PSA: resumes, cover letters, and marketing yourself, oh my!

in helping a friend get his resume and such together after being laid off this week, i am reminded of the arsenal of knowledge and tips i have gathered about the entire “selling yourself” process over the years.

someday, maybe i’ll be cool enough to actually write up something vaguely comprehensive, but since this is fresh on my mind, i thought i’d share a few of the high level things i have been reminded of…

first and foremost, be aware that there are lots of formats a resume can assume, and different kinds are useful for different types of jobs and skillsets. i am someone who has a wide breadth of skills, so i tend to use a skill-centric resume that focuses on what i can do, and then lists where i have worked. ( take the time to look at some of the standard resume variations and pick one that accentuates your strengths.

second, one of the most important parts of submitting resumes is creating a good cover letter, particularly if you are cold-submitting for jobs. a cover letter is the place that you can actually tell them what makes you so damn special that they would consider you. your resume is so much more a checklist of Stuff You Can Do, but a good cover letter can give people a sense of how you stand out from the pack.

here’s what i think goes in a good cover letter:

1) who you are and what you are interested in or how you heard about it (name drop as appopriate)

2) global statement about what you can do, and specifically how you think you can help *them*

3) a few statements about what makes you stand out/special with a support example(s) if possible

4) an obnoxiously confident summary statement like:

I believe that my high standards, dedication, flexibility, ability to communicate & problem-solve would be an asset to any team I join.

5) nice polite looking forward to blahblahblah closing

the trick is to keep it as brief as possible, while distilling your coolness down to the irresistible bits. and that your cover letter is what you change for each submission, tweaking it a bit to suit the flavor of job listing and company.

what makes you stand out?

well, situations where you showed initiative, tenacity, or pushing through challenges. work that contributed in some groundbreaking or significant way to the success of a project. things you learned on the job that were outside of your initial job description – ways you grew and met a company’s needs. flexibility, dedication, teamwork, leadership. it doesn’t have to be earth-shattering – just things that you think made you a good employee.

start with a jotted down list of things you think might qualify, and then whittle and expand where necessary. use action-oriented language.

here is a paragraph from one of my early cover letters:

I began my design career as part of a small, full-service marketing agency. I worked directly with the owner to meet our clients various needs and was involved in virtually every aspect of their projects. It was a very high-energy environment that required me to multi-task projects, have excellent customer service skills, and be very flexible with shifting priorities. I feel that my ownership mentality regarding our client’s projects was key to their overwhelming success.

i am able to give people a very tangible idea of the environment i have previously worked in, as well as the qualities i felt were pivotal to success there. my resume tells them *what* i did, but this gives them an idea of *how* i did it and what i was exposed to.

anyway, that’s your thought for the day – for any of you out there job hunting, good luck!

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