First rule of blogging… (Perfect Resume IMHO, Part 5)

22 06 2011

is write in your blog.  Oops.  You guys, I have no excuse.  I think I apologize every time. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing it, but I hope you’ll forgive me again.

I had a really enlightening experience a few weeks ago.  Every year my company has a week where employees around the world volunteer for our local communities.  I found myself at the JVS in San Francisco reviewing resumes (no surprise!!).  I was a little nervous, because I had never reviewed resumes for people more than a few years out of school.  These were resumes of people who had 10-20 years of experience and were searching, because they had to. (Retirement gone, bad economy, you name it.)

What was so jarring about the experience was how accomplished some of these people were in their fields.  In some cases it wasn’t the resume that was the problem.  It was the fact that they just hadn’t searched for a new job in a long time.  And that put them in a vulnerable place.  It doesn’t matter how old you are and how many years of experience you have.  It’s a common process to start your career over and over again.  I truly wish these people the best of luck.

Here were a few things I learned from these people:

  • Treat every job application as if you tailored your resume specifically for that job (because you did).
    Every role has job specs.  To have a really strong resume for each position, you have to often look at the requirements for the job and rearrange or re-write your bullet points to speak directly to what they are asking for.  It is almost helpful to have a master resume that has EVERYTHING, and any time you want to apply for a job, create tailored resumes based off of the master.
  • Put away your inner artist.
    It’s important not to over think and duplicate information on your resume.  I was “discussing” with a woman who had over thunk her resume for a role she was applying to. She was coming up with all this “creative” formatting and ended up duplicating and scattering her work experience all over different sections of her resume. Say it once, and say it chronologically.
  • One page resumes–for real.
    I was reviewing the resume of a director that had some pretty amazing work experience and was promoted several times at his old company before he became a consultant.  Unfortunately, he had done so much ad-hoc consulting since his corporate experience that he had buried half of his promotion and stellar work history onto page 2.  What if I never received page 2?  What if the printer ran out of paper when I hit print and all I got was page 1?  Not knowing that there was a page 2, I might just miss all that great work that was on it.  If you’re going to have a Page 2, make it the extra stuff.
  • Getting a job is more than your resume.
    Once your resume is complete, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make a list of past co-workers and managers that think highly of your work quality. Send each of them a personalized email letting them know about your current employment situation. Ask them if it would be all right if you took them out for lunch; picked their brains on how they landed their jobs; got their perspective on what hiring managers might be looking for; and just leveraged them for a sanity check.  In all this searching, it’s easy to lose your foundation and confidence–lean on your friends for help.  Even if their companies aren’t hiring, they might know of others that are.  It’s hard to have these vulnerable conversations, but human beings are hard wired to help each other (IMHO).  When they need something one day, I hope you’ll be there for them, too.
Check out this great training from Harvard University on how to write a resume.  If you have time to peruse their site, it’s phenomenal and would put me out of business!  Oh wait–I do this for free.  I’m already out of business.

The Perfect Resume IMHO – Part 3: Who are you?

3 11 2010

I don’t even know which “The Perfect Resume, IMHO” Part I’m on… Part 3, Part 4, who cares.

I was reviewing my friend’s resume the other day and I scratched my head.  Something, just something, wasn’t sitting right with me.  I looked it over and over again and she had perfect grammar, a good amount of detail (while staying pretty succinct) and most of the details and facts were there about her work history.

It took me three or four thorough looks before I finally realized what was missing.  My friend.  This friend that I have grown to love and respect over the past 6 years was nowhere to be found on this resume.  Her work with non-profits, her passion for running, the accounting classes she takes (just for fun), the traveler, the photographer.  Nada.  Not to be found.  Zip.  Why?  A resume is a synopsis of your work history, right?  Eh, sort of.  But it has become much more.

Who are you?  Is all of who you are represented on this resume?

In a highly competitive talent landscape, employers are looking at all of you.  They want to get a good sense of who you are and what you bring to the table.  Through your resume, don’t forget to present the facts about outside projects, awards, organizations, and associations that you’re a part of.  Employers can tell a lot about you through your passion for doing other things.  They want you, all of you, to add to their workplace culture and to make it a better place. After all, you’d end up being a representation of them, right?

