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Job Tips for Recent College Graduates

by Meghann on January 19, 2011

By request I have a pretty lengthy, wordy post below, so I figured I would start you off with some delicious photos of food.

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Because, I don’t know about you, but I’m a better reader when my tummy is full and all other senses have been satisfied.

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It helps when the tummy is full of good food (like this roasted eggplant covered with marinara sauce and a slice of melted swiss cheese) and the photos make me want to lick the screen (totally subjective, of course). ๐Ÿ˜‰

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oh, and my sweet tooth has been satisfied. That helps too.

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Carbs for energy. No one likes a sleepy reader.

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Ready? Here you go!

So you want to work in marketing?

When I gave notice that I would be leaving my job earlier this month, my boss immediately began looking for my replacement. She posted the job, resumes began to pour in, and little by little I learned why I had been chosen for the job in the first place and why certain resumes and prospects weren’t making the cut. It was definitely a learning experience.

Because I’ve been receiving so many e-mails lately expressing interest in this process, I thought I would share some of those tips I picked up on.

These tips are mainly geared for recent college graduates looking for entry level positions in marketing, so please feel free to add your own tips for your own field in the comments. I’m curious to hear how job hunting is different in different fields. ๐Ÿ™‚

1. Internships: I can not express how important internships are for recent college grads!

When I was in college I got really lucky on this one. During my senior year one of my best friends started an internship in the advertising department of a local agency and suggested I apply for the open public relations internship at the same agency. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, so I applied on a whim and landed the job. I worked for absolutely nothing, but I learned a lot and loved every minute of it. After that internship I applied for a similar one at a different agency and finished my senior year there making $150 a month. i was a baller. Obviously. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Those two internships added just enough meat on my resume to land my first job in advertising out of college. A year later they were still strong enough to leave a big impression on my boss when I applied for my job in Orlando.

When my boss was reviewing resumes for my replacement she was looking for that same hands on experience, I had earned when I was in school. Hands on experience is priceless in recent college grads.

2. Resumes: Format is important here!

Resumes are generally the first thing prospective employers see, therefore it is very important they are formatted functionally enough to leave a good impression. I would suggest keeping it simple and staying away from graphics and colors. I know people go back and forth on putting photos on resumes, but honestly the couple I saw come through with photos while I was interviewing interns last year made me giggle and I found it hard to take them seriously.

3. Cover Letter: VERY IMPORTANT IN MARKETING

Obviously cover letters are not a requirement in every field, but in marketing (where creativity and writing skills are key) cover letters are your best opportunity to show future employers what you are made of. When we were reviewing resumes for my replacement, the ones with cover letters were the ones that inched their way to the top of the pile first. Good cover letters were the ones that wrote towards the job description and had a personal touch rather than a standard form letter (you can usually tell when it’s a form letter and when it’s not).

I know it’s a pain to write a personal letter for each job you apply for, but if it’s really the job you want then it should come easy to express why you would be good at that position.

4. Interviewing: The cover letter and resume are where you get their attention and the interviews are where you nail the job.

Biggest piece of advice I can give? Be yourself! Don’t be nervous and let your personality shine through. I would say the majority of the interview is based on personality and what kind of fit they see for you in the company.

Interviewers will try to throw random questions in like “recommend a book” or “what’s your favorite movie?” They’re trying to see how well you can think on your feet with those. Don’t over think those questions or try to come up with a title that you believe will make you look very smart. When I interviewed and my boss threw that question at me I admitted that I was currently reading The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (love those books) and would recommend the light reading for the kid in all of us. But I also told her my favorite author was Sophie Kinsella and everything she releases is a must read.

Also, be sure to interview for the job you are applying to, not the dream job you’ve created in your head. Stick to the job description (maybe even print it out so you can refer to it during the interview) and play on any strengths you have that will be associated with those points. However, if you are looking for a really creative job – and creativity is just one out of twenty bullet points for that job – don’t spend your entire time talking about your creative strengths. They’ll get that you’re creative, but they’ll fear you won’t be able to handle the other 19 tasks that come with the position.

Those are my tips.

Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll try to write a few more posts based around my answers. Finding a job out of school is tough, but if you’re driven and work hard nothing can stop you.

๐Ÿ™‚

1 Kate (What Kate is Cooking) January 19, 2011 at 1:47 pm

This is so informative! Thanks for this ๐Ÿ™‚

2 Ali @ Ali on the Run January 19, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Great tips. I do a lot of hiring at my job and it’s amazing what people submit. I would also emphasize how important it is to do your research. Know about the company, its business structure, and its general presence. The Internet makes that SO easy nowadays. Also, come prepared to the interview with educated questions that PROVE you’ve done your research.
Ali @ Ali on the Run recently posted..Iโ€™m Going Away More Often!

