your Facebook and Twitter accounts. They will check if you have a LinkedIn and if you are using it effectively. How do you make LinkedIn work for your job search?
- Keep your profile updated. Have you joined a new club? Done any recent volunteer work? Wrote anything cool lately? Explore the different profile sections and add all the things!
- Create your own custom URL to easily put at the top of a printed resume or on business cards. After clicking “edit public profile” you can update your link on the right-hand side.
- Get connections! Add people you know, people you want to know, people who go to your school or are affiliated with it. If you know the person but haven’t spoken in some time or you don’t know them but would like to connect, always send a message with your invitation to connect explaining why you find them interesting and who you are. Ex: I’ve noticed your experience in brand strategizing for X company. I’m currently a student at the University and would love to learn more about what you do for a living!
- Join groups to learn more and get more connections. Requesting to join groups is an easy way to find out more about what you love—writing, design, photography, children’s book writing—anything!
- Search for companies you like and see who works for them to connect. Use the alumni tool to see what students from your university are doing today and connect with them. Search for internships and jobs. Read articles. Most importantly, have fun on LinkedIn and find how to use it to your benefit.
STEP 4: INTERVIEW
With your awesome resume, cover letter and social media presence, you’ve landed an interview. You’re nervous, but that’s normal. It’s a common fear to not want to talk about yourself or to fret before an interview. So how can you get through it as smoothly as possible?
- Know what every interviewer wants to know from you: Can you do the job? Do you want the job? Do they want to work with you? Once you know these questions, you can tailor your answers so you convey that you have the skills for the job, you would love to be there, and they would love to have you.
- Go in with a pen, paper and a copy of your resume. Even if you don’t end up using them, it shows that you came prepared to hand them a resume and take notes.
- Keep in mind a few core values or skills you want to highlight. These can be anything from a skillset in graphic design to a core value in storytelling for those who can’t tell their own stories. Research the company; look at their mission statement and see what they value. If your values align, they will already see you as a part of their organization.
- Know how to tell stories. If you get prompted to tell a story, use the O.A.R method of storytelling. First, tell the situation. Where were you when this story happened? Next, tell the obstacle. What did you have to get over or accomplish? Next, let them know what action you took to get past the obstacle. Finally, what was the result? How did the situation play out?
- Dress to impress. As cliché as that sounds, it works. Dress in nice, pressed, clothes and treat it like a business meeting—because it is. Another helpful tip may be to look for anything they might wear there and match your clothing. Applying for an ad agency that has the color blue in their company colors? Maybe put on a blue tie or blue dress shirt.
- Send a thank you letter. Sometime after your interview, let them know how awesome they are for taking the time to interview you. This is a sure way to put your name in their minds again—and it’s another sneaky way to slip in another skill you didn’t have the time to mention in an interview.