How to Wow Recruiters with Your Resume and Cover Letters

For most of us, there’s nothing more challenging than sitting down and writing a cover letter. Writing about yourself is one thing. Writing about yourself in a way that shows you can do a job and gets you noticed out of 100 applicants is another. Resume and cover letter writing is just step one on job hunts, and can often be the hardest step. But thanks to career services and many other professional tips, it’s time all of us heading into the job market or applying to internships know how it’s done.
The best way to set up a resume is to make a list of everything you’ve done in college—once you’re a sophomore or older, you typically want to forget high school ever happened in your applications (unless you went to a highly prestigious boarding school or something of the like). Think about internships, clubs, courses and class projects relevant to the job. Once you have it all laid out before, pick and choose from the list to tailor your experiences to a job description. Yup, that’s right. You don’t necessarily want just one kind of resume for every job you apply for—though you can often repeat when applying to all jobs in the same field. The best way to get hired is to cater your resume and cover letter to the job description given and the skills required. That way, one glance at your piece of paper—because your resume should always be one single piece of paper—will immediately show an employer you could do this job.
When writing your resume, format is important. Use bold headings for different sections, like education, leadership experience, etc. You can group your internship and class work experiences under different headings related to the job, so they can see a wider range of what you’ve been up to—especially since by the end of senior year, most of us can’t fit all of our experiences on one page and have to choose what to include. For each experience, make sure you include the name of the company, where you worked, your job title, and the dates of your internship or class. Keep the format the same throughout the whole resume to make it look more professional and flow better. Under each title of your experience, include at least three bullet points as to what you did. Be honest, beginning each bullet with an action verb, and again try to make your experience as closely related to the job description as possible without making up details. Voila! You have a resume that will stand out to the company and hopefully help land you the job.
In addition to working hard on your resume, you need to put the time in to writing different cover letters for each job. Companies can tell if you’re using the same letter repeatedly and just inserting a different company name. Here’s the trick to these: the company wants to know if you can do the job, if you want the job (aka have passion for it), and if you’ll fit into the work environment. So, you should take this opportunity—again, the cover letter should be just about a page if not less—to try to reference all of these points as best you can.
You should begin your letter by addressing the employer by name if possible, and launch into a short paragraph about how you’re interested in such a position and why. The why aspect is important because it can help show your passion and what it is about this particular company that makes you want to work there. Then enter a new paragraph that is about 10 sentences at most, highlighting three to five experiences on your resume that make you a good candidate. DON’T just re-iterate what your resume already tells them about your study abroad experience, but go into detail about what you learned exactly…which should be related to the job description and what experience they want you to have! Be concise and clear, and stick to the most important details of what you did. Conclude your letter by thanking them for their consideration and giving them details on how to reach you. Include references with their information, and with one final thank you and “hope to hear from you soon,” you’ve just finished one of the most difficult letters to write ever. Phew!

Office Dogs

What’s the deal with office dogs?  CNN has defended cubical cuddles with office dogs as they can reduce stress, but what happens when the dog underfoot isn’t so friendly?

Even as a dog person, you may not be able to handle a pooch who isn’t a people person.  Well, a dog who doesn’t like people… you know what I mean.

Imagine sitting at a desk way back in high school when you were not in control of where and how long you’d be working.  Now envision your teacher and principle in the room because at an internship you’ve got your boss and your boss’s boss and sometimes even your boss’s boss’s boss around.  Now picture being one of five freshman in a sea of seniors.  This is what an average internship experience is like.

Now add a mean barking dog to the mix.

I love dogs.  My dog is sweet and sensitive: he gets excited when you come home happy but will follow underfoot curling up to you when you’ve had a long day.  It took a couple of dog sitting jobs to realize that not all dogs are like this, and I have gotten spoiled over the years with the sweetest dog.

I think if there was a dog like mine in a work environment, workers would be a bit more relaxed, possibly sometimes distracted.  I have worked in offices with dogs in the past and unfortunately, all of them only added to the tense workplace.

My best advice to dealing with the office dog is to ask co-workers for Tylenol in front of a boss while the dog is barking.  Unfortunately, this is a situation that is out of your control and you will have to learn to deal.