3 Kristy @ KristyRuns January 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Even though I’m a geologist, I actually do a lot of marketing for my company [technical skillz + being a people-person]. I found myself really enjoying it and wanting to do more of it. Thanks for your post! ๐Ÿ™‚

P.S. Lunch looks GREAT!
Kristy @ KristyRuns recently posted..Iโ€™m So Picky!

4 Allie (Live Laugh Eat) January 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for the tips, Meghann. I had NO idea people put photos of resumes…or even had color? What? It must have been interesting to be on the other side of the hiring process.
Allie (Live Laugh Eat) recently posted..The Secret Behind Peterโ€™s Stew

5 Hope January 19, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Great tips! I never knew that people put pictures on their resumes! I can imagine how interesting it is to see what it’s like being on the other side of the interview/hiring process.

Love your lunch! It looks so good!
Hope recently posted..A Late Start &amp A Chipped Toothโ€ฆ

6 Lauren January 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Nice post!

You are right about cover letters, they definitely are the biggest pain of applying for a job, but are so valuable.
Lauren recently posted..Black Bean- Corn- And Pineapple Enchiladas

7 Kelly January 19, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Great tips! Applying for a job is so frustrating and time consuming sometimes!
Kelly recently posted..Sunday Funday

8 Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday January 19, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I love questions like “recommend a book” or whatever because they are so easy to answer. I always wonder what the relevance of my answer is though.

I much prefer to answer those questions than technical questions regarding my knowledge about a specific topic or the “name a time when you. . .” questions that I always end up making up answers to.

9 Gill (snaxandthecity) January 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Great tips! I think a lot of the time, your cover letter is your only chance to really wow the company since often by the time you get the interview, the job is yours to lose.
Gill (snaxandthecity) recently posted..Flippinโ€™ Out

10 Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat January 19, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Hey Meghann! I think these are great tips. I work in marketing too and it’s so important to have a strong cover letter that sets you apart from the rest. I’ve read resumes of incoming interns and it never ceases to amaze me how many write things like “extremely detail oriented”, yet there are typos and grammar errors in their resumes. I totally agree with your interview tips too. In addition, I think it’s important to remember that you’re interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you. Great post!
Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat recently posted..Tasty Eats and Hot Beats

11 Katie G (http://justrollwithitblog.blogspot.com) January 19, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Great tips, Meghann! I also work in Marketing and agree with every tip you suggested. I’ve never heard of putting a picture on a resume before! A big thing for me is questions…ask lots of questions, ask about the postion/company, ask about the person hiring you and how they got into the position they are currently in (people love to talk about themselves, and you might find a connection which will make you more memorable!)
Katie G (http://justrollwithitblog.blogspot.com) recently posted..Buffalo Chicken Dip

12 Erin (Travel Eat Repeat) January 19, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Great tips. I always emphasize internships, too. You can have awesome grades but if you have no work experience, why should you get this job? Grades don’t count in the real world.
Erin (Travel Eat Repeat) recently posted..Chai- chai- pizza- pizza

13 Allison @ PickyEatingRD January 19, 2011 at 2:11 pm

These are great tips! I’d say the most important one you mentioned is internship experience. That def helped to get me where I am today. Working for free is no fun but it pays off in the long run!
Allison @ PickyEatingRD recently posted..Eeek Hollywood Youโ€™re Scaring Me!

14 Ashley January 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I’m still in college but this post is going to be a huge help in the future. I’m book marking it! Thanks for the tips
Ashley recently posted..Back and Forth

15 Katie @ Healthy Heddleston January 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I’ve never heard of putting a photo on a resume! I mean, I’m not going to do it, but I’d like to see an example lol.
Katie @ Healthy Heddleston recently posted..Alo Clothing Review and Giveaway

16 Shanna, like Banana January 19, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I also advocate going on interviews where you are maybe not 100% interested in the job just so you can practice your interviewing skills. This may be frowned upon, but if you are open with the company on your hesitancy and they still want to interview you..go for it and learn from it!

17 Mary Beth January 19, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I work in finance and would recommend two things for any career path:

1. Quantify your accomplishments on your resume. It’s easy to list your responsibilities… but what was the added value you brought? If you were in a student organization in school did you help raise money, increase membership? Same with internships or jobs.. did you save the company money or help make a process improvement? Implementing new tools like spreadsheets that measure results better, suggesting a better way to do something or problem solved somewhere that created a solution. Hey, you did it, write about it!

