Friday, April 17, 2015

Make a Strong Impression: Cover Letter Tips

Imagine: you're looking through the job postings on and you find a position that would be a perfect fit for you! You read through the requirements, and it asks you for a resume. Then, you see that you also need to send in a cover letter - this has always been a dreaded task for me. Personally, I've always had a little trouble with writing cover letters that speak thoroughly, and speak well of my experience and why I would be great for the job.

Cover letters are meant to be an introduction to you, and why you're the best candidate for the job! They are also a very common part of the job search process, so I thought I would share some resources, and a few things to keep in mind:

Start Strong
Your cover letter serves as the first interaction between you and the employer - start with a strong introduction. The goal is to capture the interest of the reader - in this case, you're trying to entice the employer
and stand out from the rest of the applicants.

Don't Include Your Whole Resume
A cover letter is meant to convey why you're the perfect candidate for the job. Something you should avoid is treating your cover letter as an essay version of your resume - keep in mind that they have your resume and have access to all of your experience. For your cover letter, include only the experience that is the most relevant for that job, and include any additional details of the experience that aren't conveyed in your resume. This may require some research into the position, or the company, and making a critical decision about which experiences you feel are most worth mentioning. Remember to keep it genuine - cut the fluff, and stick with accurate descriptions of your skills and experiences. 

Customize It!
When you're applying to more than one job, it can be tempting to use the same basic cover letter, with very minor changes. However, employers have seen so many cover letters, it's a safe bet that they can tell when a generic template is being used. Tailoring your letter so that it relates to the job specifically does take some extra time and effort, but it's worth it. Use it as an opportunity to show your passion for the field, and why you're interested in the position you're applying to!

Don't Be Too Humble
Humility is an excellent trait to possess, but don't let it stand in the way of showcasing your skills and abilities. Cover letters are your opportunity to express what you've accomplished, and the characteristics you have that will make you an excellent employee. A quick tip that The Muse offers to anyone who isn't great at writing about themselves: "imagine you’re someone else writing a letter about yourself".

For more tips, and some guidance on formatting your cover letter, check out AA&CC's The Cover Letter Tip Sheet, or pick up a copy in the office (AC213). The AA&CC website has more information about writing cover letters, found here and here. You can also come into our office, and have your cover letter looked over by one of our Career Counselors or Employment Coaches during Drop-in Hours, or by scheduling an appointment.

Best of luck on the job hunt,


Friday, April 10, 2015

Ace That Interview

You have worked very hard perfecting your resume and cover letter; and applying to various positions of interest, and now have managed to be invited for a few interviews! Congratulations, you have gotten half way through the process of finding a job.  Now it's time for your interview, and you are finding yourself extremely nervous to realize that the interview can either make you or break you in terms of being the successful candidate.  Have no fear; below are a few tips to help you ace that interview:

Before the Interview:

Dress to Impress:

Make your first impression, a lasting impression.  If you do not own any professional attire, it is definitely worth the investment to go shopping before your interview.  Remember, how you present yourself shows how you will represent the company.

Do Some Research:

Navigate the company website and familiarize yourself with the company history, mission statement, services or products they offer, etc.  Research the latest changes or updates in the organization to see where you would fit and what you can offer.     

Gather Your Materials:

Gather your updated resume, cover letter, reference list, portfolio, transcripts, or other materials related to the job which you are interviewing for.  Often times, there can be more than one interviewer present at the interview, therefore you should ensure you have more copies so that no one has to share.  

Practice Practice Practice:

Come up with a few typical interview questions, and practice answering them with a friend or parent.  To name a few, interviewers almost always ask questions related to problem solving, team work, and where you see yourself in 10 years.  The more you practice, the more confident you will feel.  Remember, practice makes perfect!

During the Interview: 

Remember Your Manners & Common Courtesy:

Greeting with "Sir" or "Ma'am" would be most appropriate.  Remember to always say "please" and "thank you". Although it can be quite intimidating, ensure you make eye contact; to prove that you are truly engaged with what the interviewers are saying.       

Appear Confident & Enthusiastic Yet Humble: 

Sit up straight and don't slouch.  You want to appear confident and hardworking, instead of insecure and lazy.   Have a genuine smile, and speak in an appropriate tone.  Allow your tone and body language show that you are enthusiastic about the position.  

