“What Should I Include in a Writing Sample?” + Other Career Questions Answered

As some of you know, I intern for a global PR agency, and this week we had a fantastic opportunity: Debbie Wong, a leadership development expert, taught a career development workshop in which she answered our toughest questions about the job search, networking, resumes, cover letters, writing samples, interviews, negotiations, and pretty much everything in between.

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 All of us who attended the session are graduating in May from either undergrad or grad school, so the tips were particularly focused on the means to the end: securing a job. But for those of you applying/interviewing for internships, or simply maintaining a strong network, Debbie’s advice is definitely universal.

It’s no secret that I love this stuff, so I wanted to pass along my key takeaways from Debbie’s workshop.

What is a corporate university and why should I care? 

A corporate university is a training program that a company sets in place to encourage constant learning and development for its employees. Corporate universities show that a company values its employees and also prioritizes continuing education, which is vital to any changing field. Debbie advises to ask about a company’s corporate university in your interview to get a sense of their values as an organization.

I’ve been to some networking events. How can I stay in contact with the people I met? How do I turn those contacts into job prospects?

Immediately after the event, email the people you met or connect with them on LinkedIn to follow up. Remind them of what you discussed. Set up alerts in your calendar every 6 months or so to remind yourself to reach out to your contacts who you haven’t spoken with in a while. When you come across relevant article, send them their way with a brief note – “Saw this and thought of you!” Ask to hear more about their job and the career path they took to get there, otherwise known as an informational interview. Let them know you’re interested in the industry and are actively seeking jobs, but don’t take advantage of their mentorship.

Any tips for creating a great resume?

  • Begin your bullet points with strong active verbs in the past tense like “developed,” “managed,” “designed,” “created,” “initiated,” etc. Speaking of bullet points, use them – not paragraphs.
  • Debbie recommends including a brief summary/objective line at the top of your resume, below your header, such as, “Seeking work in agency PR in the consumer/lifestyle industry, with 4 years of relevant experience”
  • Never just put “intern” as your title! Your title should describe your job function: “Public Relations Intern” or “Graphic Design Intern”
  • The order goes title, company, date
  • Your resume should convey that you are strategic, critical, a self-starter, & can follow orders
  • Your skills section doesn’t only need to include technical skills (like InDesign), it can/should also include strategic skills (like Leadership)

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What should I include in a writing sample?

When a company asks for a writing sample, include a variety of options that showcase the breadth and depth of your skill set. Anything that is visually appealing is a plus! A mix of academic + internship projects, press releases, pitch letters, flyer designs, etc. should serve you well.

How do I write a cover letter?

Don’t make it longer than a page. Write about your work experiences and how they translate to the job you’re applying for. Pick out key job responsibilities from the job listing and speak to them directly. End with a call to action – for example, “I would love the opportunity to discuss my qualifications with you. I can be reached at [xyz]. I look forward to hearing from you.”

What am I looking for in a job package besides salary?

A offer package consists of more than your salary (which is, of course, important). It also can include everything from benefits, to tuition reimbursements, to paid time off (PTO). And of course, it depends on what you value. Perhaps you’ll be willing to accept a salary that’s lower than your goal in exchange for tons of paid vacation days. Debbie noted that your priorities will change in your 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond, and what you negotiate for may change from job to job.

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 How do I negotiate my salary?

I actually found a great article about this via Levo League about salary negotiations that I recommend checking out. Additional advice: try to avoid writing a salary amount in your cover letter/application. If the interviewer offers an amount, don’t just accept it – this lowers your value. People will not always give you more; you need to ask for it!

 

“Career variety helps you in your learning agility” – Debbie Wong

 

Do you have any pressing questions about career development? Leave them in the comments!

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