CAREER GUIDE Friday, May 30, 2003, Chandigarh, India
  QUERY HOTLINE
Who is a web content developer?

The compelling covering letter
N
ow that you have worked for hours to create the perfect CV, your job is finally done. Right? Wrong. Actually, you are only half way through. What about the covering letter? How much time have you spent on drafting the document that gets noticed first? Chances are very little, say most HR experts we checked with.

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QUERY HOTLINE
Who is a web content developer?

Q I want to work as a web content developer. What are the skills required for this?

Harminder Singh

A A web content developer/creator prepares information, articles and features that go onto a website. Depending on the nature of the website or portal, specialist knowledge of a field/subject may be required, but the key skills needed are:

(1) an ability to write well as well as edit, re-write or polish contributions from other writers, and

(2) an ability to think of new and innovative features and "columns" for the website.

Thus, the essential skills required are writing, reporting and editing.

A content developer has to co-ordinate with the web designer and other members of the editorial team, meet people and keep up-to-date with relevant news and developments.

There is no tested specialist course for becoming a content developer. A graduate with a facility of fluent writing, and preferably with experience at the copydesk or reporting in any media. Thus, a course in journalism, mass communication, English, etc is a good bet. Specialist knowledge as of law or technology would be an asset if you are creating content for a legal or technical website. Familiarity with computer basics is mandatory.

DRDO

Q I have heard that the DRDO recruits scientists. I would be grateful if you could tell me something about this as I am keen to work in the area of defence.

Jaspal Singh

A The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) formulates and executes programmes of scientific research, design, development testing and evaluation of various systems, sub-systems, devices and products required for the countryís defence. The purpose being to create self-reliance in critical technologies that are relevant to the countryís national security which in turn, is closely linked with our national development

R&D covers a variety of disciplines such as aerospace & avionics, armament & explosives, combat vehicles, computer science & systems analysis, electronics, engineering life sciences, advanced materials, naval technology, rockets & missiles and satellite communications, etc.

The DRDO employs highly qualified and competent scientists and technologists who constitute the Group "A" (Class 1) Technical Service known as Defence Research & Development Service (DRDS). Scientist ĎBí is a gazetted post that carries a pay scale (Basic) Rs 8000-13,500.

Appropriately, the following professionals are recruited:

Engineers (electronics, communication, computer, aeronautical, civil, ocean, mechanical, metallurgy, electrical, instrumentation, material sc), naval architecture.

Scientists (mathematics, applied mathematics, statistics, physics, optics/opto-electronics, laser, biochemistry, biotechnology, chemistry, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, polymer sc/technology, electro-chemistry

The typical eligibility is Indian nationals with a first class engineering or MSc degree. Relevant work experience is required for posts in higher grades i.e., B, C, D, E, F, F, G.

Scientists are selected on the basis of the DRDO SET (the next one is on September 7, 2003).

Upon selection you will be trained at the DRDOís own institutions in Pune and Mussoorie as well as at prestigious academic institutions for acquiring higher qualifications. You may also be sent on foreign deputation for training/ presentation of papers and specific assignments.

For more details on how you can contribute to the nationís defence through R & D, log on to: www.drdo.org

IIT

Q Both , my wife and I, as well as several members of our extended family are IITians. However, our son, who is academically very bright, says he would rather go to a local engineering college so that he can continue to learn martial arts on the side. While all his friends are preparing for their entrance exams for the IIT and AIIMS, he spends hours building his body. We are very disturbed.

Sukhwinder Kaul

A There is absolutely no denying that the IITs are superb world-class institutions but frankly, I think the college sweepstakes are somewhat overrated. As a society, we have imbued college education and degrees with more symbolic meaning than they deserve.

Urban India is a status-conscious society. Everyone is obsessed with rank and reputation. The competition is not just among students. Itís equally among parents, who are grading each other on how well they have raised their kids. Everyone wants to have their sons and daughters flaunt "the best" academic pedigree. We have become so status driven, that anything other than the "accepted" options makes us uncomfortable.

But whatís best for your neighbour or nephew may not be the ideal choice for your son. The goal is to find the best fit between the criteria important to him and the opportunities available at a particular college.

If studying in a good local engineering college allows him to continue practising the martial arts, and if he is able to balance the two, whatís wrong with that? Iím sure youíll be proud of your budding Jackie Chan, when he brings in the laurels!

MLT

Q I have completed the MLT, but Iím not sure whether Iíve done the right thing. Nobody has heard of this profession. Have I made a mistake? What prospects do I have? Mehtab Bakshi

A Wait a minute. Sure not many know who or what MLTs are, but they save lives everyday by providing diagnosis for doctors.

True the docs get all the glory, but itís competent lab personnel who help them arrive at an accurate analysis of the patientís health (and prevent them from making stupid mistakes).

The field is an endlessly variable and ever growing/changing one with lots of diversity. Thereís new technology coming online all the time. But you have to find your niche. You can work in areas that are well automated or ones that are almost completely manual and highly dependent on tech experience and skill. You can work with patients or alone behind the scenes. If you do ever get bored, or feel stuck in a rut, learn a new area in the lab i.e. cytology, haematology.

Job recognition may be low, but for those who love it, job satisfaction is high.

Try to get your first job in a large recognised hospital. Having that on your resume will serve as a passport to better openings. As a BSc graduate, you have a fairly wide range of their options as well: you could start off as a research assistant in a university, government body, health authority or industry or as an analyst in food & beverage and pharmaceutical industries to maintain quality and consistency of the products.

