Why Every Application Should Come with a Reference Letter

A reference letter is a document typically written by a former employer, a co-worker (or someone who has worked with the applicant in a professional setting), an academic advisor or professor. The letter is written to communicate their experience with and assessment of the applicant?s skills and qualifications, and why they would be a great fit for whatever position they are trying to secure. In short, it is someone who can speak highly of your abilities and positively about their time with you.

The further you get into your career, the more valuable reference letters become. At the same time, the sooner you start acquiring and submitting them, the greater chance you will have at landing your dream job. Here is why every application should come with a reference letter, including learnerships.

Do I Need A Reference Letter?

Are reference letters a requirement when applying for a job? No, not always. Should you provide one anyway? Absolutely. You may not be asked for one, but they don?t hurt! Reference letters function as the icing on the cake. They can mean the difference between a yes and a no, and they can sway a maybe to a definitely. If your hiring manager is teetering on the fence between you and another applicant, the words of someone who has actually worked with you could result in a win.

These letters say what your resume and cover letter cannot. Moreover, they say what YOU cannot. You may have an impressive resume, you might have nailed your cover letter and perhaps you were the peanut butter to your interviewer?s jelly when you met for the first time, but a third party can bring an element to the table that none of those can. The word of a third party means a lot.

In some cases, your hiring manager could be replacing your referee, so of course they want to know the opinion of someone who has been there and knows what to expect. They may even opt to call them, in which case, you are being seriously considered.

Who Should I Ask For One?

Think of three people who could function as a reference for you. Is there a teacher that you are close with? A class that you excelled in? Have you held a job for a long time? Have you already worked a learnership? Who have you worked closely with that you can confidently ask to recommend you to another? Who would gladly work with you again? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself when thinking about who you would like to have as a reference. You want someone who is going to be honest and speak highly of you without you even having to tell them what their letter should say. Honesty goes a long way, especially when your interviewer may call them for additional information.

When considering your references, think about what characteristics each can address, and be careful to have some variety. Consider asking a former professor to speak for your academics, a co-worker to speak for your work ethic and personality, and a former employer or supervisor to speak for your overall skills, qualifications and in-house achievements. This will make for a well-rounded referral. If you have volunteered, community leaders would also suffice. Keep in mind that the higher the status, the more seriously he or she will be taken.

You may ask for a letter of recommendation before you even apply for a job. It doesn?t hurt to have it on-hand. However, knowing what type of role you are applying for would help them construct and tailor the letter to the position.

What Should It Say?

A reference letter may cover a variety of topics, including but not limited to:

  • Proof of previous employment
  • Responsibilities the employee upheld
  • The employee?s skills, qualifications, knowledge and abilities
  • Strong personality traits
  • How the employee behaves in a professional setting
  • Any achievements or successes made while employed
  • Any career growth experienced, and at what pace
  • If academic, how the student stood out from his or her peers
  • Outstanding academic achievements (dean?s list, class standing, etc.)

The letter should also include contact information and the best time to call, should the interviewer want to discuss you any further.

When Should I Offer It?

The best time to offer a reference letter is either with your resume and cover letter when you apply, or at your interview when you provide a hard copy of your resume. Ideally, the sooner, the better? because it could be what lands you the interview.

How Should I Prepare My Reference?

Interviewers don?t always call references; sometimes a letter is enough. However, your reference should always be prepared to receive a phone call within 24-48 hours of your interview, unless you are told otherwise (sometimes they need more time). After your reference has written your letter and it has landed in the hands of your interviewer, let them know where you stand in the interview process and what they can expect. This would be a good time to discuss key talking points, if any particular topic stood out in the interview. Remember, they are there to sell you as the company?s next best employee, so it?s OK to give them a little guidance based on the expectations in front of you. As long as they are honest.

Reference letters are a great vehicle for convincing a hiring manager that you would be a good choice. Job hunting is extremely competitive, so you need to bring as much to the table as you can! Having someone go to bat for you will help make your application stand out above the rest, and is far better than hoping that your words are enough to seal the deal.

The Big 4: Prioritizing Your Work During Your Learnership

Prioritizing your work as a learner can be a bit unnerving because you are new to the turf, you want to impress and you don?t want to make any mistakes that could jeopardize your managers? opinion of you. After all, this could be a future place of full-time employment. The game of prioritization can get even more challenging when you?re thrown in without much guidance in regard to what your seniors consider to be most important.

It is not uncommon for individuals working a learnership to find themselves in a pickle; they?ve got too much work, they don?t have enough work, more than one person is trying to utilize them, or the expectations of them are far higher than they should be because a manager has forgotten that they are simply a learner.

How are you supposed to know what to tackle first, and who are you to decide if Manager #1?s job is priority over Manager #2?s? How do you figure out what order to handle each of the 10 tasks your boss gave you for the day? How in the world are you supposed to get them all done in a timely and reasonable manner?

Have no fear! Follow these top 4 prioritization tips and you will pass your learnership experience with flying colors.

  1. ASK

This is perhaps the most obvious and effective way to know what work has priority. Simply ask. On top of functioning as your mentor and teacher, your manager still has a job to get done. It can be quite easy to treat your learner as an assistant of sorts, dumping pile after pile of work on their desk without giving it much thought! If you find yourself with a list of to-dos and don?t know where to begin, do not hesitate to get an answer from your manager.

