Thursday, 28 May 2009

Get Connected: How to Network for Jobs

Having a great CV and a killer cover letter is an essential beginning to your job search, but these should not be the only tools in your toolbox. I will explain how to connect with a network of people who can assist you to achieve your goal of a dream job and prevent you from being an “invisible candidate” hidden in the torrent of job board applications that flows throughout the web.

Everyone has a network of people whom they have come into contact over the years. For example, your friends, family and work colleagues, form an important part of your social and business network. There are many other categories of people that you can consider members of your network: former colleagues, friends of friends, members of the same club or professional association, neighbours and so on. Create your own network diagram of contacts, and then identify those you wish to re-establish contact with.

It is important to maintain regular contact with members of your network. If you have lost contact with any former network contact, be sure to resume contact before asking for any help in looking for a new position. Only pass your CV to a network contact if you both believe that you have been given a concrete opportunity.

Networking is a two-way process with both “give” and “take”. You must be proactive in helping your contacts by providing them with useful information or potential employment or business opportunities. Keep up-to-date with events in your target market and pass on any tips helpful to your contacts.

Business cards are a useful tool when building your network. Nothing pretentious is required, just your name, position, company and contact details. After an introductory conversation, you can ask a potential contact for their card, and then present your card to them. If the contact does not have a business card, then note down their details on the back of one of your own cards. It’s that easy.

After the introductory meeting, you can note down any further information you have gleaned from your new contact. Any information about their family, hobbies, sports, likes and dislikes may prove helpful in forging a bond with that person. You can then ask pertinent questions and provide useful information at future meetings. For example, sending an e-mail to your contact with a relevant news story will be appreciated.

It is important to follow up an introductory meeting by following through on any promises made. If not you will look unprofessional and disorganised. By helping someone else, even in a small way, you will be remembered in future when your contact is in a position to help you. Don’t forget it’s a two-way process.

In summary, creating and nurturing a network of contacts is a vital tool in your job hunting toolkit. Do not expect any immediate payoffs but be sure that you are forging bonds that will prove mutually beneficial in your future career and life. You will feel good about helping other people and will make new friends for life. Get networking and start connecting today!

See my website:
for more job hunting information and how to create great cover letters.

Monday, 11 May 2009

How To Write A Professional Resume Summary

In today’s competitive job market, employers rely on well-written resumes to screen potential candidates. In many instances, employers look through job search web sites, such as or, to find professionals with skills, education and experience that fit their needs. These employment search web sites, along with many companies’ own online applications, require candidates to upload their resume in order to express interest in a specific opportunity. Without an opportunity to send a personal email, or a cover letter, you have to make sure that your resume expresses your personality in addition to listing your professional and educational experiences and achievements. To do so, you can include a professional profile or summary at the beginning of your resume that allows you to market yourself through a narrative. This section allows your potential employers to learn something unique about you and your career, as well as get a good feel of your communication skills.

To write an effective summary, you should first understand what information should not be communicated in your resume. While a summary provides an insight into what is unique and competitive about you, it is not a place for you to indicate any personal information that does not relate to your career. Information such as ethnicity, marital status, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and affiliations, DOB etc. should be left out of your resume. While descriptive of who you are, this information is not relevant to your potential employer in order to pre-screen your qualifications for their opportunity. Additionally, the summary should not contain your previous professional experience, unless you can clearly demonstrate how such background can be of value in your future career development. Beware of generic statements, such as “I am well organized and detail oriented.” Employers want to hear your unique voice and get a sense of your communication skills while reading the summary portion of your resume. Using generalizations about your abilities will make the employers believe that you are either a poor communicator or are using such statements to fill up space on your resume.

Your summary should be in form of a short paragraph or bulleted statements, containing only several sentences. There isn’t a sentence limit, but as a rule do not take up more than one quarter of the page. Your summary should begin by a headline that summarizes your professional title and/or your professional statement. Emphasize your title by featuring the headline in bold and larger font, as it allows your potential employer to grasp who you are quickly. For example:

Financial Planning Professional
Achieved Double-Digit Return for All Clients through Well-Balanced Financial Portfolios

It is important that this title is well crafted, as it is the first impression your potential employer will have of you.

