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Resume & Cover Letter Tips for Alt-Acs and Other Career Changers

This is part of my Transferable Skills Talk: An ongoing series in which we identify and discuss your transferable skills as an alt-ac. Today’s edition: how to talk about your current work AND how to talk about what you’d like to do in your resume and cover letter.

When you are trying for a career change, as an alt-ac does, one thing that can hold you back is how you describe what you do.

When you change careers, one thing you have to do is clearly connect the dots between what you do now and what you want to do. Let’s look at some strategies for rebranding your already awesome self so that you don’t leave hiring managers scratching their heads on why you’re interested or a good fit.

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How Long Does It Take Before You Hear Back from a Job Application?

Here’s a question from my inbox, and it’s one we can ALL relate to. “I applied for a job that closed last week. I’m eager to hear back from them. I know it’s probably too soon, but what is a ‘reasonable’ amount of time before I should expect to hear something? And when should I – and how do I – follow up with them?

Let me take you behind the scenes of what’s probably happening to get you a better idea of when you might hear from them.

I’m going to use my current employer as an example because it’s the process I know best. Here are the parameters to keep in mind.

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Make Your Resume Prove You Can Do the Job

When you sit down to apply for a job, you know you need a resume. And to make your application stand out, you have to tailor your resume to the job in front of you. But have you thought about what your resume is for?

The purpose of your resume is to show the employer that you can do the job well…because you’ve done it before.

You should tailor your master resume to the opening you have in front of you to make your application stand out. When you are doing this, this is your chance to make both major and minor edits to your resume to show you have done this kind of work before and to prove you’re capable of doing it at their level.

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A template for a tailored cover letter

Having a great cover letter isn’t nearly enough. As in “a” singular cover letter. In this job market you must tailor each and every cover letter and resume to the job you are applying for. 

When I was on the job market after grad school, there was an opening in my field, in an organization where I had volunteered for a semester. When I applied, I didn’t even get a first-round interview. Why? When I asked my intern supervisor for feedback, she said that in order to make it past the intial screening, I needed to “be sure to clearly and unequivocally address every single minimum and desired qualification.”

What she meant was that the hiring committee needed an apples-to-apples comparison. A way to use your application as a checklist against their job ad. That makes it easy for them to easily and quickly calculate how you stack up against each and every qualification they are screening for.

You Need Your Cover Letter to Cover your Bases

So here’s my step-by-step for you for a template today to help you avoid my mistake. 

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Go? Or No-Go?

When you find a job listing you’re interested in, what do you do? You scan the job ad, and if you’re me, you’re already envisioning how your life would be better if you had that job and subsequently making a checklist of the things you’ll need to address in your cover letter & resume. Sound familiar?

Especially when I see a job that is super tempting – maybe it’s the exact job title I’m looking for, or a group with whom I’ve been wanting to work or for work I think I’d be great at – it’s tempting, sometimes impossible, to not get ahead of ourselves. After all, you’ve already

  1. decided it’s time to find work,
  2. got your search query all built, and now
  3. found something very intriguing.

Here’s where I constantly have to remind myself to take a step back, take it down a notch.

There’s a step in between reading the job listing and jotting down what needs to go in your cover letter.

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