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Resume advice

​At its most basic, a resume is a guide to your professional skills. A resume can include other aspects of your life, but only if they show potential employers why they might like to have you around the office. For example, CPR training could come in handy, as could fluency in a foreign language.

Comprehensive knowledge of a specific topic (e.g., hip hop, dressage, beer, global politics) shows that you have a variety of interests in your life and reflects your ability to go deep on an issue.

But at the very least, a resume shows what you have done - mostly professional work, but for awhile you can include a non-journalism job, which assures an employer that you can hold down a job and that you don't steal petty cash - and what you're able to do, such as software, hardware and social media skills.

Advice differs on the following points, so check out the various web resources below to judge what's best for your situation:

  • Don't include that you're a good writer or a natural leader. Those are adjectives and adverbs, describing attributes. Use nouns, describing demonstrable abilities - then demonstrate them. You're a good leader? Then let the employer see that attribute in the collaborative projects you've brought to completion. You're a good writer? Then show the employer what you've written. You may have many admirable attributes, but employers have no reason to believe you, a person they most likely have never met. They have every reason to pay attention to the work you've done. Let the work speak for you.
  •  Include 2-3 references. Some advice sites counsel against putting references on a resume, but usually they refer to a career already in progress. If you're just starting out, why make it harder for a potential employer to learn more about you? Be sure you have the approval of those references to list their name, job position, email and work phone number on a resume that is sent to specific people. Do not put their name or contact information on a resume on the web.
  • Limit a journalism resume to one page. Yep, one page. That will change as your career grows, and you have more to say about yourself. Other academic disciplines may have other needs.
  • Target resumes for specific employers. You have a computer, so edit your resume so that it best reflects your ability to meet the needs of a specific job.
  • Designed or straightforward text? Depends on what you can do well and what the job is seeking. If you're good at design and can execute a concept that make sense for the job, then more power to you. If you aren't, then make your basic text as clean and readable as possible. Unless the job requires design skills. simple text will never come back to bite you.

Advice sites

NPR's 5 tips

Writing a successful resume

Writing a resume fresh out of college

Tips for creating a resume reel

CUNY tips for resumes and reels

How to write a resume
How recruiters judge journalism job resumes

10 ways to make your journalism job application better than everyone else's

The Guardian Jobs

Cover letter advice

​A cover letter does long distance what an in-person conversation does: It gives a  potential employer a chance to get to know you, beyond your skills and your portfolio.

An employer weighs a lot of variables when selecting a candidate, and included among them are intangibles:  "Will I like being around this person?" "Will other staffers like being around this person?" "Does this person have the sort of personality that will fit well with my organization?" "Could I have a conversation with this person for more than five minutes?"

Your cover letters should convey a sense of who you are as a person as well as a journalist. This is your chance to tell a story - an authentic story, of course - that sets you apart from the hordes of other applicants. Give the employer a reason to keep your application in the "possible" pile instead of the circular file, also known as the wastebasket.

Advice sites

I've read 500 cover letters for entry-level media jobs

CUNY tips for resumes and cover letters

Cover letters, resumes and portfolios

Writing a successful cover letter

The Guardian Jobs

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