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How do I write a cover letter?

Once you’ve spent hours refining and proofreading your resume, writing a cover letter can seem like very challenging and time-consuming task.

But, it doesn’t need to be.  It’s important to remember that a cover letter is your first opportunity to build a relationship via a piece of paper (or email) with the person who’s doing the hiring, as described by Aimee Bateman, founder of Careercake.com. Therefore, a cover letter is just as important as your resume, as it allows you to shine some light on your professionalism and personality.

Check out some other tips for developing a stellar cover letter in Aimee’s video, below.

Do you agree with Aimee?  Do you have any other tips for writing a great cover letter?

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Lights, camera… action words

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How do I use verbs to make my resume more compelling?

It’s critical to use action words – or verbs – to bring your resume to life.  A potential employer probably already has an idea of what tasks you may have taken on in a previous role.  So, rather than just listing job duties, using concise and descriptive action words can help you highlight exactly what you did in a job, contributing to the results you (or, you and a team) achieved.  This is a great way to set your resume apart.

Check out how to let your experience shine with action words:

Before:  Listing job duties

  1. Conducted media calls
  2. Arranged media interviews with spokespeople
  3. Monitored for coverage and tracked media impressions

After:  Results-focused statement

  1. Fostered relationships with key media contacts and secured eight top-tier media interviews with company spokespeople; generated over 10 million media impressions, which surpassed the program goal by 2 million

Some examples of action words:

Want to demonstrate how you were analytical, organized or creative?  This list of verbs from the University of Toronto Career Centre can allow you to illustrate your experience and success in these and other skill categories.

Can you think of any other verbs that aren’t included in this list?

Do you have any other suggestions for using action words effectively?

Should I have a hardcopy or digital version of my portfolio?

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A professional portfolio helps to showcase your best work with a networking contact or potential employer. Whether you’re a communications specialist, writer, graphic designer or photographer, a portfolio allows you to demonstrate your expertise and skills with strategically selected work samples.

When I was a budding PR professional early in my career, I poured over my portfolio. I scrutinized and selected different examples of my work on many different types of projects, such as written news releases, social media projects and events to ensure my expertise and experience shined through. I combed through, scanned and formatted letters of reference and notes on my past performance to complement these samples with third-party references.

Then, I spent hours printing and compiling the work samples on high-quality paper, putting them all into a binder with customized tabs and plastic page covers. The finished product was in a large binder that weighed a ton and required constant maintenance to keep it relevant.

However, all this was before tablets were mainstream. A tablet with a nine-inch display is about the size of paper, but looks much more sophisticated.

The tablet has made the evolution from a hardcopy to a digital version of a portfolio possible. Thankfully, showcasing your work on a tablet can save a communications professional the trouble of printing materials and keeping up a binder. In an interview or meeting, using this technology in an innovative way by flipping through polished work samples can reflect positively on your professionalism, potentially having a positive impact on the image you put forward overall.

What are your thoughts on digital portfolios? Would you bring a digital version of a portfolio to an interview in other industries than the communications industry?