How to snag your dream job

A DIY guide to marketing yourself and your skills to get ahead in the employment world

Dressing up your usual daily apparel is a good idea when handing out resumes.
Dressing up your usual daily apparel is a good idea when handing out resumes.

With the semester winding down, it’s time to start thinking about will happen after those not-so-distant April exams. Whether this spring will find you searching for a summer job or looking for a start in the career of your dreams, how you go about your job search will have a major affect on its outcome.

Because every job brings you one step closer to your ultimate career dream, the Journal has put together 10 ways for you to get a leg up on the competition.

1. Dress to impress. Although it’s unlikely someone will hire you based on looks alone, presentation and image are a part of every interview. Whether you’re handing out resumés or meeting managers, give up the T-shirt and jeans for something a little classier. Slacks and a polo, a sweater or a button-up shirt or blouse are all improvements.

2. Consider every meet and greet as an opportunity to network. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to anyone who might help you down the road; give out your contact information and ask for theirs. If you know someone who has worked in the field you want to go into, ask about their job and find out if that field is actually what you had in mind.

3. Mind your P’s and Q’s. Because you never know whom you’ll meet, or where, general courtesy and good manners will always serve you well. Politeness is a good habit to foster, and if you become accustomed to it you won’t come across as insincere during an interview.

4. Apply across the board. If you’re interested in a field, apply for everything and anything that might count as beneficial experience. No experience is bad experience, so don’t be afraid to take a job that’s a little bit out of your comfort zone.

5. Reapply. If you have a dream job, apply for it at every opportunity you get. Chances are, if you don’t get the job the first time around, the employer isn’t saying “No, never,” he or she is saying “No, not right now.” Bear this in mind during interviews: a professional and prepared performance during the first interview may get you the job the second time around.

6. Know how to talk up your skills. You may have worked mowing lawns for the past three years, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t learn any marketable skills. For example, working as a lawn mower might sound better if you say it taught you self-motivation, attention to detail and cash-handling skills.Think about what skills you can pull out of each of your experiences and they they apply to the job you want, and make yourself sound as impressive as you are.

7. There’s no excuse for padding your resumé—something that usually comes back to haunt you—but you should absolutely tailor your CV to each job. If you have volunteer, work, or educational experience relevant to the job you want, include it in your resume and highlight it in your cover letter.

8. Research the job you’re applying for and show off your knowledge. Whether you’re trying to get a job in a restaurant or in a large corporation, knowledge is power. If you want to be a server, eat in the restaurant you’re applying to; if you’re being interviewed by a company or business, check out their website and see what has been written about them. In an interview, you can use your “insider” information to impress your potential boss.

9. Look out for yourself. This doesn’t mean you should walk all over your co-workers, but it does mean you should go after what you want. If you and a friend both apply for the job and you get it, take it. Turning it down out of friendship won’t get your friend hired, but it will mean you aren’t getting a paycheque. 10. Have realistic goals. It’s unlikely your first job will be upper-level management. But if that’s your goal, take an entry-level position and work your way up. It sounds cliché, but drive gets noticed and rewarded.

Cover letter tips

1. Writing a cover letter allows you to touch on the connections between you and your prospective job. You can highlight key parts of your resumé, but don’t simply rewrite it. This is a chance to let your personality shine through.

2. When an employer sees a well-written cover letter, he or she sees professionalism, initiative and attention to detail.

3. Learn the employer’s name and address your letter to a specific person. Avoid “Dear Sir or Madam” and “To Whom It May Concern”.

4. Flawless grammar and punctuation are even more important here than on a resumé. Read it yourself, have a friend read it, have a parent read it, bring it to the Writing Centre and then read it yourself again. This is a good chance to find out how you come across as a potential employee; ask your proof-readers if they think the letter makes a good impression.

5. If you’re feeling intimidated, here’s a standard format. Use this as a template, but try to personalize it:

• Letterhead
• Date
• Name of recipient, their title, organization/company name, address
• Salutation (Mr., Mrs., Miss, etc)
• Introduction: Tell the employer who you are, what you want and how you heard about the job opportunity.
• Research: Show that you know who they are, what they do and why it matters to you.
• Matching Needs: Tell the reader how your attributes match their needs as an employer.
• The Lasting Impression: Express an interest in meeting with the employer, suggest options and express appreciation.
• Sign-Off: Sincerely, followed by your signature with your name typed below .

6. Use the same font throughout, from the address to the sign-off. This creates a more polished look.

Kathryn McDonald

Resumé tips

1. Your resumé isn’t an essay. It can sometimes be a student’s second-nature to write long, detailed sentences, but for your resumé, keep things concise and to the point.

2. Make it easy for an employer to find information: organize your resumé into sections and work in reverse chronological order. Remember, if the employer gets bored or frustrated just reading your resumé, you probably won’t be asked back for an interview.

3. The most common resumé sections include, but aren’t limited to:
• Objective
• Skills Summary
• Education
• Awards
• Experience (paid and unpaid)
• Extracurricular Activities
• References
• Additional sections such as professional development, volunteer work, community activities, initiatives and accomplishments, highlights of qualifications, career goals, skills and significant achievements

4.Tailor your resumé to your strengths. If you’ve never written a resumé or are pressed for time, it can be tempting to rush through or use a friend’s resumé as a model. Your friend’s resumé might be fabulous, but it may not be an appropriate model to highlight your own skills and experiences.

5. Avoid spelling and grammar errors like the plague. They make you look careless and unprofessional. If you have trouble proof-reading, get a friend or parent to help you.

6. Although your resumé shouldn’t read like an essay, it should look just as professional.
• Don’t use cute graphics or bright colours
• Have a one-inch margin on all four sides of the page
• Keep font type and size consistent: a simple font, size 11 to 12 (except for the header, which should be written in a larger font)
• Edit your work before you submit it

7. Remember: the interview isn’t your first chance to make an impression, your resumé is.

Kathryn McDonald

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