There are three things a well-written summary should address:
- Your experiences and skills as they relate to your ideal job
- What you can bring to the organization and the open position that no other candidate can.
- Your professional goals.

Even though your resume summary is written by you, it should be composed in third person, in present tense. Think of it as a summary of what one of your best colleagues would say about your professional achievements. Reinforce your title, and sell only the experiences and skills that meet your career objective. If you have multiple career objectives, such as you wish to get a position in either marketing or public relations, develop separate resume summaries for each of the objectives. A summary can also contain a brief bulleted section highlighting only a few vital competitive skills that you bring to the table. An example of an effective summary would be as follows:

Successful financial planning professional with over 15 years of personal and retirement planning experience. Managed a small financial planning firm, achieving double-digit financial returns for all clients by developing personalized investment portfolios. Leader in development and professional growth of four other financial planners in the firm through effective and motivating mentoring strategies.

Key competencies include:
o Personalized portfolio development
o Financial forecasting
o Retirement portfolio management
o Development on-going professional growth strategies

Much like your overall resume, your summary should be well-written and error-free. Make sure to review your summary, and customize as necessary for the various opportunities of interest. An effective summary will help you “hook” your employer; it should sell you as a primary candidate for the job, leaving your employer with a great first impression of you and a burning desire to read on.

View my website:
for more job hunting tips and how to create great cover letters.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

How To Cover Yourself With Glory

Last time I talked about the importance of targeting your resume to a specific employer. There is another tool in your armoury that you can use to ‘hook in’ the recipient of your resume – the cover letter.

The cover letter will be read first by the potential employer so it must immediately get their attention and then encourage them to take further action in opening your attached resume. If the cover letter is not attention- grabbing then your carefully prepared resume may never be opened and read by the target reader. In effect, the cover letter is an instance of a sales letter designed to sell you and your resume to the reader.

There are two main types of cover letter – the letter of inquiry and the job application cover letter. Keep any cover letter to one page in length. Check the spelling and formatting carefully. Remember that it is the first impression of you that an employer will get. Don’t be afraid to personalise your writing style within reason. A steam of consciousness outpouring will not go down well! Now we’ll examine each type in turn.

Letter of Enquiry
A letter of enquiry should accompany any resume sent as a speculative enquiry to an employer. The first sentence should explain why you are writing. It should go on to highlight your strengths and focus on your key skills and achievements. Keep in mind the employment sector you are aiming at and list those skills and achievements particularly relevant to that sector. Write simply and clearly using no technical language that could confuse a non-technical reader.

Job Application Cover Letter
A cover letter should accompany any resume sent as a job application to an employer. The first sentence should contain the job title and the reference of the vacancy you are applying for. It should go on to highlight your strengths and focus on your skills and achievements relevant to the post applied for. Do not make any mention of the salary required or of any other company benefits. Your goal is to present to the employer what it is you can do for them. Bear in mind that non-technical HR staff may process job applications so remember to present yourself in layman’s terms.

In summary, keep your cover letters short, simple and to the point. Sell yourself to the reader. Highlight your suitability for the post. If you can pique the reader’s interest then your resume will be read in a more positive light. I’ll wrap things up now.

View my website:
for more job hunting tips and how to create great cover letters.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

How To Sell Yourself Using A Resume

The Selling Document
Now you have completed all of the early preparation work in creating a presence on the internet. You have haven’t you? It is time to take a look at your most important selling document - the Resume.

Note: The selling document is known as a CV or curriculum vitae (that's Latin!) in the UK. It's the equivalent of a resume in the US. I'll talk about a resume in this article but all Brits please replace 'resume' with CV in your mind.

Standard Resume Format
All resumes should contain the following:
  • Your contact details

  • An accurate summary of your credentials known as a personal profile

  • Your career objective.

  • Your education and training.

  • Any professional affiliations.

  • Tools and technologies you have used. (For IT candidates only)

There are a number of resume formats: historical, functional, a combination of the previous two formats and a targeted format. The format chosen will depend on your intended reader and the objective you wish to achieve.

Historical Resume
A historical format should be chosen when you plan to continue with your current career in the same industry sector. In this case your most recent experience will be the most relevant and should appear on the first page.

