Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Land That Job! Unique and Fresh Approaches to Resumes and the Search for Gainful Employment.


Or does it rock?

Resumes are routine and boring.

Or are they sexy?

Don't find yourself here!
Perpetual Break.

Searching for a couple tweaks that can set you apart from the masses? Read on...
Firstly, please understand that a resume is an evil but necessary component of adult life. Secondly, a resume does not get you the job; it only gets a foot in the door. That proverbial foot can get you an interview though, and an interview can get you the job.

Finding a full-time job is a full-time job. The days of filling out applications and leaving them at the front desk are over. It’s time to practice interviewing, research your potential employer, dress up, smile, and talk to people face to face. Let’s start refining, shall we?
Resume Design/Layout
There are a few general and accepted resume formats. Without getting into the "Functional" vs. "Chronological" vs. "Combination" vs. "Targeted" resume debate, just remember that none is better than any other. They all have their place and the most suitable format will be obvious after researching the position, company and requirements. Keep a couple variations of each on your computer, at least somewhat handy. It then is easy to edit and tailor your info to that of the position's requests. A "Functional" resume then can also be a "Targeted" resume and exist in both capacities.

There are many factors that play into resume design; find what works best for your personality and experience. Education and degrees are still paramount in HR's eyes, although perhaps to a lesser extent these days, but if you are bold, it is possible to take charge of your resume and get noticed.

Your full name should be prominent but not overwhelming, as should your contact information. If necessary, create a new email for sending your resume electronically and use it exclusively for job hunting and emailing leads. Do not use your casual or silly email name as employers serious about hiring notice these things and you will quickly get lost in the shuffle. 

Contact information should be easily prominent, readable and up-to-date. Full name, phone number, email, and home address -debatable if address is necessary- should all be on the top. With the contact info, try lining it up left or right instead of the traditional center for a different look. Also debatable is the presence of a summary of qualifications, or objective, at the top. Use one if you deem fit, as it is traditional and expected, but wisely, taking care to not just repeat bullet points from the body.

Use a font that is easy to read and keep the body text around ten, eleven or twelve. Your name and other info can be larger, or even in a different font, as long as the similar elements are formatted exactly. Remember that your resume may be printed and referenced during your interview, so don’t overload and make it difficult for the reader.

When you decide to hit the bricks and need printed copies to hand out, use white or off-white resume paper. You can get resume paper at Target and countless other shops.  Yes, it is an investment of sorts, but a necessary and reasonably priced investment. Do not spend a fortune on paper! Also, printing can get expensive, so look for job assistance centers, low income assistance agencies, or a friend's printer that can cut down on those costs. Keep your printed resumes clean, corners unfettered and bound (if two or three pages) with a paper clip or small binder clip. Staples? I say no. Your full contact info should appear less prominently on additional pages as well.

Although it still hurts to bring up, grammar and (almost) all the rules still apply on resumes. Yes, protocol is  forgiven a bit due to the acceptance of sentence fragments and the need for space, but please proofread multiple times before hitting send or print. No misspellings or formatting errors are allowed under any circumstances!! Never, ever.

Get Creative!!
Use tables or graphs sparingly and minimal but effective font colors and fonts. A “Core Competencies” or “Danny’s Top Ten” 3x4 table or graph, in the top ¼ of the first page grabs the eye allowing your “big MEGA skills” to be highlighted while instilling an initial overall trust in your abilities. Not only is it visually appealing, but it augments the traditional objective if you do decide to use both. Otherwise, creativity in design seems an apt replacement. I have a 'Core Competencies' and 'Objective' on a current version and have gotten good responses.
Color? Sending Electronically? How Long?
Using font color is good for printing and display, but keep it simple. If you are sending electronically, your best bet is to save as a PDF since the formatting should not corrupt if going from a Mac to a PC or vice versa. Regardless, your resume should not be longer than three pages (at most!) but must be at least a one solid full page. Feel free to play with the margins on whatever program you may be using, but be aware of the overall appearance. Print preview is your very good friend in this case. Word is an effective and common program, even for minor graphic design, and Pages for Mac is about equal. You can find resume templates all over the internet; use them as a guide. After all, your individual talents, skills and strengths truly need to be showcased here. A sense of modesty combined with the expected braggadocio make for intricate, careful word choices. Enjoy showing off a bit by exhibiting less relevant, less obvious skills with the layout, design, and word choice of your resume.
Creating Engaging Content
Showcasing through design is one thing, but in the end, content rules all else. Each bullet point should show a positive, practical outcome due to your direct involvement as it also explains your mastery of arbitration, taking blood, floor cleaning, underwater basket weaving, trimming turkeys, etc. 

