To those who are young, fresh, and new to work life, welcome! To those who don’t see themselves as young and fresh exactly, but also new to work life, welcome! To those who have had your fair share of what work life is, feel free to fill up the remaining seats and snigger as the foolishly inexperienced discuss something completely foreign to them – entering work.
Before the show begins, a little introduction seems mandatory. As the only intern currently in the Leaderonomics’ writing team, I was allowed free reign to pick any topic to write on for our beloved website. Deciding to address something practical and related to what I am currently going through, I chose to write on my internship, thus starting this mini-series called Entering Work 101.
Before I go into my experience as an intern, an important process to address first would be: how did I get here? I finished my IGCSE exams in the middle of this year, and was advised by a friend to try out working before entering college. Despite knowing what an internship is, I was not entirely sure which companies were good to start with. Cut a long story short, I was told about a few suitable companies, applied for a position, and am currently here to write for you.
The Rehearsals: Applying for the job
If you have performed on stage before, you would be familiar with hours of hard work, practising for a performance that may last only a few hours at most. Isn’t it heartbreaking to never need to use the props again? You would also know that the amount of rehearsals you dedicate yourself to determine how well your final performance turns out to be.
Likewise, applying for your job is the key to your ‘big show’. Put the key in wrong, and you might never open the door. Moreover, it sets the pace of how your first couple of weeks at work will be like, as your employer will treat you based on their expectations set from your applications.
So, what applications do you have to prepare?
The top two forms that you should have ready would be your cover letter and CV (curriculum vitae). Although job applications usually only ask for a CV, a cover letter is expected as well, unless it is explicitly stated to not include one.
A cover letter is a one to two-page letter that explains why you are applying, and calls attention to a few of your experience and soft skills. This is a form of introduction of yourself to your potential employer, and is what will set their first impression of you, so take care to write an outstanding one!
As it would take one too many articles to go into details of how to properly prepare a cover letter, here are a few pointers:
- Format is crucial. Human resource (HR) managers may go through a number of CVs a day. In order to increase efficiency, they immediately discard those that have wrong or bad formatting, regardless of how good the applicant may be.
- Be concise. Nobody wants to spend ages poring over never-ending words that seem to be going around in circles.
- Be organised. Ensure all paragraphs have a main point, and that they are arranged in a smooth and logical order.
- Be the right amount of professional. The tone of your letter should be formal enough to show that you mean business, but also casual enough to show your own personality.
- Put everything in a positive light. Turn your bad experiences into something good by mentioning what you have learnt from them. However, don’t twist words to the point that you are dishonest.
The CV is commonly mistaken with a resume. While they essentially contain the same content, CVs are usually longer than resumes. So if you are requested to hand in a CV, make sure that it contains all the details of your education, work experience, awards and others.
As cover letters are best not generalised, CVs do not necessarily have to be modified according to the job that you are applying for. Just remember to update it whenever you participate in notable activities!
A few tips on writing your CV (here’s more!):
- Follow a template. This ensures that the information can be processed easily by the HR manager.
- Be interesting. Don’t be afraid to mention skills and interests that may not be your run-of-the-mill ones. This puts the spotlight on you!
- Include references. Although I personally forgot to include this in my CV, it’s something that will definitely be helpful as it shows recognition of your abilities from someone apart from yourself. If you do not have past employers, asking your teacher for a reference is fine as well.
If you’re still young and don’t have much to fill into your CV, don’t fret! You can write a resume instead. Filling up resumes or CVs can be fun, and there’s no harm in starting early, even if you don’t have a job to apply for. Try out various tools such as a free resume scanner to optimise your resume for specific roles that might interest you.
I understand that I may seem like an unreliable source of advice as I don’t possess much experience under my metaphorical belt. So if you have any additional advice and opinions to share, feel free to do so in the comment section below. They will be warmly and very much excitedly welcomed.