"Special skills: Thyping." – Taken from an actual resume

Ohh, the dreaded resume. The toughest part of writing one is getting an actual resume built. Once you have your basic format and information added, it will be easier to tweak and adjust for any job you’re applying to.

I am a big proponent of building your own resume versus using a template or one of those online resume generators that spits out something for you. Writing your own resume from scratch gives you more control over the format and stretches out your writing muscles.

There are many key elements to writing a killer resume that gets read. Much like anything on this blog, we’ll break it down into smaller components to make the task a little less daunting. The first part we’ll tackle is the actual content that goes into assembling a resume.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Your contact information: Name, address, phone number and e-mail. This is an easy one to look over when proofreading. A friend of mine who did his work study in the career study at MSUM once saw a resume submitted by a student with her name spelled wrong. He knew this student so he knew what her name should’ve been. Talk about an epic fail. Also, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have a professional sounding e-mail. If you want to keep hiphophoney@xxxxx.com for all of your posse to get ahold of you, that’s fine. However, e-mails are free so sign up for a second one for professional listings. Sometimes options are limited if you have a common name, but try to nab one with your entire name and as little of anything else as possible, i.e. bobjohnson817362@xxxx.com. This may sound incredibly picky, but I find Yahoo to sound slightly more professional than Hotmail. I love you MSN and I rely on my Hotmail account more for my everyday interactions, but maybe it’s just me that I don’t think the word “hot” should be anywhere in a professional sounding e-mail.

2. Objective. This one little piece trips me up every time. How does someone sum up their work history and give a vision for their career path in one little sentence fragment? Do I even need to bother anymore? I caught an article yesterday through MSN stating that objectives on resumes are going the way of the dodo. Here’s the link to the Nels Wroe article on what he thinks of resume objectives.

Some hiring managers are old school, I usually am, too, so throwing one on there probably isn’t going to kill you as long as it’s clear and error free. A simple, “To get a job in retail” is not going to cut it. To write an effective objective, try the A + B = C method. Think of two skills or experiences that you can bring into the career path you are seeking. For example, “To utilize experience in event planning and advertising within the field of marketing”. Since objectives aren’t full sentences there isn’t a need to add punctuation at the end.

3. College education. Even if it’s been awhile since you have been in college, this is an important part since most job postings require a certain degree within a certain field. If you’re a recent college graduate, one smart thing to add since you might be a little light on direct work experience is related coursework. If you’ve been out of school for more than five years, leave off that off along with your graduation date. List if you graduated with any honors. Any other special awards or accomplishments can be listed at the very end of your resume under, you guessed it, Awards/Achievements.

4. Work experience. This one’s the headliner. There are various schools of thought on how work experience should be laid out, which we’ll cover in how to format a resume a little later on. What should be listed under work experience should be the name of the company, dates with months and years listed, position held, and three to five bullet points of what you did. It’s all about the buzzwords. The start of each bullet point should sound active and accomplished, but there’s no need break out the thesaurus. If it sounds like something Chaucer would’ve used, find something else. Each point should have its own buzzword. I know it can be tedious trying to find new ways of phrasing your accomplishments, but it shows you put the time and effort to really craft your resume.

There is also some debate on whether or not a person should list work experience even if it doesn’t relate to what you’re applying to. I’m from the school of thought that says you can gain valuable experience from every place you work. If you spent four years flipping burgers at McDonald’s that gives you a starting point to showcase your customer service skills, commitment to setting forth a high-quality product, and the ability to multitask. Also, if you omit jobs that you don’t think will help your cause you run the risk of looking like there are holes in your work history.

5. Leadership experience. This can be a key section for multiple reasons. If you are fresh out of college and don’t have a lot of work experience, you can show potential employers your marketability through what accomplished at school. It can also be used to show skills you may not have gained on the job but still have ascertained elsewhere. For example, if I wanted to break into the field of college admissions but have zero professional experience doing so, I can highlight the fact I was very active in my collegiate organization that gave campus tours. Also, companies are moving towards individuals who are well-rounded outside of the office, so if you have any experience in professional networking groups or volunteering, showcase what you’ve done!

