Searching for a job can be quite stressful: if words like “resume,” “cover letter,” “portfolio,” and “interview” scare you, this article is made for you. Below are numerous tips to help you find your dream job in marketing or communications.
Your personal brand is at the intersection of how you see yourself and how others see you. It is your story, who you are, and what makes you different from everyone else.
“What makes you – you? That’s really the question that you are trying to answer,” explains Professor Jane Bradshaw from the University of Florida.
Your personal brand should reflect your passions, what drives you, your personal attributes, and your strengths. It should reflect your professional and personal self. When applying for a job, branding yourself is also emphasizing what makes you unique and why you are the best fit for a certain job or position.
Being very transparent, genuine, and consistent are key to personal branding. You want to show your personality to a potential employer, within the limits of professionalism. This means you need to be careful with your digital presence for instance: it is part of your brand and tells your story, too. Therefore, you want your social platforms to be consistent with your brand. Be careful with what message you want to put out to the world.
“Here is a cautionary tale: in 2018 — it was all over the news because this actually went viral — this girl Naomie was given a NASA internship and she was super excited so she went onto Twitter and she used profanity in her Tweet … she ended up tagging NASA later on and someone commented ‘language.’ … Naomie used some more profanity … Homer’s response said ‘I’m on the National Space Council that oversees NASA,'” Bradshaw recalls.
Profanity did not align with NASA’s brand and standards and despite Homer not having any hiring authority, Naomie ended up losing her internship. Therefore, be careful with what you post on social media because most employers will search your name on Google and look at what comes up. Check your privacy settings.
Your personal brand can take the form of a brief, laser-focus targeted message, like an elevator pitch, comprising what sets you apart, your experiences, internships, skills, what makes you unique.
Bradshaw concludes by giving out more general tips that can turn out to be helpful when applying for jobs. First, over the course of her career, she noticed that about 80% of candidates did not tailor their cover letter: employers will notice if you are sending out mass resumes and applications on websites like Indeed without tailoring them to a certain company and position. Secondly, having a professional headshot in your back pocket is never a bad idea. Thirdly, check your grammar. Your resume, portfolio, website, and social media should all feature good grammar and spelling, be concise, proofread, and accurate. Remember that they are part of your personal brand. Finally, be active on key networks like LinkedIn and use them for informational interviewing and networking: ask people about their jobs, ask for advice, ask about their career path.
Creating a good resume
A resume itself will not land you a job, but conversely, a bad resume can prevent you from succeeding, especially if you are applying in the communications field and cannot communicate well through your resume.
“Especially in the communications professions, it really does need to be perfect in terms of things like not having typos, consistency, and format because think about it: people are hiring you to help them communicate well. If you can’t communicate well through your resume, that’s not a good sign,” says Professor Zenebe Beyene from the University of Mississippi.
You have to pay attention to the order of the content you put on a resume. Your contact information should be at the top, followed by your personal statement. Next comes education, including major, minor, and specialization if there is one. After that, you can write down professional experience, volunteering, awards, and memberships.
Your contact information is crucial: do not make an employer search for a way to get back to you. It should include your email address, phone number, LinkedIn, personal website if you have one, but do not include your postal address.
Your personal statement should reflect your personal brand, which is usually 2 to 3 sentences giving an overview of who you are. It should feature your qualifications, but should not be job-oriented.
The “education” section basically features what you have to sell. As for the “experience” section, list things in chronological order starting with the most recent, making sure to include dates (months and years). It should highlight the tasks you did and the skills you learned.
At this point, you may ask “what to NOT include on a resume?” You should not include your high school activities. You should not put your GPA unless it is nearly perfect, for another candidate might have a number higher than yours — your employer will ask if they want to know. Do not include skills that are not unique, such as Microsoft Word whom everyone masters. Lastly, do not list references directly on your resume but rather on a separate document.
It is okay if your resume expands on 2 pages rather than 1, do not lower the size of your font just to make it fit. In terms of keeping the right format, however, send it as a PDF rather than a Word document. Call your file by your name along with the word “resume” instead of going for the traditional “2021 resume.” Employers receive several of them and need to be able to find yours easily.
