Graduated, Now What?

Excellent interview questions, in reverse. My personal favorite: “What problems would you like to solve?” This may open a discussion that allows you to sell yourself as the prospective employer’s solution.

Real Life of an MSW

It takes two or three hours to write a specific cover letter, customize the resume, and go through all the ridiculous, dehumanizing, online hoops to apply for even a low-paying, part-time job, yet a business can’t spend one minute to send even a simple reply? Many applicants are your customers, you know. Or now former customers. This is your community, we’re your neighbors and you are rude. RANT

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What I hear often is “I did everything right: got good grades, participated in extracurricular activities, interned, reworked my resume over and over. Why can’t I get a job?” Oh, this reminds me of myself (read: The Entitled Intern – pages of a career journal for some insight and laughs). Though as a person who was once in these shoes, and now as an employer and a professor, I will say this is a common theme. Here are a few words of…

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LinkedIn is being sued for making it too easy to use your former co-workers as references

It’s always been important not to burn bridges. Now there’s another reason why. Through LinkedIn, recruiters may be checking references not on your reference list.

Smart resume writing

resume
http://www.cv-templates.info/2009/03/professional-cv-latex/

An article I read on LinkedIn today, “Why Smart People Don’t Get Hired,” seemed to rattle many LI members and I concur with some of the comments. However, there were a few good takeaways with regard to the way we position ourselves in our own mind and how that comes across in a resume.

Job titles

A job seeker once asked me to create a winning title for a LinkedIn profile. My response was that the job seeker is the product being sold and therefore their name and actual occupation, whether Financial Intern or CFO, is the appropriate title. As Maurice Ewing, PhD, pointed out, flashy titles like “financial wizard” are unlikely to draw attention in search results by recruiters or applicant tracking systems.

Establish relevance

Although it may seem like a tactical move to exclude irrelevant work history and skills, some experiences not directly connected to the targeted position offer pertinent information. Illustrate how your experience demonstrates the knowledge, skills, disposition, ingenuity or drive essential to success in the proposed role. Experience may include school groups, clubs and volunteer activities.

Imperfect match

Even though a job description may read as though the responsibilities extend beyond your capability or experience, consider if it is a doable stretch. Read past the activity bullet points and compare the skill and knowledge prerequisites to your own. Good opportunities are not always obvious.

Focus on the employer’s need

Of all the advice in the article, my favorite is the recommendation to convey “accomplishments, talents and skills in succinct ways that speak directly to how they can help an employer.” Remember, from the hiring manager’s perspective, it is not about what you need but why they need you.

Show your value

Being humble has its place, but not while you are selling yourself. Sometimes the most qualified people miss opportunities because they don’t appreciate their own talent. This is your time to shine, so accentuate your accomplishments  on your resume and during interviews.

Please leave a comment to let me know what works for you and if you have other suggestions.

Email cover letters

Two facing laptops with an arm emerging from each screen and shaking hands on a white background
Image courtesy of Garfield Anderssen/flickr.com

Imagine screening hundreds of resumes, searching for the one that will make your job easier. Pressed for time and bleary-eyed, all you want is for the right words and phrases to pop out and yell, Here I am – the one you’ve been looking for.

A well-written cover letter can help both the candidate and hiring manager because it serves as a quick snapshot of a potential match. If written poorly, it will make the screener’s job easier, but not in a good way.

An impactful cover letter focuses on the reader’s objectives rather than the writer’s agenda. Here are a few ideas to accomplish that.

1. Avoid using “I” throughout the letter. This is tricky because, of course, your purpose is to pursue an opportunity; however, the letter needs to convey what the candidate brings to the organization to fill their need.

Example: Rather than I am very interested in this position, state As a graduate of _____ College with a ______ Degree, my knowledge and skills closely align to the requirements of this position.

2. Extract the components, action words and phrases from your resume that highlight your qualifications to the targeted position/ industry. Use bullet points.

Example:

  • Expertise in _________

  • Knowledge of ________

  • Proficiency in ________

  • Experience with ______

3. Structure the letter around three essential components:

Source: How did you hear about the position?

Qualifications: What school/work experience have you had that fills the company’s need?

Call to action: Include multiple ways to contact you.

4. Methodically check for grammatical and spelling errors. Don’t rely on the spell-check function as it does not pick up everything. A correctly spelled word may not make contextual sense.

5. Proofread carefully, being mindful that the letter is more than a cover for the resume. It is a demonstration of your email communication skills and attention to detail. Texting may have replaced email socially, but in the corporate world email is alive and well.

6. Close with an emphasis on your desire to apply your knowledge and skills to make a contribution to the organization.

Example: The opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills to support your organization’s goals would be an exciting challenge.