Your First Steps to a Successful Career
- Puzzled about your future? Making choices about your career? We all know career planning can be quite overwhelming. This guide provides university students and fresh graduates plan their career and nail their dream jobs.
- By planning your career development process, you're well on your way to your perfect career. Knowing your strengths and skills, along with having a plan, will give you the confidence and motivation you need to make a positive change.
Resumes and Cover Letters
Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Resume
- Do customize. Tailor your resume, detailing your work and extracurricular experiences that are most applicable to the job and industry you are targeting.
- Do be concise. Use brief, succinct statements and keep your resume to one page.
- Do keep font size to 10, 11, or 12 points and set margins to no less than 0.5 inch on all sides.
- Do pay attention to verb tense! Use past tense when describing past positions and present tense for your current positions.
- Do be consistent with punctuation.
- Do include multiple titles and responsibilities if you had multiple roles at one organization.
- Do use the phone number where an employer can reach you to set up an interview. Do make sure your voice mail greeting is professional!
- Do include an e-mail address. Do make sure that the address is professional (for instance, no "firstname.lastname@example.org")!
- Do include a GPA of “Good” or better (the question of whether to include your GPA is ultimately up to you.
- Do include a relevant subject line in your e-mails to employers, such as "Technical Writer Position #4420.“
- Do heed aesthetics — print all documents on high quality resume paper and use a laser printer.
- Don't lie, exaggerate, or include something on your resume that you would not feel comfortable discussing in an interview.
- Don't include an "Objective" on your resume, unless you can be specific about the position to which you are applying (ordinarily, you omit it and state your objective in your cover letter).
- Don't use slang and don’t use acronyms without explaining what they mean (e.g. GUSA, MSB, etc.).
- Don't rely on spell-check. Proofread your resume carefully and have someone else proofread it as well. Remember, spell-check necessarily tell you if you've spelled the company name incorrectly.
- Don't use the word "I" or other first-person pronouns.
- Don't include personal information such as birth date, marital status, hobbies, or interests.
- Don't use dark or speckled paper that can be difficult to read once photocopied or faxed.
Step 1: Header
- Your name should be in bold and in a slightly larger font than the rest of the résumé.
- Below your name, list your current mailing address, phone number, and the email address you most frequently use. You may use your permanent mailing address if you wish.
Step 2: Education
- Always list your most recent education first. Indicate your university, your school (e.g. Georgetown College), major, minor(s), and graduation year.
- Include your GPA (optional).
Step 3: Experience
- Put your greatest asset first – whether that is education or experience.
- Include useful skills and abilities that are fit for the job.
- List of academic and extra-curricular achievements.
- On the next line write the title of your position.
- Include three or four sentences describing what your position entailed. Think about what you actually contributed to the job or organization and how your role was significant.
Step 4: Activities
- This is the place to list your extra-curricular activities, such as sports, on-campus involvement, volunteer experience, etc. You may provide a brief description of accomplishments and responsibilities for each if you wish.
Step 5: Skills
- Languages (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced or Fluent)
- Technical skills; list specific software with which you are familiar (e.g. MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, WordPerfect, Adobe Photoshop, etc.)
- Any specific training or certification programs you have completed that would be relevant to the job for which you are applying.
- Chronological: This is the most popular format. It places information in reverse chronological order (i.e. from most to least recent). Employers tend to prefer this format as it (hopefully) demonstrates a candidate’s steady and upward career growth. Thus, the focus is on time, job continuity, growth, and achievements.
- Functional: A functional resume focuses on skills, credentials, and accomplishments over the course of all jobs held. Emphasis is on what you did, not when or where you did it. Accomplishments, qualifications and experience are grouped together, to emphasize your experience in specialty areas.
- Combination (Chronological & Functional): A combination resume uses a career profile, which is a functional style listing of relevant skills and accomplishments, and then proceeds to describe employment and education histories in reverse chronological order. In other words, it is a combination of the above two concepts. The experience section directly supports the functional section.
Additional materials that can be required with your resume:
- Writing samples
- Portfolio of completed projects
- Reference from faculty members, former employers, business or community leaders, and people employed in your field of choice
- Listings of published work or formal presentations
- Official transcripts
- Writing a Cover Letter
A cover letter should answer the following questions :
- Why are you interested in the position?
- How are you qualified?
- Why should you be hired?
Keep these guidelines in mind:
- Address the letter to a specific individual if possible.
- Be brief. Use powerful words, concise sentences, and short paragraphs.
- Don’t restate your resume; instead, explain how your experiences meet the specific needs of the position.
- Focus on the particular employer’s needs and what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
- Keep it to one page.
- Match the type style and paper with your resume.
- Proofread for spelling and grammatical errors.
- Keep a record of where you have applied, when you’ve sent each cover letter, and when you plan to follow up with a phone call.
- Credentials and recommendation letters are provided only upon the request of the employee.
- The best letters will come from people who know you well and can provide detailed comments about your academic, professional, or extra-curricular work.