Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Where To Look For Jobs + Resume and Cover Letter Tips

Any college senior right about now is probably so sick of the question “What are you doing after graduation?” I know it overwhelmed me at that point and the pressure to have it all figured out makes a time when you’re hoping to enjoy the last bit of fun college has to offer more stressful. In an attempt to help and calm nerves during this process, for the rest of the week I’ll be sharing some job, interview, and LinkedIn tips in my blog posts.

I am no pro when it comes to navigating the job market regarding applications, resumes, and cover letters but have received so many emails and requests for help in the past couple of years that it would be nice to have all of your questions answered in one place. For those of you that may not be aware, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Education from Furman in 2017 and then got my master’s degree in Early Childhood Education in 2018. I taught fourth-grade full time while getting my master’s and decided not to sign my contract to teach the following year (more on that here). I now work as an Editorial Assistant for a magazine in Birmingham, Alabama and was looking into other jobs in that realm when I accepted my current position.

While that’s not a ton of experience with applications and interviews in my short time since college, it does give me perspective when it comes to applying for two very different kinds of jobs that may provide you with a bit more insight. 

Even if you’re not looking for a job or writing a resume and cover letter hopefully, you’ll come back to see tomorrow and Friday’s career-related post for some cute work-wear inspiration (trying to keep everyone entertained here, ha). So, before we get into the tips, let’s focus on this outfit. Our office dress code is pretty casual which is really nice, but sometimes I like to dress up a little bit. Jeans are allowed, but you’ll also find people in heels, so there’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to what to wear to work. This look is on the more formal side of what I’d wear on a given day but something I plan to accessorize in different ways to wear a lot in the coming months.

After seeing Kate from Lone Star Southern feature this dress on her blog, I was sold. The silhouette looked so cute on her that I hoped it would work equally as well for me especially given where it’s from and its price. It reminded me a lot of a dress I had looked at on Tuckernuck’s site and am pleased to say that it is just as good as I imagined it would be in person! Dresses make getting ready in the morning especially easy, and the long sleeves on this make it perfect for chilly offices. With any white piece I assume I’m going to have to wear a slip of some sort and while this dress was no different, the lightweight cotton material makes it perfect for summer. I paired it with the cutest short blush block heeled sandal from Shop Minette. The heel makes it a little fancier without taking away from the comfort, and the blush color and detail on the strap make the outfit more fun. Although I don’t take a purse to work and instead rely on a tote bag, I couldn’t resist matching my shoes with this circular blush crossbody bag.


white shirt dress // blush crossbody // blush heels // flower stud earrings // watch (nearly identical Michele watch on sale for $368 off) // bracelets (1 & 2)

*Important later addition: A Michele watch that is very similar to the one I wear all the time (as pictured above) is currently $368.00 off on Walmart's site. If you've been considering getting one I'd act quickly as I've never seen them priced this way! And if you prefer gold, that one is available here for $621 off. This would be a perfect graduation gift or way to celebrate landing a job! If you're looking for a more affordable watch option I also love my Daniel Wellington watch that is $100 off here.

Now let’s tackle some of my tips and the questions y’all had on today’s topics. 

Where to Look for Jobs

Q: How do you find job postings?
Searching for job postings can feel like a full-time job. Once you’ve narrowed down the industry location, and type of job you’re interested in I would recommend making a master list of companies you’d be interested in working for. From there, following the company on LinkedIn (I’ll have a post all about LinkedIn on Friday) and checking their website will help you to look for openings. There are also lots of Facebook groups for people looking for jobs in a given city that may share postings as well. In larger cities, job postings can also be found on the city’s website (Atlanta, GA., Birmingham, AL., Charlotte, NC., Greenville, SC.). LinkedIn and company websites were where I mainly focused when I started to look. 

Q: How do you reach out to someone for a job if no job is posted?
If a job isn’t posted on a site, reaching out directly to the company’s HR director with your resume and cover letter may be your best bet if you don’t have another connection at the company. If you have a connection at the company, scheduling a time to get coffee or call them before sending your information off to the HR director would be especially beneficial as they could give you a better idea of the company and you’d be able to mention the connection in the email to HR making the email seem a bit less out of the blue. 

Resume Format and Tips

Q: Are you more a fan of the creative resume or the professional, plain style resume?
I’ve always used a more formal resume. While I like the idea of something creative, I think it is going to depend on the company as to what they prefer. If from your research the company seems to be more laid back and creative then switching up the design of your resume may work in your favor but I can think of plenty of jobs that would likely prefer the more traditional approach. For both my teaching job and the job I have now I went the traditional route formatted the way I am showing you here. I did, however, discover other ways to creatively display my skills both by creating an online resume using Wix and making a portfolio to take along with me to my interview. If y’all want more details about that in a later post let me know.

I’ve shared a resume template with y’all before (throwback to this post from 2016) and honestly this one is very similar. The age-old debate when it comes to resumes is if you have to stick to it being strictly a page and while I wish I had a firm answer for you on that one I don’t. My goal when making a resume both the first time and when re-making it to focus on relevant experiences for this job was to keep it to a page. I originally got this resume formatting from my brother who was somehow able to keep his accolades to a page which encouraged me to do the same since his laundry list of skills, achievements, etc. would be longer than mine. I also found encouragement in the fact that if this resume template was good enough to get him into Stanford’s Law School then hopefully it would be good enough to land me a job (and it has landed me two!). If you decide to put your references directly on your resume, then I think having it run over to the second page may not be the worst thing. 

As for other formatting tips, I would recommend using Times New Roman font size 12 for the majority of the document. Making your name at the top 16 point font is a good idea, but aside from that, I think uniformity helps to make your resume easier to read. 

Cover Letter Format Tips

Resumes are nice because as long as you’re applying to positions in a similar industry chances are you will only have to minorly tweak your resume for each listing. Cover letters on the other hand, not so much. I can’t tell you how many different cover letters I had started to draft for various positions in Birmingham to send out with my resume. Fortunately, it only took applying to one other position before I landed the job I have now, so I definitely lucked out when it came to not having to fully execute them all. 

Bottom line: Your cover letter needs to be specific to the job you are applying for, and the entirety of it shouldn’t be able to be used for multiple postings. You should be including how the different experiences and activities listed on your resume apply to the responsibilities listed for the job you’re applying to. Making these connections and highlighting the skills you have are what is going to make a difference about whether or not you will be contacted for an interview. 

Whatever you do, have someone you trust to give you constructive criticism and grammatical guidance (this may have to be more than one person all things considered) before sending it off. While it can be so tempting to be able to check that off your to-do list, you would hate to send a less than perfect version of these items to someone just because you wanted to have it finished. 

Q: What aspects of your personality should you focus on highlighting in an application?
While it’s important to showcase some of your personality in your application and cover letter my take is that the interview is the real time that you should be expressing that. Definitely mention personality traits in your application and cover letter as they specifically relate to the position and the positions' requirements but otherwise let the interviewer get a true feel for that either on the phone or in person! That’s not to say you want to be dull, but I think there is still a sense of professionalism that is expected in these documents that you wouldn’t want to come across too strong. 

My brain is feeling a bit like jello after typing up these tips, so I sure hope that you feel more clarity in the job application process from this post. If you have any other great tips to share leave them in the comments for other readers to see! I hope to see you back here tomorrow and Friday for two more posts tackling job-related questions y’all had.

Shop this outfit and other affordable work wear favorites:


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