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Professional Communication

Beyond a resume, employers and organizations expect professional communication in all interactions. This can occur in forms of cover letters, thank you notes, professional reference documents, electronic portfolios, business cards and personal statements.

Cover Letters

A cover letter is a chance to sell how your differentiated skills and experiences can benefit an organization. Do your research. 

Learn about the organization and position needs:

  • Read and analyze the position description looking for keywords, skills, and competencies you qualify for.
  • Research the organization website to identify areas of interest, values that speak to you, or parts of the company culture that resonate with your needs in a place to work.
  • Access your professional network by identifying those you might know who already work there to gain their perspective on working for the organization.
  • Follow the organization on LinkedIn to gain more insight on how they are branding their organization.

Now, begin your writing process:

  • Indicate where you learned about the position
  • State why you are interested in the organization and position
  • Include your career objective or goal
  • Sell your specific skills and experiences



The reference page is a separate document from the résumé. It is recommended that you have three to six professional references. These individuals can make or break your candidacy. Therefore it is important to pick people who can positively articulate your skills and abilities.

Always ask if a potential reference will serve as a positive reference for you. If they agree, send them a current résumé along with the position description, so they can answer the reference questions by tying in specific information about you and how you will be an asset to the organization. Make sure references can be reached year round via this contact information. If an employer cannot reach at least three positive references, they may not be able to offer you a position.

What Should I Include?

  • Use the same header format as your résumé.
  • Center the page to minimize white space.
  • You should have three to six professional references that can attest to your work ability. Do not use character references unless requested.

Based on the position you are applying for, order your references in order of relevance:

  • Name
  • Professional relationship
  • Title
  • Address
  • Phone number

Business Cards

Successful marketing requires communicating a positive professional image of yourself to your potential employers. A key tool used for this purpose is a business card. A business card serves as a convenient reminder of your contact information, while introducing you and your brand. Regardless of how you choose to print your business cards, remember to include these basic elements:

  • Your name and title (or degree, major, and graduation date)
  • Your mailing address, phone and fax numbers
  • Your email address
  • Your website address and portfolio address (only use professional sites)
  • Optional: You may also include specific information about yourself, such as: your career goals, top skills you offer to an employer, honors, or awards
  • Optional: Your logo (either design one yourself or consider using your school’s logo) Customize your card and make it memorable

Creating Business Cards

Creating a business card can seem overwhelming; however, there are many resources you can utilize to simplify this process. One option is to create a business card online through websites such as:, and These websites are easy to navigate and will walk you through each step. Cost varies depending on the website and printing options selected.

Another option is to create your own business card using Microsoft Publisher, Word or other advanced design programs such as Adobe Illustrator or InDesign. Keep in mind that if you create your own business cards, some business card printing companies may not accept your file format and you will have to buy card stock or blank business cards.

How To Make a Business Card: Microsoft Publisher

  • Open publisher and go to publications by print: select business cards.
  • Select plain paper.
  • Preview designs, click on the design you like.
  • In the design tab, you can change the design of your business card.
  • Select your color scheme in the color scheme tab.
  • Select your font in the font scheme tab.
  • Enter your information.
  • Save and print your business card.

How To Make a Business Card: Microsoft Word

  • Open Word and open a new document.
  • Click on help and select Microsoft Office online in the drop down menu.
  • In the Microsoft Office online page, type ‘business card’ in the search box and click go.
  • Choose the design that you would like and click “download.”
  • The templates will pop-up in a new Microsoft Word document. You can either change the information on each card individually or change the information on one card and paste the cell into the table.
  • Save and print your business card.

Thank You Letters

Here is what you should include in thank you letters:

  • Return address: Where you would like a reply sent?
  • Paragraph one: State when and where you had your interview, and thank the interviewer for their time and reaffirm your interest in the organization.
  • Paragraph two: Mention something that interests you in working for them. Reinforce a point or two in support of your application.
  • Thank the employer and ask for further communications.
  • Use a complimentary closing.
  • Sign the document. (If you are sending electronically, scan your signature and insert it.)

Electronic Portfolio

A portfolio is a collection of items that best illustrate your skills along with experiences that chart your professional growth. A portfolio enables you to demonstrate your most valuable qualifications and market yourself to employers. Creating a professional portfolio can be advantageous for all individuals.

Step 1: Determine your format

Portfolios can be created online, in a slideshow or as a hard copy. Determine what best fits your situation and the context in which you will be presenting your portfolio. Bring a printed copy of your electronic portfolio with you to interviews. Ask the employer what type is preferred and appropriate for your interview. Check out the electronic portfolio options in Canvas.

Step 2: Gather Information

This is an ongoing process. Identify and collect evidence of your skills and experience from:

  • Activities
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Volunteer Work
  • Student Groups
  • Training
  • Projects
  • Experiences Abroad

Step 3: Sort Content

Typical elements of a portfolio include:

  • Title Page
  • Reference List
  • Group Projects
  • Presentations
  • Table of Contents
  • Transcripts
  • Honors and Awards
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Certifications
  • Writing Samples
  • Social Media Links

Step 4: Practice for the Interview

Your portfolio is a support tool, not a show and tell item. Integrate items of your portfolio throughout the interview. For example, if an employer asks you to describe a time when you paid close attention to detail, show an example that illustrates this qualification.

During the interview:

  • Expect to use your portfolio three or four times but avoid overuse. Keep the focus on you and your qualifications, not on your portfolio.
  • Leave employers with a web address of your electronic portfolio, but do not leave your portfolio behind.
  • Customize your portfolio for each interview by choosing three or four examples which best fit the position.

Career & Professional Development

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Oshkosh, WI 54901

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