If you have something productive and proactive that you do outside of work, share it.  If you’re not doing anything outside of work, start now.

In a landscape where you’re competing against so many qualified people, make yourself shine by adding those extracurriculars back to your resume.  And since I know you guys are dying for some examples.  Here’s something like what she decided to add after we chatted:

  • Traveler (visited over ## countries since 2004)
  • Photographer (taking over ##,000 photos of life, friends, and food)
  • Runner and adventurer (completed # half-marathons and a 10K mud-obstacle course in 2010)
  • Freelance project manager for [company name/non-profit name], dates
  • Spanish teacher in [country] for [company], 06/2009 – 09/2009

Note:  She used only the facts to illustrate her passions and outside interests.  She showed her versatility of interests and was explicit about the dates and the amount of time spent or a numerical impact of her passions (e.g. # of countries visited or # of photos taken).

For example, you can’t write “I love flute!” on your resume without some concrete support to show your actual passion for flute.  What did you do that proves you love flute?  Do you write music?  Do you go to the symphony?  Do you play flute yourself?  What is it that is the proof that you are passionate about something and that you’ve proactively done something about it?

What we have now learned about her is that she is not just “all work and no play”, because, frankly, who wants to work with someone like that??  She’s more than an intern or a young professional, she is also human.  She’s someone who I’d want to work with and that other companies would be lucky to have!

I will report back one day with more information on her hit rate with her new resume.  In the meantime, you try it out and see if it changes how people respond to you.  Send your stories to me and I’ll follow up in a future post!

The Fight

17 10 2010

Sorry I’ve been so MIA, Awesome and Unemployed!  I just got back from Japan and work has been going in overdrive!  But I’m here.  I’m feeling inspired today, so this post is going to be more inspirational than tactical.  But every now and then, don’t we just need a little motivation? 🙂

Today, I ran my first half-marathon at the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco.  It was excruciating at some points, but I’m so glad that I stuck with it.  No matter what, I knew I was going to make it to the finish line.  This lesson is about finishing at your own pace.

I think that almost everything that could have gone wrong did.  I have been training the past few months for this race (not very hard, though :P) and it all came down to this day:

First snafu: I woke up at 5:45 and walked over to the starting area.  Three of my friends were supposed to meet me there at 6:45, but they were running late, so they never showed.  As I walked into the starting gate alone, I thought: this is going to be a looooonnnnnnngggg 13.1 mile run.  I started to feel pretty alone.

Second snafu: I forgot my race day shirt and my interval watch.  I had been running with my watch for my long runs and it really helped me keep pace and stay on track.  Without it, I was left to the mercy of my will, which could not be trusted!!

Third snafu:  It normally takes me about 2-3 miles before I’m really warmed up and at a good pace.  At about mile 2, I realized that I had to go to the bathroom and that the first restroom stop was mile 4.  Apparently, everyone else had to take a break, as well, so here I am, standing in line for 10 minutes, when I should be running.  I stopped again at mile 7 to go again!  Don’t you hate it when you’re finally getting the hang of things and you have to start over?

Fourth snafu:  The hills were just hard!  There are about 4 miles of hills in the NWM.  Just when you think you’ve got the hang of things, you have to climb a mountain.  Although I survived, I got an excruciating cramp in both of my knees at mile 9.5.  Again, I stopped to massage/roll it out and start all over again.

Fifth snafu:  Rain and hail [ok, maybe it was just rain that was being swirled around at high speeds by the wind??  it hurt like hail!!].  There was nothing I could do about this one, except to push through it!  I was soaked by the end of the race!

I nearly gave up.  I watched as girls around me were pulled out because of injuries.  They were just not able to go on.  I heard a coach pull aside a sobbing runner at mile 12 saying, “Let’s go home.  You did great.”

