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!





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.





Why Corporate Camo Is Necessary For Gen-Y

22 05 2008

It’s no wonder that many boomers and gen-xers think we are the worst generation.   We’ve had our helicopter parents swoop in and save us when we’ve gotten into rough situations, we’ve been told our whole lives that we should dream big and that we have the power to change the world (and we believe it!), and most of us have never seen our parents struggle so we “don’t know what it takes.”

Our elders look at those of our generation who decided to take “a year off” to travel, are still jobless because they haven’t found the right fit, on the 5-6 year plan, or moved home to live with their parents after graduation and they tell us that we have “failed to launch.”

I am not defending my generation in this regard.  I’m almost 23 (next week!), I have a wife, two dogs, and I’m buying a house.  At times I’m disgusted by my own maturity, but at other times I’m disgusted by the lack of maturity that many of my peers show.  I have made my decisions, and I am happy, others have made their decisions and I hope they are happy, but in order to change the world like we have been told and taught that we will do; some of us need to camouflage ourselves.

There are some great companies who realize that they need to adapt and appeal to us in order to thrive, you know who they are because you most likely researched them as a place you want to work.  But when the reality of being a college grad steps in and you don’t get your dream job, you’ll learn that at most companies it will be a struggle to make the company more gen-y compatible.  It will be a struggle that will last until we are in positions of power and can effectively fight for what we believe.  Until then we must fall into line, we must play the game, we must appeal to Gen-X and the Boomers.  We need to act more mature than we are and we will climb the ladder.  Then, when the time is right, we can grab the reigns and make the changes that are needed.

What this entails:

  • Do not allow your parents to involve themselves in your workplace.
  • Dress up.  If your dress code is business casual, wear dressy casual.
  • Stay clean cut.  Shave and get a haircut, long hair is not boomer compatible.
  • Imitate.  Older people love younger people that remind them of themselves.
  • Go out of your way to impress them.

I know this goes against much that we believe to be true and what many people try tell us about ourselves, but unless you work for one of the few companies that is truly gen-y compatible this cammo will be necessary to make the changes we want.  Our fault as a generation is thinking that we can have our dreams now, but we must realize that in order to achieve our dreams and the changes we wish to see we need to plot out a realistic path and work towards acheiving them.





Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared To Share Ideas

8 05 2008

 

A key trait of millennials is that we love to be entrepreneurial, we love to take on new tasks, but most of all, we need to know that our ideas are appreciated or at least given the time of day. Being a millennial, these traits are some of the main reasons why I started this blog.Jumping into the workforce where all of my co-workers and bosses are Gen-X and Boomers has been challenging. On one hand it really hasn’t been difficult to impress them, but on the other hand there is no free-flow of ideas. All the people around me seem to think that good ideas can’t come from the bottom of the corporation, and that they always come from the top. Needless to say, it has been a frustrating environment for a millennial to work in.

A couple weeks ago I had a Jerry McGuire moment at work and wrote somewhat of a manifesto for the company, and I must say that it felt great. And it felt even better when I shared it with my boss and I wasn’t fired, in fact he agreed with me! He then proceeded to fall into my generalization that good ideas only come from the top.

Never forget that the free-flow of ideas is something that millennials thrive on. We can build on each other, we can help each other, and maybe some people will start to listen!

All of this takes me back to a phrase that my entrepreneurship professor taught me (one that is impossible to forget):

If you’re scared you’re going to get screwed, you’re never going to get laid.

Vulgar, yes, but it’s also memorable and true. Say you have a business idea, but you’re too scared to share it with people. Then nothing will ever happen (unless you know every aspect…marketing, development, financing…). But say you start sharing it with people, maybe a rich old guy at Starbucks wants to invest, maybe your friend knows a few people who can help you out, or maybe someone helps you build on the idea. Either way, you’re ahead!

But what if someone steals my good idea? Why do you care if someone steals your idea? If it’s your idea I hope that you will have more passion for it than someone else. Sure, greed is a motivator for some, but businesses that are looking to cash in from the start rarely do well. Remember, you can’t fake passion. Entrepreneurs with a passion and a vision are the one’s that surpass expectations. What do Google, Yahoo, Craigslist, Dell, and Starbucks have in common? They all started out with passion and visions, and all are still run by the people that put them on the map. Did other people try to steal their ideas? Yes, absolutely they did, but the people who conceptualized from the beginning have done better. Also, remember that imitation is just another form of flattery. Note: Howard Schultz was not the founder of Starbucks, but it was his vision that grew it from a few stores to what it is today.

 

 





Why You Should Ask For Potential Employer References

23 04 2008

“He get’s bitchy sometimes.  Just understand that it has nothing to do with you, it’s just his personality.”

The words of wisdom from a co-worker on my fourth day in the office, and subsequently his last, rang through my head today as I entered my bosses office and realized he was in one of his “moods.”  I quickly turned on my comedic relief to ease the tension in the room and help to lighten his mood.

Allow me to backtrack, I have a great boss, I have the kind of boss most employees would love to have, he’s not about facetime, he’s about getting work done, and he understands the concept of a work/life balance.  He fights for his employee’s rights and for these reasons I love him.  If we had 360 degree feedback, and I were to write his review, it would definitely be a good one.

The words of my co-worker while I was still in my first week stay with me.  There are days where my boss is one step from seemingly taking it out on me, so I have learned to defuse the situation by making him laugh or letting him vent.  Occasionally I have to stop him and remind him that he isn’t mad at me.  This relationship is my other serious relationship.  Penelope Trunk often writes of having a friend at work who you can work with and who helps you work better.  For better or for worse, for me that person is my boss.

