Sara, 26, was interning part-time for a national music podcast while she completed a communications degree at McMaster University. Upon graduation, in 2017, the podcast hired her full-time as an events manager. “I enjoy the fast-paced nature of the events industry,” Sara writes. “My previous roles were dynamic and allowed me to use various skills such as researching, creative direction, photography, social media management and writing.” In March, Sara was laid off because of the pandemic. Given that the music and events industries have mostly shut down due to COVID, Sara is now on the hunt for a more stable role. “My dream organization would be within a marketing agency managing communications for a variety of brands,” she says. “I’m interested in working for a boutique agency that has a small team with clients in multiple industries like entertainment, retail and travel.”
Sara would like to find an innovative work environment where she can feel like part of a team, along with the opportunity for remote work and flexible hours. “My ideal job is a challenging role which allows me to use my marketing skills, as well as creative and writing skills to tell stories for communities while growing their reach,” she says. While Sara has interviewed for two roles, she hasn’t been able to land a job yet. So we reached out to career coach Paula Cowan and Jeff Lake, senior vice-president and managing partner of the PR and communications agency Punch Canada, to review Sara’s resume and offer their advice.
WHAT THE CAREER COACH SAYS
Ms. Cowan reminds Sara that the first half-page of a resume is “valuable real estate”. So she recommends revamping her professional profile. “You should hit the reader in the face with what problems you solve and what changes you’ve made to better the company as a result of your intervention,” Ms. Cowan says. Accomplishments, like the podcast’s blog being part of the CBC’s top 10 music blogs, should also be mentioned in her professional profile.
Sara’s work experience can also use some refinement. Currently, her latest work experience has 13 bullet points. Ms. Cowan says she should reduce it, or if not, categorize the bullets into relevant subheadings such as “social media” and “content management”. She also recommends that Sara use the STAR method when describing her previous jobs. State the situation/task (the reason the project is needed), the actions taken and the results achieved, including dollar amounts and percentages where possible. Ms. Cowan also spotted an additional role through Sara’s LinkedIn profile — a DJ collective which she founded — that Sara should add to her resume.
Ms. Cowan believes Sara’s communications background could be a good fit for work at a marketing agency. “She already has skills in promotions, relationship building and collaboration to truly excel here,” Ms. Cowan writes. If Sara were to pivot to another industry, Ms. Cowan recommends looking at educational institutions, science and tech companies as well as finance and insurance, where Sara already has prior experience. Otherwise, to help create new connections in marketing, Ms. Cowan suggests that Sara reach out to people that are currently in jobs or at companies that she might like to work in. “LinkedIn is an excellent research tool not only for job postings but to study those already in the field,” Ms. Cowan says. “She can discover common threads between roles in terms of training and experience.
WHAT THE INDUSTRY EXPERT SAYS
Mr. Lake says that Sara’s resume template is easy to read. But since she only has three years of full-time experience, Sara should condense her resume to one page. She can achieve this by eliminating irrelevant or outdated positions while also reducing the number of bullet points for job descriptions. There should be a maximum of five points for major roles and three to four for her summer jobs. Mr. Lake also recommends adding a LinkedIn URL under her contact section.
To qualify for PR roles in agencies like Punch Canada, Mr. Lake says that Sara may need to pursue additional education. “Graduates that have a bachelor’s degree and have then invested another year or two to get a public relations certificate go to the top of our list,” he explains. She should identify an area of PR to focus on, such as digital PR or corporate PR, to further hone in her studies and job search. Following graduation, Sara should expect to take on a paid internship at an agency of interest before seeking a more permanent role. In lieu of more education, Sara could also consider roles in experiential marketing managing small projects, which could better utilize her existing experience.
Once Sara has found agencies that she’s interested in, Mr. Lake suggests customizing her approach to each. “She should learn as much as she can about the agency’s clients and the work the agencies do for them,” Mr. Lake recommends. “She could then evaluate what value her skills and expertise can bring to those agencies. I am always impressed by applicants who have done their research before they come in for an interview.”
THE NEW RESUME
Based on Ms. Cowan and Mr. Lake’s feedback, Sara has overhauled her resume. She has revised her professional summary to include accomplishments, like how she grew a website’s following, by listing a percentage increase. Her work experiences have been refined to include positions that are relevant to music and communications, allowing her to reduce her resume to one page. She has also categorized job tasks under general headers and adopted the STAR method, adding numbers to quantify accomplishments where possible.
INTERESTED IN HAVING YOUR RESUME REVIEWED?
Email us with your resume at email@example.com and we’ll ask a career coach and an expert in your field to provide their feedback. Names and some details are changed to protect the privacy of the persons profiled. We’re especially interested in hearing from those who have had their employment impacted by COVID-19. On the flipside, if you’re a hiring manager interested in reaching out to the person profiled, we encourage you to contact us as well.
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