A series about the ways I work towards being cognizant through decisions that make me more mentally engaged with various facets of my day-to-day life.
Cognizance (noun): Awareness, realization, notice, knowledge, perception.
It’s that time of year for university students: The hunt for The Summer Job.
Or, even more daunting, the hunt for The Real World Job.
Many deadlines have passed already, but it’s not too late to apply some strategies to find that job that will make you some money, keep you occupied through the non-academic months, or move you closer to a career that you aspire to.
Here are 3 steps for preparing to land that job:
1.) UPDATE THOSE DOCUMENTS.
Résumé: Before you do anything else, set yourself up for easier success by getting your résumé updated, spell-checked, and bolstered. Visit with a friend to go over the general flow of your document. Keep it to 2 pages maximum unless otherwise stated in the job description. Keep a longer document to draw experiences from that you update and refine depending on the job you apply to. Always make a new résumé for every new job you apply to. Be sure to have the following components, ideally in the following order:
- Bold heading, where your name is large and in charge and your contact information can easily be found (include a LinkedIn URL if you’ve got it).
- Highlights of qualifications (or “key competencies” or “highlighted skills”) section that highlights what you want the employer to see first and foremost. Use qualification from the job posting as a guide. Include languages that you can speak well.
- Education section. If you’re in university, exclude high school information UNLESS you have relevant international schooling or higher-level (e.g., IB) high school education. Note your major/minor, honours status, and anticipated graduation date if applicable. Throw in some “relevant courses” if you think the employer would be interested (key word being “relevant”).
- Experience. This can be strategically divided into multiple sections, such as: Relevant and Additional Experience, Volunteer Experience, Community Experience, Relevant Project Work, Lab Experience – it all depends on the needs of your employer and what you want/need to highlight. I opt for the Relevant and Additional Experience route, but may refine those sections as my experiences grow and become more specialized.
- (Optional) Hobbies/Interests. If you’ve got room at the end, include a bit about yourself that isn’t necessarily related to the job you’re applying to!
Cover letter: This one simply must be individualized every time for every job. Your standard cover letter tips online will probably tell you to do the following:
Say hi, tell them your name and what you study/studied and where, where you found out about the job, and how excited you are to apply. THEN you’ll use a paragraph or two to talk about your past experience in more detail, elaborating on what the résumé said. Then you’ll wrap it up with a thank-you and a “hope to hear back from you” sort of sentiment.
All of that is great, BUT… It could be more exciting. I encourage people to think of their cover letter as the way to make the employer want them not only for their skills, but for them, as an individual. Picture that you and someone else are both applying to this job with identical résumés and skill sets, and this cover letter will make them want you over the other person because you are great and truly desire the job more or would make more use of the opportunity. Don’t feel like you’re 100%, or even 50% qualified for a job that you really want? Use the cover letter to talk about how great of a learner you are, what your career goal are and how they align with this opportunity, or how passionate you are about the employer’s mission or values.
Instead of the above example, use the following components to create your cover letter masterpiece:
Say hi (by name, job title, or To Whom It May Concern). Open with a memorable statement about yourself that connects you to the company/position being applied to (e.g., “As a connector of people and ideas, my greatest fulfillment comes from solving problems for others.”). Then say something about the company/position and how you FIT into that puzzle/concept (e.g., “Your company’s goal to leverage the power of people to unearth the potential of others through innovative problem solving is a framework that aligns with my natural abilities to connect with individuals and find solutions to their problems.”). Then, tell a story. Any story that is slightly connected to any of the following: How you became interested in your career goals, the first time you realized what you wanted to do with your life, the moment you realized your “path” didn’t make sense anymore, the connection you have to the company/employer and how that developed, or something else that explains why this job makes sense for you and why you make sense for them as an employer. Then, wrap things up with a nice “thank-you for your consideration” and tell them that you would love the opportunity to meet in-person to discuss your qualifications OR that you “look forward to hearing back from them” – end on a confident note! You presented them this document because you think you could do this job. Use language that shows you are confident.
I believe in you!
2.) RESEARCH AND COMPILE A LIST.
Get online and find those jobs! Compile a list (save them to bookmarks, make a word document, write them down, save them to a list through a jobs site, etc.) of the positions you are interested in. Check multiple websites if you are open to ideas. Use keywords that will help filter out locations, positions, employers, and job categories that you aren’t interested in applying for. Save all of the positions of interest somewhere.
3.) PRIORITIZE AND APPLY.
Now, go through your list using a variety of qualifiers to prioritize your list of possible jobs to apply to so that you apply to the most important ones first:
- Application deadline: The sooner the deadline, the sooner the application must be completed and submitted.
- Position: Prioritize the type of work you want to do most.
- Job type: Part-time? Full-time? Seasonal? Use these if applicable to decide what ones are more in the range of what you desire in your job.
- Feasibility: I tend to avoid using this as a major qualifier, because I believe that you can be capable of taking on a role even if you aren’t fully qualified based on the job description (really, that description outlines their ideal candidate, not the most realistic and likely one). However, for you, it might be worth prioritizing the feasibility of getting certain positions for a variety of reasons (location, qualification, desirability, work atmosphere, etc.), especially if you are narrowing down a large list of applications.
Then you need to start ticking off boxes! Get through those applications. Tailor each one for each job. Make yourself want those jobs and make those employers want you.