For all you know, a task you were given a week ago is not as important as the task that just landed on your list today. You don?t want to be in a position where you continue to work on an old project, completely unaware that the new items need to be done by the end of the day. Knock on your manager?s door, present your list and ask him or her to tell you in what order you should address each item. They will appreciate that you sought clarity because at the end of the day if you don?t get the job done on time? theirs may not get done either.

You may also find yourself in a position where another senior member of your team asks you to do something for them, but it doesn?t fall under your job description and you?re already swamped with tasks. It is completely OK to go to your primary manager, present them with the situation and have them decide what to do about it. It is not out of your realm to put your foot down and communicate when you feel you are being used beyond what you signed up for. This is your learnership.

  1. KNOW YOUR DEADLINES

You may be given mundane assignments like filing those boxes of paperwork that have been sitting in the corner of your manager?s office for two months, and you may be given tasks that are crucial to the company?s growth and success. Whatever situation you find yourself in, it is important to understand your manager?s expectations. As mundane as that filing may seem, he or she may expect it to be done by the end of the week. They could need it done before giving you another task, they could be testing your efficiency, they could just be trying to keep you busy. No matter what it may be, you must know your deadlines.

  1. SCHEDULE YOUR TO-DOS

Now that you know your deadlines, grab your planner and create a schedule. Block off chunks of time for each task up until it is due so that each item receives the attention it needs. We have all fallen victim to the stress that is not knowing where to start. We have all stared blankly at our computer screens, knowing that there is a lot to do. We have all jumped sporadically from task to task, in a completely unorganized fashion. There are ways around this!

Figure out about how much time and effort each task requires and schedule them into your day. From 10-12 you will work on task #1, from 12:30-2:30 you will work on task #2, from 2:30-5 you will work on task #3. Treat each task like an appointment so you are not tempted to steal time from another. Bear in mind that it is more than OK to beat your deadlines, if you can properly fit it into your schedule.

  1. PLAN FOR TOMORROW

Before you close up shop at the end of the day, review your progress and plan for the next. Make a list of your projects and where you stand with each. You may find that you made a lot more progress on task #1 than you anticipated, so you can afford to give an extra half hour to task #2 tomorrow. If you can create your schedule the night before, you will spend less time trying to figure out what you need to work on in the morning, and will be able to get right into it. At the end of the day, planning will make you a more efficient worker.

Don?t get stressed out by a heavy workload. If you have a lot on your plate, you should take it as a compliment because it shows that the people and the company that you work for trust in your ability to handle the tasks.

 

Myths About Freshman Year – Part I

Freshman Year

University is a far cry from what most first-year students imagine. Before starting, their minds are often filled with stories and ?facts? that are simply not true, thus creating this mindset that may set them up for failure if they live by what they were told. In that, we decided to compile a list of myths for students heading into their first year, in hopes that they will see past the common misconceptions and dip into their arsenal of reality.

1.Skipping class is ok

We admit it. It can be totally tempting to skip class when there are 200-400 people in one lecture? especially when it?s a Gen Ed that has ?nothing to do? with your major. Who?s going to notice? Certainly not the professor. But would you be doing yourself a disservice by skipping? Absolutely.

It can be pretty easy to get away with missing some of those large lectures. Professors tend to post the class notes online, and there are hundreds of people who did go, who you could grab the notes from. But one skip will lead to another, and then another, and then another? and soon enough you?ll be hitting mid-terms and wishing you didn?t miss that one class that went over what would be on the exam.

University ain?t cheap. Don?t waste your money by spending a few extra hours in bed because you ?don?t feel like it.? Up and at ?em!

2.Taking a heavy course load early is a smart idea

If you?re motivated and feel you have the time, you may consider taking more than the average 4-5 classes a semester to lighten your load later, or even graduate early. Kudos to you for being ambitious, but this isn?t always the greatest idea. It?s quite simple? your GPA matters more than your workload. If you can?t handle a heavy workload, your grades will suffer and potential employers will take notice. Taking on more than you can reasonably manage will not impress anyone, and you?d only be hurting yourself.

Additionally, your first year of university is much more than the classes you take. Don?t bog yourself down with more than is necessary. Enjoy the experience and find balance.

3.You?re on your own

Sure, you may have left mommy and daddy and are living on your own for the first time, but you are not IN THIS alone. People often tell first years that they aren?t going to be hand-held through the experience so they?d better figure out how to work solo or they?re in for a rude awakening. Sure, the statement can be meant to put a spring in their step, but no student should go through university thinking they?re alone.

Yes, your professors won?t hold your hand ? if you skip class or miss homework, that?s on you ? and yes, this is a time when you need to be more independent because life after university requires it, but you will have resources if you are in a bind. If you are struggling with your coursework, there will be tutors and teacher?s assistants (TAs). If you are confused about what classes to take or what direction to go with your career, meet with an advisor to get counseling on your major and learnership options. If you are feeling stressed, there are counselors and student mentors for that. You are NOT in this alone.

