Getting a Job: The Resume

14 08 2008

For the next few weeks I will be doing a series for recent grads called Getting a Job.  I want to cover things that are imperative to know going forward after graduation.  Chances are you didn’t learn these things in school, and/or your career development center at school sucked.

The Resume: A 10 step crash course

1. One Full Page.  Hopefully you’ve had some good internship opportunities during your time in college that you can put on your resume, but you still don’t have enough experience to merit your resume being over 1 page.  If you’ve got over a page, you’ve got too much fluff (BS), if your under a page it looks like you have no experience.  If you are under a page, be sure to add relevant school projects as experience.  If you’re over a page, most recruiters won’t turn the page, plus staples snag the other resumes in the pile which makes your 2 pager annoying to begin with.

2. Bullet Points.  No one wants to read a paragraph about you, so help make recruiters jobs easier.  Think of bullet points as catchy headlines.  You want them to jump off the page and make the reader get the idea, but also want to learn more (by calling you in for an interview).

3. Strong Action Verbs.  Start your bullet points with an action verb, not “I.”  When you say “Developed a comprehensive database to ensure…” the “I” is assumed, and Developed jumps off the page.  In the example, “Developed” is a strong action verb, it says that you are proactive, yes, it could have used “Made” instead of developed , but Made is too passive.  Use words like Monitored, Created, Examined, Coordinated, Collaborated, Maintained, and Managed.

4. Formatting. There are many ways to do this, and arguably none is better than the other as long as it looks good.  Below is my preference.

Name

Contact Info (can be on separate lines, or same, depends on space)

TITLE (Education, Experience,…)

COMPANY/SCHOOL                                                                                Location

Title/Role/Major                                                                                 Date -Date

  • Bullet Points (at least 4 per best/relevant experience, 3 or maybe 2 for less relevant.
  • Bullet Points…

5. GPA.  As a general rule of thumb, if you made above a 3.0, put it on your resume.  If not, don’t.

6. Affiliations.  Chances are you were involved in organizations on campus and you volunteered.  Include them, it looks great on a resume, that IS why you initially did them right?

7. Other/Interests.  This is where you need to humanize yourself.  If you made a 4.0 at Harvard and were super involved on campus, that’s great, but on paper you’re an overachiever without people skills that I don’t want to hire.  However, if you tell me that you are an action sports junkie, or an accomplished ballet dancer that makes you a more interesting person that I would want to work with.  Plus it provides great ice breaker conversation in interviews.

8. References.  Don’t include this section on your resume, and especially don’t put “Available upon request,” that’s just stupid.  If it’s not on there, and they want them, they will ask for them anyway.  And if they are on there it’s rude to your references because you never know when or if to give them a heads up that a call is coming.  Have a separate page that lists references when you go in for the interview.  If they ask for it, you can provide it and give a heads up to your references.

9. Contact Info.  You’re an adult.  cooln3rd1986 isn’t going to cut it anymore.  Try to get your name or initials from an e-mail service.  If not, consider buying your name or last name as a domain and setting up free e-mail like Joe@yourelastname.com/.net/.us  It is very simple to purchase (I prefer GoDaddy.com, be frugal there are always coupon codes for them, and avoid any extras, you just need the domain).  Then read about Google Apps and sign up for free e-mail using your domain!

10. Edit Edit Edit.  Your resume will always be a work in progress.  Before you apply for jobs, send it out to as many (qualified) people as possible and ask them to critique it, not to pass it on.  If no one says anything, that does not mean it’s good.  Tell them to nit pick and be mean, but remember not everyone provides good advice, so don’t feel obligated to accept it all.  You can even send it to me and I will be honest ( daniel at this domain.com).  As a bonus, by doing this and asking for advice, you are building your network and can send it back to them and ask them for more help in finding a job!

I hope you found this crash course helpful, obviously I did not include everything,  so if you have additional pointers please leave them.  My resume is always a work in progress too!





Cancel That Gym Membership

28 07 2008

Did you know that there are companies whose whole foundation is based on taking your money while giving you nothing in return?  These companies exist, they are very real, and most people continue on paying them for nothing, you probably are right now.

The primary example of this that comes to mind is your Gym membership.  Some people are very good at going to their local gym daily to workout, but the fact of the matter is that big chain or “Globo” gyms earn their money on upfront fees and the premise that most of the people who pay are not going to go.  I know way too many people who pay for a gym membership that they don’t use.  What many people are paying for is the delusion that having a gym membership means that they do workout.

Think about how much you pay for your gym membership.  Now how much do you go to the gym?  Is it really worth it when there are literally HUNDREDS of things you can do for free to stay in shape?  Go run, do sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, run the local stadium steps, join an intramural sports league, all these things are more fun than staring at some meat head stare at himself in the mirror!

You could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year by going outside and using the world as your gym!  I’m not telling you to not workout, and some people use the “globo” gym everyday (good for you!), but most don’t.  If you are a “most” person, or even if you aren’t, breaking the gym rut would be good for your workout routine anyway!