2. Check your online presence. I know it’s been said a lot but I occasionally google myself to see what’s out there. I’m also super viligant on Facebook. If you’re not my friend you don’t see any of my info, esp my pics. I don’t have anything to hide but I def don’t want this to somehow make or break a potential job.

18 Mary Beth January 19, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Sorry vigilant was typo’d baaaddd! ๐Ÿ™‚
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19 Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) January 19, 2011 at 2:55 pm

My husband has an advertising and marketing company that he’s had for 25 years. Over the past 12 we’ve been together, I’ve watched dozens of people come and go…probably more like hundreds ๐Ÿ™‚

Congrats on landing your job! and thanks for all your tips! I think they are applicable to any profession, really. And also I think networking is HUGE….who you know can be more important that what you know, at least for me this seems to matter, big time! ๐Ÿ™‚
Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) recently posted..New Astrological Sign- Full Moon Effects

20 Shannon @ Freshman Yr of Life January 19, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Good tips! As a recent college grad who’s in her 5th month of her first job, the “being yourself” on the interview is the most important. There were jobs I went on interviews on that I knew I’d hate after 5 minutes of the interview. It’s one of those “when you know you know,” things in my opinion.
Shannon @ Freshman Yr of Life recently posted..Blah

21 Christin@purplebirdblog January 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Pictures on a resume?! Then again, I’ve had the same job for the last 7 1/2 years and just recently started updating my resume… I am out of the loop!
Christin@purplebirdblog recently posted..Not Mushy!

22 Kara January 19, 2011 at 3:14 pm

These are some great tips! I teach a seminar on resume writing and I could add so much:

1. No email address like “ditzyblonde87@gmail.com” or “chelseaxx69@yahoo.com” Just your name. That’s all.

2. No crazy fonts, no crazy colors. Your resume isn’t art

3. Spell check. For the love of all that’s good, spell check

4. Don’t list every job you’ve ever had. If you babysit when you were 12, it doesn’t belong on your resume.

5. Use a specific objective statement, don’t be lazy and use a general “I wish to obtain meaningful employment in my field of interest”

I’ve seen so many horrible resumes and so many great ones. It’s such a profession-specific thing, so I’m sure you know what makes a good marketing resume!
Kara recently posted..The forbidden dog toy

23 kristina January 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm

YOu know that food looks so yummy, but I have come to find out that I am hating eggplant. I can’t cook it and I haven’t been anywhere that makes it palatable. It tastes like rubbery mush. What am I doing wrong?

And because I keep forgetting to message you. Congratulations on taking a leap of faith on yourself, something we should all definitely do more often.

Wishing you nothing but success and happiness.
kristina recently posted..Delicious food thats fast

24 Alicia at Poise in Parma January 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I think your tips can be applied to any area of the job market. Cover letters are SO important. It took me years to get my husband to understand that.

Volunteering is a great way to also get experience if you can’t get an internship. Many non-profits especially need office workers to help with data entry, etc.
Alicia at Poise in Parma recently posted..GIVEAWAY- Chobani Greek Yogurt

25 Kiran January 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Ive been out of job scene for too long now! I am afraid I might flunk any interviews in the future ๐Ÿ˜€
Kiran recently posted..Celebration!

26 J January 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm

People put pictures on their resumes?! I had no idea. Glad to know that it’s not holding me back that I haven’t been doing that ๐Ÿ™‚
J recently posted..Another one bites the dust

27 Allie January 19, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Great lunch and great tips ๐Ÿ™‚ You are a marketing pro!
Allie recently posted..I have to admit

28 Heather @ Side of Sneakers January 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Great advice Meghann! I know when I was interviewing for jobs, the most helpful thing for me was thinking of any and all interview questions someone might ask, then coming up with answers. That way if I got nervous thinking on my feet, at least I had some ideas to fall back on. ๐Ÿ™‚

29 Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy January 19, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Great tip! I’m graduating in May and just landed an internship in entertainment journalism, specifically, fitness and health. I was told that I was chosen for the job because of my cover letter and my passion for health and wellness that I portrayed in my interview. I was a “last minute” interview, and my boss was originally planning on hiring someone else. So it’s true that something as simple as taking the time to write a cover letter that embraces your personality can really make a difference in the employer’s view of you!

30 Amanda @ Cakes and Ale January 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I would also say: “Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom!”

A lot of people graduate and think they are going to be managers or even analysts or coordinators right off the bat. It’s not realistic for most… most of us have to pay our dues! Look for a truly entry-level job at a company you love. I started off as a receptionist and worked my way up through 4 promotions to my current job as a sales manager. If you are talented and smart, people will recognize it and you’ll be able to work your way up the ladder.

