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It's Only a Resume - Not a Dissertation!
Common Obstacles | Resume Tips | Job Hunt Tips | Interview Tips

Don't Agonize - Organize!

When you first start a serious, career-oriented job search, you may be confused by all the various components of your search - it can seem as if you are juggling a hundred balls at once! Let's take a look at major facets of the job search, and by thinking about these in an organized fashion, you will see that things are simpler than you thought.

Your assignment, if you choose to accept it...
You want a job - either for its own sake, or as part of an overall career-development path. What does this entail?

  1. Collect Information & Organize Yourself
  2. Research the Job Market
  3. Write Your Resume
  4. Get Job Leads & Research Them
  5. Make Contact & Apply
  6. Follow Up on Applications
  7. Interview (Hopefully!)
  8. Follow Up on Interviews
  9. Keep Going! (Until You Get What You Want)

And remember: the world doesn't care if you live or die, so you're going to have to provide a good reason for people to want to hire you, other than how cool you are. An old American proverb sums it up best: "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

  1. Collect Information & Organize Yourself - If you have all the information you need at hand, right from the start, you will find the preparation and resume-writing process a lot easier. Consider investing in a filing system.

    • Who are your references?
    • What is your job and education history?
    • What are your skills?

  2. Research the Job Market - Your job search will be much more fruitful if you understand the terrain you are walking into. Are people hiring in the field you are trying to work in? Or are jobs scarce, and competition tight? What characteristics are valued by employers? Who is hiring? Here, as in all of life, knowledge is power. If you can, you may want to pitch your resume to match job market demands.

    • Talk to people you know in your field.
    • Read trade publications and websites.
    • subscribe to email lists in your field.
    • Never miss an opportunity to ask questions about job market conditions.

  3. Write Your Resume - This is a key step. Your resume doesn't just represent you, it is you. If your resume is carelessly put together, and unattractive, then you, my friend, are careless and unattractive, so far as employers are concerned. Poor typing implies an unfamiliarity with professional work. Poor document formatting implies that you've never seen the inside of an office. Poor spelling and grammar imply that you are uneducated or even stupid. Are you scared yet? Well, take it as it comes, and begin with our simple guide to What Belongs in a Resume

    • Are you sure you need to write a resume, and not a curriculum vitae? A curriculum vitae, or "C.V.", is a special kind of document used mostly for academic jobs - it's longer than a resume, and emphasizes education, research, and other accomplishments. If you think you need to write a "C.V.", take a look at this excellent site. If you've written a "C.V." before, but now need a resume, be aware that resume readers want something short and pithy, and will ignore or throw out anything with the level of detail of a "C.V."
    • Look at others' resumes for ideas, but be careful, because you may end up copying a losing resume.
    • Read a book or two about job hunting and resume preparation.
    • Use good paper, and don't let the ink smudge. Keep the paper crisp and unwrinkled.
    • Don't forget to include your contact information - name, mailing address, phone number, and email address. Include a fax number if you have a reliable one.
    • Have at least three people review and proofread your resume. Make sure at least one is a native English speaker. More is better. And what if there is a typo or other error in your resume?
      Game over, dude.
    • Include all accomplishments that show your talent, drive, or character. For example, if you won a national chess tournament, this may suggest that you are clever, which might be attractive if you are applying for a computer programming position. Volunteer work and community service show that you are a good person, and willing to subordinate your own needs to higher goals.
    • Not all employers are terribly bright, so include things that you wouldn't consider "skills", like using a Mac or PC, common operating systems, and application software. Employers often do consider these things as "skills", and will screen applications accordingly.
    • Do include a list of all languages you know. It is hard to predict when one of them might come in handy. Perhaps one of the companies you are applying to works closely with a company in your home country. Or perhaps some of their contractors speak a language you know better than they speak English. You never know. At any rate, knowing many languages is less common in America than in other countries, and people who know many languages are perceived as intelligent and educated.
    • Always include a cover letter, attached to the front of your resume, which is specific to the job for which you are applying.
    • Consider customizing your resume for each employer, or at least keeping different versions for different types of employer. for example, if I am interested in working either as a teacher or a librarian, I will keep a "librarian" resume, and a "teacher" resume (or, more likely, a curriculum vitae) - each will contain much the same information, but will add detail and skills specific to each career track, and will use different jargon.
    • What is a resume? It conveys your abilities, education, experience, accomplishments, credentials, skills, knowledge, goals, strengths, and knowledge. What have you done? What credentials do you have? What can you do? What do you know? The resume itself also serves as a test of your ability to complete a simple project (summarizing your qualifications for employment) and to present it in an attractive, readable format - showing your ability to organize and clearly communicate information, while using grammatical English.
    • Good resume tips can be found at: Monster.com's resume pages. Monster.com also has a lot of other useful career and job-hunting resources.

  4. Get Job Leads & Research Them - You never know where a job might pop up. You must keep your eyes open at all times for possible job leads. Every day you should have new ideas about where you might go to find job leads. Remember: Looking for work is a full-time job.

    • Tell absolutely everyone you know that you are looking for work, and what type (or types) or work you are looking for. Any one of them, at any time, may run across a potential job lead - wouldn't it be a shame if they didn't tell you about it because they didn't know you needed it? And if some time has passed, don't be shy - tell them all, once more.
    • The newspaper will generally have advertisements for jobs - most of them on Sunday, but a smaller number throughout the week. It is true that most job hunters do not get very satisfying results from the "want ads", but it is worth checking, just in case.
    • Try directly contacting the personnel (or "human resources" or "HR") departments of employers you would like to work for, and inquiring whether they have any positions open, and if they publish a bulletin with available positions (possibly online), or maintain a bulletin board or recorded job line.
    • There are many online job listing and resume posting services. Use them.
    • Don't forget that iStudentCity has a new Career Placement Service, which is geared specifically to get past the obstacles that often prevent international students from finding job leads and getting jobs.

  5. Make Contact & Apply - Once you have some possible job leads, stop for a moment and think carefully about what you are doing. Remember that every phone call you make, every piece of paper you submit, how you look and act, how you speak and gesture - all of these things are part of the process by which an employer comes to know you. So always put your best foot forward!

  6. Follow Up on Applications - You want to be remembered, and you want to stand out. One way to make sure you're not forgotten is to stay in contact with all potential employers. Without being too pushy, call up your contact person, or drop by the work site, and ask how the selection process is going. So long as you don't over-do it, this reminds them of you, and demonstrates that you are eager to work for them, and willing to put out extra effort to get a chance to join them.

  7. Interview (Hopefully!) - Once you have got the chance to interview with a potential employer, don't just show up for the interview and try your best. Think through how you will handle the interview, and if you can, do some additional research on the company. Then, go in and knock them dead! Our job interview tips page has a lot of useful advice for doing just that.

  8. Follow Up on Interviews - After your interviews, send letters to the people who interviewed you, thanking them for their time, and expressing your enthusiasm for the position, and for the company. You want to be remembered - and remembered as an alert and eager candidate.

  9. Keep Going! (Until You Get What You Want) - What do successful people have in common? A single characteristic: they didn't give up. Not everyone who persisted was successful, but everyone who gave up was a failure.

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