A historical resume should contain the following additional sections:
  • A history of your employment experience in reverse chronological order.

  • Your projects and achievements in each of your job roles.

Functional Resume
A functional format should be used when you plan to change industry sectors and job roles. Your transferable skills relevant to your career goal must be listed in detail. It is also ideal for a graduate seeking their first job who must list their personal activities and honours won to show that they have initiative and are pro-active in pursuing their career objective.

A functional resume should contain the following additional sections:
  • A detailed summary of your relevant skills.

  • A history of your relevant employment experience (optional).

  • Activities and honours (graduates only).

A combo format should be used when you plan to change industry sectors, but remain in a similar job role. Your key skills should appear on the first page to highlight your transferable skills to the reader. The employment history would immediately follow the skills summary to show your relevant work experience.

A combo resume should contain the following additional sections:
  • A summary of your key skills.

  • A history of your employment experience in reverse chronological order.

  • Your projects and achievements in each of your job roles.

A targeted format should be used when you are applying to a recruiter for an advertised role. A relevant experience section listing your work experience matching the requirements specified in the job advertisement should appear on the first page immediately after the skills summary.

A targeted resume should contain the following additional section:
  • A summary of your relevant employment experience.

The resume is usually two to three pages long, but there are exceptions when it may be up to 4-5 pages long. For example, an IT contractor will have a lengthy list of contracts in their Employment History section that must be documented in detail with dates.

Now for some DOs and DON’Ts:

DO populate each of your job roles within the employment history by writing a short summary paragraph (bullet points are useful here) for each of your important projects and career achievements.

DON’T simply list the tasks that you had to regularly complete in each role. Remember that you are a STAR! Describe the Situation, list the Tasks that you planned to do, describe your Actions taken in achieving your goals and list what the positive Results for the company were.

DO always tailor your CV to a specific type of reader. Highlight any relevant experience (on page one if possible) and consider removing any unrelated experience to make room for more ways of selling yourself to the reader.

DON’T put your date of birth on your resume. It’s not required! For those of us a little longer in the tooth there is no need to highlight our age which some may perceive as a disadvantage.

In summary, the resume is your most important selling document. You must first determine your career objective, and then select the appropriate resume format to match your goal. Don’t forget to tailor each CV to the intended reader. Happy resume writing!

Here is a good resource for resume templates and other related information :

View my website:
for more job hunting tips and how to create great cover letters.

Friday, 20 March 2009

5 Things Not to Do If You Want To Get A Job Using The Web

Finding a job on the web is in many ways similar to finding a job from any other source e.g. newspaper ads. But there are new techniques to be learnt and many pitfalls to be avoided.
My experience has been gained the hard way - by making all the mistakes first! OK let's start out by discussing a few things you should NOT do.

Do NOT become a "web" warrior. The web is a great tool for researching opportunities and obtaining contact details, but you will not get a job by only talking to your computer. You must talk to people to continuously expand your network of contacts and to gain feedback on the progress of your job search.

Do NOT submit your CV/resume to more than 50 recruitment agencies. Try to target your submissions to local agencies and agencies with expertise in your field of interest. Check the recruiter website to gain an impression of the agency's experience and area of expertise. It is OK for your network of recruitment agencies to naturally expand as your job search progresses.

Do NOT submit your CV/resume without a covering letter. The covering letter can of course be in the form of an e-mail. Once again the contents of the letter must be targeted to your area of expertise and contain your full contact details.

Do NOT spend hours trawling through job sites looking for the "perfect" job. It is usually possible to set up daily job alerts or an RSS feed for a search query of your choice. Ensure that your search query is targeted only at relevant roles so that you are not overwhelmed by lengthy e-mails listing irrelevant job vacancies.

Do NOT set up a mailing list of likely employers. I must stress that a generic letter will not find favour with any employer. You must target each letter to a specific employer selling what you have to offer to meet their specific needs.

A "scattergun approach" will expend a lot of your energy and time with little result. Do not confuse activity with actively pursuing a goal. Next time I'll discuss how to begin your targeted job search to achieve your goal.

View my website:
for more job hunting tips and how to create great cover letters.