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Résumés and portflios

How to put together a résumé or portfolio

A great résumé or CV (curriculum vitae) is essential to give you the edge and make you stand out from the rest, ultimately helping to secure that interview.

It's far more than a piece of paper that lists your job skills; it is a presentation of your professional identity. It not only summarises what you can do, but it establishes the beginning of your potential relationship with the company you are applying for.

When you're putting together a résumé, pay special attention to the job you're applying for. Research the company and make sure that your résumé and covering letter match up with what the company or role is asking for.


Layout

The first step in putting together a résumé is decide on the layout and the content. Some  of the essentials every résumé should have are:

  • Personal information: Name and contact details. You may not have to put a postal address on here as long as you have an email address.
  • Career objective: Sometimes called a mission statement, this is a short paragraph that says who you are and what kind of position you're looking for. Make it short and snappy and stand out: it could be the difference between someone reading on or going onto the next résumé.
  • Academic achievement: Your high school education and graduate awards received.
  • Work experience: You can list any jobs you've had but bear in mind that space will be limited, so try and keep the jobs relevant to the position you're applying for. There's nothing wrong with tweaking it to suit your potential employer, as long as you're truthful.
  • Other achievements and skills: Here you can mention any other opportunities you took at university, such as sports teams, societies, voluntary work or any other extra-curricular activities or achievements. If you speak another language, make sure you mention it
  • References: You should always check with any referees before you put their names on your résumé. If, for any particular reason you don't want your referees to be contacted before you're called for interview, it's acceptable in some countries to simply put 'Referees available on request'

Length and format

If you can, keep it to one page, as many employers don't read beyond that, but don't cut out valuable achievements just for the sake of brevity.

There's nothing wrong with using bullet points to list achievements or roles as long as the information is clear. Try not to use too many fonts (two at absolute maximum) and keep it to a font that's easy to read. Good ones would be Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma or Times New Roman.

If you're sending by email, it might be a good idea to send your résumé as a PDF so that any spelling or grammar red lines produced by the word processing software won't show up. If you're sending it through the post, use good quality white paper.


Before sending

1. Have you checked your spelling and grammar? Check it again. And again. And, that's right, one more time.
2. Have you asked anyone else to check it? Get two people to look it over.
3. Have you checked with your referees that they're happy to be contacted and give information about you? Check their favoured method of contact.
4. Is the information clear, concise and relevant? Get rid of any jargon or waffle.
5. Does your covering letter refer to your skills and past experiences in relation to the career opportunity being advertised?
6. Does your CV match the competencies required for the role?
7. Have you been 100% truthful, with no embellishments, fake achievements or invented experiences? Lies will be discovered.

If you've got seven yeses, you're ready.

What is a portfolio?

Simply stated, a portfolio is a visual representation of your résumé. A portfolio highlights your skills and abilities, and it documents your academic, employment, and extracurricular achievements.

Until recently, portfolios were primarily used only in creative professions and sectors.  However now they are now being used across all industries and can be used as a strong persuasive tool in the interview process.

Rather than simply telling an employer about your skills, you can visually demonstrate evidence to them providing a 'snapshot' of your achievements to date, the type of work you’ve done and hence the type of employee you will be.

It is important to make your portfolio visually appealing, well organised, concise and easy to read, while making it tailored to a specific role or position.

It might even be a good idea to get going on your portfolio when you start your degree. That way you can easily keep track of what you have achieved. It can also help you focus on your goals and how to attain them.


What to include in a portfolio

There are a variety of suitable items that may be included in your portfolio. However the contents should be relevant to your industry and role.

Example portfolio items include:

•    degree transcript
•    dissertation if relevant for position/ function
•    written references (academic or job-based)
•    examples of work (academic or job-based)
•    publications

It's also a good idea to have an electronic version. That way, you can send it to prospective employers via email to review at their leisure.



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