Career Planning: Step Five – Resumes

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Ready…set…write (or not).

First I want you to open your filing cabinet, external hard drive, or desktop folder. You know, the one with all those languishing resumes in it. Count how many versions of a resume you have, or completely different resumes. Can you figure out where I’m going yet? Here’s a hint: You should have more than one resume. If you only have one you either already have the job of your dreams, or you need some serious assistance writing a good resume.

To illustrate my point I decided to dust off my old resume folder, and inside I found two additional folders containing generalized resumes and specific resumes. I didn’t even realize how many I had but after a quick count my total came to seven complete generalized and specific resumes (2 generals, 5 specific). Believe it or not that’s a small number when you think about it. You need more than one resume – you need to curtail the needs of a business, or industry, into your resume and above all else understand that in a competitive job market you want to make that two-page document stand out.

Okay here we go. Tips:

  • It’s Marketing – Some find it hard to write a concise and direct resume because they have so much experience and history with which they can rely upon, but here’s the thing; if it isn’t relevant to the specific job your applying for…DON’T PUT IT ON YOUR RESUME. You have to treat your resume as if it is a only a two-page advertisement that flashes across the screen for 15 seconds, and that time frame is generous. With employers skimming through stacks of resumes at light speeds you need to emphasize the qualities and experience that will get you an interview. As with any advertisement you don’t want to just show them what you can do (the product), but also demonstrate that if you hire said person, they will give you these specific, direct benefits that will help your company. Keep in mind – they don’t hire you for ‘you’ they do it for ‘them’.
  • Interest – A resume must include your job history, but reading about your experience as a cashier is hardly interesting to an employer. Try to bring your resume to life on a page by using methods like the Situation-Action-Result design (SAR). Using this method you write action based verbs in relation to a certain scenario and then list the achievement or result of that action. Something such as “Increased customer sales by 20% by reorganizing employee rotations to ensure equal opportunities at each station which then highlighted the best working team.” The statement above is an example of the reverse SAR design highlighting the result first to attract attention then describing the action and situation involved.
  • Standards – Pay attention to industry standards such as resume length and parameters. I have spoken to older employees who state that their resume is one page in length and that’s how they’ve always kept it, unfortunately if you look at the standard acceptable length currently the requirement is two pages. If they were applying for a job now they wouldn’t even make the first cut pile.
  • Use your space wisely – An employer won’t care that you’re a single mother or that you have three cats. There are certain aspects that should always appear on a resume: education, job history, and key qualifications, so when you are filling in the sections of your resume and trying to fit everything on to two pages try following a standard rule – 1-3 bullet points per description (no more) and make sure that if you are emphasizing a certain position you highlight it in such a way that it is noticed.
  • Design – The great thing about a resume is that it is completely individualistic. Font, spacing, indents, and accents are all things you can play with in order to make your resume stand out. While playing with these features is fun make sure to keep it consistent throughout the entire document, and always make sure that a printed resume copy is legible – it may appear fine before you send it but if an employer prints a copy and the font is illegible – you’re not getting hired. Make sure your resume flows and doesn’t require effort on the part of the reviewer simply to figure out what each section of your resume means. Make it easy for them.
  • Avoid key resume mistakes – Most people don’t realize they’re doing it until after, but if you hand your resume to a peer and they can’t read it or they start laughing it’s time to make some edits. Always have a professional email on your resume because things like “sugarfiend@hotmail.com” are automatically tossed aside, and avoid those time tested and failed cliches such as “Hard-working” because everyone can say they’re hard working but on what kind of scale are you measuring that value of work.

Thank you readers. That marks the end of our Career Planning section – stay tuned for our next installment.

Check out http://www.sheridancollege.ca/life-at-sheridan/student-services/career-centre/find-work/resumes-and-cover-letters.aspx for more information and assistance on resume writing.

Kelly Skidmore

 

Career Planning: Part Four – Simple Things

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It’s the simple things that can determine whether or not you do well in an interview or not. Similar to preparing for a career through choosing the best options for education, additional training, and volunteer opportunities, you have to prepare for specific moments in that quest for your career as if you were training for an Olympic event. The average Olympian trains anywhere from an hour to 5 hours/day 6 days per week, but of course these numbers are determined by the requirements of the sport, and just like preparing for a sport you have to train for your interview scenarios.

There are very few people who can walk into an interview without having done some prior research beforehand and get a job on shear personality alone. Employers want to know that they can rely on you to stand for the company and understand what they are trying to achieve. If you walk into an interview without any prior knowledge of the company’s mission, products, partners, etc., you will not be getting that job.

So here’s a few ideas to get you started about prepping for that all important interview:

