Every semester, the Writing Center, Speaking Center, and the Office of Career Planning collaborate on an event that prepares you for the wailing and gnashing of teeth of applying for jobs and graduate schools.  This semester we focused on five parts of preparing for the application process:  cover letters and resumes, interviews, E-Portfolios and blogs, reference letters, and personal statements.

Dr. Cozzens began by exploring the pieces of good personal statements.  She implored us to not start with a story from childhood, but to begin our statement and focus it on our accomplishments as adults.  She noted that effective personal statements explore an experience unique to the writer that makes them a good candidate for the program to which she is applying, including presenting at a conference, working at a job or internship, or another learning experience that led you to apply for graduate school in that particular field.

Next, Speaking Center tutors Mehwish Shaukat and Dru Clark discussed how to handle interviews.  They gave great tips on phone interviews, like using a landline phone or making sure your cell phone is charged up, making sure to be just as prepared for the interview, and speaking very clearly as it is harder to hear over the phone.  Mehwish recommended the STAR approach for handling interview questions, particularly ones about a moment of adversity that helped you grow.  Star consists of considering your Situation, thinking about the Task you performed, noting the Action you took that was successful, and finishing with the Result of the action you took.  Mehwish and Dru also mentioned that Speaking Center can help you by doing a mock interview during a tutoring session.

Ms. Neiner from Career Planning then offered helpful tips for writing resumes.  She explained that resumes that are easily scannable, with plain fonts like Times New Roman or Arial, are easier for employers to read. She also reminded us to change our email addresses like hotphoenixbabe2010@yahoo.com to our more respectable Agnes Scott email address.  Finally, she reminded us that visiting Career Planning or a Writing Center tutor can be incredibly helpful for getting all the ins and outs of resumes and cover letters just right.

Shannon Yarbrough, the Digital Design Fellow and Writing Center co-coordinator, discussed how useful E-Portfolios and blogs can be.  Encouraging us to reflect on our learning and academic careers, Shannon noted that blogging sites like Wordpress.com are free and can be elegantly designed.  Shannon is available for E-Portfolio appointments if you email her at her Agnes Scott email--sryarbrough.

Finally, Dr. Gail Bell reminded us of common courtesies that make for a good cover letter.  She recommends that you ask whomever you wish to write your recommendation letters well in advance, and also reminded us that writing a follow-up thank you letter is always well appreciated (elegant stationary is available in Career Planning just for this purpose).  Dr. Bell also encouraged us to provide our recommenders a small portfolio of work that will help your recommender jog his or her memory about what you have accomplished.

Handouts that are particularly useful for these topics include the following:  Writing the Graduate School Application Essay , Writing the Academic Statement of Purpose, Letters of Recommendation , Interviewing Tips, and Common Interviewing Questions.
Caro Simpkins is currently a senior at Agnes Scott College. She works as a tutor in the Center for Writing and Speaking, and hails from Nashville, Tennessee

Leave a Reply.