I’ve learned how to cope with my boss, and I’ve learned to defuse situations by comedic relief or just calling him out on it, but I wonder if I would be working where I am now if he had given me his references when I interviewed for the job.  Afterall, I do spend just as much time with him everyday as I do with my wife.

So I ask you this, why is it expected for employers to check references for employees, but the employee doesn’t get to see a reference for his boss before accepting the position?  

Many interview books recommend that you spend upwards of 24 hours with a person before hiring them or accepting their offer, however, no one actually does this, we don’t have the time, so we are forced to base major life decisions on what we can learn in about an hour (if we’re lucky).  

So I ask again why don’t we, the employee, get to check references?





Positive Peer Pressure

16 04 2008

Note: I sincerely apologize for the lack of posts over the last week.  It has been a very hectic week for Mary, Myself, and My family.

For the first time in my adult life I experienced positive peer pressure, and it made me glad to have the friends I have.  The other night I called one of my former roommates, who is a very good friend of mine and I caught him in the middle of a beer pong game with a fraternity brother of ours.  We all graduated at the same time, all with double degrees, all with finance as one of them.  We spoke about how things are going in life and our conversation came around to finances. 

My former roommate told me that he decided to splurge his tax refund on a new set of golf clubs to celebrate his year in the workforce and a recent promotion.  The conversation went something like this, I will use R for the roomate and G for my other friend (They have me I’m on speakerphone… mid beer pong game):

Me – Nice!  Congratulations…that’s a pretty big purchase!

R – I know, but I’ve already funded my 401(k) and started funding a Roth IRA for the year and I wanted to splurge on something nice as a reward.  Are you and Mary funding your 401(k)’s?

Me- Unfortunately we don’t get 401(k)’s until we have been at the company for a year because of high turnover in our industry.

R & G- THAT SUCKS!

Me- I know, BUT we have both fully funded our Roth IRA’s for 2007.

G- Very good.  So you’ve each got your 4 grand sacked away… that’s impressive.

Me- Thanks.  Have you been funding yours?

G- Absolutely, and I’m saving all the rest of my money for an engagement Ring…

Towards the end of our conversation we all agreed to peer pressure another friend into making sure he is saving and on a good track.

Maybe it’s just my circle of friends, but I’m starting to think that we might be getting it!  We have seen family members want to retire but not be able to, we have seen friends and family get in way over their heads in debt, and we don’t want it to happen to us!  The credit crunch/recession/whatever you want to call it may end up being a good thing for our generation because we are seeing first hand what can happen when your priorities are not in line, and we are learning from it!  We are learning from other people’s mistakes and enriching our own lives because of it. 

I am very proud of my friends for having their priorities in line by not getting caught up with excess, splurging when everthing else is taken care of, and still making time for fun by enjoying a good game of beer pong on a weeknight.  Way to go guys!

On second thought I may have gotten ahead of myself, I need to call them back and make sure they have emergency funds as well… I will update.

Update:  I checked back with R.  And I am pleased to say that he has quite a few separate funds set up.  He says that he has an Oh Shit fund (read: emergency fund), 401(k), Roth IRA, and a mid-life crisis fund (which apparently could double as a house down payment fund as well).  Wow…good job R!





How I Impress Older Coworkers

4 04 2008

Coming out of college and entering the working world wasn’t much different from the transition between high school and college. As a high school senior I was a big fish in a little pond, I was awesome…then I graduated and quickly became little fish in the big pond of college. Now as a freshman in the working world I am once again a little fish in a big pond. Being back in this situation was intimidating, until I realized that my coworkers encourage me to learn more, and most are more than willing to facilitate the process, which is a drastically different attitude than my classmates had in college.Most of my coworkers are at least 10 years older than I am, and that puts me at an advantage. You see many of them had somewhat written me off as not understanding everything that I was doing, and while this was true and I did need help (who doesn’t?), I was able to amaze them away with 2 little things I keep up with.

1. I read the Wall Street Journal everyday. It is, hands down, the best newspaper around, and no one expects someone in their early 20’s to be reading it. Reading the Journal daily allows me to stay up to date on a variety of issues ranging from business to politics. Mary and I frequently inform our co-workers and bosses of things that are occurring in the industry in which we work, from bankruptcy of competitors to new concepts, and we can do this because we read everyday. It makes us look good that we not only know this relevant information, but that we are the one’s informing our superiors of it. It also allows me to preface talking points with “there was a great article in the Wall Street Journal the other day…”

2. I Polish my work. In many cases presentation is more important than content. If you know how to make boring things look more appealing then you are less likely to get questioned. Case in point, I maintain many spreadsheets at work, I also hold all of the backup information for them. No one has questioned me for backup information on the spreadsheets that are well laid out, easy to read, and easy on the eyes. However, I have been questioned numerous times on spreadsheets where I have made a formatting error, or it just isn’t as pretty. After I provide the backup (which proves me correct) I am told to fix the formatting. The bottom line is that if it is ugly, the content matters more, and having something pretty creates the illusion of credibility. As I said in yesterday’s post, that illusion becomes reality.

These two little things are simple to do allow me to stay at the top of my game and continue impressing those who I work with.

Edit: JRandom pointed out that I made it look like I might be trying to put one over on my boss.  I would like to clarify by stating that I never submit anything unless I have double checked all of my work.  I definitely understand the concept that you can’t polish crap, and I don’t, but I was trying to state that appearance and polish seems to give an extra level of credibility.








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