4.You?re locked into your major

This is an extremely common misconception, bearing some of the most serious consequences. Some students go into university with their major declared while others choose to start off with some Gen Eds to figure out what they are interested in. This is fine. The problem arises when a student realizes that they aren?t as interested in the subject(s) they chose and worries that there is no getting out. That?s when the consequences come into play because there is no reason that you should feel stuck in something that you don?t want to be stuck in.

It is, of course, a bit of a challenge to reconvene and figure out what?s next because some curriculums are more rigorous than others, but there is always a way out. Students change majors all the time with the help of their advisors, and they don?t always have to spend additional time in school to make up for what is lost. If you do, it isn?t the end of the world. This is your life we?re talking about! Plus, future careers aren?t always directly related to what people studied in school.

5.The project and homework can wait

College work is on a different level than high school work. You can?t procrastinate the way you once did or you?ll pay for it later. As you will see on your syllabus, professors assign much larger batches of reading assignments, more essays, and frequent exams. It is not uncommon to see a 100+ reading due by the next class, followed by a 50-question exam on the material ? and then the same thing next week!

College homework is no joke, and you may wonder how in the world you can read so much content in such a short period. There is no other solution than to just make the time for it. You?ll retain the information much better than you will if you put it off until the last minute. Procrastination can be the bane of your college existence, and can truly take a toll on your grades. The further you let yourself slip, the more difficult it will be to find your way out. Keep up with your homework and projects so you aren?t scrambling to make up for it later!

Stay tuned for the next installment of freshman year myths!

25 Quick Tips For A Successful Learnership

Successful Learnership

Learnerships play an extremely important role in launching a professional career. Not only are they a preparatory tool, but they are also a means for networking. The job market is wildly competitive these days, making learnerships a necessity for any student hoping for employment after university.

There is so much that goes into a learnership and even more to get out of it. Make the best of your incredibly short but equally valuable time by following these quick tips for a successful learnership.

  1. First and foremost, set goals. Don?t start the job with unclear expectations. Determine what you want to get out of the learnership and how that fits into the scope of the position.
  2. Talk to your supervisor about your goals within the first week of your learnership, or before it starts if possible. The more you communicate your expectations (and vice versa), the better your experience will be.
  3. Do your research before starting. You may not be able to learn everything you need to know about the company online, but it?s a good place to start. Study the company website and any other materials made available to you so you aren?t diving in completely blind.
  4. Find out if college credit is offered. If you are not being paid, you might as well get the most you can out of it.
  5. Dress for success. This is a professional environment and you are being given a ?trial run? of sorts. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
  6. If your learnership is not Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM, consider securing more than one. Utilize your time to maximize your sources of knowledge.
  7. For a Successful Learnership you must be on time. Better yet, be early. Punctuality is an absolute must. Remind yourself that time is money, and your employer is essentially gifting you with theirs so that you can learn and grow.
  8. Put your phone away. The texts will still be there on your lunch break, and social media can wait.
  9. Take notes. There will be a lot of information coming at you from all directions and you will need to reference them at some point in time. It beats having to ask your supervisors to repeat themselves, and it looks good.
  10. Don?t tend to personal things on your work computer. Don?t get caught with Facebook open in a separate tab, don?t browse the internet, don?t do homework on work hours? don?t do anything but the job you signed up for.
  11. Ask questions. You?re there to learn, right? Your supervisor is there to teach and will expect questions. Clear up any points of confusion and feed your curiosity. This is your learnership, after all.
  12. Don?t rush home the moment the clock strikes 5 PM. Stay late when necessary. Your supervisor will notice your dedication to your work.
  13. Get to know your seniors. They sit where you want to sit, so ask about their daily tasks, where they?ve worked previously, what they did to get to where they are today, etc. People like to share their experiences and it will only help guide you toward where you want to be.
  14. Don?t limit yourself to your job description. If there are other things you want to learn (and you have time outside of your existing tasks), step outside the box and ask how you may get involved in certain projects or tasks of interest.
  15. Go above and beyond. Don?t just ?get the job done.? If you are assigned a task and can take it to the next level, do it. Your boss will appreciate that you were proactive.
  16. Be professional and polite. Shake hands when meeting someone new, learn proper phone etiquette, say ?please? and ?thank you? like your parents taught you, and maintain a positive and enthusiastic attitude.
  17. Beat your deadlines. Complete tasks before your boss need them to be done, opening doors for new projects. Just be sure to be efficient and thorough.
  18. Don?t ?check out,? so to speak, if you don?t end up enjoying the job as much as you?d hoped. The point of a learnership is to figure out where you want to be professionally, and people often find that what they thought they wanted isn?t of as much interest as they thought. If that?s the case, remember that it won?t last forever and that there are still skills to be learned.
  19. Be open to picking up skills that may have been off your radar. You never know how they will benefit you in the future, or how they will help shape your career path.
  20. Have frequent meetings with your supervisor to review your initial list of goals to be sure that you are staying on track, and to establish new goals if anything comes up along the way.
  21. Don?t be too clique-y. If there are other interns or you happen to bond with an employee, don?t spend too much time socializing and avoid gossip altogether.
  22. On the contrary, socialize in a manner that is professional. Networking is important throughout your entire career, but it is particularly vital when you are first starting out. Your connections could influence the direction you take more than you realize!
  23. Ask for feedback throughout the learnership and at the end. This will not only show that you are open to doing what you can to do the job right, but that you want to be the best professional you can be. Don?t turn away from constructive criticism because it?s better to address negatives early than to carry them throughout your career.
  24. When it is over, request a recommendation and make it known that you would like to keep in touch about future opportunities or potential referrals down the line.
  25. Say thank you. When all is said and done, lasting impressions mean everything. Write a thank-you note to your supervisor and anyone else that went out of their way to teach you throughout your learnership.

