Tips for the Job Search from Grace Institute
In today’s very tight job market, candidates must ask themselves several hard questions as they proceed on their job search. What do they have to offer an organization? Do they have the skills required for today’s workforce? What can give them that extra bit that will set them apart and get them noticed? How can they get an interview and pass it with flying colors?
We deal with questions like these every semester at Grace Institute, where for over 100 years we have been preparing women with the skills they need to successfully get and keep jobs.
Even in a highly competitive atmosphere, many of the basics of job-hunting haven’t changed. Today you must be sure these basics are covered perfectly. Be sure to use all the tools at your disposal. Your local bookstore is crammed with volumes on job hunting. Use Internet resources as well; many sites have great resume, cover letter and interview advice, and finding this material can hone your research abilities—a key job skill.
Honest self-assessment is the crucial first step. Who are you, what do you want, and what do you have to offer a company? Putting all this onto a resume that transmits your special blend of experience, accomplishments and talent is the next tough step. Many people make the mistake of merely writing out a list of job descriptions. A good resume is much more than that. It tells not only the positions you’ve held, but also your unique set of accomplishments. Have you trained or supervised another employee? Saved your company time or money? Created or improved a system or procedure? Received commendations? Rooting out these accomplishments and writing them succinctly takes some time, but it’s time well spent.
After you’ve put together your resume, make sure that as many people as possible see it before you send it out. Ask people you trust to proofread it carefully. In this economic climate, a resume with even one mistake can knock you out of the running for a job.
The cover letter that accompanies your resume is a chance to talk about a special quality or experience that you can bring to the table and to show that you have researched the organization. Remember, your cover letter is about what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you. Focus your writing on how you can add value to your prospective firm. And if you’re responding to a help-wanted ad, don’t forget to match their descriptive language: if they ask for an energetic self-starter, then the words energetic and self-starter should appear somewhere in your cover letter.
Many organizations start screening with a telephone interview. Take it as seriously as an in-person talk. Follow the advice we give to our students at Grace Institute: you’re going to talk to someone who wants you to be the perfect candidate, so put your best foot forward. Be professional, have a copy of your resume ready, and be prepared to answer tough questions. Make sure to prepare your “elevator speech”—a 30-second summary of the best you have to offer this company.
Finally, to make sure you truly stand out, go back to the basics of courtesy: write a thank you letter. Make it brief, help your interviewer to remember you (“It was a pleasure telling you about my job in Chicago”), and repeat your contact information. And remember to send your letter within a day of your interview.
These are the basics that will prove to be a solid investment in your career. #
Mary Mulvihill, Ed.D., is the executive director of Grace Institute.