Stand Out from the Crowd: Keys to a Successful Job Search

When it comes time to find a summer internship, or a full-time job when you’re fresh out of college, it takes a lot to stand out from the pool of applicants who have the exact same goals as you.  So make yourself unique, and try these five steps in order to significantly increase your chances of getting hired:

1.      Update your Resume

Make sure your resume includes all relevant information that pertains to where you are applying.  Sometimes you might need to make multiple versions in order to suit various applications.  Instead of labeling your previous employment “Work Experience,” try calling it “Professional Experience,” especially if it is in your field (perhaps from a previous internship, a work study position, etc.).  If you have worked in retail or food service, sometimes it’s better to leave that out to save space, unless the skills you gained are relevant to the position you are seeking.  Remember, try to keep your resume down to one or two pages; the employers are looking at many at a time, and if you have more information on yours than necessary, it could be too overwhelming for them to really focus on.

2.      Create a Personal Website

 This is a great option, especially if you have a portfolio.  Rather than turning in just a resume and cover letter that lists your achievements, provide a link to your website where the employer can view your actual work.  That way, if they are truly interested, they can better familiarize themselves with what you do.  This will also increase your chances of being contacted, based on the professional presentation you have given them to work with.

 3.      Show Demonstrated Interest

 Don’t be so persistent to the brink of becoming an annoyance, but if you have a genuine interest in a specific company, try to meet up with recruiting representatives at job fairs or campus visits.  That way, you’re able to get your name on the table and show that you would really like to work there.  Give them a reason to think you would be a great addition to the company.

4.      Follow-Up

Whether it’s after a job fair conversation or a formal interview, you should always follow up (an email is best) and thank the person/people you spoke with.  For example, let them know you enjoyed talking with them and learning about the company, and that you look forward to hearing from them soon.  After that, however, you need to leave it up to them for a while.  It is unprofessional to inquire about a position if you are still within the decision period that they specified.

5.      Stay Interested

Even if you don’t end up getting hired for that specific position, you can inform the company that you would be open to having them keep your resume on file (especially if you are very set on working with that company).  This is not a guarantee, but having already interacted with them at this level can push you ahead of other applicants for newer positions.

In these five ways you can put yourself out there, showcase your abilities in a unique way, and make those companies remember you.  As always, nothing is guaranteed in today’s job market, but repeating these steps as many times as it takes can certainly project you further.  Good luck!


The Eight to Five Adjustment

Summers used to be filled with sidewalk chalk and lemonade stands.

I miss them both.

But, when you’re in college summers change.

Sure they are still supposed to be fun—we all deserve a break after a grueling semester. But, nine times out of ten you won’t find a college student lounging around all summer eating bonbons. Summer means work—a job, an internship, maybe even more school.

Gone are the days when you can eat snow cones by the pool.

We have to get up early, look presentable and head into work. And the hardest part, some of us don’t get to wait until 9:00am. Those days are gone too.

In life, the early bird gets the worm. The same goes for work.

These days, offices open earlier and close later. For us, that means getting to work sooner, and potentially staying later. Are you ready for that commitment, can you handle the extra hour?

When I started my internship three weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if I could. The idea of being somewhere at 8:00AM seemed daunting. That’s early.

If I wanted to look decent I needed to wake up early enough to get ready, but I also needed time to eat, and drive to work. It seemed like my sleeping time was getting slashed. Plus, there was something about the sound of 8-to-5 that didn’t have the same ring to it as 9-to-5.  Every day is going to seem like an eternity.

I discovered that there is a trick to making it through the day. It’s all about your mindset.

You have to mentally prepare yourself for your week and schedule a little variety into your days.

Here are my top tips to adjusting to a regular workday:

1) Get Enough Sleep. You already have to wake up early, don’t make it worse by staying up late. No one in the office wants a groggy Gary on the loose!

2) Have snacks, or little things to nibble on at your desk. If you lose focus, or start to feel sluggish a little pick me up is the perfect way to get back on track.

3) Drink plenty of water. It leaves you feeling refreshed.

4) Break up your day into different tasks. Doing the same thing all day can get boring, not to mention make it easy to lose focus. Schedule blocks of time for certain tasks then move on to other assignments. If you don’t finish everything, you can always come back later.

5) Have a positive attitude. This goes back to mindset. Sure, sometimes you would rather be laying out at the pool, but make the most of you summer situation. When you are happy at work, and happy to those around you, time will move faster and your time in the office will be more enjoyable.





How to Negotiate a Salary

Money, can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Salaries shouldn’t be important when it comes to accepting a job offer you really want, but unfortunately, we need money (and lots of it these days) to get by. Between rent, buying a new professional wardrobe for said job, phone bills, food, and other expenses, your paycheck will go down the drain fast. An important skill to have when entering the job market is knowing how to negotiate your salary, so both you and your boss are satisfied and you don’t end up living in your cubicle.