A Successful Learnership?comes with a wealth of lessons to be learned. Be sure to approach them with an open mind and to treat them like a real job!

Are You Using a Career Counselor? How To Best Utilize Your Career Counselor

Job hunting is hard, so get help when you can! The worst thing you can do for yourself if you are looking to get hired for a learnership is to under-utilize your resources? especially the free ones. A career counselor quite literally there to help you get a job.

Unsure of your career path? A counselor can guide you toward identifying the direction you want to go. Does your resume or cover letter need work? A counselor can edit, tweak, and help you make it the best it can be. Overwhelmed with your job hunt, or confused about where to look for openings? A counselor can help you find positions and advise you on how to approach the application and interview processes. They are professional job hunters, after all, who specialize in supporting young, soon-to-be professionals, so put them to work!

Where do I start?

Most high schools and universities have in-house counselors/advisors to work with students on this very task. If you are unsure of who your counselor is, go to the career center or your department?s administrative office and ask who you should speak to about learnership opportunities. In most cases, you will be required to set up an appointment (remember, you are one of many students looking for a job!) so that the counselor has time to pull up your records.

Now, it is OK to go in blind and confused, but it is not OK to go in expecting whomever you speak with to do all the work for you. Rather than showing up empty-handed and looking like a deer caught in headlights, do a small amount of preparation for your meeting so you can best utilize your time. You don?t want to waste yours OR theirs.

  1. Come up with a list of questions to ask your counselor.
  2. Have your most up-to-date resume on-hand, even if it is just a draft.
  3. If you are a high school student trying to determine your collegiate and professional path, be prepared to talk about what majors you would be interested in.
  4. If you are a university student trying to determine where to apply for a learnership, be prepared to talk about what you are currently studying, and if there are any specific things about your major that you are interested in pursuing further.
  5. If you have applied to any learnerships thus far, have a list of the companies and positions that are currently pending.
  6. Know what you want to accomplish in the meeting BEFORE you arrive.

What?s Next?

Your career counselor will likely throw you right into the driver?s seat so they can understand what you are hoping to get out of the meeting and their services. You will be asked about your goals, what type of career you picture yourself in, what you?re studying and how you want to apply your education to your work. This is to give the counselor the big picture so they can map out a plan that works best for you as an individual. But again, don?t expect to be hand-held. You need to make it clear what you need help with, specifically.

  1. Ask how your resume looks. Whether you bring your resume in its most current form or a draft that is an absolute disaster, you need to give your counselor SOMETHING to work with. You will likely be asked if all your experience and activities are included, and if not, what was excluded. Counselors have a way of fashioning a resume that includes the qualities that a prospective employer is looking for, and may be able to identify correlations that you had not. It?s a starting point because he or she can then see where you stand before going through job openings with a fine-tooth comb to present you with options. Once you narrow down a list of jobs you want to apply to, you can then work together to amp up and tailor your resume to your options.
  2. Ask how you should approach your job search. Every industry and position is different so finding and securing a learnership for one may require different strategies than another. For example, your counselor has had to help one student find a learnership in the accounting world and another find a learnership in the magazine journalism world ? two very different beasts. Discuss appropriate tactics based on your industry.
  3. Find out what type of material and other resources they have to offer. A counselor can provide you with lists of networking events, what learnership opportunities are currently available, companies that frequently hire in your industry of choice, and maybe even contacts that work at the very company you?re looking to apply to.
  4. Ask them for their opinion of your social media accounts. It isn?t a secret that an increasing amount of companies look to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to get insight that a candidate?s resume cannot offer. You could look really good on paper, but your professionalism and behavior as made evident by your social profiles could speak volumes to who you are as an individual. Ask your counselor to be honest about how you could be perceived by a hiring manager based on your accounts, and what you can do to improve them if necessary.
  5. Be open with your Career Counselor. If you are going to ask for help, you need to be open to critiques that may be tough to chew and advice that you may not want to hear. You may be challenged or pressed, but this is simply because they are trying to guide you toward the best possible end result.

Conclude your appointment by requesting a follow-up meeting with your Career Counselor. Time flies, especially when you are going to spend the initial part of your meeting discussing your goals. Job hunting is a process that requires many actions, and if you are going to seek help, you will need to revisit the conversation for progress reports and advice on next steps.

Remember, career counselors are there for free, so why wouldn?t you use them?

 

LinkedIn Profile Tips For Every Job Seeker

LinkedIn is an underutilized social platform that is first and foremost, a way to establish and maintain your professional network. You create a profile that basically serves as a publicized version of your resume, you connect with other professionals by adding one another as friends, and if you?re lucky, you stumble across opportunities to advance your career.