31 Brooke January 19, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Great post! I think one of the greatest things you touched on is the sometimes random questions interviewers throw at you to keep you on your toes. One of these questions can oftentimes be about what you think your weakness is. Although this can be a tough question because you want to be honest without jeopardizing your chances at getting the job it also helps to remind you of what you can continue to work on. In past interviews I have said things like taking on too much at once, things that wouldn’t make the interviewer question your accountability or capabilities but that they can tell are honest and thought out. Thanks again for starting a great discussion!

32 Katy (The Singing Runner) January 19, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Thank you for this post! I am currently applying for internships in marketing, PR, and communications, and I’m REALLY nervous on how to make myself stand out. I am a Music Theatre major, but a Marketing MINOR so I’m afraid that I am at a disadvantage. But I know that I do NOT want to do music as a career anymore (it’s a little late for me to change my major since I’m only a few credits shy of earning the degree). I am planning on applying to many internships, and this helps a lot! Thank you so much! ๐Ÿ˜€
Katy (The Singing Runner) recently posted..Back to Reality and Looking to the Future

33 Kacy January 19, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Very great tips! I wish I would have interned more and worked less in college. I always had three jobs at once but they weren’t always very marketable skills.
Kacy recently posted..Surprise!

34 Lisa (bakebikeblog) January 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Great tips! I certainly think they can be applied in a lot of jobs too!
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35 Anne January 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Thanks for this post! I’m actually a junior in college who is a marketing major and I’ve been reading your blog for a long time but it was great reading something so applicable! Thanks for the tips!

36 Elizabeth@The Sweet Life January 19, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Great tips! Thanks for sharing your insights.
Elizabeth@The Sweet Life recently posted..Vegan Voyage

37 Fallon January 19, 2011 at 4:39 pm

I graduated with a degree in Marketing at UNLV summer of 2009. I couldn’t find nothing in my field and the summer of 2010 I landed a paid internship. I thought I finally made it, and then 2 weeks later I was released due to budget problems. So now here I am, still working in retail and struggling to find anything in my field. Your tips are helpful and promising. I’m going to remain being positive. I never written a cover letter before but I think that is something I’m going to do different next time I submit my application. Do you have any pointers when it comes to writing a cover letter?
Fallon recently posted..Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

38 Erica D @ Gratitouille January 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm

I love Sophie Kinsella!! Can You Keep a Secret is still one of my favorite books.
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39 andrea @ a cake for a wife. January 19, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Very good tips! I would add something slightly contradictory though — if you’re applying to work anywhere that’s unionized, you need to say exactly the right phrases in the interview and on your resume/cover letter. If there’s a union to report to, the hiring manager can’t just hire you because they liked your personality or got a good vibe from you. They need to be able to show exactly how you met the job qualifications — so if the job description says “excellent time management skills”, you have to actually try to work the phrase ‘excellent time management skills’ into your resume and interview, and even better, follow it up with an example. It is a weird feeling, you feel like you’re being quite uncreative and basically quoting back the job description to them, but sometimes that’s what they need you to do! The real tough part is letting some of your personality shine through while still making sure to hit all those key phrases.
andrea @ a cake for a wife. recently posted..sugar in my coffee- sugar in my tea

40 Carolina January 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Great tips! I’ve been working in Marketing for over 7 years & your tips are on point. Also want to mention to anyone in Orlando: I’m looking for a summer intern (spring one already started). Great company, great experience, great pay. Yes that’s right, paid. Hit me up if you want details!
Carolina recently posted..Oreo Truffles

41 Linda January 30, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Hi Carolina! I came across this blog to read about tips for recent college graduates. I’ve graduated this past December with a degree in Marketing and unfortunately I have no internship experience. It would be great if you could tell me a more about this summer intern position. Thanks!

42 Carolina January 31, 2011 at 8:14 am

Hi Linda. I’m looking for an intern to help in our consumer marketing department, pitching in with marketing communications, traditional media, social media & online marketing to name a few. Email me if you want more details: carolcastaneda37@gmail.com
Carolina recently posted..Theme Park Running Tour

43 Ray January 19, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Love the tips!
Question, what did you major in in college?

44 Meghann January 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Humanities with an emphasis in communications

45 Rachel January 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm

I think these are great tips for any profession. I’m definitely bookmarking this post!
Rachel recently posted..And weโ€™re off!

46 Caroline January 19, 2011 at 6:17 pm

My advice is to have someone proofread your work. When cover letters, resumes, samples, and online profiles have mistakes we dismiss the application altogether.