6. Awards/Achievements. These could be collegiate or professional. After the five year mark collegiate awards can start to fall off unless it’s a prestigious national award. It’s great that you made the Dean’s List but after a while it’s kind of like wearing your letterman jacket from 1988. Also, use your discretion when listing awards. If you won Chili of the Year at your company picnic, it’s best to leave that trophy on your mantle.

7. References. Sometimes job application sites will have you upload your references separately but usually reference lists go along with resumes. Also, don’t list “References Upon Request.” The last thing HR wants is homework. Three references should do the trick, however, some companies will ask for up to five. References should be people you have worked with. Professors can also work if you’re right out of school or applying to graduate school. Keep references up-to-date. A reference from a job you worked at 10 years ago isn’t going to look especially relevant. Also, no family members. I have had people list their moms as references on applications. The only way this is allowable is if you worked for the family business. If that’s the case then that family member should be listed as your supervisor.

So now that all of the pieces have been dumped out of the box, we’ll tackle how to put the puzzle together next.

Positive Thought of the Day:
“Resume: A written exaggeration of only the good things a person has done in the past, as well as a wish list of the qualities a person would like to have.” – Bo Bennett

"Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant." – Mitchell Kapor

Now that you have your grocery list written it’s time to go shopping. Shopping for jobs is a lot like shopping at IKEA. There is a lot to look at and you have to put some work in to get a finished product, but if you can find the right colored track you can at least get started. And, with any luck, you’ll get to meet Ace of Bass.

Big Task; Little Steps. Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Human Resources would love to see your face . . . when you come in for your scheduled interview. While it is easier to remember a name when there is a face attached to it, dropping in unexpectedly and requesting an interview is not the way to get remembered. If you have the time to pick up an application or drop off a resume, that’s totally fine. Any more than that is presumptuous. I once had a co-worker say to me, “I wish I could work in HR so I could have a job where I do nothing.” HR may not look very busy since a lot of what is done is on the computer, but make no mistake: HR’s day is jam-packed just like everyone else’s. Dropping in unannounced for an interview is disrespectful to their time. Also, HR doesn’t want to hear a sad story about how you drove 7 hours to see if you could be interviewed. That just shows a lack of planning on your part. Don’t call us; we’ll call you. Literally. Don’t call on the phone and ask for an interview either.

2. EXTREE, EXTREE! READ ALL ABOUT IT! It helps if you’re wearing a newsie outfit while reading this point. While the classified ad of your local newspaper is not completely dead, it is on life support. More and more companies are opting for the more convenient, and sometimes more cost-effective, online ad. This is where your list comes into play. Some online job search engines can produce over 2,000 postings. Who has that kind of time and energy to sift through that many ads? Much like IKEA, once you can narrow your search down to either the green or yellow line, the easier it is to get to your dream job/futon.

Whether you are utilizing Jobshq.com, Monster.com, or Idealist.org, utilize the categories and parameters to cast out your net. Remember: The wider the net, the more fish you’ll hopefully pull in. If you have very specific criteria in terms of type of job or company you do/don’t want to work for, salary, or location, that’s fine. However, just be forewarned that having very narrow specifications may lengthen how long it takes to find a job that meets your requirements.

Don’t always rely on online classified or search engines either. Sometimes companies will only post openings on their website. So, if there is a certain company you have your eye on, check their website frequently. Also, start to notice trends and patterns in the types of job openings you want so you’ll have an idea of the likelihood of finding a job. For example, teaching and admissions positions tend to open up in the Spring and are usually filled by the time school starts in the Fall. So, if you would really like to break into academia at good ol’ Alma Mater University, start looking when you dust off your capris and t-shirts.