Career advancement you say? Why would it be underutilized if it can get me a job?

Good question. Many people don?t fully understand all this platform has to offer. The direct line of communication between job seekers and hiring managers, the endless supply of job postings, the insight into contacts that may be able to give you referrals? there are so many benefits! Companies use it as a way to find talent, making it a no-brainer for anyone looking to market their skills and get hired.

Every job seeker should have a LinkedIn profile, plain and simple. Every job seeker should have an up-to-date, eye-catching and detailed LinkedIn profile, plain? but not always so simple. Here are 11?tips for getting your profile noticed.

1. A picture is worth a thousand words

They say not to judge a book by its cover but the fact of the matter is that your profile picture WILL be looked at and WILL be judged. Consider it your first impression. Remember when we discussed how important it is to dress professionally for an interview or career fair? It?s also important to look professional in your photo, because well, it?s a professional network. No, that Facebook photo of you out partying will not be suitable here; a nice headshot in business-casual attire will work just fine.

2. Profile Tips About Your work experience

This is a given. Treat your profile like a glorified resume and include the companies you have worked for, what your title and responsibilities were, and how long you were there.

3. How can you be contacted?

You?re trying to get a job right? How are you supposed to get a job if hiring managers cannot reach you? Don?t depend on the LinkedIn messaging system. Prove you?re a real human by including your email address, your website (if you have one), your social media profiles and your phone number (if you?re comfortable sharing).

4. What are you good at and who knows it?

LinkedIn has a fantastic feature on which you can tag your skills and be endorsed by people who can back up your claims. Be careful here, though. It isn?t a good look to have your friends go in and endorse you for things that they haven?t personally experienced. How does your friend Becky know you have advanced Microsoft Excel skills when you?ve never done any work for her using that program? Stick to what is genuine, because you don?t want to over-sell on something that you may fall short on.

5. Create a custom URL

Get rid of the mile-long jumble of numbers and customize your profile link (ie. linkedin.com/yourname). This will look more professional and make it easier to share.

6. Write a summary that sells

Use this section to describe yourself in 3-5 paragraphs. This should be a brief but detailed overview of your qualifications, your work experience, your primary skills and any major accomplishments. This is a good place to incorporate any specific keywords associated with the job or industry you are interested in. As a learnership seeker, you may choose to write about school work that is relevant to your chosen career path.

7. Ask for recommendations

Don?t be shy. If you were heavily involved in a project or maintain a good relationship with a previous employer, ask if they wouldn?t mind writing you a recommendation on your LinkedIn profile. Recruiters like to know what you have to say for yourself, but positive words from people who have actually worked with you are a major selling point. The more specific and detailed your recommendation is, the better. It?s OK for you to ask them to highlight certain details or experiences to really help you send your goal message.

8. Honors and Awards

If you have done something that was worth an award, you surely want others to know about it. This can include being honored for your academics, such as being placed on the dean?s list at your university.

9. Show samples

If you have samples of work that is relevant to the type of job you are interested in, provide them! Writing, marketing materials, graphic design art, coding? there are so many ways you can show off your work, and get noticed. This will only help your credibility.

10. Include volunteer work and projects

If you?re passionate about a certain cause, talk about it! Especially if you have donated your time to an organization that you care about. Recruiters like to see that candidates are philanthropic because it shows that they can think beyond themselves. Volunteer experience is also often looked at as equal to work experience, so if your resume isn?t super long because you are looking for a learnership, you may still have a lot to write about.

11. Be social

After your profile is complete, join groups and be a part of the discussion. Find groups within the industry you are interested in because this will not only allow you to learn from others, but it will help get your name out there.

The more information you include on your profile, the more likely you will be found. LinkedIn actually has a meter that shows the percentage of your profile completion and gives recommendations on what to work on next. The higher that percentage, the better! If you look at your profile and it isn?t clear where you have worked, where you went to school, what type of skills you have, what organizations you have been involved in, and what others have to say about you? there?s work to be done!

Frequently Asked Interview Questions & How To Answer Them ? Part II

Interview

Welcome to the second installment of Frequently Asked Interview Questions and How To Answer Them. If you have not read Part I, please go back and review that article before moving on to this one.

As you now know, it is extremely important to go into an interview prepared. Having an idea of what questions will likely be thrown at you and knowing what you would say in response is the most effective way of presenting your best self. It?s totally normal to have nerves and to stumble over your words when you are trying to convince another person that they should hire you. What you don?t want is to stumble over a whole lot of gibberish. Preparation will feed your confidence, which will ultimately make for a much smoother conversation.

Here are 5 more of the most common learnership interview questions and how to answer them.

1. What do you know about this company?

This question goes hand-in-hand with ?Why are you interested in this learnership?? but you may still hear both. One of the biggest mistakes prospective employees make is not doing their research about the company they are interviewing with. They get so caught up in how they are going to present themselves that they forget that the job is much bigger than them as an individual. Don?t be that person. Yes, you want to prove your value but keep in mind that you are trying to join a team ? you won?t be flying solo and it isn?t just about you.

