To create resumes and cover letters that serve your long-term career interests, your first step should be to carefully evaluate your career ambitions and qualifications. In the process, you clarify your professional goals for the short term (one to two years) and long term (five to ten years), identify the skills you have developed at school and work and sort out the attributes that define who you are as a professional. As with other business communications, you attempt to identify your most important and strongest features so you can develop a concise and compelling message about the value you bring to your prospective employers.
To help you identify your interests, abilities, and attributes, you might consider completing a self-inventory (see Figure 1 with an example of Haniz’s self-inventor: Start by writing your career goals. Even if you don’t yet have clear ones in mind, do your best to imagine the type of work you would like to be doing in five and ten years. Allow yourself enough time to do some soul-searching and research about career as you develop your goals.
Identifying your career goals helps you accomplish several things in the job search process. First, it helps you frame your resume and cover letter to project your career hopes. Second, it helps you evaluate how well your abilities and attributes prepare you for your desired career. This process allows you to address those areas where you most need improvement. Finally, it shows employers that you are serious, as well-defined career goals imply seriousness in your approach to work.