When I graduated in 2015, I was fortunate enough to have a full time position available to me at a Toronto headhunting firm. I had spent the previous two years finishing my English degree and working part time at the firm, which made my job search woes minimal.
I know that is not the case for a lot of graduates in the 2017 class. Though many of you are employed, you didn’t study to be a barista at Starbucks or a bartender at a dive bar, or work retail. Graduating means it is time to achieve what you have been dreaming of since starting school, and taking the first steps of your professional journey. Whether that is in the business world, in healthcare, STEM or another field, you will find opportunities abound, as long as you know where to look. Coming from career services and recruiting, I’m going to be releasing a series of guides and informational articles geared towards assisting new graduates with their job search. This first guide will deal with building a professional identity.
Think of your professional identity as a ‘brand’. As cliché and odd as it may sound, every successful professional operates as their own ‘brand’. This holds true irrespective of field or industry. When I say people operate as brands, I mean their name, or professional identity, becomes associated over time with a specific set of skills, a particular work ethic, moral code or way of doing things. Those are all characteristics that can be ascribed to a traditional corporate brand. Now, how do brands attract notice? By marketing. Marketing as a professional is fortunately a little easier than marketing as a business. All you need are three things; a base resume template, cover letters, and a LinkedIn profile.
- Create a LinkedIn Profile!!
The easiest way to begin establishing your brand is with a digital presence. Creating a digital presence is made extremely easy by LinkedIn, on top of being the best way to give yourself additional visibility in this job market. Any graduate looking to make a jump to the professional world will want a credible profile on LinkedIn. Why? Influencers, that is; hiring managers, C-suite/Directors, corporations, moguls – professionals of all types from every industry and field are all collected in one place on the internet. LinkedIn is that place, and having a presence there gives you that much more noticeability when trying to get hired.
Assuming I’ve convinced you to create a profile, and that you have a basic resume to preload into the profile generator, you’re fine to start! The summary is fairly self-explanatory. Describe yourself; your education, your key traits and a little about your character. Nothing extravagant, but just enough to attract notice. Be bold!
When describing your experience (see right) on your profile, you will want to start with a sentence or two giving salient details about the organization/group you were with and your position with them. Then, use the remaining space to provide three or four achievements, responsibilities or relevancies that made the experience worthwhile, in point form.
Once you have that information all down for each piece of experience, you can start splicing out ‘Skills’ to add to your profile. Again, only look for things that stand out positively. The whole point of establishing a brand is to come up with an identity that is synonymous with all of the things you do well.
- Keep your resume Up-to-the-Minute
In a previous article I wrote geared more toward ‘executive’ resumes, I listed pointers on keeping a resume current, both in terms of formatting and content. Though the article was intended for executives, all of the tips and information can still be applied to professionals who are just starting out. The most important advice I can give you regarding your resume is to have a base template that you can tweak at will depending on the role you’re applying for. Certain jobs will mandate that you highlight the experiences from one of your previous roles over another, based on the hiring criteria. Click the link above for an in-depth look at creating a resume that will put a starter’s skillset in an executive package!
- Cover Letters have nothing to do with introducing yourself.
When a corporation creates or opens a role to be filled with talent, that means they have a specific business problem that the role in question was created to solve. This means that a cover letter should, as efficiently as possible, explain to the hiring manager why your skillset and experiences are the best fit to solve their problem. Your cover letter should almost always be addressed to the hiring manager directly (do your research – LinkedIn again is great for that!), and should open with a brief statement indicating how you came across their business/the role. You then want to lead into how your skills and experiences fit the role, as in the image.
One final tip; even if your skillset comes from volunteer and unpaid extracurricular experience, remember that building a professional identity is about taking what you have done and what you know – no matter where that comes from – and understanding how you can apply those things to professional problems. If you can demonstrate that kind of forethought, hiring managers will eat it up.
Thanks for reading this far! In the next guide, I will be discussing the finer details of tailoring your current available skillset and experiences to fit the role you want, and also start explaining the mindset of recruiter or hiring manager when they are selecting candidates. There is a method to it, and it isn’t as difficult as it sounds. In addition, I wanted to take this opportunity to let my audience know that I offer consultation and career guidance to fellow young professionals and graduates. My services include; resume and cover letter building, LinkedIn profile customization and optimization, professional summaries and full website content. The initial consultation is always free, and I have a specific discounted rate that I offer to graduates and starting professionals/entrepreneurs. If you need help getting started, contact me!