That said, learning as much as you can about the company is just as important as brushing up your resume and getting referrals. Research indicates that you recognize and care about the company?s objective and that you didn?t just apply because you need a job. Take a look at their website, jot down keywords and phrases that speak to the company?s goals and explain how and why they fit into your learnership agenda.

2. How did you hear about this position?

This is a harmless question that may be asked out of sheer curiosity, or to determine which job opening promotion is working best. Regardless, you can answer it in a way that can benefit your interview. Whether you heard about it through a career advisor, in the newspaper, online, or through some other medium, make a point to share what details stood out to you and made you want to apply. If you heard from a person who has connections within the company, you should absolutely use that to your advantage by name dropping. However, if you name drop, be sure to explain what about the position is exciting to you so it doesn?t come off like you are just there because of your network.

3. What are your goals?

No, not ?to get this job.? Because this is a learnership interview and not a candidacy for a bigger, more-specific and permanent role within the company, it is OK to talk about your goals in the short- and long-term. Interviewers like to know that you have ideas and plans and that you are growth-oriented.

Short-term goal talking points: skills you hope to acquire, software/programs you want to learn how to use, department-specific tasks that you want to get involved in, etc.

Long-term goal talking points: the type of full-time position you hope to get after graduating university, your desire to work for a company [such as the one you are interviewing with] that is growing, level of schooling you want to achieve, certifications you want to earn, etc.

4. How would your previous employer and co-workers describe you?

They aren?t looking for you to list off a bunch of your strengths here; it?s more-so a way for them to gauge the way you respond. Will she be transparent? Will she be nervous? Will she take it as an opportunity to go overboard and talk herself up? You can be semi-generic here, discussing how you are deadline-driven, a good public speaker, helpful when your workload is light… you get the idea. Just be sure to back them up with examples. Or, you can get official and take the words of your boss from your most recent performance review. Remember, the hiring manager may call your previous employer(s) and referrals if they choose to move forward with you, so be truthful and keep it short!

5. What?s your greatest professional achievement?

The point here is to show the hiring manager that you have the skills, potential, and qualities that the company values. Choose an accomplishment that speaks to the role you are applying for or the objective of the company as a whole. Describe the task you were assigned, what actions you took to complete it, and what the impressive end result was. Did you find a way to save your company money? Did you complete a task in a fraction of the time that was expected? Were your outcomes far superior to previous years? Say so, and be sure to show that you are passionate about what you achieved!

Interview questions may be a bit of a challenge to answer if you are interviewing for your first learnership, so you may choose to counter with your greatest academic achievement.

Throughout your interview, remind yourself to focus on the company?s needs instead of your own. Work on tailoring your answers to the company while speaking highly of yourself! You are trying to sell yourself, but you want them to know that you care for the company?s initiatives and would be the perfect fit! Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Frequently Asked Questions and How To Answer them series!

Cover Letter 101: Here Are The Basics?

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a letter of application and introduction, typically sent alongside a resume. It is essentially an applicant?s chance to explain why he or she is the best candidate for a job in a way that a resume cannot. It is a condensed summary of your resume or CV, and a prequel to an interview.

Do I NEED a cover letter?

Cover letters are a topic of debate these days, in that some believe they are an antiquated part of the application process that is no longer necessary, while others insist that you must have one. We are here to insist that you must have one.

The cover letter is the first impression that trumps all first impressions because it can determine whether you move onto the next step of the vetting process. Recruiters will often use cover letters as a way of screening and weeding out applicants to determine who is worth inviting in for an interview. Recruiters know what they are looking for in an applicant, so if your cover letter is poorly written and lacks the selling points they need, or if you don?t have a cover letter at all, you?d be making their job much easier. No cover letter? next!

How should a cover letter be structured and styled?

A cover letter can be written in a variety of ways but most often follows this general structure:

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you writing?
  • What experience and skills do you have that are particularly relevant and useful to the role you are applying for?
  • What do you want from the person you?re writing to?

Once that basic structure is drafted, you can tweak and tailor it to the scope of the job and to who you are as a professional. Your cover letter should not be longer than one page, which is why it is truly an art. The further you get in life, the more experience you will have, and the more you will have to say in your cover letter. Regardless, you should not let your letter drag on to page two? so choose wisely!

Remember, hiring managers often receive hundreds of applications, all of which they must sift through to find the right candidate. While they don?t necessarily mean to overlook someone who just might be the right person, they are less likely to give you their time if you take too much of theirs. You?ve got about 10 seconds to capture your reader before they may decide to move on. If they look at your letter and see that it is too wordy and goes onto the next page, you may have lost them, ending up in the ?no? pile.

This may compel you to decrease your font size and adjust those margins to make space for your extra words? don?t! Keep your margins in place, use a standard font style such as Times New Roman or Calibri, and keep your font size between 10 and 12 points. Anything smaller than that will look inappropriate, and any unusual font will be difficult on the eyes. Less is more.

What to include in your cover letter?

How are you supposed to truly communicate why you deserve an interview when you are working with such a small amount of space? You only include the necessities?

  • Your name and contact information at the top of your letter.
  • The name and title of the person you are sending the letter to.
  • A brief introduction of yourself, why you are writing, and how you heard about the job.
  • Your experience, qualifications, and skills that are relevant to the job you are applying to.
  • An example of an accomplishment that would add great value to the job.
  • A reference to your included resume, and your desire to meet in person for an interview.