47 Emma January 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Extremely interesting post! I agree with people who say you have to start at the bottom out of college. I graduated three years ago and got a part time job at my company. It sucked for the first year – I was poor, I was bored when I wasn’t working, and I felt like a failure for not working FT. But I got promoted to FT and then got promoted again, and I’m now making double what I was hired in at. I’m now so glad I sucked it up for a year. ๐Ÿ™‚

The other thing I wanted to recommend to anyone who maybe doesn’t have a TON of experience, but has a lot of skills they’ve gained from various organizations/volunteer work/ internships – try a functional resume! A functional resume groups your experience by category rather than by “job.” I applied to a bunch of jobs with a regular old resume and someone pointed out to me that it looked like I job-hopped. Not the case at all! I just had a ton of different internship and volunteer experiences throughout college, and the skills weren’t coming through – just the amount of “jobs.” I separated them into sections like administrative, marketing, event coordination, etc and listed all the experience I had with these various things. Outside the box but it worked for me.

Good luck to all the recent and soon-t0-be college grads. It’s scary but it gets better! ๐Ÿ™‚

48 Taylor (Delish World) January 19, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Thanks for this post! I recently got my MBA in Marketing and I like learning new tricks of the trade. If you could ever share more, please do. Also, I would be intersted in hearing how you are planning on marketing yourself/new ventures now that you are self employed.

49 CampingGirl January 19, 2011 at 7:41 pm

I totally agree with your list. My volunteer experience helped me get into teachers college and into the profession following college. It is so important.
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50 Casey January 19, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Very timely and appropriate as I am nearing the end of my stay in college and I’m trying to get into advertising. Thanks for the Advice Megan!!

51 Lee January 19, 2011 at 10:13 pm

I think the internship is super important. It’s the way around the recent college grad question of how do I experience if a job won’t hire someone with no experience.

I was an intern for a summer at an ad agency before getting my first job as a graphic designer at a newspaper.
Lee recently posted..Dinner with Husbands

52 RunningOnCoffee January 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm

My understanding was that pictures on resumes is more common in Canada and other countries than the US. I don’t know if I have anything new, but I will reiterate some previous tips–

-HS experiences on your resume for a job while in college is ok, but after you’ve graduated college or grad school, it should really only be relevant professional experience from college on. No one cares anymore that you were in the national honor society or student council president.
-If you’re still in college, start thinking about what kinds of volunteer experiences, jobs, or internships will make you more attractive for the job you will be looking for, and make them happen! Don’t wait til senior year.
-Spell check, proof-read, and have friends, professors, supervisors, mentors, etc. proof read your resume. Even better if you can find someone who actually hires people in that field to look over your resume for feedback.
-Use a consistent format throughout your resume. Stick with the same bullets/indentation/whatever throughout the entire document.
-Take any interview you are offered! Who knows how many interviews will lead to job offers, and even if it’s not your top choice, it can still be good practice. Also, accept that you may not get an offer for your number one preference straight out of school.
-A couple months before you apply, ask for people who know your work well to write letters of recommendation for you. Remember to thank them! Follow up with them after you land a job, and thank them again!
-Do research on the organization where you are interviewing so you can ask informed questions. You may want to wait on doing research until you get the call for an interview.
-In an interview, it’s ok to admit you don’t know the answer to a question! (but admit that maybe that’s something you’d like to learn more about) It’s also ok to pause and take a couple moments to compose your thoughts before responding to a question.
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53 Michelle January 20, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I’ve done a lot of hiring in my field and it is SCARY how many awful cover letters/resumes I’ve seen. The sad part is that writing and communicating effectively is a LARGE part of my job. What does that say if you can’t do that on a resume? I’ve also seen people share WAY too much information. I didn’t need to know that your hobby is skydiving, that you ride a motorcyle, or that you love animals.

I too got my first job through an internship and while it wasn’t the best job (it had very little to do with what I REALLY wanted to do), it got my foot in the door.

I’ve worked with a lot of recent college graduates and one thing that suprises me most is how much they expect from their first job. One job does not define your career anymore. Take what you can from it and then find greener pastures!
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54 Julianne January 20, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Great tips! A mentor in my field (PR) actually recommended to me that I get professional pics taken to add to my resume. I wonder if this will take off in the future? Until then, I’m holding off on the pics.

55 Tracy @ Commit To Fit January 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Thanks so much for this post! I am have switched full time careers from fitness to PR and have put out many, many resumes ๐Ÿ™‚ The one tip that I could give is to include your online identity (LinkedIn, Twitter, Blog). Most employers are going to do their homework and Google you, so I just give them all of the information upfront.
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