Regardless of whether you are looking for an entry level or senior position, there are probably some skills you feel less confident in, or want to sharpen and take to the next level. Given that the difference between jobs can easily be thousands of dollars a year, investing in some hours with a tutor is often a good deal.
A Tutor? For Professional Development?
Though many professionals work on upskilling with dedicated “career coaches” and other kinds of mentors, a tutor isn’t always at the front of everyone’s mind. Learning alongside a fellow professional with a personalized plan is an oft-overlooked option for brushing up your career skills. And while tutors are definitely a great option for academic subjects, that doesn’t mean their help is limited to academics or the skills themselves.
Besides having the help of an expert, everyone can benefit from having an external perspective. Plus, it’s nice to have someone working with you on what can be a lonely process of reading job postings, preparing resumes and cover letters, filling out applications, and sending follow-up emails.
When hiring any tutor, it’s helpful to specify up front what kind of help you’re asking for. Here are five ideas of the help to ask for, laid out in roughly the order you’d use them in a job hunt.
1. Making a Plan
Tutors with industry experience can help you get a clear sense of both the job market and the actual job, helping you plan out your interview prep or even your entire job search. This is particularly helpful if this you are looking for your first job out of high school or college, took some time out of the industry, or are switching careers.
However, even if you already work in that industry, a second or more experienced perspective can still be helpful. Career development tutors can help you make a plan in the context of your career as a whole.
If you’re looking for a tutor to help you make a plan, it’s also good to come up with some questions beforehand and share them with your tutor. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What are the expectations for this type of role?
- How can I stand out from the majority of people in this position or applying for it?
- Are there implied skills that you are either just expected to have?
- Are there skills that are highly useful but tend to be left off of job postings?
- What’s a sign a job could lead to other opportunities in the company or the field as a whole?
You could engage the tutor very early on in order to help plan your job search or you could wait until you have interviews lined up for it. It depends on your comfort level and expertise.
If you know what you’re looking for and feel confident finding job postings that are applicable to you, then you could save the tutoring for preparing for the actual interview.
2. Revising your Application Materials
It always helps to have a set of second eyes on important writing. Perhaps you already have a trusted friend, colleague, or family member who gives your resume a final once over.
You can take that to the next level with the experienced tutors in writing and editing, you can find someone to ensure your wording communicates your skills completely and efficiently—a must when applying for jobs with too many applications and too few people reading them.
Editors sometimes differentiate between different levels of review. There are developmental edits, in which an editor helps the writer develop the structure and flesh out the content. And there’s proofreading or line editing, where the editor checks for grammatical mistakes and suggests better wording. In between, there are more general-purpose edits that happen after the writer has several drafts but before the final wording is being hashed out.
You don’t have to use these terms but giving the tutor a sense of where your materials are at ensures you get the feedback you’re looking for.
Besides the level of editing you’re seeking, you should also think about what materials need editing. If your search is narrowly targeted and most of the requirements are similar, having a single version of the resume and cover letter may be enough. But if you are applying to several similar roles with different emphases, or perhaps casting a wide net and are looking for entirely different jobs, you need a version tailored to each.
3. Filling in Skill Gaps
Sometimes you’ll find the perfect job and then, as you skim across the “Desired Skills” in the description you find that one technology or skill you’ve been meaning to learn but just haven’t had the time for yet.
If you’re otherwise a great fit for the job, you can work with a tutor to fill in the gap.
Obviously, if a job requires real-world experience in that skill, you can’t always get that through working with a tutor alone. And if substantial knowledge or mastery is required, it would require a long-term commitment. Still, for a job post where you’re just missing a secondary skill, or even just want to brush up on a subject you haven’t used in awhile, you’ll be able to add one quickly with the help of a tutor.
Planning your first session
If you decide to go this route, consider planning the first lesson around assessing your skills and validating that you’ll be able to learn the skill in time. Your tutor can’t guarantee that you’ll achieve the right level in time, but they can likely give you a reasonable estimate giving the amount of effort you plan to put in daily or weekly.
Also, consider asking for online courses, learning materials, or other resources. Obviously, this is something you can find for yourself, but in a busy job search, not having to investigate multiple options and courses can be a valuable time saver. When you ask, it’s helpful to share how best you learn to inform their recommendations and to help them as they teach you.
4. One-on-One Coaching
If you have an existing skill that you want to level up or haven’t used in a while, you might want to hire a tutor to give you one-on-one coaching. Depending on the skill in question, you can bring sample work to your sessions for feedback, go over tips or best practices, or get a lesson in a related concept.
Besides giving you feedback, a tutor can also help by providing exercises, assignments, or projects to practice the skill. While you could probably come up with these yourself, asking a tutor for help might be a worthwhile way to save time while you search for jobs.
As you get coaching, you should not only get immediate feedback but also a sense of where you are relative to your goals (or perhaps your plan that you developed with the same tutor). This also gets you an objective perspective on your preparations.
For this purpose you probably don’t need to emphasize industry experience. It’s more important to have a tutor with experience in the particular skills who can give you good feedback.
5. Practice Interviews
Job interviews are a specialized communication situation, so it’s easy to get rusty, particularly if your job isn’t communication heavy. As more interviews move online, it’s especially useful to have dedicated practice in the new format.
Ideally, your tutor has both experience in your desired job and as an interviewer. This ensures they can work on both the content and presentation of your answers.
While having a more-or-less standard answer to common questions like, “What’s your biggest weakness?” isn’t a bad idea, keep in mind that you don’t want your answers to be overly stiff or memorized.
You also want to be flexible enough to answer other, related questions, like ‘What’s something you’ve worked on improving?’ It can be helpful to think in terms of key points or examples that you want to convey throughout the interview rather than memorized answers. Having concrete accomplishments that you can tie to outcomes are particularly good. It’s one thing to say that you are good at internal training, and another thing to say that your new curriculum meant employees spent 1,000 fewer hours in the classroom.
Consider doing the practice interviews as realistically as possible. That means
…dressing like you’re at the actual interview
…having the exact materials you plan to bring in front of you
…and using the same video conferencing software with your tutor the company you’re interviewing for does (so, if you’ve got a Zoom call scheduled, use Zoom for your practice interview)
In addition to making sure your practice is as helpful as possible, this also serves as a check that you have the clothes and materials ready. If you’re doing a series of session to prepare, you can make the last session the “dress rehearsal” and do the prior ones less formally.
Finally, don’t forget to practice the very basics, like greeting the interviewer, offering a list of references, and a handshake. These things may not make or break your interview, but having practiced them before makes you more confident.
Looking For A Job Is A Job Itself
So it makes sense to bring in additional experts like tutors to help you achieve. They can help you prepare, get your application materials up to scratch, hone your job skills, develop new ones, and master any job interview.
Good luck on your search!