The first step is self-evaluation. This part is tricky because you have to get a sense of what you are worth—and no, this doesn’t include all the chores you did around the house as a kid or what a good person you are. You need to think of your skill set and what you can bring to the company you’re working for. This is more than just considering if you can do the job—you got the job, so hopefully you can. It’s about progress in your field, striving to do better, making recommendations and if you’re willing to go beyond the work requirements. Professionals recommend that you keep track of your progression, making a file of your best work and any recognition you receive. If you really have no idea how to begin to consider what you are worth, there are even websites like PayScale and Vault that will determine a reasonable salary for you based on the company, your location, and other factors. You should also talk to colleagues and people in similar job positions elsewhere to get an idea what an average salary for your work looks like. Ultimately, doing your job, doing it well and going beyond what you have to do will give you more leeway in your negotiation.

Another important aspect to keep in mind is to not walk into the job offer with big money signs going off in your head. Consider yourself lucky to have a job in this economy, and don’t expect a certain salary just because you used to make it with your own company or it’s the amount you want to make. Don’t suggest a salary to your employer before they even lay an offer on the table. Your new employers don’t even need to know what you used to make, though sometimes they’ll ask for a range. Since salaries can be a touchy subject, try to keep this conversation for the post job offer period. When they propose a salary to you, think of all the research you did ahead of time. Consider your worth, what others are making and compare the marks. If it’s close to what you expected, congrats! You got a job and you don’t have to sweat through some awkwardness of negotiating. If it’s too low, it’s time to get polite and reasonable.

Discuss with your employer the work you did before the job offer. Convince them of your worth and why you are worthy of such an amount. It will also help to tie in your knowledge of what other people are making in a similar job position. A lot of people are afraid to negotiate because they think they’ll come off as rude or too aggressive. It might feel awkward at first, but being assertive isn’t necessarily bad as long as you speak to your employer politely and don’t get too demanding. Negotiating will not lose the job—unless you’re completely unrealistic or rude to an extreme. Keep in mind, not all companies will be able to up your pay simply because they don’t have the means. In this case, ask your boss about the potential for raise evaluations when possible or the opportunity for bonuses. Don’t automatically assume you can’t take the position because there isn’t enough money in it for you—unless there is absolutely no way you can live off of the offered salary.

The best thing you can do in approaching your boss to discuss a salary is to be honest with yourself and with them. If you know you deserve more than you’re making, don’t be afraid to speak up and show off all the hard work you have done for the company or what you are capable of doing. Be realistic about what you think you should be making and what the company can afford to pay you. Further, even if your salary itself can’t be made, ask about bonuses or later raises with evaluations that can boost you to the amount of dough you always wanted and more.

Good luck and may the best negotiator…have lots of money!


Unorthdox Gigs to Get You Through College and Beyond

College graduates are coming up on an unforgiving economy and a Congress that screams SOCIALISM, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!! and plays possum every time legislation comes up for safety nets for the young, struggling startups like you and I (a little help, please??).

That's a sweet bridge. Look for large support structures to shield from gusty winter winds.

The facts are—adapt or die.  I mean, not literally.  You could live under a bridge.  My suggestion: think outside of the box when it comes to acquiring skills and experience you’ll need for your career.  Everyone’s waiting tables and applying to the same internships—the right question to be asking is what can you do to stand out?

When I was kicked out of school a few years ago for failing grades my dad said “don’t come home” which was crazy at the time.  I was 18-years-old, had only worked at Chili’s as a hostess and Pitti’s Pizza as a delivery driver.  I wasn’t exactly in high demand, and I owed Princeton a lot of money to come back the next year.  I did what any normal 18-year-old would do and hightailed my butt down to KY to ride racehorses.  I had only had informal experience riding horses but the training was on-the-job and once I broke into the industry I knew I’d be set.  And I was.  I waited tables for a while but wound up riding and training thoroughbreds for three years and at the end of it, here I am back in school but with a wealth of knowledge to bring to my next position (and a fat wallet—I was making upwards of $30/hr, sometimes more).  You get perseverance, dedication, and a good work ethic.  I learned how to deal with problems on my own (no Human Resources on the racetrack)… you get the picture.

You have more options than the typical barista gig, serving job, Abercrombie & Fitch or the elusive office internship.  Furthermore, and this is huge, it will give you a cushion when you leave school, hopefully giving you greater leeway to wait for the right job (as a rule of thumb, a year is the average time it takes to find the right job out of college) while working at a place or learning a trade that has room for growth. Consider also that most of your fellow classmates are waiting tables.  Employers have seen the same old b.s. bullet points under “Server/Bartender at Buddy’s Bar”.  It’s not exciting, it’s vanilla, and it’s too comfortable.  Of college graduates who don’t get jobs, the majority stay at their serving job or barista job.

