By Allison Knott, RD.
Whether you are a student who is days away from graduation, a professional in the midst of a career change, or one of the many Americans facing unemployment, you are probably thinking about the same thing – jobs. While the job search is an exciting process, it can also be daunting. Follow this advice from Tufts employees, alums, and professors to ensure your job search will land you the ideal position.
“The resumes I’ve seen coming through my organization lately haven’t been customized to the job posting. Taking the time to tailor your resume and cover letter to the position shows you have a serious interest and can put you at the top of the pile. Spend some time researching the position and organization. Tie what you have done to what they’re looking for everywhere you can. It’s very obvious to recruiters when someone has simply sent the same resume to multiple organizations hoping for a bite.” – Sarah Trist, Food Policy and Applied Nutrition, Friedman School Alum
The Cover Letter
“Cover letters are incredibly important – NEVER apply to a job without including one. A cover letter is your opportunity to make connections for the employer about why your specific experience and interests make you a good fit for the position. It’s also your opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills, so make sure that you review it carefully and consider sharing it with a few friends or family members to get their feedback. The cover letter is an opportunity not to be missed, and lack of one can lead the employer to believe that you aren’t really serious about the position.” – Anonymous
“Be proactive, but not aggressive. Including language like “I will call you in one week to follow up on the status on my application” can be extremely off-putting to some employers. Instead, provide them with all of the information necessary to make it easy for them to contact you if they are interested in you as a candidate (email address, phone number(s), etc.).” – Anonymous
“When communicating with a potential employer via email, err on the side of being overly formal rather than informal. Given the ubiquity of email communications in today’s work world, the employer will undoubtedly be evaluating your email communication skills from the first time they contact you, and will want to see you demonstrate your professionalism” – Anonymous
“Don’t worry if you don’t hear back from a potential employer right away. Filling an open position requires a tremendous amount of time and coordination on the employer’s end, and often not hearing from them means nothing more than they have not yet had a chance to make any decisions or finalize plans for next steps. This is particularly true during the summer months, as vacations introduce another scheduling and coordination challenge.” – Anonymous
“If a potential employer offers you an interview, do everything possible to make yourself available at the time they requested. If for some reason that is impossible, apologize for your lack of availability and ask if there is another time within a day or two that you may be able to meet with them. Asking to put the interview off for too long can take you out of the running for the position if that does not work with the employer’s hiring timeline.” – Anonymous
“An interviewer will typically ask you to “walk me through your resume.” Instead of doing that, say “I would really like to tell you about three items on my resume that I am particularly proud of.” Then go on to describe the work, what you contributed and what you learned from the experience. This is a much more engaging way to talk about yourself and your accomplishments.” – Linda Harelick, Director of Operations & Communications, ChildObesity180 at Tufts University
“Although many people have success finding a job through their close circle of friends and colleagues, another great source is folks just outside that circle. So, spread the word that you are job hunting and ask your friends and colleagues to pass your resume to their friends and colleagues. The wider the circle, the better chance of finding your next opportunity.” – Linda Harelick, Director of Operations & Communications, ChildObesity180 at Tufts University
“One important networking tool is the informational interview. You can speak with people in your desired area of work even if they don’t have a specific position to offer at the moment. My advice is: keep your job-search files well-organized, with date, time, and notes from each interview; plan ahead with several questions; and at the end ask for suggestions of other people to contact. Time management is an essential courtesy. Explain at the start of the interview that you will take only a specific amount of time (perhaps 20 or 30 minutes), and then take the initiative to end the interview at the appointed time (only allow the interview to go longer if you get an explicit signal that the person is happy to talk longer). Ask your faculty adviser, mid-career colleagues for suggestions of people to interview. Initial contact by email followed by a telephone interview works well.” – Parke Wilde, Associate Professor, Tufts University
“Having a LinkedIn® page with recommendations and key words that potential employers can easily search for was hugely helpful when I was laid off in 2010. Some people commented that the recommendations on my page were impressive. Also, I stayed in contact with my professional organization and alumni director so they knew I was looking and could keep an ear open for opportunities.” – Jeanene Fogli, Director of Bionutrition Research and Strategies Initiatives, Health Management Resources
The job search can be overwhelming, so take each part of the process one step at a time. Doing this will allow you to organize your resume, cover letter, your LinkedIn® account, and your schedule. If you aren’t searching for a job, stay on top of your resume and continue to network with people in the field. Remember, if you are well connected and well prepared, you will be ready to present yourself for the job whenever the opportunity arises.
Allison is a second year Nutrition Communication student and registered dietitian. She has a passion for communicating sound nutrition information to the public. Follow her kitchen blunders, triathlon adventures, and read nutrition advice on her blog, Choices.Habits.Lifestyle.