Job Search Tips

IABC Ottawa has compiled the following job search tips for recent graduates and junior communicators. Some of these tips may even be relevant to you if you’re an intermediate level professional.

Job Search Preparations

Whether you are looking for your first opportunity in the communications profession or have chosen to make a career change, planning your search can help you to find a great job.

Finding a new job can be a full-time job in itself, so committing dedicated time to your search is important. Develop a plan with timelines and use these tips and ideas to get you started:

Take a Self-Assessment

Before starting your search, get yourself organized and understand what you want. State career goals—what you would like to be doing now, in five years and in 10 years.

While your goals should be realistic, do not be afraid to think big. For each goal, determine two to three objectives. These objectives may relate to gaining specific experience, developing new skills through training or a job specific training, volunteer experience or an interim job.

Identify Specific Skills

Make an inventory of your skills and update it regularly. Using past job and training course descriptions, list your hard skills (e.g., project management, computer literacy).

Next, determine your transferable skills (e.g., organizational, interpersonal) and describe what you find important about your work (e.g. work from home, teamwork) to help you know the opportunities that best fit with what you want to do.

Target Your Efforts

Monitor job boards such as IABC Ottawa’s Jobline to see what opportunities currently are available in your field. Links to government trend analyses and other resources may prove valuable to help understand how the job market is changing. Networking at chapter events also will help you to discover opportunities.

Update Your Resumé

In general, there are three different resumé styles:

  1. Functional resumés highlight accomplishments and are useful when changing industries or to deflect attention from being out of the workforce.
  2. Chronological resumés list work and educational experience and are an appropriate format when applying for a promotion or within the industry.
  3. The most popular style is a combination of these two styles, allowing you to list and describe your experience.

Ensure that your resumé is well written and highlights your experience and accomplishments.

Organize Your Portfolio

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 resumé. Always have previous work samples on hand for interviews or when requested, to submit with your resumé.

Resumé Writing Tips

Use these tips and guidelines when writing your resumé, to be more effective in marketing yourself:

  • Write clearly and concisely. The standard tends to be two pages in length. Balance the length you need to market yourself with relevance and what will keep the interest of the prospective employer.
  • Make sure the style you use is appropriate to your personality and to the job to which you are applying.
  • State the value of your experience from an employer’s perspective.
  • State what you did and its result. Don’t just document, provide evidence.
  • Use active verbs to highlight experience and quantify it so it demonstrates your skills.

Resumé Checklist

Required: Optional:
  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number(s)
  • E-mail address
  • Education
  • Employment history/work experience
Summary/highlights of qualifications
Relevant/special skills
Demonstrated abilities
Awards and achievements
Co-operative work experience
Computer skills
Job/career objective
Other training (e.g., project management)
Professional affiliations
References available upon request
Portfolio available upon request

Formating and Editing (Consistency)

Once you have finalized the content for your resumé, 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.

A simple format and style will allow you to customize your resumé to meet a prospective employer’s submission requirements, whether it be in hard copy or electronic format.

  1. Choose a basic font (e.g., Arial or Times) at 10 through 12 point size.
  2. Use white space and headers to place emphasis.
  3. Use paragraph breaks and bullets in your formatting.
Hard Copy Electronic
  • Choose good quality paper that does not overpower (via texture or colour) your message.
  • Send by mail, personal visit or by fax.
  • Avoid complex spacing techniques (i.e. columns and tabs).
  • Replace bullets with asterisks.
  • Bold and italic formatting may be lost, instead, use paragraph breaks and ALL CAPS.
  • Send as “text only” message (e.g., .txt or .rtf files) or cut and paste directly into an e-mail message.
  • Note that your resumé may be scanned for “key words,” and write it accordingly.

Keep a Record

Keep a resumé file, either on paper or in an electronic format. It can contain earlier versions of your resumé, as well as past job descriptions, work samples and references.

This history will provide you with a reference when applying for future positions. It will help to jog your memory and enable you to tailor your resumé with relevant experience.

In North America, a curriculum vitae (CV) is a more detailed, lengthy listing of work history, education, works publications and other career information. It is a format that is commonly associated with academic or scientific positions. Some academics joke that the page length of one’s CV is directly proportionate to years of experience.

Resumé Writing Services

If you need assistance in organizing and presenting your past and present employment experience, consider using a resumé writing service. Although these services can assist you with structure and formatting, you still need to determine by yourself the things that should be highlighted from your experience.

To find a reputable resumé writing service, do comparative pricing, ask around and look for a service with:

  • a full range of services
  • a straightforward process for submitting your resumé information and working with an experienced resumé writer
  • previous samples that can be viewed (to determine if style and quality match your expectations); and
  • satisfaction guaranteed.

Writing Effective Cover Letters

Cover letters should complement, not duplicate your resume. 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 important in 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 resumé 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:

  1. Customize your letter to the organization and to the job.
  2. Highlight your most relevant experience and skills and link these to what is in the job description.
  3. Show that you are knowledgeable about the industry, organization and position to which you are applying.

Cover Letter Checklist

  • Sender’s name, full title and address
  • Date
  • Contact information and address/e-mail
  • Salutation—personalize, whenever possible
  • Introductory/opening statement: state the position for which you are applying and other relevant information
  • Body of letter: approximately one to three paragraphs to highlight your qualifications and their fit with the position
  • Conclusion: briefly re-state why you are a good fit for the position. Make it known how you will follow-up and that you are available for an interview. Include contact information.
  • Closing
  • Sender’s signature and name