This post is a part of the series, Professionals.
As a young professional, I have received varied advice from teachers and mentors for how to get ahead. Compiling them here is a good reminder for me to put my best face forward during career transitions, and I hope that the advice is helpful for all of you.
- Put your photo in your resumé
Almost every application today is done online. In order to be memorable, even during a quick scroll through many applications, add a photo of yourself at the top of your resumé. My resumé has my name and contact information as a heading in the top left of the document, and a headshot taking up a similar amount of space in the top right. The entire heading takes up less than one quarter of the document, so as to leave room to fit the rest of the relevant information. The headshot that I use is a simple photograph of me, sitting in front of my instrument, with natural light and earth tones. It is subtle, but colorful, and a face is always more memorable than a list of black and white words. It sounds extreme to non-performers, but this advice was given to me by a banker, who said it is how she got her job.
- Every document should fit on one page
One single-spaced front side only piece of paper. This does two things. First, it forces you to be selective. The only skills listed on your resumé will be relevant and recent. The second is that it makes all of your documents neat and easy to approach. The trick to this is not to minimize your font size and scrunch the words close: you must be selective and commit to that size 12 Times New Roman, or whatever your standard is. If you are handing a resumé or cover letter that is carefully constructed, your potential employer will have an easier time skimming your documents and finding your relevant skills.
- Well-organized skills and achievements
(Your attributes… the “For Dummies” version!)
Just as each document must be neat to fit into a single page, it must be well-organized, and not redundant. My resumé has a clear heading and headshot in the top quarter of the paper. The next segment has all of my directly applicable work experience (and this is the bulk of my resumé). The bottom half is divided between education and unique experiences that don’t directly fit the category of education or work experience. For me, these are labeled as “Culturally Immersive Experiences” because they were all study-abroad or similar experiences.
- Follow up in person
If you can! The best way to follow up is to stalk the company. I asked an accomplished radio host once how she got into the industry, expecting years of studying media, or a transition from journalism. Instead, she said she just kept showing up until they hired her! Make your face a familiar (and pleasant) one. Be sure to carry 3 copies of your resumé and cover letter. If there is no way at all to show up in person, call. Even if you don’t have access to an HR number, you can often find contact information for the department head online. Smile while you talk on the phone- people can hear your smile. Trust me.
- Make a thank-you note before you interview
Okay, okay. I got this from Grace on Grace and Frankie. Before you go in to your interview, write a card thanking them for interviewing you. If you have the name of your interviewer, use that, or leave it blank and fill it out immediately afterwards. Address the envelope, put a stamp on it, fill the card with polite and tactful gratitude. As soon as the interview is over, put your interviewers name in the card, seal it up and drop it in the mailbox! The card will arrive in the next day or two, and your interviewer at least won’t be able to forget you.
- Do your research
Your cover letter and introductory email should never say “to whom it may concern.” In the age of the internet, that is lazy, and it shows little time and effort on your part. Before the interview, know a few things about the company, like the demographics of the community or awards that the company has received. Beyond that, know what the average salary is (Glassdoor is perfect for this) and what benefits to expect when it is time to negotiate.
- Envision yourself in the position (and be prepared to negotiate)
Read through the entire job description, qualifications, and desired skills. Research the company culture, learn the expected salary and benefits. Picture yourself doing this job. What would your day look like? Are you sitting in an office, or out on the floor? Envision yourself in this position and in the interview, find a way for your interviewer to envision you in this position. Statements about what you will do at the company, or what ideas you already have. If the job offer comes, maintain that confident vision of you in the position and negotiate. Glassdoor has a “know your worth” calculator that takes your experience and education into account. If you can’t negotiate the salary you would like, especially if you are leaving a higher paying job than this one, negotiate vacation days or benefits. Keep that image of you in this position and harness the confidence that comes with it.
- Prepare specific questions for the end of the interview
It’s the end of the interview and your interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” Yes, you do! Before you go in, commit questions to memory specifically for this period of the interview. These questions are specific, gleaned from your earlier research of the company. Ask specific questions regarding the goal for your position, or about expectations for company culture. For example, is the company looking for independent workers or team players?
- Apply even if you don’t meet every single qualification
One of the leading reasons for the gender wage gap is that men will often apply to jobs even if they don’t meet the full list of qualifications. Often, women will not apply to a position unless they meet every single qualification. Some things may be non-negotiable, like the required college degree or a specific and necessary skill. Other things can be flexible, such as years of experience or a helpful language skill. In the instance of language or other learnable skills, if asked about them in the interview, you can volunteer a plan for acquiring those skills. If Spanish proficiency will make your job easier, volunteer to enroll in a beginner Spanish course.
- Carry examples of your work Just as you need to carry your three copies of your resumé and cover letter, you should also be prepared to submit examples of your work. Sometimes, this is unnecessary. I have carried a bound portfolio to interviews that never came up and stayed in my purse. However, this can also seal the deal. If the interviewer asks what sort of resource you would provide for a specific scenario, and you’ve made one, imagine saying, “Actually, I have already made one. Of course, I would tailor this document to the company’s specific standards, but here is an example of how I would approach that.” You’re in!