3. ‘Cuz we still like seeing fossils at the museum. Even though we are in the Age of the Computers, some companies will still only post job openings in the newspaper. The Sunday paper is going to be your best bet in finding the most amount of listings.

4. Trees are overrated. Just because more and more companies are utilizing the Internet to find their applicants doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have resume paper handy. Some online postings will still request a hard copy of your resume and cover letter. Also, as mentioned in point three, if a company only posted their job opening in the paper, more than likely they’re going to want any application materials sent to them. A box of 24 lb resume paper will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 – $10. You won’t need to go with anything that’s much more expensive than that. You want your resume to say, “I’m professional.”; not, “I got duped into spending $30 on paper.” Use the full-sized catalog style envelopes. Trust me. Maybe I’m too picky but folded resumes and applications are the worst.

Best of luck in your shopping endeavors. Don’t forget to pick up milk!

Positive thought of the day:
“I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” – Oprah Winfrey

“The trouble with unemployment is that the minute you wake up in the morning you’re on the job.” – Slappy White

Whether or not you are employed while job searching the biggest step is getting started. I know. Just call me Captain Obvious.  One of the reasons why we put off finding a new job or tell ourselves the job we’re in isn’t so bad is because job hunting scares the bejeebers out of us. Yes, it is daunting. But, just like eating an elephant, all you need to do is take it one bite at a time.

Vanna, if you please, bring out the list . . .

1. Find your heart’s desire. Grab a notebook or Post-It and write down what types of jobs you would like to do or companies you would like to work for, even if they’re seemingly out of your reach. Saying you want to be a movie star or a world famous belly dancer may sound silly, but it may also be that tiny little voice you’ve been shushing urging to take a look at your inner entertainer. You need to be your own biggest cheerleader. If you don’t believe in your dreams, who else will?

2. Find a pattern. Take your list and group any job or company into as many relatable groups as possible. If you have a list of, say, ten items and the top three are the humane society, Red Cross, or youth director, maybe a shift towards the non-profit sector is in order. Or, if you are leaning towards such positions as development director, recruiting, or even accounting, take a look breaking into education. Ivy covered walls look pretty, but they don’t bring in money from donors, give tours to potential freshmen, or allot financial aid to thousands of students. Getting a handle on what career paths you want to travel down now will help your actual career search later.

3. Find jobs to apply to. That’s all for tonight, folks! You’ve been a wonderful audience . . . Okay. Seriously. Now it’s time to do the leg work. Times, they are a-changin’. Gone are the days when you would get spiffed up to pound the pavement in hopes to land an on-the-spot interview. As someone who has worked in human resources (HR), do not assume that just because you dropped off your resume you will get an instantaneous interview. Just because it looks like we’re just sitting at a computer playing Angry Birds doesn’t mean we are. Presumptuous interrupting of the workflow of HR is not the best way to get your foot in the door. It’s actually a great way to annoy the gatekeepers of the hiring process.

Next we will cover how actually take that focused energy and actually search for jobs . . . Onwards and upwards!

Positive Thought for the Day:

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” – Henry Ford

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here…

That’s what it feels like when entering the realm of job searching. Job hunting can wrench the gut of even the most experienced job seekers. Do not despair, friends. We can work (no pun intended) through the process together!

My two main goals of this blog are to be informative and encouraging. Looking for a new job; let alone finding a career, can be confusing, isolating and disheartening. I have waded through the drudgery of crafting resumes, trying on suits, and smiling through interviews. I feel your pain . . .

However, being in human resources, I have also sat through interviewees’ stories of cut up underwear (yep!), received applications completed with glitter pens, and Xeroxed notebook pages submitted as cover letters. My posts will hopefully offer some insight into the minds of those working through the hiring process as human resources (HR; I have been surprised at how many people do not what HR stands for) representatives. Maybe this insight will help smooth out some of the bumps in the road along the way to reaching your dream job.