Cover letter don?ts

There are major dos and don?ts in the world of cover letter writing, but sometimes the don?ts are more important than the dos. Why? You don?t want to give them reasons to not want you. That said?

Don?t?

  • Ask what the job pays or mention what your salary requirements are. Money should only be discussed after you have had a round or two of interviews and you are in the negotiation phase. Asking off the bat is tacky, plain and simple.
  • Read samples of cover letters online and copy them because they sound good. Recruiters are fully aware of what a generic cover letter looks like. Avoid clich?s and stick to what?s true to you.
  • Dwell on every ounce of experience you have if it is not relevant to the job you are applying to. Hiring managers will be more impressed with what you can bring to the table than hearing about how many jobs you have worked, particularly when they have nothing to do with the one you want.
  • Give up all the details. Give the hiring manager something they can chew on, not chow on. Leave them wanting to know the rest of your story. A teaser, in a sense.
  • Be too dry and simple. You don?t want the hiring manager to get bored and move on before they?ve gotten to the bottom of the page.
  • Make your margins and font small just so you can fit more on the page.

It?s true, cover letters aren?t a walk in the park? but the more you practice, the better you will get! Stay tuned for a more in-depth overview of what SHOULD be included in your cover letter and how to communicate it, as well as a sample to get your wheels turning.

It?s Never Too Early: Why You Should Apply For Learnerships in High School

Each year, an increasing amount of high school students realize that applying for and working a learnership before attending university is a great way to get ahead of the game. Nothing trumps real-world experience, and you?re never too young to start if the right opportunity presents itself. While it may be a bit more challenging to land a job when you are younger than the average learnership-seeker, the benefits far outweigh any additional effort that had to be made.

  • Completing a learnership as a high school student can really give you the leg up when it comes time to apply for university. Universities receive thousands of applications each school year from prospective students, each with their own unique argument as to why they deserve a coveted place on the new class roster. Great grades, extra-curricular activities, honors, clubs, personal and academic achievements; when most contenders have a competitive application, how do admissions administrators decide who stays and who goes? They look for unique experiences and balance. A high school student who worked a learnership will stick out as a motivated individual who doesn?t shy away from a challenge.
  • Searching for jobs, updating your resume, writing a cover letter that sells, and interviewing are all tasks that you are going to have to endure throughout the duration of your professional life. Not on a regular basis, if you are lucky, but everyone must do it at some point. The earlier you learn how to do these things and the more you understand what employers are looking for, the bigger advantage you will have. Rather than trying to master the art of cover letter and resume writing in university (when it matters even more), why not nail it before you even get there? It can be an intimidating and stressful task, but the more practice you have, the easier it will be.
  • In high school, many students either have no idea what profession or area of study they are interested or, they are interested in so many things that they can?t make up their mind. This is normal and completely OK. You don?t HAVE to know that early. However, dipping your toes into different career pools will help define your interests so that you aren?t entering university completely blind. A high school learnership means identifying what area(s) may suit your long-term interests and goals, thus helping you choose a major and where to work next? without too much commitment. For example, you may decide to work as a general office learner at an event venue, only to find that you were really intrigued by the role of the marketing department. When it?s time to declare your major, you may join the business school with a concentration in marketing, and then apply for a marketing-focused learnership at another company in the future.
  • When you are mid-way through your higher education and ready to take on a learnership during your summer off or a light semester, you?ll be able to say that you?ve already completed one. As the job sphere grows increasingly competitive, you really must pull out all the stops. While the point of a learnership is to be taught, employers will be more drawn to someone that isn?t a ?start from scratch? project, if you will. Being able to apply the knowledge and skills you acquired while working your previous learnership(s) can only benefit them, and they know that.
  • As we repeatedly stress, networking is essential to all aspects of your professional life. Your high school learnership could be one of the first places you consider when applying for one of your learnerships on a collegiate level. Working for the same company is not unheard of; in fact, it stands out in a way that working for multiple companies cannot. Note that you don?t have to work in the same capacity ? you could work in an entirely different department. If a former employer is eager and willing to hire you for the second time, you did something right. It means that your first round was completed successfully and they are convinced that they can use you again. A re-hire on your resume will show future recruiters that you are a desirable candidate, and you have your network to thank for that.
  • Starting early leaves more time to fill up your resume. Apply For Learnerships and by the time you graduate from university, you could have two, three? even four learnerships under your belt because you were proactive and worked as early as you could. This makes for a glowing resume, sure to catch the eye of any employer when you are on the hunt for a full-time job post-graduation.
  • The more skills, the better. Gaining entry-level experience at an early age will make you a well-rounded employee and The time spent at your learnership will not only aid your professional life but your studies as well. You could become a better writer, which would help with school essays, projects, college applications, cover letters and more. You could learn how to write formulas in Microsoft Excel, which can help you perform complicated math problems, analyze data, and organize any type of information. Your public speaking skills could improve, which would help your class presentations, general conversations with teachers and other superiors, and even your valedictorian speech at graduation. The more real-world, professional experience we have, the more successful we will be in all aspects of life.