Articulate Your Answers:

Being a student or recent graduate, you may or may not have many experiences to bring to the table.  Regardless of experience, you do have ambition, a fresh mind, and the willingness to work.  Prove this in the way that you articulate your answers.   

End with a Strong Statement:

Finish off with a statement which convinces the interviewers that you are indeed exited and interested in the position.  In your statement include why you would be the best candidate and what you would bring to the organization. 

After the Interview:

Follow-up Within 24 Hours:

Within 24 hours after your interview, email a thank you note to the interviewer, while the conversation is still fresh in both yours and interviewers' mind.  Again articulate why you should be the successful candidate based on your interview.  

Do you have an interview scheduled soon?  Feel free to come by the Academic Advising & Career Centre to book a Mock Interview appointment with an Employment Coach or Career Counselor.  For more interview tips, check out "The Interview" Tip Sheet.

For more information about the Academic Advising & Career Centre, visit our website.

Good luck with your job search!

Until next time,

Klarrissa Antony  

Resources Used: 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

5 Ways to Avoid the Deadly Trap of Procrastination

As the final exam season starts to kick in, there is a lot of pressure in terms of deadlines that make students overwhelmed. In this process, it is very easy to be demotivated and discouraged to spend time to study which ultimately leads to procrastinating. Before I start talking about the ways in which you can avoid being a victim at the hands of procrastination, it is highly important that you understand why you are procrastinating in the first place. The AA&CC’s website has a tip sheet dedicated to procrastination which lists the important reasons that lead to it.

Creating a Routine

In order to keep yourself disciplined academically, it is important that you have a routine that is both productive and realistic. If you were to expect yourself to study 12 hours a day then the likelihood of that happening would be very slim. Balance is key in productivity. You need to have a set number of hours while also giving yourself some free time as a reward. That way you will be motivated to accomplish a goal in anticipation of the reward you will be giving yourself later on. However, beware of stretching your reward time where it becomes procrastination in disguise. There is a very fine line between a break from studying and not studying at all. Use your time wisely because once it’s gone it will not come back. 

Develop an Interest

I am a huge advocate of studying what you love and are truly passionate about. For example, my love for books and films led me to study English Literature which attracts me to study the course material. The undergraduate degree must be a learning experience that is both enlightening and enjoyable for students. However, at times you may find yourself struggling with course work that does not interest you. In that circumstance, try to find ways to interact with the coursework. Drop by your Professor’s office hours and discuss topics that you’re having difficulty with. The more understanding you have of the material, the easier it will be to develop an interest. You may even find that going the extra mile might reveal some hidden interests that you weren’t aware you had to begin with. Once you are accustomed with the material, you will find that you won’t have the urge to procrastinate any further.

Taking Initiative

Most of the time, you might find that it is very hard for you to go into the study mode you were hoping for. In that case, it is highly important that you start somewhere. My advice would be to begin with a course that you enjoy the most. Starting with the easiest will give you the time you need to put yourself in the right frame of mind to study.

Understand Yourself
Try to figure out what makes you procrastinate. Every student has a different mind-set and pattern that drives them to get things done. Ask yourself questions that might help you understand yourself better. Are you too stressed to think about work? Why are you demotivated? How can you motivate yourself to accomplish certain goals throughout the day? What is the best time for you to study? With all the amount of work we are swamped with, it gets really difficult to listen to ourselves and understand our choices. Answering questions like these will definitely help solve the problem of procrastination.

Avoid Distractions

While Social media is a great tool to connect with people, it is very easy to get lost in time and can become one of the factors that result in procrastination. I understand that it can be really hard to disconnect from Social media but try to utilize it towards your academic commitments. For example, create a study group and exchange notes with your fellow peers. This is a great way to interact with new people and engage with the material in a creative way. Also try to create a study environment with minimal distractions. It is always good to disconnect from things that prevent you from completing academic commitments on time.

I hope that these tips will be useful in overcoming procrastinating habits. I wish you all the best of luck for your upcoming exams. This will be my last blog for the academic year *sniff*. Hopefully, I was able to share some inspiration with the academic and career blog postings.

Goodbye for now,

-Ayesha Haq