Decoding Job Description Jargon

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If you're looking for a job, you've probably noticed that certain phrases come up repeatedly in job descriptions. These qualities sound like good things, but it's often unclear what they actually mean, and how you can show that you are this thing. To start off the new year, we're decoding some job listing jargon, so you can apply knowing exactly what they're looking for.

"You are a self-starter."

This phrase is used so frequently, it was added to the dictionary. A self-starter is "a person who begins work or undertakes a project on his or her own initiative, without needing to be told or encouraged to do so." It means that you try to move things forward on your own, figuring out what to do next and anticipating needs. Employers love self-starters, because they require less oversight and hand-holding. Similar words in job descriptions include "proactive" or "hustler".

How to show that you're a self-starter
Build in examples of when you had to work without someone telling you what to do—whether it was a self-directed/proactive internship project or class assignment with little structure—into your resume. Or times when you took the initiative and created something that didn't exist, like a new student group or internal agency program.

Image from    micdotcom

Image from micdotcom

"You are nimble and adaptive."
This means that you're able to quickly adjust to new situations. In the fast-paced world of advertising and marketing where assignments and deadlines can change at the drop of a hat, employers are looking for people who can roll with the unknowns. This can also mean that you're able to shift your approach, voice, and working style to fit different types of clients, verticals, and team members. 

How to show that you're nimble and adaptive
If your resume has a lot of varied experiences or seems unfocused, you can make the case that you're able to adapt your skillset to meet the needs of different jobs/industries. Think of anecdotes where you needed to change your approach because of a sudden constraint (instead of letting it throw you). And lean into times when you've put yourself in new situations (ex. while traveling) and thrived.

"You are detail-oriented" or "Attention-to-detail"
Someone who is detail-oriented doesn't gloss over the small aspects of the larger project—s/he ensures that everything has been reviewed and accounted for. Attention-to-detail can seem like a minor thing, but it's often the difference between someone who's good at what they do and someone who's excellent at it. The most obvious example of attention-to-detail is typos/grammatical errors in emails. While it seems like nbd, a typo in an email to a client gives off a bad impression—if you're not thorough with an email, how can your client trust that you won't miss other details during the project?

How to show that you are detail-oriented
The most straightforward way to demonstrate this is to make sure your application materials are typo and grammatical error-free. From your very first email, to the navigation buttons on your portfolio site, make sure you're triple-checking everything. Additionally, think of past projects that had a lot of moving pieces that you had to keep track of. 

Image from    XO Necole

Image from XO Necole

"Excellent communication skills"
This one seems super obvious, but can be tricky to tangibly prove. Excellent communication skills means that you're able to convey information clearly, concisely, and convincingly in both written and verbal form. There's so much information-sharing that happens within companies to move projects along that employers can't afford to hire someone who isn't able to communicate their thoughts and ideas via email, in a presentation deck, or in a meeting.

How to show that you have excellent communication skills
Again, your application materials will speak volumes, from your outreach email, to your screening call or interview. Part of being an excellent communicator is understanding your audience (and how busy they are), so keep emails short and bullet important information so it's easier to read. If the employer asks for writing samples, choose ones that aren't long-winded (ex. just the summary of your thesis vs. the whole paper), and that show that you're able to distill a lot of information down to what's most important.

You got this,
Natalie