Your college days are behind you, now it’s time to find your first professional job! Before you type a single word on your resume though, do your homework. Think about what careers interest you, the skills you bring to the table, and the work environment you prefer. Be deliberate in your job hunt by following the advice below.Resume_Writing

Assess Your Strengths

If you have not taken the StrengthFinders assessment yet, spend less than $25 and do it now! It will help you discover what you do best. For example, if you have competition as one of your top five strengths, you might be better suited for sales than sitting behind a desk. Someone with learner as a strength should be in a position to always be learning something new. Doing the same thing every day would be stressful for that personality type.

The other benefit of StrengthFinders is the ability to articulate your skills. This will be invaluable when creating your resume, cover letter, and during an interview. Future employers want to know what makes you tick, what you’re passionate about, and how you can contribute to their team. If you can’t wrap words around this, it will be hard for employers to see you as a good fit.

Create a Powerful Resume

According to a local HR professional, the resume is the most critical document a potential employee provides. It will either advance the candidate to the interview stage, or eliminate the person from consideration. Many resumes are submitted electronically, so you might need to copy and paste your resume information. Have a version of your resume with minimal formatting.

Have a printed resume available for an interview, and to pass along when conducting informational interviews. Since this is your first job, keep it to one page and seek professional help with formatting. Place your contact information in a prominent place, and include your LinkedIn information. Clean up your social media pages because most employers will look at them before granting an interview.

As for the body of the resume, include your relevant work experience at the top. Tailor your resume to the job by including skills that will transfer to the job you’re seeking. Include your education and relevant volunteer experience. This will demonstrate that you meet the criteria for the job, and what you are passionate about outside of work. Check out these resume tips for more specific advice.

Verdict is Out on Cover Letters

To include a cover letter or not, that is the question. The HR professional I consulted likes them because it shows that the candidate did their homework and invested time in the process. However, if the resume was delivered via the cut and paste method, you often cannot attach a cover letter. In that case, she would like to see a short email that shows the candidate is working hard to stand out.

On the other hand, an experienced manager I talked to never reads cover letters. He wants to talk to the candidate face-to-face and assess how articulate and passionate they are. When in doubt, write a cover letter that will get you noticed!

The Next Step

Creating an outstanding resume and cover letter is only the first step in finding a job. Think about what you want from a job and focus your attention on companies that can provide your ideal work environment. Many recent college graduates what to have fun at work while making a contribution. They want open floor plans, places to meet in teams, and colorful work stations. If that is what you’re seeking, then the story you tell should reflect this desire.

Start networking with professionals and request several informational interviews each week. Most jobs are found because of relationships, so you’ll need to network to even get an interview. Stay tuned for the next blog with advice about networking.