Stella as a resource

How to write a cover letter: A Guide

 A cover letter is usually a very excruciating process for many of us, however, it is also a crucial piece in all of our applications, be it for a job or a university application. This text presents a practical guide on how to write a cover letter with the aim to help the readers to easily conquer this at time tedious task. A cover letter is usually a one-page document which should highlight or emphasize the most relevant skills one possesses, exceptional experiences and achievements that are relevant to the job or university application. It is very important to personalise your cover letter and be as sincere as possible, as generic cover letters rarely grab the attention of the selection committee. A cover letter is equally important to a CV as it gives the selection committee a glimpse into the motivations and expectations behind the person they are hiring or the student they are accepting in their university. So what are the elements of a cover letter? First, you need to show your motivation and reasons for applying, secondly you need to show knowledge of the organisation or university and why you have chosen precisely that institution and lastly you need to show why you are the best person for that job or university through your achievements, experience and qualifications. Always take care that you present these three points in a structured manner, but be creative when writing about yourself. A very good trick is including some facts or interesting features of the place you are applying, because the institution will appreciate your knowledge about their history and work. In your qualifications, achievements and experience it is important to include your academic background, extra-curricular activities, volunteering experience and work positions. It is important to show your progress through years, as in this way you show to the selection committee that you have a vision, you’re motivated and able to adapt to different circumstances. Your cover letter should not be longer than one page (unless specified differently by the institution you are applying to), in this way showing the institution you are applying for that you can be concise and clear if necessary. Your name and personal information such as your number, email and address should be at the top, right-hand corner, while in word your cover letter should be around 500 words or four paragraphs (unless specified differently by the institution you apply). As you can see there is not much space for long sentences, so aim to be as short, clear and concise as you can, with logical sentences and a natural flow.

Always keep the language personal, but formal; research thoroughly the organisation or study programme you are applying to, remember to be positive and use action words, instead of passive language, avoid repeating yourself, end your cover letter on a positive note. It is also crucial to have someone check your cover letter before sending, so ask a friend, a teacher, a colleague or a mentor. This way you will get great insight from someone that is not involved in the process as much as you and can give you recommendations from a distance.

Always address the letter, depending on where you are applying. If there is a clear person on the job call, you should address the letter to that person starting with “Dear”, otherwise if there is no person stated in the call you can say “To whom it may concern.” For universities, you can write “To the selection committee” or again “To whom it may concern”, however, always remember to sign off your cover letter with “Yours sincerely.” Avoid using bullet points in a cover letter, however, it is good to have a structured paragraph that clearly shows your intent.

To sum up, beyond the technicalities, in your first paragraph state clearly where you are applying to and how did you find out about the organization or study programme. In the second paragraph emphasize your education process and achievements, relevant work experience and activities that have helped shape you as the best candidate for the spot you are applying to. In the last paragraph write concisely why you chose to apply for that job or university degree, show your interest and knowledge about the position or programme, and avoid generalisation. This paragraph is supposed to show you motivation for applying and why you are the best candidate. And lastly, do not forget to sign off your letter with “Your sincerely.” 

Despite this guide, please always check the requirements of the institution you are applying for. It is not unusual for institutions to have their own guidelines, moreover, while for job applications the cover letters are required to be short, it often happens that universities require longer cover letters reaching 1000 words. However, the same rules apply, be concise, clear and personal.

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Few tricks for preparing for an (online) interview

Online interviews are not something new for the people who have applied for international masters or international employment, however in the spirit of the new Covid-19 influenced normality, the online interviews have become a replacement for ‘’real ones’’ due to safety reasons.  We offer you a few tips on how to use online interviews in your advantage. 

First and foremost, treat this as a regular interview, while the new reality might influence how we react to things and our perceptions, this interview is probably a great opportunity which needs to be taken with seriousness. After the initial shock and excitement, here are some main steps you need to take:

  • Send a response and say thank you for the opportunity. Maybe this goes without saying, but always send an email that you have received the invitation, or you have received their email with specification about the online interview. 
  • By now you are probably more familiar with the position for which you are applying or the master program, however, make sure that you are aware of each of the requirements, tasks, responsibilities, and expectations. 
  • Dress as you are going to an interview, keep it formal.
  • Make sure that the background of your surrounding is not too distracting and place the camera on a frontal angle. 
  • Make sure that your internet connection is working, but also prepare your phone if necessary, to jump in with your personal hotspot.
  • Prepare your questions, this is always appreciated and your interest can be seen as an advantage. 
  • Practice your interview and do a test of the technology before starting. 
  • Be yourself.

Moreover, if you have any more questions on how you can ace your online interview, feel free to ask guidance and support by seeking mentorship through Stella womentors. 

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How to stay organized with help of technology

Being organized is a necessary skill for any kind of work-related improvement or academic environment, yet everyone fails at it sometimes. Some people are lucky enough to have developed their organizational skills as a habit, while for the others, there is still hope. There are so many online tools nowadays, our job is only to find and utilize them. 

During our brainstorming stages, while studying for exams or preparing applications for work or a masters degree, we tend to have too many things on our mind. However, managing our tasks, action items for the day, or for a week can be done in a different yet useful manner.  While some of the suggestions below are used by Stella members to organize their goals and research, some of the online tools and applications are suggested by popular demand. 