Job #1 that will get you through college and beyond:

Personal Training: A member of Payscale’s 20 jobs that pay over $20 an hour list.

Let’s break down the job and certification here:

Depending on where you work, you can recruit and manage your own clients, as well as run your own business.   Some gyms allow their personal trainers to ‘freelance.’  The trainer pays a fee to the gym for the use of their equipment and space, but everything else goes directly into the trainer’s pocket.  At other places, you will be paid by the gym to train their clients.  This usually shakes out worse for the trainer per hour but you’re responsible for less bookkeeping (a plus or minus depending on your schedule).

For $400, you can get an ACE certification, plus your exam fee is covered.  In a Mid-Western Town, with only ACE credentials, you can expect:

Average Pay:  $11.72/hr

With more certifications, and certainly in areas where the job is more in demand, the median pay range is  $20.08 – $27.55

I have a few friends who are personal trainers and they adore their jobs.  They meet lots of cool, interesting people and they make changes in people’s lives.

Job #2 that will get you through college and beyond:

Construction:  Two unskilled construction jobs make Payscale’s 20 jobs that pay over $20 an hour.  Ladies, when I type into google ‘female construction worker’ it autofills ‘costumes.’  That’s pretty insulting considering men are not inherently better carpet installers or drywall finishers.  Yet they have a corner on the market.  According to the December 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics Report, construction is coming out of a long industry-wide depression—people are building again!  No degree necessary, you get on-the-job training, which means BOOYAH! your training is paid for by the company.

It’s unorthodox advice, but consider that graduates fresh out of college have a reputation for being undisciplined, not ready for the working world and soft. (adult babies, basically, who need to be potty-trained in the business world).  A consortium held by hiring managers found that the three most important (and lacking!) skills in recent graduates are:  Work Ethic, Teamwork/Collaboration and Oral Communications. All things you can’t help but pick up while doing manual labor jobs (if you don’t want a hammer dropped on your head).   Working in an office isn’t the only place you can pick up skills that make you more valuable to employers, and it beats the heck out of the $7/hr you’ll make at the G A P.

Construction Project Managers make upwards of $100,000 a year and most of them are terrible.  Of all the industries that rely on contract-work, construction ranks worst.  Most of them get paid obscenely well for doing their job at a mediocre level.  Think you can do better?  Start climbing that ladder–get out there and show em!

Job #3 to get you though college and beyond:

Blogging is a great way to make money while you’re attending school but you didn’t think I’d tell you all my secrets, did you?


I’m reading Essentials of Biology

Why Internships Are Vital

Each year, millions of students graduate college with a bright future in mind, knowing that they have taken the first major step in finding a lifelong career. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will find that career in the next month or even the next year. A recent article published by USA Today stated that unemployment for college graduates is at its highest point since 1970. At the beginning of 2011, the Jobless rate for college grads was right around 5.1%. In that same time frame, there were 2.4 million people who were unemployed but had earned their bachelors degree or higher.

Things don’t seem very promising for people (like me) who are in their final semester of college. However, it’s important to understand that the unemployment rate of college graduates is less than half of the unemployment rate of non-graduates, which is currently hovering around 10%. Students who graduate with a Master’s degree or Doctoral degree aren’t immune to this phenomenon. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, In August 2011, 4.6% of graduates age 25 and up with a Bachelor’s degree or higher are unemployed. The fact that the group is made up of people ages 25 and up signals that most of that group completed or are currently working on post-graduate studies.

In today’s competitive job market, it’s particularly important to complete an internship or even more than one. Internships offer many benefits, such as experience, knowledge in a certain field of study, and meeting professionals in your industry. Not to mention that if you prove yourself at your internship, you could be offered a full-time job. If nothing else, you will more than likely find references who can help you take your next step forward on your career path, whatever that might be.

Some Internship’s are unpaid, however whether paid or unpaid, they provide essential knowledge and experience, and contacts to add to your resume. Interns provide a company with fresh faces, prepared to do any kind of work and do it right. Some majors require internships as a graduation requirement, which is a good thing if you ask me. It can’t hurt a student or recent graduate to gain valuable working skills and experience, while along the way meeting professionals who play a fundamental role in a workplace community.

The bottom line here is that Internships are a way for young people to get their foot in the door in an industry. They are a good way to provide young graduates and soon-to-be graduates with the things necessary for finding a job in these tough economic times.




I’m reading New Perspectives on Microsoft Office 2010