“Mediated discussions between tenants and owners to collect past rents due which resulted in payments received, a clean ledger and the recovery of multiple accounts' arrears.” 

“Organized and lead a team on a weekly G.I (general inspection) cleaning of public facilities in building while saving 10% of operating costs by using coupon to buy supplies and rent equipment.”
Here are a few from one of my current resume variations:
   Translated project’s ideas and goals to web designers in order to produce an indispensable website supplying reentering individuals helpful resources to succeed.
   Maintained theatre’s operational details including leading weekly staff meetings, scheduling staff shifts, hiring necessary outside contractors and ensuring a clean, professional and relaxing theatre experience for clients and guests.
   Evaluate reports of social media analytics yielding a deeper understanding of client/customer interaction and satisfaction, generating more sales and leads while also allowing for precise anticipation of customers' needs.
Rarely Oversell, Never Undersell

Make sure your strongest and most relevant capabilities are represented completely. Take care to show any promotions or growth within a respective organization and also note new talents learned along the way. It's possible to weave the reasons for promotion into the bullet points if you choose as well. Be clear and concise in your descriptions, and don't worry about boasting. This is your chance to sell your skills! One of the very few times it is perfectly acceptable to convince others of our perceived awesomeness. Simply be honest and realistic with your bullet points and don't overdo it. Keep in mind that someday you may be asked to demonstrate your skills in real life, so be ready to back up any claims of greatness! A working interview is very possible depending on the field -don't embarrass yourself. If you can do it, speak it. If not, save it. 

Create Your Own Content!
Make your own experience by learning a new skill. Did you recently learn how to sell on eBay? Do you design event posters for friends? Recently edited a friends manuscript? Are you editing promo videos for local artists or musicians? Fixed your car? Fixed a few cars? It all counts.
Changing an alternator.
Assuming you have gained proficiency in these talents, they definitely justify being listed as strengths, right along side the more formal, and expected, background particulars. The relevant experience you list does not have to come directly from previous employers. You are special and this is your chance to showcase those skills that set you apart from the other applicants. Tailor them to the position you are currently applying for. As discussed below, knowledge -no matter how specific- can translate.
Identify specific events, processes, and procedures from prior jobs and deconstruct them to gain insight. Even though a part of your job may only take ten minutes, an hour, or five seconds, think about all the individual steps using linear thinking, A+B+C+D = proficiency. Each step contains dozens of individual steps to form the whole, therefore each step we are actively engaged in can (should) teach us something. It is up to us if we decide to absorb knowledge from these daily activities, but the lessons are there. Learn them, take from them what you can, and decide how to apply the resulting knowledge to the task at hand: marketing your skills in the brightest light to get that elusive job interview. 

Below in red, I pose a further explanation of the need for "content creation." The question and its obvious answers in blue seem to show a legitimate correlation between that particular job's duties and dozens of others. Observe, Absorb, Manifest. 

Q: What transferable skills does answering the phone fifty or a hundred times a day foster?

A: Excellent spoken communication skills, multitasking while customers may come in, creative problem solving when a customers question is kind of weird, the development of a confident and clear speaking voice, note taking, composing clear and concise emails from phone messages and on and on. 

Not only can each talent above be presented as a skill or strong point, but each can be expanded upon for even more resume fodder.

Getting The Right Resume Into the Right Hands
If you are responding to an online ad, i.e. Craigslist, Indeed, Monster, read the post carefully. 

No attachments allowed? Don't send them. 

Apply on company website? Do it. 

Must have cover letter? No problem.

Salary requirements? List them. 

Note cut off dates and other specifics. Then just do what they ask of you. After all, that’s hopefully where this is all headed after an interview or two anyway, right? Plus, following directions shows you can follow directions. An imperative thing if you are looking to work for someone else. Proper submission can separate the amateurs from the professionals, automatically placing you in the "next" stage of the hiring process.

Talk to Everyone
Really. If you drive, drive to a large neighborhood area with lots of shops and restaurants, park and walk around. Look for help wanted signs in the windows of the stores. If something piques your interest, go in and talk to someone. If you are nice, they will at least address you to the proper person. Musicians, try guitar stores. Dancers, try all the local studios and dance wear shops. Think about your hobbies and find places that line up with your interests. A great way case the joints? Google search for a few points of interest. Stretch your glutes and hamstrings and take an evening run to see the buildings while getting yourself just a bit healthier. This translates into confidence and it shows. Employers love genuine confidence, so build that up however you are able. 
If you know people who hire and interview people, are writers, English majors, Executive Directors or are just generally smart and successful, ask them for resume evaluations (and life advice probably, too!). I know a corporate recruiter who has been kind enough to share some priceless and very useful info about resumes and interviewing.