  1. From the Beginning: It is immensely important that you know exactly where you are going to day of an interview. You should know the time it takes, where you are parking, any additional traveling you may have to do (subway, streetcar, etc.), and allow for the chance that there may be traffic at certain times during the day. You cannot arrive late to an interview. It makes you look dismissive and gives the employer the idea that you really don’t care about the position. You should arrive at least 10 minutes prior to an interview, introduce yourself to an assistant, receptionist, or the employer so that they know you have arrived, and of course…be polite and patient until you are called.
  2. Introductions: Most people don’t realize how within the first 10 seconds of meeting you a person can determine several biases that will remain in place until proven otherwise. For example, if you show up to an interview in sweat pants and a t-shirt an employer may make the assumption you are lazy and don’t care about the perceptions people develop about you which make look bad for the company in the long/short run. Make sure to always make a good first impression by dressing appropriately (business attire), introducing yourself and greeting the interviewer by their name and title (Mr., Mrs., Dr.), firmly shaking their hand when, and sitting only when a chair is offered.
  3. Avoid Presumption: During interviews it is critical to avoid terminology that can be offensive such as slang, profanity, and insults, however equally important but often forgotten is the use of space saving words or phrases such as ‘like’, ‘um’, ‘uh’, and ‘You know what I mean’. There is nothing more frustrating to an interviewer than asking a question and receiving a vague answer followed by ‘You know what I mean’. Never make the assumption that an interviewer will know what you’re talking about. Use terms that are expected in your field of study and always explain your answers thoroughly and succinctly. Also, a joke can be a lighthearted way to break tension at the beginning or end of an interview, but don’t try and be a comedian throughout the whole interview (unless that’s the job your applying for).
  4. Habits: Some people like to chew gum to keep their mouth from getting dry. Although helpful it is distracting during an interview and can be considered rude. Certain things such as leaving your phone, speaking only to one person, or frequent fidgeting exaggerate nervousness and make the employer feel as if you are uncomfortable in a role you may be placed in.
  5. Confidence: Nervousness is common in interviews so employers do give a little leeway when answers may come a bit stuttered or it takes a couple seconds to answer something in particular, but their is something to be said for the individuals who speak audibly, clearly, and with a little excitement. The employer wants to know you want the job and are excited about what you’ll be doing and who you’ll be working with. Try to make sure you maintain eye contact with the interviewer (if more than one speak to both), take your time with your answers, use pauses to emphasize points, and if you are excited about the role you’ll be filling explain why.
  6. Extra Steps: It isn’t required but sometimes that extra nudge can place you one step over another candidate. Write a thank you letter to the interviewer, take a business card, and ask what the next steps in the hiring process are. The more interested you are/seem the better. During the interview make sure to ask intelligent questions relating to the position, the staff you may be working with, any additional responsibilities, opportunities for advancement, etc. Interest is key. Above all else, practice for you interview and research the company.

That’s all folks: next week we touch on…duh, duh, duh – Resume writing. Fun! 🙂

 

Kelly Skidmore

Career Planning: Part Three – The Team

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Have you ever been a part of a group project? Sure you have. If you haven’t completed a group project in school at some point than you probably have worked in a team of some sort either in the workplace, on a sports team, or even in your family. When your sibling and you take on your parents in a friendly game of MarioKart…well despite watching your parents crash and burn ( ^_^ )…that’s a team and teams can often accomplish more than you thought yourself individually capable of.

I hinted at this topic last week by stating when preparing for war you need to affirm that you have the necessary resources, allies, and plans to ensure victory. Although we discussed how your dreams are completely your own and no one will ever have quite the same dream job, you may need some help to get there.

A few things can help you get there:

  1. Family – I know, I know. Sometimes don’t you just want to avoid your family. I understand, however keep in mind they were in your position twenty-thirty years ago. They have experience and contacts that may help you reach your dream job a step or two faster. All the expertise in the older generations is wasted on youths that don’t take advantage of that valued experience. Ask a member of your family how many jobs they’ve had? Where they first lived? How much their first paycheck was? You will notice some startling similarities and differences. Yes we are living in a different social and economical society currently, but you never know when your Grandfathers ex-partner will mention how his son is looking for a marketing supervisor. Use the ties that bind.
  2. Networking – When stepping into a job that may be considered the lowest rung on the climb to your dream job, try to remember that the people you meet on the way up will help to build and connect you to more avenues that may act as shortcuts to that job. Networking involves going to conferences, calling or emailing perspective clients, employers, or partners. The point is you need to connect and share information and ideas readily in order to receive that feedback equally in return. Remember the group project? I bet if you were trying to develop a revolutionary idea and it was just you, you wouldn’t have gained all the amazing input you did from the rest of your team. Try checking online sites such as LinkedIn, Pinterest, even Facebook and start building connections.
  3. Individualizing – Resumes!!! Yep I said it the “R” word. We’ve been building them since our parents told us “Get out and get a job!” There are many different formats you can apply to a resume. The current cookie-cutter design involves scripting your education, work experience, and special qualifications to a two-page memoir of only things that relate to the job you’re applying for. I’m not saying it’s wrong – in fact it’s probably the safest thing you can do to at least get your resume in the pile, but that’s where it’ll stay. In the giant pile of the other five hundred applicants who have applied, so if you want to be seen you need to have an individualizing factor. Something that either grabs the employers attention within the first five seconds of reading your cover letter or stands out as an unlikely skill that few int he giant pile possess. If you can attract an employers eye to a specific skill that sets you apart they may want to know more leading to an interview.
  4. Appropriate– Depending on the career you want you will want to suit yourself to what you will be doing. Social norms may be limiting sometimes, but in the workforce your dream job may involve you switching the miss-matching socks for standard black. Self-expression is necessary in human behaviour, so if you have questions about that tattoo on your neck or your bright pink polka dot tie ask the employer. Don’t show up the first day of work and get scolded based on an avoidable error.
  5. Resources – When career planning it’s important to have a few people (not your friends) who can act as your advisors. Lawyers, accountants, and industry representatives can help you navigate the shark infested waters of politics, investing, mortgages, and job searching. We all need a few people in our lives that we don’t necessarily count as friends but who can always tell us bluntly when we’re making a dumb decision. If you’re interested in being a chemical engineer I suggest you find a mentor who has worked in the field.

The team will be your toolbox of people who will open doors you may not have even considered before. Your journey to your dream job may be a meandering one, but with a little help and some guidance you can get there.

Tune in next week: The four words that get you in the door…”Hi my name is…”

 

Kelly Skidmore