High school learnerships are a strategic way to prepare for college and career. Strengthen your college applications, gain and refine your skills, and be confident in your choices, because nothing bad can come out of starting early. Don?t be afraid that your lack of experience will work against you because everyone has to start somewhere!

Why Are Learnerships So Important?

Why Are Learnerships So Important?

Picture this: you have just graduated from university with a sky-high GPA, a long list of extra-curricular activities and honors, page after page of recommendations and accolades from esteemed professors and peers, and a cover letter that you are certain will blow away any prospective employer. But there is one major problem: you don?t have any experience.

Educators and recruiters are constantly told by students that they can?t get a job after graduating because employers say they aren?t experienced enough. The whole how can I have experience when I am literally just entering the working world argument is sung high and low by students who forgot and neglected to apply for learnerships before graduating. But guess what? Hundreds of other graduates applying for the same jobs as you did not forget.

?What? Who said anything about a learnership? I got an excellent (and expensive) education and learned everything I needed to know from my professors. Wasn?t that the point of going to university? Besides, when was I supposed to work a learnership? When I wasn?t in school, I was bussing tables to pay for my books. There wouldn?t have been any time for that. Why are they so important anyway??

Why Are Learnerships So Important?

Good question. Why are learnerships so important? Are they really worth working an entire summer or semester, likely without pay? Will a recruiter spend a little more time looking at your resume? Will it help you secure a job that you want over a job that you simply need to make a living?

The answer is, without question, YES.

There are so many reasons why learnerships are an important part of shaping your professional future. Here are 8 of them:

Your Cover Letter Isn?t Everything. People will argue that applicants who are fortunate enough to gain the attention of a major recruiter were likely able to because of a kick-ass cover letter. Yes, your cover letter helps shape your chances, but it primarily serves as a prologue to your resume. Not all jobs require that you be a good writer and recruiters recognize that. They are more concerned with what kind of experience you have.

Why Are Learnerships a Test-Run. Do you know how many people change their major mid-way through their education? THOUSANDS. It is incredibly common for someone to begin university declared as a psychology major, for example, only to realize that they are not a people person and would prefer a life working in finance. Opposite ends of the spectrum but it happens. Or, to a lesser extreme, maybe you are in magazine journalism but find that radio and TV is a better fit. A learnership is the perfect opportunity to give your intended career path a test-run, just to make sure that it is right for you. Wouldn?t it suck to go through your entire education only to find out that your time was not well-spent? Don?t get yourself stuck.

Networking Opportunities. The more exposure you have to people who have already gotten the job you want, the better. No further explanation needed here.

A Vehicle Toward Employment. Companies don?t only offer learnership opportunities out of the charitable goodness of their hearts. They get a lot out of it too; free (sometimes) help and a potential entry-level hire. It?s their way of getting a feel for who you are as a professional while training you to possibly work full-time for them in some capacity. This isn?t always the case, but a candidate with relevant experience is far more attractive than a candidate with no experience.

Coursework That Matters. As you?d hope and expect, learnerships help us understand the fields we work in. Dedicating a summer or semester to a job in your niche will help you choose which classes to enroll into better prepare yourself for your career. Universities have certain classes that are required by major, but the further you get into your education, the more you can tailor your schedule to your needs and interests. ?This will ultimately help you bring more to the table if you choose to do multiple learnerships (which you should).

Skills & Motivation. A successful learnership can be the ultimate motivation. It?s almost like the light at the end of the tunnel. You get a taste for what life will be like after graduating, assuming you end up applying to jobs in the same field as your learnership, which can be incredibly motivating. You?ll gain professional skills that you cannot get in a classroom, you?ll work hands-on with people who have been in your shoes and ?made it,? and even if you don?t realize it? you?ll approach the rest of your schooling with a fresh set of eyes and determination.

Less Time In A Classroom. Did we peak your interest there? You may be able to get college credit for your learnership. There are many universities that will grant you credit toward your degree if you work a qualifying learnership during your enrollment. Your student/career advisor should be able to provide you with information on your school?s policies and eligibility. Why not knock off a few credits by getting valuable, hands-on experience?

The Ultimate Resume Builder. Last, but certainly not least, your learnership will be the key line-item on your resume. Employers will note what school you attended and, perhaps, what clubs you were involved in? but the first thing they will want to know is where you have worked and if that experience is relevant and valuable to the job you are applying to. If your resume is filled with part-time jobs that have nothing to do with your career path, they?ll have a lot of questions. Why didn?t they work for a

Why didn?t they work for a learnership? Are they dedicated enough? Motivated enough? Do they really think they?re more qualified than the kid I just interviewed who worked three learnerships during university? GPA, cover letters, recommendations, achievements? they all DO matter. But at the end of the day, your recruiter is going to care less about your A in art history and more about your ability to gather data in an Excel sheet and write up a detailed analysis on short notice.

It may be difficult to find the time to squeeze a learnership into your already busy schedule, but it is so worth it and so necessary. You just have to tell yourself that it will function as your ticket into your dream job, and will be the difference between a paid-by-the-hour job and a concrete salary job. Now tweak that resume, customize your cover letter and start applying! You won?t regret it.