If you're graduating from college soon or have been in the job market for awhile, chances are you will soon embark on a job search in your chosen field. While searching for the perfect job can be time consuming, it doesn't have to be a stressful endeavor. Arming yourself with the right tools for your job search can help keep stress at bay as you seek out a new position that will set you on the right career path. If you need some help deciding where to begin, career counseling -- either through your high school, college or university, or professional career coach -- may be a good resource to start with. But once you know the career direction you want to head in, you'll need to make sure you're prepared with a professional resume and possibly an online portfolio or career website. Let's take a closer look at these two important job search tools.
The resume is a critical tool for your job search and often a potential employer's very first impression of you. The primary goal of the resume is to get you an interview. If your resume succeeds in doing that, it's done its job. Following some simple resume-writing guidance will help ensure that your resume helps you make a great first impression.
Know how to sell yourself
If you had to sum up your employable skills and strengths in one, quippy sentence, what would it be? This is a tagline you can use as your very own form of personal branding on your resume. For example:
Jane Doe is a self-motivated and results-driven financial consultant with six years of proven experience helping clients manage their financial portfolios and increase their wealth.
List this self-description after your name and contact information on your resume to give potential employers a quick, at-a-glance summary of your skills, experience, and the type of work you are looking for.
Structure your resume effectively
Keeping your resume organized and structured logically will help readers scan your experience and skills efficiently. Standard sections for your resume may include:
Contact information (phone, e-mail address, links to social networking profiles)
Tagline/personal branding line (see above)
Employment experience (listing of previous jobs in chronological order with lists of major responsibilities, achievements, awards, milestones, and skills used)
List of technical or professional skills, including proficiency with certain software programs (if relevant to your industry)
Backup strengths with real experience
For every employable skill or strength that you list in your resume, be sure to back it up with examples from real experience, whenever possible. These examples serve as proof points for your assertions and help enhance the credibility and believability of what you are claiming about your product (you). For example, if you assert that you are a good team motivator, try to prove this with examples in your work experience, for instance any positions in which you have led groups of people to complete a complex project or goal. If you make claims about increasing sales, or any numerical performance, try to back those claims up with actual numbers and percentages.
Don't include unnecessary info
As much as you want to give potential employers the good picture of who you are as a valuable member of their team, some information may detract from your resume, or certainly does little to add to it, and should therefore be left out.
Don't state the obvious. Avoid phrases like "samples available upon request" and "available for an interview." Of course you can provide samples and of course you are available for an interview, otherwise you would not be conducting a serious job search. There's no need to state these obvious facts.
Don't list your age. Your experience is more relevant, and employers are bound by law to not discriminate on the basis of age. Don't give them any reason to make a judgement on your age from the start.
Unless you are employed in the entertainment industry or in certain other fields such as real estate, avoid attaching photos to your resume.
Don't list any personal affiliations such as your religion, political party, or membership in other groups or hobbies. Unless these have direct and obvious implications for your employment, they will only detract from the skills and experience potential employers are interested in.
Explain any holes in your story
If you have major gaps in your employment history due to returning to school, a period of unemployment, a pause in employment for military or volunteer service, or for any other reason, be sure to explain this gap. A brief explanation is all that is needed. Employers tend to view large gaps in employment as a sign that the potential employee may be unreliable, but of course this is not always the case. A short explanation will help bypass any misgivings a potential employer may have in this area.
Make your resume internet and e-mail friendly
When you start sending out resumes you will likely often e-mail them to potential employers or post them online to job search sites and company websites. So, it's important to keep the formatting of your resume compatible with these online forms of transmission. If you're e-mailing a resume, having a plain-text version directly in the body of the e-mail is the most reliable way to make sure the resume goes through. Attachments should not be sent unless specifically requested as they often will be filtered out. Of course, it's a good idea to have a Word version on hand for the times when you need to print your resume or upload it as an attachment, but a plain-text version is also a must
When posting resumes to online job search sites and job boards be aware that many of these tools allow potential employers to filter possible candidates based on keywords. If your resume does not contain the relevant keywords, you will never cross that employer's desk. So, read as many job postings in your industry as you can to get a feel for the relevant keywords employers will be looking for, and include those words at least a few times throughout your resume. You also can tailor the keywords in your resume based on specific, individual employers and job postings.
