IABC Ottawa has compiled the following job search resources for recent graduates and junior communicators. Some of these tips may even be relevant to you if you’re an intermediate level professional.
Whether you are looking for your first job in the communications field or you have chosen to make a career change, planning your search can help you find a great job.
Finding a new job can sometimes be a full-time job in itself, so dedicating enough time to your search is important. Develop a plan with timelines and use the tips and ideas on this page to get started.
Before starting your search, get yourself organized and understand what it is you are looking for in your future career. Outlining your short and long-term career goals can be a helpful exercise, as it will cause you consider where you would like to see yourself now, in five years and in ten years.
While your goals should be realistic, do not be afraid to think big. For each goal, determine two to three smaller objectives. These objectives may relate to gaining specific experience, developing new skills through training, or dedicating time to volunteering for a cause you support.
Make an inventory of your skills and update it regularly. You can use past job descriptions to help you list your hard skills (e.g. project management, computer literacy) and your transferable skills (e.g. organizational, interpersonal). Ensure you can connect these skills and qualities to real life and work experience. Next, describe what you find important about your work (e.g. work from home, teamwork) to help you discover which opportunities fit best with what you want to do.
Monitor job boards, such as IABC Ottawa Jobline, to see what opportunities are currently available in your field. Links to government trend analyses and other resources may prove valuable for understanding how the job market is changing. Networking at chapter events also will help you to discover opportunities.
In general, there are three different résumé styles:
- Functional résumés highlight accomplishments and are useful when changing industries or to deflect attention from being out of the workforce.
- Chronological résumés list work and educational experience and are an appropriate format when applying for a promotion or within the industry.
- The most popular style is a combination of these two styles, allowing you to list and describe your experience.
Ensure that your résumé is well written and that it highlights experiences and accomplishments that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
Portfolios can be organized by work sample types or in chronological order. Let prospective employers know of your portfolio in your cover letter and your résumé. Always have previous work samples on hand for interviews or when requested, to submit with your résumé.
Use these tips and guidelines when writing your résumé to be more effective in marketing yourself:
- Write clearly and concisely. The standard résumé length tends to be one to maximum two pages in length. Balance the length you need to market yourself with relevant information that will keep the prospective employer interested.
- Use bullet points and keep them short to ensure the prospective employer reads all the important
- Make sure the style you use is appropriate to your personality and to the job to which you are applying. Keep in mind that while pictures, comical fonts and different colours can be fun to look at; they will drastically reduce the overall professionalism of your résumé, and should be avoided.
- Check job descriptions for your field to incorporate specific keywords into your résumé.
- State the value of your experience from an employer’s perspective.
- State what you did and its result. Provide evidence rather than documenting achievements.
- Use active verbs to highlight experience and quantify it to demonstrate your skills.
Once you have finalized the content for your résumé, you’ll need to carefully proofread it; typos are not forgivable in the communications profession. Ensure that it is easy to read and free of jargon, with consistent headings, language and verb tense.
Using a simple format and style will allow you to customize your résumé to meet a prospective employer’s submission requirements, whether it be a hard copy version or electronic. Here are some tips for keeping your résumé format simple:
- Choose a basic font (e.g., Arial or Times New Roman) at 10 through 12 point size.
- Use white space and headers to place emphasis.
- Use paragraph breaks and bullets in your formatting.
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Keep a résumé file, either on paper or electronically. This file can contain earlier versions of your résumé, as well as past job descriptions, work samples and references.
Having a copy of this history will provide you with a plethora of resources when applying for future positions. It will help jog your memory and enable you to tailor your résumé with relevant keywords and experience.
In North America, a curriculum vitae (CV) is a more detailed, lengthy listing of work history, education, work publications and other career information. It is a format that is commonly associated with academic or scientific positions.
If you need assistance in organizing and presenting your past and present employment experience, consider using a résumé writing service. Although these services can assist you with structure and formatting, you will still need to determine which things you would like to highlight from your experience.
To find a reputable résumé writing service, do comparative pricing, ask around and look for a service with:
- a full range of services;
- a straightforward process for submitting your résumé information and working with an experienced résumé writer;
- previous samples that can be viewed (to determine if style and quality match your expectations); and
- satisfaction guaranteed.
Cover letters should complement, not duplicate your résumé. Make a great first impression, by
- aligning your letter to the job description;
- highlighting your skills based on what the employer needs; and
- expressing how the employer will benefit from employing you.
If creativity is an important aspect of the job, then your cover letter presents an opportunity to demonstrate this skill. It is risky, however, if you cannot present evidence of creative ability.
A cover letter accompanies a résumé and is most commonly written to respond to an advertised job or inquire about possible opportunities.
Form cover letters are ineffective and often are the first applications to be tossed. To set yourself above other candidates, consider the following suggestions:
- Customize your letter to the organization and to the job.
- Highlight your most relevant experience and skills and link these to what is in the job description.
- Show that you are knowledgeable about the industry, organization and position to which you are applying.