What got me through this? I pictured my honoree, Stephanie (see photo), at the end of the finish line, waiting for me (if I saw her as I was crossing I planned to pounce on her and give her the biggest hug imaginable).  I pictured my brother and all my friends.  My coaches got into the race and ran with me through the hardest parts to make sure that I was okay.  My Team in Training mentor and teammates were waiting for me at the finish line and gave me a high five, giving me the energy I needed to sprint through the end of the race.  It was not easy, but knowing how sweet it’d be when I got there was my motivation.  And when I needed help along the way, I befriended someone else who was fighting the same fight.

All around me were women pushing their limits, fighting challenges, perhaps even fighting cancer.  They were fighting because they knew there was something more at the finish line.  No matter what, you’ll get there, Awesome and Unemployed.  Don’t worry about your start time, your end time, just know what’s in store for you at the finish line and focus your energy on that.  There are things that may get in the way of your goal, but eventually, we all get there.

Update: Running again!

28 07 2010

Guys.  I’m back into running.  What I didn’t tell you since my other post on accountability was that the girls were pummeled by the boys, because my friend is dating a marathon runner (like 10 miles a day) and wanted him to be part of the competition.  Boo.

But I’m back in it!!  I am really holding myself accountable to someone else this time, but joining Team in Training to train for the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in October.

This is going to require hard work and sweat, but it will all be worth it when I cross that finish line and have firemen in tuxedos hand me a Tiffany Co. necklace.  Stef FTW!!

This time, it’s real, this time it’s happening.  Like you, I struggle to do things that I’m not good at, and I encourage you to do the same.  Hold yourself accountable to someone else. Your best friend, your school career counselor, your mom, your brother.  Do this for you.  Apply to those jobs–no one is going to do it for you.

Be like Ralph and keep a spreadsheet of all the roles you’ve applied to and keep track of the follow up from those companies.  Don’t be discouraged when there’s no follow-up.  It’s just part of the process.  Be diligent and just keep applying.

Stay happy and run far.  You can do it.  We’ll do it together–keep me posted on your progress and I will keep you posted on mine!

Gopi Kallayil

26 07 2010

One of my favorites, Gopi Kallayil, on filling an empty cup.  Stay positive, Awesome and Unemployed!

Gopi’s words of wisdom for those of you who are unemployed.  This is how he thought about his “empty cup”.  I encourage you to do the same!

An update on Ralph

22 07 2010

Ralph just landed his dream job working with brilliant people… I’m trying to get the update.  I’ll keep you guys posted on his tips and tricks!  (In 1 month!!)

Guest Post: The Anal Person’s Guide to Job Hunting

30 06 2010
A great guest post from my friend, “Ralph”.  If you have direct questions for Ralph, add them here and I’ll pass it along!  -Stefanie

Hello, my name is Ralph. At least today it is. (Thanks Stef for the anonymity!) Like you, I am 20-something looking for awesome employment to fit awesome me. For months I’ve been itching to try something new and have finally worked up the resolve to switch to a new job to find it. I admit, it’s been a difficult journey so far with some very tough decisions, but I’m absolutely confident that I (and you too!) will find the right home in the end.

So how did I end up here on the Awesome & Unemployed blog? Well, the other day, Stef came across me meticulously filling out my job spreadsheet and updating my many versions of my resume and cover letter and checking off to-do’s and her first reaction was WTF?? I mean, really, is it necessary to take job hunting so seriously and approach it so methodically? And my answer is YES! It’s one thing to fire off a resume now and then or heck send it out to everyone regardless of the position, and another entirely to take active charge of your future and go after that beast of a job with focused determination.

After listening to me rant for some time about this, Stef asked me to write a guest post for her blog that takes you the reader step-by-step through the process of job hunting, from search to application. If you’re a lover of details, the advice below is just for you! Be sure to check out the Helpful Hints I’ve put in bold. Let’s get started!

Start the Search

Looking for the job of your dreams can be a long and tedious process. Take the time to do it right. I like to set aside an hour in the morning to browse job postings. Some of the more popular places to look are, and Craigslist. You can also make accounts on some of these sites and set up an automatic search agent that emails you job postings that match keywords. While this is helpful, I still have a preference for browsing the websites manually.