You could even work as a medical or laboratory technician in hospitals and scientific institutions involved in conducting research and training.

If you are outgoing and have decent communication skills, you could join a reputed pharmaceutical firm as a medical representative. The work would entail marketing of pharmaceutical and healthcare products to medical and veterinary practitioners, retail pharmacists, hospitals and clinics

Wildlife and forest management and conservation is yet another area you could be looking at. This would involve conducting biological surveys and making recommendations on the management and protection of rare and endangered plants, animals and their habitats.

If you are adventurous, the Indian Forest Service could offer a rewarding career in the reserved forests and wildlife parks outdoors.

With some further training/ education you could even go on to specialise in the related fields of sericulture (rearing of silk worms), pissiculture (fish breeding), social forestry, animal husbandry or biotechnology after doing an additional course in these subjects.

After further studies you could work as a scientist in research-centric institutions like the Zoological Survey of India, the Indian Council for Forestry Research & Education, or the Wildlife Institute, Dehra Dun.

E-Commerce

Q I am working in the sales department of an MNC for the past five years. The money is good, but I am now fed up of pushing the same product line. I want to move into something more challenging. I am computer literate, widely travelled and possess good communication skills. Would a course in e-commerce help?

Satnam Singh

A A course in e-commerce may be useful, but it wonít catapult you immediately. What you need to do is to work on your resume, sort out your major areas of achievement and highlight them effectively.

Then you can prospect for suitable options either through a placement agency handling middle-level placements as well as directly. Use your network of contacts to locate suitable openings. Keep an eye on the various vacancy notifications as there are a lot of openings for experienced people with your skill-sets. By taking a proactive approach I am sure you will soon get onto the fast track. However, being in the fast lane carries its own set of pressures on time, energy and personal life, which you must be prepared for.x

Please send in your query preferably on a postcard along with your name, complete address and academic qualifications to: 
Editor, Query Hotline,
The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh-160020, or at careerguide@tribuneindia.com
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The compelling covering letter

Now that you have worked for hours to create the perfect CV, your job is finally done. Right?

Wrong. Actually, you are only half way through. What about the covering letter? How much time have you spent on drafting the document that gets noticed first?

Chances are very little, say most HR experts we checked with. Many of us mistakenly feel that cover letters are an optional exercise in the the job-seeking game.

Now what if I were to tell you that the covering letter carries as much weight as the CV? Which means that it deserves as much (if not more) care if you wish to make a stand-out impression the moment your envelope is slit open.

And, the higher you ascend the professional ladder, the more important the covering letter becomes for showcasing your prize skills and accomplishments. So treat this superlative marketing tool with the respect it deserves ó and see what it does to escort your meticulously-crafted CV.

So what is a covering letter?

It is simply a letter introducing you and your resume to the prospective employer. But do make sure it is drafted specifically to complement your resume. Your covering letter is a personalised statement of an essentially impersonal document. Smartly conceived, it sets the stage for distinguishing your resume as something special and worthy of note.

Never exceeding a page in length (it can be done), make sure it carries the appropriate date line, your name and contact numbers and address.

Paragraph #1 should powerfully highlight the reasons why you are right for the job you are applying for without wasting valuable space on stating the position you are applying for. That is obvious. Just quote the relevant reference. The key is to be concise yet thorough. Similarly, avoid run-on sentences, unnecessary semicolons and abbreviations and capitalisation of trade names, titles of departments, etc. Remember the reader is pressed for time and has to study your CV as well.

In the next two or three short paragraphs summarise in precis form, with bullets (avoid open ones) if you like, why you fit the requirements for the job.

Some important doís and doníts

One of the biggest mess-ups you can make is to address your letter to "Whomsoever it may concern". This is the surest way to ensure its summary relegation to the WPB! Employers are people and like to be addressed by name and designation. Addressing it merely to a position is one mortal sin to avoid.

Avoid cliches and drabness. Try to be original. Use simple, direct language (eschew superfluous obfuscation)!. Avoid talking about your personal life and feelings. Instead describe how the employer can benefit from the assets you offer.

Make sure itís neatly typed on good paper. Handwritten cover letters are a no-no. The second best thing to do is to make a clear statement of purpose in your opening line itself. This should be followed by your plus points - qualifications that directly relate to those sought by the prospective employer. "They are motherís milk to an opening statement on cover letter," says Joyce Kennedy, Americaís nationally syndicated career columnist and author of several cutting-edge career books. She goes on to suggest the following "power phrasesí to make your opening lines sizzle with a direct approach and a strong sell that emphasises belief in yourself and your strengths:

* I am particularly well-qualified for your position and would enjoy the opportunity to meet you to explore how I can add value to your organisation.

* I was excited to read of your opening for (job opening title) in the (name of publication) on (date). Although we do not share any personal acquaintances, you will see from my enclosed resume that we do share many professional interests and goals, such as (mutual goals). Wanting a more personal introduction, I take the liberty of writing to you directly.

* (So-and-so) thought my resume measures such achievement that he assured me he would pass it on to you; in the event it hasnít yet reached you, hereís a copy.

* For your convenience, I will keep this letter especially brief. The job youíre trying to fill has my name on it, thanks to my qualifications in (skills) and (experience).

* Your position for (job title) strongly appeals to me, because. . .

A great covering letter is

* intriguing enough to stop a busy and/or jaded HR person in his tracks.

* Electrifying enough to short-circuit the competition.

"Call me for a chat", "Call me for a chat" says a smart covering letter.

So just go ahead and let your next covering letter fetch you an interview call.

ó PervinTop