To plan your resume and cover letter, you need to assess your field, your own strengths, and the needs of your prospective employers.  hat are the basic activities in this field? What skills do I need to perform them? What are the basic working conditions, salary ranges, and long range outlooks for the areas in which I am interested?

These answers will enable you to assess the various strengths of your own background and to discover how you may be useful to an employer. To find this information, talk to professionals, visit you college placement office, and use your library. To meet professionals, you can ask to interview them about their field. You can also attend career conferences, join a student chapter of a professional organization, or become a student member of an organization. Most professional organizations are happy to help student members find jobs. Your college’s placement service probably has much career and employer information available. Most placement services give advice on all kinds of topics – from whom to contact to what to wear to an interview.

In your library you can find books that describe career areas. Two helpful books the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and the Occupational Outlook (OOH), both issued by the Department of Labor. The of Occupational Titles presents brief but comprehensive discussions of positions in industry, listing the necessary job skills for these positions. You can use this information to judge the relevance of your own experience and course work when considering a specific job. Here, for instance, is the entry for manufacturing engineer: . 012.167-ENGINEER (profess. & kin.) Directs and coordinates manufacturing processes in industrial plant: Determines space requirements for various functions and plans or improves production methods including layout, production flow, tooling and production equipment, material, fabrication, assembly methods. and manpower requirements. Communicates with planning and design staffs concerning product design and tooling to assure efficient production methods. Estimates production times and determines  staffing for production schedules. Applies production schedules, and problems to facilitate decision-making .

The Occupational Outlook Handbook  essays on career areas. Besides summarizing necessary job skills, these essays contain information on salary ranges, working conditions, and employment outlook. This type of essay can help you in an interview. For instance, you may be asked, “What is your salary range?” or “What do you think you’re worth?” If you have the appropriate figures in your head, you can confidently name a range in line with industry standards.

Assess Your Strengths

After yop have analyzed the field, you need to analyze yourself. Review all your work experience – summer, part-time, internship, full-time –
your college courses, and your extracurricular activities to determine what might fill specific needs in your field. Take this analysis seriously. Spend time at it. Talk to other people about yourself. Make long lists. Put down every skill and strength you can think of; at this stage, don’t exclude any experiences because they seem trivial. Many applicants have essentially the same educational background so you must try t.-. think of qualifications that distinguish you from your competitors. Here are some questions to help you analyze yourself (based in part on Harcourt and Krizar 181):

1. What work experience have you had that relates to your field? What were job  What projects ware you involved in?
Machinery or evaluation procedures did you work with?

2. what special aptitudes and ‘skills  you have? Do you know advanced testing methods? Complicated software?

3. What special projects have you completed in your major field? List processes, machines, systems that you dealt with.

4. Whatt honors and awards have you received? Do you -have any special college achievements?

5. What is your grade point average?

6. Have you earned your college expenses? t

7. What was your minor? What sequence of useful courses have you, completed? A sequence of three or more courses in, for example, writing, psychology, or communication might have given you knowledge or skills that your competitors do not possess.

8. Arc you willing to relocate?

9. Arc you a member of a professional organization? Are you an officer? What projects have you participated in as a member?

10. Can you communicate in a second language? Many of today’s firms do business internationally. •

11. Do you have military experience? While in the military, did you attend J school that applies to your major field? If so, identify the school.

Assess the Needs of Employers

After deciding what skills to emphasize, you can promote them in such more effectively if you are aware of the market. You cannot use the “you” approach to its full potential unless you know how your skills might benefit each prospective employer. In addition, if you can show that you have taken the trouble to investigate a company, you distinguish yourself from your competition.

You can find out about firms from school placement offices (where company literature and the College Placement Annual are available), from professional journals, and from professors. Most libraries have collections of annual reports; reading them will give you information that you can apply to your job search. Books such as Dun’s Employment Opportunities Directory: the Career Guide list employers alphabetically, geographically, and by industry classification. This convenient book lists the name of the person to contact for employment information and gives an overview of the company as well as its career opportunities, training and development programs, locations, and benefits.