The following was originally published on my site at: http://www.lukejduncan.com/2009/12/getting-that-first-job.php
Step 1: Yourself on Paper
This may be obvious, but you need to write a great resume and cover letter. This needs to be a long process, and in some cases it may even be a little painful. Like any important document, both of these need to be proofread by your most trusted advisers. For me, each version of my resume initially took two to three weeks of proof-reading before I finally had a framework that I was ready to use and easily modify.
I also like to write these types of things in waves. I'd write the first version, and the next day review it myself. With the second version I'd review it myself and then send it out to my first group of reviewers. These were my friendly career service councillors, friends, and family that had the best grammar and patience for my emails. At this stage, it's important to keep in mind your reviewers backgrounds. Some of them may be great at grammar but know nothing about your field. In my case, most of my friends that were reviewing had degrees in journalism and screen writing, but often misunderstood the technical parts of my resume. It's important to make sure you understand where their advice is coming from and in some cases know which parts to heed and which to ignore.
The next round of reviews came from professional relationships. Site's like LinkedIn help a lot for this kind of stuff. There were a handful of family friends and former colleagues who I knew had an industry perspective to bring to the documents. This is the part that can sometimes be painful. There may be things that you include that they think are completely irrelevant. It may seem odd, but at this point these documents start to feel very personal. For example, I had a few people suggest I take my Associate Degree off of my resume. It took some time, but I eventually understood exactly where they were coming from. In the end, I chose to keep this section. However, the criticism offered by my reviewers showed me how employers would read my resume and taught me how I wanted to sell myself to them. This sections inclusion was thought out and I knew exactly how I wanted to present the information in an interview situation. As always take this criticism for what it's intended, friendly advise that you sought out.