Molly, 22, completed her English degree at the University of Toronto in May, 2019. Upon graduating, she was hired by the university’s advancement office on a one-year contract working in event planning, fundraising and social media. Once COVID-19 hit, her contract wasn’t renewed past May, 2020. Molly found a summer job as a remote marketing assistant for an agricultural organization, but she’s now on the hunt for a more permanent role.
“I’m drawn to non-profits because they nurture communities,” Molly writes. “I’d love to be involved with an organization that’s working on food-policy advocacy at a national level.” She’d love to work for a food-security organization, whether it’s local to Montreal or remote. Molly doesn’t want to feel like a “cog in the machine,” so she’s aiming for program-coordinator roles that get her out into the community.
In early August, Molly and her partner relocated to Montreal. “I anticipated it would be difficult to get a job until things open back up,” she writes. “We wanted to make the most of this time of potential unemployment, so we moved to Montreal to better our French. We also wanted to be somewhere where our savings, if we had to rely on them, would go farther.”
So we asked career coach Jermaine L. Murray and Beccah Frasier, a program coordinator at the Depot Community Food Centre in Montreal, to review Molly’s résumé and offer some insights for her next steps.
WHAT THE CAREER COACH SAYS
Mr. Murray says that Molly’s existing résumé content is good, but her layout could use improvement. “The information on her résumé seems like it was squeezed to fit on a single page,” he says. While information-dense résumés are useful for companies that use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) which scan résumés for keywords, Mr. Murray says it’s a myth that every company uses one. “Those systems exist, but they’re very expensive,” he explains. “Someone still has to go in and read the résumé.”
To improve readability, Mr. Murray suggests a new template for Molly’s résumé. He recommends the free résumé builder creddle.io. Molly can also improve spacing by removing her references section. “In previous eras, it was common to put references in résumés and even their availability,” Mr. Murray explains. “Nowadays, having your references handy is to be expected.” Within Molly’s job experiences, she should consider showcasing her work achievements more prominently. “She does a good job articulating successes for her university advancement role,” Mr Murray says. “She should seek to emulate that more for the marketing position as well.”
Mr. Murray says non-profits have been hit hard by the pandemic. Some organizations that work closely with clients in-person have had their work limited due to safety. So if Molly is considering a pivot to another industry, Mr. Murray suggests social media or communications roles in tech. “They’re always in need of people who can bring awareness to their products with the right messaging,” he says. “She can also leverage her fundraising skills into tech sales.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Murray says that Molly can increase her hands-on experience through volunteer roles at non-profits of interest. “Volunteering gives her agency over what projects to get involved with,” he says. She should also put time into building her network among organizations of interest. “Use social media like Twitter and Instagram to connect with companies and employees,” Mr. Murray suggests. “Attend virtual events. Try to reach out to people on LinkedIn and ask for advice. A referral can make all the difference.”
WHAT THE INDUSTRY EXPERT SAYS
Ms. Frasier appreciates Molly’s clear layout and the use of a sidebar, but her profile statement should be revamped. “Use this section to give us a feel for your best strengths,” Ms. Frasier says. “For example, you’re an autonomous and self-motivated worker with experience in both academic and non-profit environments.” Molly should also use her profile section to further detail her French-language capabilities, especially when applying for jobs in Montreal. “It’s often the first thing I’m looking for on CVs when hiring for a position that requires speaking French, since I can’t justify retaining a great-looking but unilingual candidate,” says Ms. Frasier.
While hiring was frozen at The Depot for a few months, Ms. Frasier says that the organization is actively hiring again with the pandemic in mind. “We’re making smaller commitments in terms of hours and lengths of contracts to make sure we won’t have to lay off more people and can keep our organization financially healthy,” she explains. For entry-level positions, Ms. Frasier says that Molly could consider facilitator roles to manage programs such as community gardens or cooking programs.
To qualify for higher-level positions such as communications coordinator or funding-and-development coordinator, Molly should build up her skill set based on the job requirements. “Start reading job ads to see which ones get you the most excited, then pay attention to the list of skills they’re looking for,” Ms. Frasier advises. “Those are the skills you should build up.”
For those seeking community-based work, Ms. Frasier encourages applicants to let their motivations, interests and lived experiences come through in their résumés. “It’s so vital that we not just look for folks who can write a flawless grant application, but also folks who can truly understand and connect with the reality of the community members that we serve,” Ms. Frasier says. “Put your passion and your values forward in your cover letter and support them with your amazing skills.”
THE NEW RÉSUMÉ
Molly has adopted a new format to improve the spacing and readability of her résumé. Removing her references section and trimming down the description of her professional development course has helped increase the white space in her résumé. She also enhanced her profile statement to be more reflective of her desired work in non-profit food organizations. As well, Molly has added an additional role with a food-security organization to amp up her relevant experience.
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