When posting a resume online -- either on a particular company's human resources upload tool or on a job posting site -- be sure to check the formatting of your resume. If you copy and paste the text over from a word processing document, be sure to read the resume through completely before processing the final upload. This will allow you to ensure that all text pasted completely and correctly and that no formatting issues emerged in the copy or paste.
Hit your points clearly and succinctly
A general rule of thumb is that a resume should be no more than one page. This rule has gotten some criticism in recent years, and it's now generally acceptable to submit resumes of up to two pages. Keep in mind that your resume should not exceed this length unless the amount of experience and unique information can really justify the additional pages. Keep your points clear and succinct, and use bullet points for greater readability.
In general, the last 15 years of your work experience is sufficient to list. There's no need to go all the way back to your high school summer jobs if you've been working for a decade or more. That said, if you have few jobs in your employment history, feel free to list those summer employment experiences and any significant work-related skills you gained in college, either through a job or volunteer experience. As long as you can directly relate those skills to the way you are selling yourself, it's relevant.
Customize for each potential job or employer
One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make in conducting a job search is to write one resume and send it out to as many potential employers and job postings as they can find. This untargeted approach is rarely successful. A more strategic approach is to tailor and customize your resume to each employer you are interested in and each specific job posting. This does not need to be an unnecessarily time consuming process. Start with your base resume and simply modify the tagline and possibly the wording or order of relevant skills based on what the employer is looking for. For example, if you list proficiency with a particular software program last on your skills list but you are applying to a job in which that skill is listed as a major requirement, move it to the top (or near the top) of your list.
Use a cover letter to position your resume
Whenever possible, always send a cover letter along with your resume. This letter can be brief -- two or three paragraphs at most -- and is a personal introduction that allows you to further position your resume as a specific answer to a specific job posting. Rather than reiterating all of the points in your resume, use the cover letter as an opportunity to point out how your specific skills and experience can provide a direct solution to the challenges the employer faces.
Don't look just like everyone else
A simple Google search will yield countless online resume builders and templates. These can be very helpful to get you started and provide examples of successful and well-written resumes, but beware of simply copying and pasting these templates and filling in your own information. This will lend a very generic tone and structure to your resume, which will do little to help you stand out in the crowd of job hunters.
Get a second set of eyes
Before sending out your resume, ask a trusted friend, fellow student, colleague, or career counselor to take an objective look at your resume. They should look for any glaring errors but also point out anything that is unclear, confusing, or written in a tone that may have an undesirable response.
Online Portfolios and Career Websites
In this day of digital job hunting and variable unemployment, many job seekers are doing everything they can to market themselves online. In addition to a great resume, many job hunters also find having an online portfolio or career website to be useful. And in some industries -- such as graphic design, photography, and many creative freelance professions -- having an online portfolio is becoming an essential part of business. Who benefits from online portfolios and career websites?
Freelance writers and journalists
Creative industry professionals
Those looking to build their name and reputation within a particular industry
An online portfolio or website is a great way to direct potential employers to samples of your work, so they don't even need to request that you send them. It can also help you associate your name with a particular industry in web search results, and help you manage your professional reputation online. So what makes for a great online portfolio?
Include the most relevant work samples prominently
Keep samples of your work fresh and up to date, with the most relevant samples (based on the type of work you are looking for) featured prominently. The work you want to highlight the most should be featured "above the fold" if possible. This means it appears on the homepage without having to scroll down to see it.
Don't go overboard on explanation
Keep your portfolio site as clean as possible, providing just enough text and information to provide context for the work samples. Include information such as who the work was done for, what the challenge was that they needed to overcome, and how the work you provided helped them to overcome the challenge or achieve a particular goal. Be sure to cite your role in the work and give credit to anyone else who was involved in the project.
Consider the technology
Many online portfolio builders can have you up and running with an online portfolio in just an hour or two. But do research what technology these sites use and what technology your portfolio will be based on. This will have an impact on how visitors to your site are able to view the content. FLASH sites, for example, will not display properly on all mobile devices, while HTML-based options may have other limitations or advantages to consider. Also consider how easy the portfolio tool you choose will be to add content and new work samples over time. You want to choose a site builder that makes it easy to maintain your portfolio and keep the content fresh.;
Offer follow-up details
Do list all relevant contact information and offer visitors a way to get in touch with you for more information. Also be sure to promote your portfolio on social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to start spreading word-of-mouth about your work and your job search.