For our latest SLB blog, we interviewed Gabrielle Ferguson who works as the Global lead for diversity & inclusion, employee engagement and recognition at a customer data science company. She is also working as a career and life coach alongside her full-time job. We discussed her top tips for writing CVs, Cover Letters, making the most out of LinkedIn and finding your feet in the world of work.
Tell us a bit about yourself !
My name is Gabrielle Ferguson, I am currently working for a customer data science company as the Global lead for diversity & inclusion, employee engagement and recognition. Alongside my full-time job, I am also working as a career and life coach. When I graduated in 2012 it was a difficult time to be a graduate- I wanted to work in HR but found it difficult to find a job. Therefore, I decided to find an office job and try to get into HR through the experience and opportunities that came from these roles. I like the quote: ‘be stubborn about your goals but be flexible about your methods’. Keep your goal(s) in mind, but your route to that goal might look very different to what you imagined, stay open-minded!
What are your top 3 pieces of advice for writing/re-drafting a CV ?
- Make every word count - you need to be clear and concise. Realistically, the recruiter won’t spend a lot of time going through your CV, so you want this to capture their attention as quickly as possible, and make sure it is tailored to the role you are applying for.
- It needs to be evidence based - Demonstrate what you can do by providing clear, tangible evidence that backs up your descriptions of your achievements. Use data/feedback to show the impact of your contribution to the company e.g. 5,000 new followers in the space of 6 months.
- Presentation matters - first impressions really count, so you should make sure that your CV is formatted correctly and it flows well. Ensure that the font and font size you use for the headings and main body are consistent. Once you have written your first draft, it is worth looking at it from the point of view of the recruiter. Are you getting all of the points that you want to across in an effective way ?
The point of the CV is to showcase your experience and abilities so don’t hold back - demonstrate your achievements but make sure that it is clearly backed up with evidence!
What are your top 3 pieces of advice for writing a cover letter ?
All of the points mentioned above are relevant for your Cover Letter, in addition to those points I would say…
- Tailor your Cover Letter to the role - look carefully at the job description and try to match your experience to what the role is looking for, making clear to the recruiter that you have what they are looking for in a candidate.
- Demonstrate your research into the company - It is important to show that you have not only researched the role, but also the company and industry of the job you are applying for.
- Spark their interest - share more about you and your previous work experiences that make you the right candidate for the role. Why are you excited about this role? Share your ideas on what you could bring to the role and what you could accomplish!
Overall I would say that the CV is about demonstrating and the Cover Letter is the why !
Advice for making the most out of LinkedIn
- Fill out all of the sections on LinkedIn - the more detail you include the better ! You really want to give people an insight into you and your previous work experiences.
- Use LinkedIn to showcase your work - if you have a portfolio or website, make sure that there is a link to these pages on your LinkedIn profile so that future employers can see what you are capable of !
- Keep your profile up to date - make sure that all of your information from contact details to qualifications are up to date.
- Have a detailed bio/description - it is very important that you state who you are and what you do very clearly in your LinkedIn Bio. This will be one of the first aspects of your profile that employers will look at when they see your profile, so you want to leave them with a good first impression.
- Have a SEO strategy - having an effective search engine optimisation strategy can help boost your rankings in search engine results. The principle is the same when it comes to a LinkedIn search. Using hashtags and keywords in your profile is important because it could help boost your profile’s listing in search results.
- Make the most out of the key skills and tasks section - this is what employers use as criteria when searching for candidates. Make sure that you have filled this section out in as much detail as possible.
- Make sure that you are an active of LinkedIn - being active on LinkedIn could also help boost your profile’s visibility. Ensure that you like, comment and share posts regularly.
- Use testimonials - testimonials from people who you have worked with can be a great way to give future employers an insight into what you are like as an employee. Therefore, if you are still in contact with people who you have previously worked with- ask them to write a testimonial on your profile.
Advice for someone who is finding their feet and figuring out what they want to do in their career.
I always recommend starting by asking yourself these two questions: ‘what do I love to do and enjoy’ ? and ‘what am I good at? ’. Put these elements together like a Venn diagram and see what career options you come up with, get researching. Networking is also very important - reach out and talk to people. LinkedIn is very good for this, look at people’s profiles and make contact with them. People love to share their journey so contact them and ask as many questions as you can. When you reach out to people, make sure that the purpose of your contact is clear. For example, do you want CV/career advice or do you want more information about an open role? And of course, book in with a career coach who would be able to help you further.
Don’t forget that in this day and age there are jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago and this will continue in the future- so the right job for you might not exist yet !
Words of encouragement for someone who is going through a long and exhausting job search !
‘Be stubborn about your goals but be flexible about your methods’. There may not be one straight path to your career- but this is normal. Your first job after University/College may not be what you envisaged yourself doing but the networking and opportunities that you could get from that role may lead to you finding your ideal job. Be open to jobs that you may never have considered - you never know where they could lead you! Determination, perseverance and resilience are also very important! Demonstrating these skills to employers is a real strength because it shows that you are committed to achieving your goals and you can transfer these skills in future roles. I would also advise working just as hard on your profile and visibility, redraft your CV and make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Finally, be interactive on LinkedIn- get involved, comment, like and share articles.
What advice would you give to your younger/graduate self ?
- I would say remember to play the long game and don’t be in such a rush.
- Make sure that you make the most out of every opportunity from your roles before you move on. Maximise the opportunities learning and networking in every place that you are.
- Always ensure that you leave a good reputation behind you because as big as the world is- it’s really small too!
- Be specific about the industry that you want to work in. Consider how you want to work- there are some industries where you have to present (on site) and others that are more flexible and you can work remotely. Make sure that you consider these factors when choosing the industry that you want to work in.
Alongside her full time role Gabrielle Ferguson is also working as a career and life coach- take a look at the services that she offers on her website: https://www.gabriellefergusoncoaching.com/