Every graduation season, I post information about resume writing and job search for new grads. This year, I want to update a few of my suggestions to reflect the new world. Now, the job search, as a recruiter and coach once told me, is a career marketing campaign. And, you need more marketing tools than in the past. That means you should be better prepared than ever when you start your job search.
You need a career marketing strategy, not just a resume. The best plans are data-driven, so organizing all relevant information is a good starting point. Begin with the following steps to collect and organize your essential source data:
- Gather the data,
- Prepare worksheets, and
- Begin drafting your documents.
We recognize that many new graduates are not new to the workforce. While I do not have statistics, it seems likely that those of us who are graduating with advanced degrees and professional school degrees gained work experience before returning to school. Others, like myself, completed graduate school while working full-time. Still, after graduation, we may be seeking a career change or looking for a position at a more senior level.
Gather your data.
A great starting point is to collect all your career-related documents in one virtual or physical place Career marketing is like any other analytical business process—you have to start with raw data.
The data for your resume, LinkedIn profile, and job search letters is information about your education, certifications, professional experience, and professional skills or competencies. Assemble whatever documents—hard copy and electronic–you have such as school transcripts and records of summer jobs, volunteer work, or internships. Scan them if they are not already in electronic form or put them in a binder for easy access. This will save time later.
Take this step now even if you are not starting a job search right away. I’ve spoken with hundreds of jobseekers who have had difficulty locating or obtaining transcripts, diplomas, or performance evaluations from prior jobs and internships later in life.
An excellent strategy to create an accurate and complete report of any kind is to build it from worksheets. You can create worksheets for the major topics on your resume and LinkedIn profile, including education, certifications, skills, reverse-chronological experience, and accomplishments.
Education: The education worksheet will be short, despite the time, effort, and money you have devoted to school and training. You should record the official title of your degree or diploma, any honors you received, and the award date for the degree.
Education today can include short online courses you have completed. You may not have room for them on your conventional resume, but you can add them onto your LinkedIn profile. They will add valuable keywords. This could make these courses valuable for your career marketing campaign even though the amount of training one gets from, say, a two-hour online class is rather limited.
Certifications: Industry certifications are getting increased recognition, according to a recruiter I speak with regularly. Employers are requiring industry certifications, while stating that a degree is “preferred.” So, collect this information, too. If an electronic badge is available for any of your certifications, save the image or a link to the image.
Skills and Core Competencies: The skills worksheet will be more challenging for some of us. One approach is to create a 3-column table in MS-Word or a similar program and fill in as many “hard” core competencies as you can. Hard skills or core competencies are terms such as retail math, GAAP accounting, portfolio analysis, process improvement, legal research, etc. Employers search for candidates that have done portfolio analysis, for example, but they don’t necessarily search for people that say they have “great communications skills.”
LinkedIn has changed the game for skills and core competencies sections. We have room for only 12 to 18 skills on a traditional resume, depending on format. LinkedIn gives us room for up to 50 competencies, though. The site also allows our connections to endorse us for skills, so you will probably have room for leadership and people skills although employers may not search for them.
You don’t have to fill all fifty slots, especially if you are a recent graduate, but list everything you can think of on your worksheet, and then edit the list. For example, you want to list the econometric modeling you learned in school on your worksheet although you probably will not use it on your resume and profile if you are applying for a staff accounting job.
Employment History: Next, prepare a reverse-chronological work history even though this seems simple. For example, it is helpful to make certain you know the recognized names of places where you worked, completed internships, or performed volunteer service, and when you worked at each of these places. Make certain you know both your payroll, or HR, title, as well as the “functional title” you use in your department. Often, there is a difference, so you’ll have to decide which title to use.
Accomplishment Worksheet: The most important and detailed prep document is your accomplishment worksheet. Create three-columns to describe each business problem or opportunity you were asked to address, the specific actions you took to address that opportunity, and the results you achieved.
My clients that are recent graduates usually find the accomplishment worksheet I send them to be their biggest challenge. The accomplishment worksheet is essential because employers know or can find your job descriptions. They do not know what you contributed.
For example, I worked with a new law school graduate that was preparing to sit for her Bar exam and then seek employment. She performed many legal research tasks at her internship, but had difficulty articulating her results. One of her assignments was to create a new HIPAA authorization form for her University’s hospital. We reviewed her internship performance evaluation with her and learned that the supervising attorney found that the form ensured the University complied with HIPAA authorization requirements. That became one of her accomplishments.
Begin preparing your documents.
Now that you have gathered much of your career information in one place and then summarized it on worksheets, it will be relatively easy to either prepare your resume, job search letters, and LinkedIn profile yourself, or collaborate with an expert who can prepare the documents for you.
Look at our resume examples for ideas on format and content. This will also help you decide on the amount of help you want so you will have a successful job search. Over the next few weeks, we plan to update more of our guidance and suggestions to use in preparing for your job search. It’s good to have your information ready even if you have a great job and don’t feel the need to update your resume and profile right now.