Mary and I do Crossfit workouts on our own, and the money we don’t spend on a gym membership we are using to buy different pieces to build our own gym of homemade (medicine ball, parallettes, pull up bar) or used equipment found on craigslist.  Crossfit is a high intensity combination of Gymnastics, Aerobics, and Olympic Weight Lifting where all the workouts can be scaled to your own level of fitness.  Doing this we are in the best shapes of our lives, and we aren’t paying a dime for it in membership dues!

As a side note I have a recommendation to gym big wigs.  Why don’t you offer a punch card for workouts? Say $20 for 12 workouts.  Like a buy 10 get 2 free visits or something.  That provides more value to many of your customers, I can guarantee that it would be a huge hit (I’d probably buy one for a rainy day), however I do understand that it undermines your whole profit base.





How I’m Making the Most of a Dead End Job

23 07 2008

A couple months ago I walked into my bosses office after a few weeks of pure boredom in my job:

“We need to talk,” I said, “I enjoy working for you, and I feel like I have gained a great deal of priceless experience, but I’ve been increadibly bored over the past few weeks and when I ask for more work I get bitch work.  I need to know where my job is going.”

He was caught a little off guard, but responded “Well, to be perfectly honest, there is no vertical growth in our department.  If you were to stay at this company it would be in another department.  You aren’t thinking of quitting already are you?”

I smiled, “You know I always look for more responsibility.”

I appreciate his honesty, but I was caught off guard a bit by his frankness.  On one hand it’s good to know, but on the other I was just told I was in a dead end job and I needed to figure out my next move.  My lingering question became, do I start to look for a new job then (after 6 months on the job, the last person in my job lasted 7), or do I do as I’ve been told by most people I’ve met with…stick it out for at least a year.

Fast Forward 2 weeks.  I have breakfast with a powerful HR executive who I met through my father-in-law (networking extraordinaire).  I ask him about my situation to further our conversation, and because as a general rule… effective networking occurs when you ask for advice.  His response was just as I imagined.  “Stick it out for at least a year,” he then caught me off guard, “then send me your resume.”

I was flattered, to say the least, but I still had 6 more months to stick it out… I’m fine with being worked to death, but pure boredom is another thing all together.  I would later find out from a co-worker that the girl who had my job before me watched Grey’s Anatomy and anything else she could online, and that the guy before her brought in DVD’s to watch at work.  This is something I could NEVER do, I view it as wrong on any number of levels, so I would need to find other things to busy myself.

Today I’ve been on the job about 10 months, and I have become the unofficial corporate webmaster, in charge of maintaining our less than par website that was put up in the mid ’90s.  I have since made it my goal to get us a new corporate website, actually this is something I told my boss we needed right after I was hired.

I began lobbying slowly, but gained some backers and was able to successfully create a presentation on why we need a new website.  The presentation was successful and I got the corporate funding for it (very surprising because of the cost cutting measures my company has taken).  Now I am the point man on working with company executives from all departments and a 3rd party firm to develop the site.  I’ve been balancing schedules and putting together an advisory team to watch over the development.  I got much busier when working towards the new site, and I even took stuff home with me one night (something I never do).

By broadening my exposure and working toward my goal of getting the new site, I now have something that gets me excited for work.  It is well outside of my job description, but it has enabled me to gain invaluable management experience and exposure that will surely look good on my resume and aid me in the search for my next position.





Get Cheap Costco Gas Without the Membership

15 07 2008

Everyone loves cheap gas, but not everyone loves to pay for a club membership to get one, so have the best of both worlds!  According to Bargaineering (new window), it is possible to get Costco gas without having a Costco membership as long as you have an American Express card.

All you have to do is swipe your regular American Express card when it asks for you to swipe your Costco card, then swipe the credit card you want to pay with.  I have not tried this, but I have read numerous accounts of it working.

Apparently it works because Costco has a Costco Amex card, and that card can be used as proof of membership, however the machine is trained to only read the line of code that says it’s an Amex card and nothing else.  Therefore when you swipe a regular Amex card the machine thinks that it’s a Costco member Amex card.

Locate a Costco nearby, try it out and let me know how you enjoy your (roughly) 10 cent discount on gas!





Searching

14 07 2008

As many of you know, I started this blog to hold myself accountable for budgeting as my wife and I planned and budgeted to move into our new house.  Over that time, I successfully wrote and grew this blog to over 100 subscribers.

Now that we have moved into our house, I’ve found myself at a loss of ideas and motivation to post.  As I’ve been trying to analyze why I feel this way, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because I’m beginning to feel like a hypocrite.  We live in a very nice new house, that we have worked very hard for, however we have had a great deal of help getting here.

First, we got a huge leg up from my wife’s brother and his wife.  They currently own two houses in the Dallas area and offered to let us live in one of them, rent free, as long as we maintained it and paid the utilities.  So far we have not been able to thank them enough for the head start they gave us on saving for a house.  We lived there for about a year, and by living frugally we were able to live on my wife’s salary while saving all of mine.  This enabled us to have a good sized down payment on our house and to fully fund an emergency fund.

Next, my in-laws gave my wife her mom’s old car for her graduation.  Which is a very generous gift by any standards, but when her mom’s old car was a mint condition Lexus SC 430 with low miles, it’s above and beyond.  We were able to sell the car for a large sum, which enabled us to put a very large down payment on our Volvo, and put the rest into the down payment on our house.

