The prospect of beginning a career can be daunting. It’s a long process and a key part of the life you’re building for yourself. Naturally, you want to make your career the best it can be, and getting it off the ground can be a crucial. There are so many elements to starting a career that it can be difficult to know what to focus on, or what might trip you up. Listed here to help you begin are a few key parts of your journey that, if done properly, can make the beginning of your career that much easier.

A Strong Resume

It may sound self-evident that having a good resume is a key part of finding the job you want, but strong resumes are rarer than you think. A good resume should contain your academic history, the highlights of your work history, your contact information, and any other special skills (volunteer experience, second languages, blogging, etc.) you might have that could be relevant to a potential job. All of this must be in an easy to read format, and, unless your field expects otherwise, should generally be no longer than one page. Resumes must be concise while also displaying all of your most impressive work, and it can be difficult to make it clear how qualified you are for a given job with such a limited amount of space to do it in. If you are looking for help and aren’t sure where to turn, there are plenty of resources available online to help you streamline and perfect your resume, including high-quality free resume templates and resume evaluation services.

 A Matching Cover Letter

A cover letter should never be a long-winded summary of your resume. Instead, it should complement it. Use this opportunity to expand on elements of your experience that you think a potential employer would want to know. If one of your past work experiences might seem irrelevant when described in brief but actually taught you everything you know about teamwork, mention it in your cover letter. This is also the place to let an employer know that you’ve done your research. Address qualifications they were looking for in their job placement ad, and make it clear you have a good understanding of what skills they are looking for, and you are confident that you have them. If you’re applying to many jobs at once, or have been looking for work over a long period of time, it can be tempting to copy and paste previous cover letters. If you really want the job, don’t do this. An employer will always be able to tell the difference between a generic cover letter and one that has been customized for their company–and the latter is much more impressive.

Embrace Networking

If you hate the idea of networking, you’re not alone. It can conjure an image of something insincere, where you only talk to people because you want something from them. You will have a much better experience if you look at it from a different light. Instead of going in to a social event or meeting thinking of what you might be able to get from someone, try focusing on what you could learn, or common interests you might find. It feels much more natural and enjoyable to go into an experience ready to learn and interact with another person than if you are constantly looking for an opening in the conversation to ask for something. It doesn’t matter if people don’t always have a great job lead to hand you–in reality, learning from people and having positive interactions with them, even if they aren’t work-related, is the real benefit of networking. This knowledge and these relationships can come in handy when you least expect it, and in all likelihood will help you much more down the road than a blunt “can you help me find a job?” ever could.

by: Dennis Hung