o Resume. I had an old resume I had used to apply to grad school and severely underestimated the time it took to add to it and spruce it up quite a bit. Once I had what I thought was the best resume ever, I had it looked over by close friends who promptly tore it to shreds. This was very hard for me and it took me awhile before I let anyone else look at it. Eventually I got my head around the fact that they were simply trying to help me make it the best possible and that it really was helpful to have several different sets of eyes on it.
Cover letter. I didn’t write one of these until I found a job I actually applied for. This was probably a mistake as my first one was absolutely atrocious. Needless to say I did not get invited for an interview with that one. If I had it to do over again, I would have written some practice ones for jobs I was just looking at for research. After the second cover letter, I started to get the hang of it. I began printing off the job description and writing down an example of something I had done that either fulfilled the requirements or demonstrated a similar skill set. This helped tremendously in figuring out where to start and what to highlight.
This phase of the process started in August of 2010 (I graduated in May 2011). It continued all the way through the fall semester. Some of my classmates waited to start this process in the Spring and for most of them, it worked out one way or another, but those of us who started in the Fall had an easier time exploring more possibilities and were more prepared to take any opportunities that crossed our paths. By Winter Break I felt ready to get out there and by the time the Spring semester started I was in the thick of a whole new phase of the search.