Finally, something that I have written about previously, but a check that my grandmother gave me when I was young.  I was able to invest and exponentially grow it.  This money paid for Mary’s engagement ring and our wedding rings.  It also paid off all of our debt after college, and for some of our furniture.

Living in our nice new house I have to say it is hard to feel like we are living frugally, in the truest since of the word we definitely are not.  We have a new 2500 sqft house (for 2 people), and we drive a new car that we make payments on (when we could have paid cash), but what I have really come to realize in the last few months writing this is that being frugal isn’t about being stingy, cheap, or not wanting to spend money.  What being frugal is really about is choices.

Mary and I choose to live in a nice new house, we choose to drive a nice new car, and we choose to make sacrifices to afford both of them.  We take our lunch to work.  We don’t eat out much.  We carpool.  We don’t have cable.  We use coupons. We don’t belong to a gym, instead we workout on our own…which will hopefully be a future post.  Mary made the drapes in our bedroom from nice fabric she found deeply discounted.

As you can see, although we may not be the true poster couple for being “young and frugal,” we like to think that we are wise with our money, and we are able to enjoy the choices that we make, while still saving for retirement.





Why You Need To Know Math

20 06 2008

This week I overheard a conversation that made me ashamed of my generation.  I felt like I aged 20 years and was looking at two young people (roughly my age) in disbelief.

I was in a retail store with my wife, and I had a cashier call other stores to check stock on an item.  As I was waiting for my answer, a woman (around 25) walked up to the register with an item.  It rang up as $8.50.

She turned to the cashier, “This was marked as 50% off.”

“Oh,” replied the cashier who was in his early 20s, “ok, I’ll just make an adjustment,”  He the proceeded to ring up the item again.

“That’s not right” said the woman.  “50% of $8.50…$4.50.”

At this point I would have been alright, people make mistakes, but I was still biting my tongue.

The cashier thinks about it, and then REACHES FOR A CALCULATOR!  At this point I couldn’t take it any more, and proceeded to make an ass out of myself.

“Uhhh…$4.25,” I interjected.

Both parties, thought about it for what seemed like at least a minute, and I got a combined “Oh yeah.”

I should have stopped at that, but for some reason, unknown to me, I had to continue with the smartass comment of “yep, gotta love that elementary math!”  

I immediately felt like a huge ass, I apologized, and left the store.

Now, I know I was an asshole and I probably should have kept my mouth shut, but really?  Needing a calculator for something like that?  Are we really a generation that can’t do remedial math in their heads?  Are we that reliant on technology that we can’t think for ourselves?

How can you expect to budget while you shop if you can’t do things like that?  I love sale racks (who doesn’t?) but I always have an understanding of what I will be charged before I pay.  That way I know if the cashier makes a mistake in ringing me up, it’s a basic way to save money, and a skill that everyone should have, if you don’t watch out for your own wallet no one will!  Yes, this issue was over a quarter, but imagine if it was a higher ticket item?





Falling Off The Wagon

15 06 2008

Hi, my name is Daniel, and I… lost track of my finances. 

I write (what is for the most part) a personal finance blog, so you’d think that I would track every penney, but I don’t.  We budget to pay ourselves first (savings/retirement), pay all of our bills, and then everything else is give and take.  One month we might go over on eating out, but we won’t touch our clothing budget, so we call it even; but over the last month as we have moved I have learned a very valuable lesson.

Once you start spending, it’s hard to stop.  It’s like the floodgates of your bank account open, and the next thing you know, you’re asking how your credit card bill got that high!?

We realized this week that we have run our credit card bills up much more than we realized.  It’s not like we have purchased large items, it’s a great number of little things that we did not appropriately budget for.  For instance, the last two weekends we have been out of town, and we did not adequately budget for food for either weekend.  Plus being gone on the weekend messed up our schedule, so we didn’t go to the grocery store to stock up for the week as we usually do, so we ended up eating out.  Then we moved, there was no point in us buying tons of food when we would have to move it, so we ate out more.  

Our move was a beast by itself.  Thank goodness I have friends and family who were willing to come help when I offered free beer (which no one ended up drinking!).  I rented the largest Budget truck available, for 24 hours, found a coupon code online to nock off 10%, and then surprised myself when I was able to negotiate another 15% off at the truck rental place.

Somehow a great number of little things added up.  The only major things I can remember buying are drapes and blinds for the house (which we came in way under our budget for!…to bad we went over everything else!)

This will serve to be a very interesting month.  We will soon make our first mortgage payment (yikes!), and we’ll get to see how close we were in our estimates for our new utility bills!  Plus, we’ll map out a plan to pay off our credit card bills.  Which right now I’m thinking will involve pulling some funds out of savings and tightening the budget to replace the money over the next few months (and hoping for a decent raise soon!)

Also, allow me to apologize for this seeming rant.  As you know it’s been over two weeks since I’ve really posted anything of substance, so A. I’m a little rusty, and B. it helps to just start writing to get the wheels moving sometimes!








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