Building a portfolio
Portfolios are primarily a collection of examples and evidence that showcase things that your employer really wants to know: what has been your experience so far in the field you are applying for, what kind of skills you possess they can benefit from, and what is your potential to be successful and move up within the company.
While original portfolios were binders filled with paper versions of your work, nowadays portfolios are all online. LinkedIn is a must and a great place to start building your portfolios because it features different areas to showcase your work, skills and a place to attach your resume.
Online websites are good platforms on which to expose your work. Sites like WordPress are very commonly used and professional (the New York Times uses WordPress as a reference), or Portfolio Box which is a little harder to update.
A good online portfolio should contain a personal statement on your “about me” page, which should talk about who you are both professionally and personally: your personality matters, you want to show who you are as a person. The portfolio should also include scripting of your specialization and the work that you do, ie. who you are professionally: Are you a visual designer? Do you create social media campaigns? Do not forget to feature your strengths, the kind of job you are looking for, and finally selected examples of your work — no more than 5.
How to choose which work examples to showcase? You can start off a running list of all the projects you have worked on and both categorize and rank them from the best to the least significant. Pull your best work to display.
Other things you can feature on your website include an extensive resume both embedded in a webpage but also available to download in PDF. Certificates, testimonials, and media features can also be presented: Have you worked on a campaign or a project that got some media coverage? Were you featured in a press release? In a news story? Save those links and include them.
Reports, evaluations, research summaries, visual presentations, photos of products you helped develop, screenshots from social media posts, brochures and posters are great things to include, as well as data that you can display in charts using infographics like Piktochart or Infogram.
“As you’re building this website, as you’re selecting your work, there are some things you want to consider. When you are figuring out what work to showcase, you need to figure out what is it that you are trying to show off, what particular skills are yo showing off, what particular projects… Anything that directly relates to what you want to do in the future,” explains Professor Iveta Imre from the University of Mississippi.
Finally, keep it simple! You do not want to show off the design of your website, you want to show off your work. Make it easy to navigate, and do not bury the most important elements under an ocean of tabs. It is okay to include things that you like to do in your personal life, try to reflect who you are as a person more than limiting yourself to your professional self.
Nailing your interview
Prepping for a job interview lies between 3 key elements: (1) Know yourself, (2) Know the company or organization you are applying for, and (3) Know how to articulate your value. Do your research in each area.
Employers want to learn more about you as a person: about your long terms goals, what accomplishments you are most proud of, what is a challenge that you faced and how you overcame it, what role do you usually play when working on a team project, etc. These are questions designed to get more insight into who you are as a person. Remember that they are hiring you not just to do the job, but they want to know if you will be a good colleague, someone they will want to work with.
Research the company you are applying to. Find their website, read their “about” section, find out about the values of the company: Do they put an emphasis on caring about the environment? Public service? Do they value teamwork and cooperation? Look at the news releases from the company. Look up what other people are saying about the company too. What do you hope to accomplish within their company?
If you are asked “Why do you want to work here?” do NOT answer that the weather is nice in the area. This is your chance to show employers that you did your homework and that there are specific reasons why you picked them in particular.
“‘Why should we hire you?’ Often you will have that question, and you need to understand that you are one of many people who have applied for the job, there is a lot of competition and you need to stand out. The way that you stand out is by making sure that you let them know what you can bring to the table, how you can benefit the company. Tie your results to their needs”, explains Professor Evangeline Ivy, from the University of Mississippi.
Even fresh out of school, you have experiences to highlight: you want to focus on the results of what you did. Whether you worked in an internship or volunteered, point out what tasks you did in particular: if you led a social media campaign, for instance, how much money did you help raise?
Rehearse your responses, anticipate what you might be asked in order to be more comfortable answering. The more comfortable you are, the better you will be able to represent yourself.
Finally, be prepared to ask questions about the company in order to build a rapport with the employer, such as “What would you say is the best part of working here?” The questions you ask matter too because it demonstrates your interest in the company, and helps to create a two-way conversation with the employer.