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.





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.





Good Idea? Bad Idea?

16 05 2008

Last week I wrote a post about why you should share your ideas, with the bottom line being “If you’re scared you’re going to get screwed, you’re never going to get laid.”  In the comments Young and Frugal, and Brazen Careerist reader JRandom prompted me with a great question, which I will answer to the best of my ability.

So what happens after your ideas get a good listen and are rejected? Do you keep pushing them? Do you modify them in light of skeptical criticism? Do you take them elsewhere? Or what?

Throughout my entire senior year in college I poured my heart and soul into a business plan with three other people.  We knew our concept was amazing, and we all still believe it to be amazing.  I’ll even give you a three word pitch on it right now: Healthy Fast Food. 

We entered this plan into a few nationwide business plan competitions and everyone loved it, but we never won.  There are many valid reasons why we didn’t win, after all who wants to invest in a restaurant concept, with low margins, run by four college kids with no experience?  These flaws aside, the biggest thing I learned from this experience is that ideas (business plans in particular) are living, breathing, and growing things; they need constant attention and you can’t get ahead of yourself.  We met with investors and executives daily to pitch and pick their brains on our concept, which would lead to us re-writing our 30 page plan and reworking our powerpoint many many times.

For us, putting the plan aside was a matter of time and money.  We didn’t have the money to put into it, all of us would be jobless upon graduation, and 2 of us were getting married a month after graduation (my wife was on the team).

At the end of the day it all depends on how you feel about your idea.  Deep down, I think we all know whether our ideas are good or if they are crap.  The key is how much thought you have put into it’s execution.  How many people you have talked to about it, talking with other people gives you different perspectives.  Someone may find a fatal flaw in your plan, but if you have the passion for your concept you can work to find a solution. 

The bottom line is that we don’t possess our good ideas, they possess us.  Once you are possessed you have true passion to keep trying, when you are knocked down, you get up you take your passion to someone else to try again.

Howard Schultz was possessed by Starbucks.  He was possessed enough to pester them until they found a place for him in their company.  He was possessed enough to move from New York to Seattle.  And when he had the opportunity to buy and grow Starbucks, he was passionate enough to spend a year trying to raise $1.25 Million.  And it was his passion for his vision that led him to pitch the concept to potential investors 242 times, just to have 217 say no.  But in the end it didn’t matter that 217 said no, it mattered that about 30 said yes.  (Source)

What happens if you are possessed by a bad idea?  I don’t know, and sometimes people do just need to learn to give up, but next time you are in a plane, reach in the seatback in front of you and read the SkyMall magazine.  It’s full of them, and it goes to show that even some bad ideas can still make some money (assuming that people buy anything out of there).





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.

 

 





Live On Last Years Salary

6 05 2008

My wife and I have essentially been living as if we were making mortgage payments on our new house for the last 6 months, but instead of paying a mortgage (and taxes and insurance and Homeowners Association) it’s all been going into savings for our down payment.

We admit that we are stretching ourselves to buy our first house (I think that’s something that most people do), but as we are re-evaluating our budget (less than a month until we move in!) we have found ourselves looking forward to our raises in the fall (even if it just equates to a cost of living raise) because let’s face it…as much as budgeting is important, no one likes sticking to a strict budget, so we look towards the future at what we will be making and what we can spend (or save) at that point in time

I think our problem is that we are always looking to acquire more. We want more and don’t want to make sacrifices to get more.

As Mary and I caught ourselves looking forward at what we will be earning and what will increase in our budget I thought to myself, why not look backwards?

Why not live on last years salary? Say your salary was X last year and it increased to Y this year. If you live on last years salary and budget you inadvertently save Y-X all year. Then when your salary increases to Z you can live on Y and save Z-Y.

This concept allows you to save more and forces you to permanently (ideally) live below your means. It’s simple, but a great and easy way to save!