Helpful Hint:
Make a single spreadsheet to store all the potential jobs you find. Use it to record the following information:
– Company name
– Location
– Job Title
– Job Description (just a couple bullet points)
– URL to posting
– Applied? (put a check mark in this column when you apply)

This way you can keep track of jobs that you find across multiple sources without being confused about whether you had seen them before. It’s also a good way to compare positions so you know which are your top choices.

Prep Your Resume

I’m going to assume you already have a resume written and proofread (If you don’t, check out Stef’s post on The Perfect Resume). Now having ONE resume is all fine and good, but what people don’t tell you is that you probably need THREE resumes. The reason is that each job you apply to is slightly different, emphasizes different skills, and is targeted for a different kind of person. So why not give them what they want? Before you get all stressed out, don’t worry! You don’t need to actually write a separate resume for each job. Instead, break the positions down into 2-3 different categories (this is where that spreadsheet is helpful). I like to use Technical, Leadership, and Specialty X.

For technical positions, ones that emphasize skill and experience, I use a resume that highlights my previous experience doing this type of work. This is my default resume.

For leadership positions, ones that emphasize teamwork and complex projects, I use a resume that has for the first couple bullet points my leadership experience (I also include leadership projects from school at the end of the resume, titled “Leadership” just to get the point across).
And for specialty X positions, ones that are looking for a very specific skill, I use a resume that lists my experience with that specific type of project as the first bullet point.

All you have to do is rearrange the bullet points on your resume so that the first thing your future employer sees is exactly what she thinks she’s looking for!

Helpful Hint:
How do you keep track of all those versions of your resume?
I like to keep a folder on my computer called “resume” with multiple subfolders inside. Since my three types of resumes are Technical, Leadership, and Specialty X, I name my subfolders with these names and keep the corresponding resume document inside. This way I can name my resumes all the same (Firstname-Lastname-resume.docx or .pdf) and still be able to tell them apart.

Draft Your Cover Letter

Just like with the resume, I’m going to assume already know the basics of writing a cover letter (If not, here is a good starting point). Of course, you must have guessed it already, I’m going to tell you that yes you need to have a different cover letter for each job. But luckily, as with the resumes, you don’t really have to rewrite it each time. Use the same categories that you came up with for your resumes and write three generic cover letters, each emphasizing your skills for that particular category. For example, for technical positions, I like to include a short bullet pointed list of my technical qualifications so that the reader can see in a glance that I have the required skill set without even opening my resume (If you do this, be sure to tailor the list for each position. Just copy and paste from the job description). For leadership positions, I state my most important leadership/team experience and include my desire to grow as a leader/manager. And for specialty X positions, I call out their desire for an expert in X and how I have the specific experience they are looking for.

Helpful Hint:
Be specific! Always include the company name and job title in your cover letter, along with at least one sentence about their business and how you will contribute to and learn from it. You can copy the company/department mission statement almost verbatim from their website. Chances are, the guy reading your cover letter hasn’t read the corporate website recently. It’s easy to include these delectable details when you work from a generic draft like I’ve described above. Just leave a blank for you to fill in later. I use underlines and highlighting so that I don’t forget to change the text.

I am applying for the XYZ position at ABC company. blah blah blah blah blah blah blah… <Something about position XYZ at company ABC> blah blah blah. I look forward to speaking with you blah blah blah.

Go Apply Already!

Now that you have everything prepared, job spreadsheet, resumes and cover letters, it’s time to get down to actually applying. Pick out the positions you’re most excited about and apply to them first. Wash, rinse, repeat. Apply to every job on your list and then go out and look for some more. Don’t stop until you’ve actually gone through the whole process and accepted a position. (And in fact, you should keep looking even after you’ve accepted, if only to know that you have the best deal out there.)

Best of luck with your job search. Hopefully some of the tips above will help make this sometimes painful process easier for you. If anything, take away that job hunting is a skill like any other. Your actual qualifications are key, but HOW you apply is also important. Adios friends.