Best Careers for Teachers: Creating a Winning Resume and Cover Letter (page 4)
There is little doubt that a well done, professional resume or CV and cover letter are important. In most instances, they act as your first contact with an employer and provide your first impression. For that reason alone, you want to make sure that they are well done and represent you at your very best—as well as most hireable!
There are entire books out there that are about nothing other than how to write a great resume. Leafing through a few of them could be quite helpful, as well as searching online for examples. It is helpful to concentrate on resumes that are specifically written by people who are changing careers.
What Makes a Winning Cover Letter?
A cover letter is like a handshake: It says hello, this is who I am, and then briefly conveys a little about you. Just as you don't want your handshake to be weak or clammy, you don't want your cover letter to be unimpressive and forgettable. Cover letters are more powerful than most people may give them credit for. For many busy employers, it is easier to scan the resume quickly but read the cover letter from beginning to end because of its brevity. So make the most out of that single page.
- "Your letter should be not only fairly short, but also concise and pithy. Edit your letter mercilessly. Follow the journalist's credo: Write tight! Cut out all unnecessary words and jargon. Then go back and do it again."
— Katharine Hansen, PhD, author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates
Here are some of the best tips for creating a strong cover letter:
- "To Whom It May Concern" is not the way to start your letter. It is far better for you to address it to the person who will be doing the hiring. You may have to call ahead or do some research to locate the right name, but it is worth the effort.
- The shorter, the better. Make sure your cover letter is not more than one page long. Be precise, concise, and focused.
- Choose wisely what words (especially verbs) you use in your letter. You want specific words that clearly paint a portrait of who you are and what you are capable of. Take note—this is what you want to do on your resume, as well. So when you choose those words, pick the ones for the resume as well. Check out the list of power verbs. How many of them can you apply to things you have accomplished?
- Speak positively. End your letter on an up beat with something along the lines of, "I look forward to hearing from you" or "I hope that we can arrange an interview soon."
- Ask not what the employer can do for you. Demonstrate what you can do to help the company rather than what they could or should do for you.
- Maintain perfection to the greatest possible extent. There is absolutely no room in your letter for typos, misspellings, or incorrect grammar or punctuation. Have someone proofread it for you before you send it so you know it's completely error-free.
- Only originals, please. Never make a copy of your last cover letter and use it again. An original should be sent to each potential employer.
- Be as interesting as possible. A boring cover letter is certain to make the wrong impression, so do your best to make yours unique and interesting so the employers will remember it. Don't take this idea to mean, however, that you should use neon colored paper, an odd font, or smiley faces all over your letter and/or resume. Stay professional.
When you begin writing your cover letter and your resume, you need to target your transferable skills, the ones that can easily be applied to a field other than the field you are leaving. In other words, if you are leaving teaching for a separate field, then you need to summarize your skills in "non-teacherese." Some of the most important skills to highlight include:
- organizational skills
- entrepreneurial skills
- problem-solving skills
- critical thinking
- ability to learn new skills quickly
- ability to multitask
- ability to work under pressure
- ability to meet deadlines
- strong writing skills
- research skills
- ability to get along with a variety of people and cultures
Make a list of the things you have accomplished through your teaching career and then analyze how you can rephrase them to highlight the skills and abilities just listed.
Creating Your Resume
Once your cover letter is ready, it's time to turn to writing the resume itself. There is no blanket resume that will work for every person or every job, of course. Every resume has to be tailored to the specific job description, but here are some general guidelines to keep in mind.
A horrifying fact of job searching is that only one interview is granted for every 200 resumes received. In addition, the average employer only spends 10 to 20 seconds skimming the papers you probably spent hours—or days—putting together. A number of the experts in the field of job hunting encourage job seekers to consider their resume like an advertisement. You are trying to get an employer to "buy" or hire you.
If you start doing some research on how to write an excellent resume, you will quickly discover that everyone has his own take on it. Each advisor or consultant seems to have a great formula; then you get to the next one and it seems just as good. And in all honesty, they probably are all effective because there is no single right style.
Let's take a moment to focus on resumes specifically designed for people changing careers, since that is most likely what you need.
The way you organize your resume is primarily determined by whether you are transitioning to a similar career (classroom teaching to overseas teaching or tutoring) or to something quite different (classroom teaching to publishing). A minimal transition calls for a resume that focuses on your qualifications and certifications, while a bigger change calls for a resume that focuses on your skills while it downplays your work history.
Sample resume formats can be found all over the Internet and in a number of books. A good, basic pattern to use, however would look something like this.
Street Address City, State, Zip Telephone numbers (landline and cell) E-mail address
This is where you list what type of position you are hoping to achieve. Be specific and use strong verbs, as previously listed.
This is the place to list two to five of your very strongest skills.
This is where you list two to four achievements that you accomplished through work, hobbies, education or volunteer work. You might list any awards won and/ or civic/community leadership.
Which one of these you highlight depends on the job you are applying for and what area is strongest in your background. Important professional affiliations could go here as well.
If you are not sure you can create the best possible resume, you can always consider hiring a professional to do so for you.
"An investment in a professionally crafted resume can pay off big time. There's no shame in hiring a professional resume writer. You hire doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, and tax consultants when you lack the expertise in those areas, so why should resume-writing be different? Many employers and even more recruiters actually encourage the idea of professionally written resumes because hiring managers want to obtain your information in a reader-friendly form that clearly tells how you benefit the organization."
— Katharine Hansen, PhD, creative director of Quintessential Careers
Here are some other tips for you to keep in mind as you put together your resume:
- Don't put the word "resume" anywhere on it.
- The resume is about you, not about your past employment.
- Keep the job objective to six words or fewer.
- Do not include your personal information or interests.
- Do not include your ethnic or religious affiliations.
- Do not send or attach a photo of yourself unless the specific job application requests it.
- Avoid the use of any professional jargon or slang.
- Don't include "references upon request" or "available for interview" because they are both obvious.
- A real quote from a person's resume—who clearly did not get hired. "I got good communication skills and in my previous projects sometimes i handled the project alone. I got some idea in web server administration. I know cold fusion administration. Intrested to relocate anywhere in USA. Looking for a better position and i am available right now."
— Taken from http:// www.mekong.net/tech/resmhits.htm
Your resume is the toe that gets your foot in the door for a new job. It is a paper model of you and what you have been doing with your life for the past years. If the cover letter is a handshake, then the resume is a quick chat over a cup of coffee. Both of them are designed to secure you the more intense interaction of a face-to-face interview—and then, hopefully, a new job.
Further Resources to Investigate
Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches
- 1388 Brightwaters Boulevard NE
- St. Petersburg, FL 33704
Enelow, Wendy and Louise Kursmark. Expert Resumes for Career Changers, 3rd edition ( JIST Works, 2010).
Greene, Brenda. Get the Interview Every Time: Proven Resume and Cover Letter Strategies from Fortune 500 Hiring Professionals (Kaplan Publishing, 2008).
Levinson, Jay Conrad, et al. Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0: 1,001 Unconventional Tips, Tricks and Tactics for Landing Your Dream Job (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009).
Noble, David. Gallery of Best Cover Letters: Collection of Quality Cover Letters by Professional Resume Writers ( JIST Works, 2007). Yate, Martin. Knock 'em Dead Cover Letters (Adams Media, 2008).
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