At January Jumpstart, several EMPs expressed the need for a workshop of sorts to help them with different aspects of their job hunt. In response, we started Hire Learning, a series of panel discussions focusing on helping EMPs find work in the field. This past Sunday, the Franklin Institute was host to the first of these discussions.
Philly EMP’s first Hire Learning panel fielded questions pertaining to resumes and cover letters. The panel included Shelley Langdale, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mary Trishman, Assistant Director of Development Operations and Research at The Franklin Institute, Beth Van Why, Project Manager in Exhibits at National Constitution Center, and Patrick Wittwer, Visitor Services Manager at Please Touch Museum. All four panel members brought significant hiring experience to the table and were able to share their expertise with the attendees.
Early in the discussion, the panelists stressed the importance of building and maintaining a strong network. The museum community in Philadelphia is a small world, everyone knows someone somewhere. By being proactive with your networking and following through with new connections, one increases their chances of having that connection pay off later on.
As it pertained to resumes and cover letters, two points were made very clear. First, your resume and cover letter should be crafted specifically for the position you are seeking. Generic resumes and fill-in-the-blank cover letters are easy to spot and often discarded. Second, you should always have at least one other person read your letter and resume prior to submitting them to the hiring manager. This helps eliminate errors and enables you to see how another person reacts to your resume.
Most panelists agreed that the best way to submit your application materials is to include your cover letter in the body of an email, with an attached PDF file of both your cover letter to accompany it. PDF files ensure that the layout you chose for your resume is the same layout that the hiring manager sees. Including the cover letter in the body of the email allows the hiring manager to learn something about you even if something were to go wrong with your attachment.
- Keep your language brief and direct on your resume. A resume is like a movie trailer, it should highlight your experience and skills. Details can be filled in with the cover letter and interview.
- Feel free to include a bit of personality. This can go at the end of your resume or in the cover letter. Panelists felt that showing a bit of your personal interests that relate to the culture of the organization could help you stand out in the field.
- Be certain that your resume is easy to read and that all of your contact information is clearly listed. A resume that is aesthetically pleasing is likely to get more time and attention than one that feels cramped or cluttered.
- Research the organization. Know the mission, values, and culture of the organization. Find out who you should address your cover letter to.
- Put together a portfolio. In your experience, there should be certain projects you are proud of. By putting these items together in a portfolio, you are able to provide hard evidence of the work you have done. This can be noted at the end of your resume: “Portfolio available upon request.”
- Keep a master resume with everything you’ve ever done, detailing all your responsibilities for each position. When creating a resume for a new job, select the most relevant positions and descriptions from this list. (When interviewing, you can even mention this more detailed resume and offer to provide it on request.)
- Refrain from coming off as too arrogant in your letter and resume. Stick to highlighting your skills and experience.
- Don’t be too generic, i.e. listing “Computers” or “Computer skills.” Be specific, i.e. “Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite, Raiser’s Edge, Photoshop”
- Avoid including anything beyond what the job posting asks for. Inability to follow instructions in a job posting is a good way to be removed from consideration.
- Don’t be too gimmicky. All four panelists agreed that special paper, images, colors, etc. just distract from the meat of the resume. Focus on selling your skills and expertise.
- Try not to go overboard with your prose. While resumes and cover letters are professional documents, they should still have your voice. That is not to say you should be casual, but keep it close to the way you would communicate in the interview and on the job.
Our next Hire Learning panel will come later in the year and will focus on interviewing. A panel discussion will be followed by opportunities to mock interview with hiring managers from a variety of local institutions. In the meantime, join us on Thursday, July 17 for our next EMP Happy Hour at Revolution House in Old City!