Last week we looked at job searching, where to find jobs advertisements and how to find the ones you’re looking for. Now you have found the job advertisements you like you need to actually apply for the position! The first thing to do is make a note of the deadline for applications, including time. Lots of jobs will require your application to be in by a certain time e.g. 12 midday on the 6th. If the job requires an application by post be sure to send it in good time. Public sector jobs can require multiple copies of the application form, so make sure to follow the instructions given. It’s also a good idea to save a copy of the job description and requirements, it will probably be removed from the website after the application period expires and it will be helpful to prepare for interview. It may seem obvious but it is easy to overlook these few basic elements and it could be the difference in your application being accepted or not.
Writing your CV
This is the part that will likely take up most of your time. You should tailor your CV specifically for every job you apply for, but to make this easy for yourself you can create a “Master CV” that includes everything. Using this modular system you can easily pull in the relevant parts as you need them. You could also try developing different styles of CV. For instance, if you’re applying for a job that requires a focus on teaching you should highlight the teaching & learning aspects of your work experience. The same previous job could also be relevant for a job as a cataloguer but would need to highlight different aspects of your work. It’s all about making your CV work for you.
When you’re working keep a diary of what you do every week or fortnight and use this information for your CV. This diary doesn’t have to be long or detailed, just list the activities or projects you worked on and include any new skills you’ve picked up e.g. learned to use the Library Management System, helped to set up new exhibition, dealt with five reference questions at the desk. It’s amazing how quickly you forget what you’ve been doing and it’s nice to reflect on how much you’ve achieved at work.
Writing Cover Letters
Your cover letter is where you can go into a bit more detail than is necessary for your CV. It may seem a little uncomfortable to “sell yourself” but try to find a way you are comfortable talking about yourself and your accomplishments. Be authentic to yourself, if you see a job advertised that is your dream job and you’re super excited? Tell them! Find and use your natural voice. Don’t be overly casual, this isn’t Facebook, but you don’t have to be an anonymous drone bee reporting for duty. Practice writing to find your style.
Talk about specific examples of your achievements and always align them with the job requirements from the listing. Use the STAR method (Situation Task Action Result) to structure your writing, we will look at this in more detail in next week’s post.
Most importantly, remember to show why you’re interested in this job and in this organisation. Do your research on them, read their “About Us” section on their website, familiarise yourself with their governance structure, look at what projects they are involved in and research them on LinkedIn. However, don’t waffle on and praise them just for the sake of it, only highlight projects that you are genuinely interested in. Insincerity is easy to spot.
Lots of people get hung up on the nitty gritty parts of job applications, like where should the cover letter go? In the body of the email or as an attachment? The answer is simple, follow the instructions given, if there aren’t any then it doesn’t make a difference. However, if you send it as an attachment don’t also write it in the body of the email – don’t make the hiring manager read it twice! Just include a short note in the email specifying the job you’re applying for and attach your CV and cover letter as one document.
There a lots of great services you can (and should!) avail of to get advice on your job applications and interview skills, which we will look at next week. Your college or university will have a Careers Centre, these are available even after you have graduated. Have a look at UCD here or DBS here. GradIreland is a great resource with guides and videos to help you. Get advice from peers, colleagues, mentors and lecturers. If your lecturer has offered to help you with job applications they really mean it! Don’t be afraid, send them an email with a link to the job and ask for some advice. You can also ask us here at SLIP for help, we may not be experts but we’ll do what we can and point you in the direction of people more knowledgeable and experienced.
So, when you have created your CV and written your cover letter pause for a moment before hitting send on that application and make sure you’ve checked off these three things.
A final word of advice, if you’re still using the email address you set up when you were twelve it may be time to update. Nobody wants to hire firstname.lastname@example.org. Use your name, don’t use the current year as it will go out of date, well every year!
Check back next week when we’ll be discussing job interviews.