When talking to people, be honest, sincere, and keep yourself organized along the way. Make sure you have physical resume(s) handy when out and about. Clearly labeled folders on your computer for search/editing purposes are helpful as well, especially if you are using job specific resumes discussed above. Categorize the resumes by position or industry and do not be hesitant to get them out there. Just remember to rename them with appropriate titles when they are ready to be emailed.

A few days a week go out and get a physical copy of your resume in six peoples’ hands. Just walk in to a shop you have identified as interesting, or a place you know is hiring, ask for the manager and start talking. Be polite, remember names and get all the info you possibly can from whoever you talk to. It’s great to let people see you and not just as a resume as people quit jobs all the time and employers keep resumes on file for up to a year, so you never know. Plus, it’s tough to make an impression with someone electronically, but that’s the name of the game these days, so you must be creative. You could include a printed cover letter or reference sheets if you so choose, but those will add to the expense. If required, you should have them.
Don’t Be Shy
Go get that promotion! Manager spot open? Go for it! You can apply skills and knowledge from prior work or experience to any new situation because of the amazing crossovers we have found. This is especially true about transfers or promotions in the same company. Think about what you know about other departments. What about all the ideas you have to improve the company in general? Use your mind and think reasonably and rationally. You have been great at other jobs and probably now possess some degree of specialty without fully realizing it. Creative problem solving? Have you had some weird assignments or come in contact with some odd people? Learned from great bosses or colleagues? The expertise you take from those situations will eventually come into play in the form of personality management, which essentially, is business management of every type. Believe me, that knowledge will be used during the most bizarre of circumstances at some point yet to come, and you’ll be glad you have them at your disposal.

Other Ways to Connect
Be on LinkedIn, Jobber, Plaxo and other professional community sites. Stay active. These sites can supply you with hints and info you may not be able to find otherwise. Include your LinkedIn profile link in the signature of your intro email or cover letter as well as relevant professional website links. Be sure to include your phone number in emails as well. 
If you are on the bus or train or walk a lot, talk to people. Nice day out? Stop in the park and sit next to someone on a bench or out walking his or her dog. I got job leads and phone numbers on the bus numerous times. Try to keep a few hard copies around whenever you are out. I was hired for a sound gig at a bar after walking in a venue, introducing myself and handing over a resume. Luckily they had a sound board I was familiar with (glad I paid attention at the last place ;). Paid cash too.
Tell your Facebook peeps you are looking. Start a FB group called “Find John A Job.” Who knows?

Shake enough trees, you get some peaches. 
As discussed prior, it is ok to use job specific resumes. It’s perfectly fine to have three or more different resumes floating around, as they will all come in handy eventually. A general one with all your recent history should exist as a catchall, but industry specific resumes with crucial, relevant experience highlighted are also worth keeping handy and accessible. 

Looking for administrative assistant jobs? Highlight your organizational and communication skills.
Retail part time? Design background, people skills.
Anything that has regular direct customer contact? Customer service and guest satisfaction.
Do you have food service managerial experience? Try looking for retail managerial positions. You are still overseeing staff, ordering, making schedules, and presenting a product (food/clothes/art supplies/etc), blah blah. Whatever it is managers claim to do :) 
Pick up odd jobs. If you search around enough you can find some new and interesting opportunities to make a few dollars along the way while also making some good connections along the way. Win, win.
Make sure to outline the skills particular to the job posting’s description. If they have very specific requirements, don’t waste any time if you can’t meet them all. If you are fortunate, you can identify the things you are GREAT at, get down to the micro-details and apply them to niche industry job pools. Apply all across the country! All across the world! Expand your territory and shift your perspective. You might be stunned to learn/find/see what is behind that tree, hidden by that building, and found inside a conversation. 

In the end it is all about preparation and follow through. It is time to commit to professional evolution and allow ourselves the best opportunities possible. Believing that securing a full time job is a full time job will aid in your search, but remember, it can be grating and frustrating. Sometimes there are weeks of schmoozing just to get an interview, but worth it in the end! Keep your resumes easily accessible at all times since you just never know if the next turn is the right one!
Good luck with the hunt! Remember: The right job is right here! Involve yourself in your future.
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