Here are a few tools which we have selected: 

Some people prefer using notebooks or planners, but for those who want to go digital, there is the good old Excel Microsoft. Regardless of being considered as the thing people lie often that they’re good at on their resume, Excel can be and should be used efficiently as a tool which can help you track your progress. Some of the interesting ways it can be used include: 

  • Organize data in an easy-to-navigate way
  • Do basic and complex mathematical functions so you do not have to
  • Turn piles of data into helpful graphics and charts
  • Analyze data and make forecasting predictions
  • Create, build, and edit pixelated images (yes, creatives use it, too!)
  • Goal setting and planning process involves white paper, time, and the immense pressure of calculations, but with the use of MS Excel, this process can become more efficient, quick, easy and environmentally friendly.
  • Career Development revolves around career management. The tasks such as learning management, time management, work and life management, and goal-focused habits are very important and can be effectively practised on MS excel.

TRELLO 

For personal use, you should take advantage of Trello’s free trial.

Trello has earned a strong reputation as a tool teams can use to manage shared projects. In fact, it works just as well for individuals and families, because part of Trello’s appeal is its flexibility which you can adapt it for a variety of purposes.

This service offers mobile and web apps, and both work the same way: You create a variety of digital “cards” and arrange them in columns. Each card might represent a household chore, an item on your to-do list or a looming calendar event. The columns can represent categories of tasks, priority levels, specific dates, or any other factor you might use to arrange your cards.

You can invite teams to work with and use the calendar feature. It is a great way to make sure you’re getting things done.

For example, Stella’s team members are using Trello, or as we call it, Stello, for organizing project-related tasks, keeping track of the progress of the mentoring process, and brainstorming for future ideas. 

EverNote

EverNote is a note-taking app which keeps track of to-do lists, lengthy research, web clippings, photos and drawings, and pretty much anything else. You can also save it on all of your devices (like Google Calendar, Google Drive or Dropbox), allows collaboration both in-app and web browser form, and presents all of your data in one easy-to-navigate digital workspace so is easy for task management. (Other good option: Slack). 

MIRO 

The online equivalent of an office whiteboard is MIRO and it is a great way for personal organization, if you are a visual person, meaning you prefer visualizing your goals and tasks. Simply sign up with your email address, and you can start inviting team members if necessary to collaborate right away.

Well if all of this does not help; you can always try freedom. https://freedom.to/, literally. As written on their website: If you need to focus on your work, break a habit, or simply improve your relationship with technology, by blocking distracting websites and apps, you’ll be more focused and productive. You will develop healthier, more intentional digital habits, that give you control over your time and attention.

We hope some of these suggestions will help, however, there is a chance online tools might overcomplicate your approach to organization, that is why it is important first to take time to set out your goals. That process can be done much better with the help of an actual personal connection which supports you in setting the goals and vision for the future. Organizational skills can definitely be developed through the mentorship process. Lastly, always remember, someone else was on the same spot as you, with the same insecurities about the future, so it is for the best to seek advice, and we have plenty of womentors which are more than glad to support you.

Sources: 

https://www.creativelive.com/blog/best-apps-organize-life/
https://www.popsci.com/apps-tools-for-organization/
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How to Write a Good CV

Your CV is your story. How you tell your story matters and it especially matters who your audience is. 

A common mistake we make is having the same CV for different job applications. Another thing we often get wrong is to list chronologically what we’ve done rather than focusing on what is most important to a particular employer or university in case you are looking to continue your education.

We also tend to write everything we have ever done – after all, we put time and effort into these activities and we want to acknowledge them. But your future employer only needs to know she has the ‘right’ person in front of them for the job; they are not interested in reading a report card of life activities for each candidate. 

Here are some quick tips of how to write a good CV:

  1. Keep it short: stick to 2 pages, write in a clear font and no smaller than 11 font-size.
  2. Read, re-read, read aloud: grammatical mistakes or odd sentences can happen to the best of us but it’s a guaranteed way of not getting the job. 
  3. Contact details: Make sure you have given correct contact details and provide a professional email address. For example, Tina_tigerlover_3#[email protected] is a no-go. Open a new email account if you have to. 
  4. Good match: You must show you are up for the job so select only achievements and activities that make you a good match to the profile the employer is seeking. If you only have modest previous experiences, you can include them by linking to how that background matters in the current job. For example, if you are applying for a project coordinator position but you have only a few previous jobs as shop assistant or event organiser, you can add a short description of your tasks and responsibilities such as how you can work under pressure, you are good with people skills and you can plan long-term. It is the qualities and experiences that will make you the right choice. 
  5. Don’t lie, don’t exaggerate: If you were not the top of your class, don’t say you were; if you only got a passing score, don’t say you were excellent, etc. When we really want a job we can get carried away with ‘polishing’ a few facts. But not only is this a mistake, it is fraud. You can and should focus on positive achievements, but stay true to what you have done. 

Writing a good CV is also about having support. Stella Mentors provide one-on-one support to girls and women seeking their next educational or career step. If you want to be a mentor or a mentee, simply sign up for free at Stella.mk 

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