Wednesday, January 25, 2012

“Arsenal jobs are really good. But do you really want to pick up and move to a whole new city and start all over from scratch?” - George Riley

Hello, Faithful Followers!  I have moved locations.  Twice.  I moved back to the Fargo-Moorhead area and found a new blog home.  Blogspot has been great to me, but I have decided to switch things up.  You can now catch me at my new cyber-home:

Thank you so much for sticking with me and I’ll see ya in the new neighborhood!
Positive Thought of the Day:
Traveling is not just seeing the new; it is also leaving behind. Not just opening doors; also closing them behind you, never to return. But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see whenever you shut your eyes.” – Jan Myrdal

Friday, November 11, 2011

"There can be economy only where there is efficiency." - Benjamin Disraeli

Dagnabit!  I have been a total deadbeat poster in the month of November.  You have my sincere apologies.  My early New Year's resolution is to rectify my lack of posting!

To try and make amends for my disappearance I want to link my faithful readers to a very useful item to help make the job application process easier.  Some company sites/job boards only provide a PDF version of their application, which can be a bit of a pain/chore to fill out; not to mention the fact that some (I) have terrible handwriting. 

I came across this website about year ago that still brings joy to my job-hunting heart.  It's called Nitro Pro, and it's a program that allows you to download PDF files so you can edit them on your computer.  It has a two week demo where you can see how it works (and, shameless plug, how much easier it is to fill out online applications).  It has a bunch of different functions where you can convert PDF files to Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.  Nitro Pro has been a lifesaver!  One word of "warning":  The Nitro Pro logo does show up on the lower righthand corner of any documents you edit.  I've never had a company come back to me and complain that it's there so no harm/no foul in their advertising.

So, I hope this helps make your day a little bit easier . . .

Positive Thought of the Day:
"We don't have a lot of time on this earth.  We weren't meant to spend it this way.  Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms, and listening to eight bosses drone on about mission statements." - Peter Gibbons, Office Space

Monday, October 31, 2011

"If the Great Pumpking comes, I'll still put in a good word for you." - Linus

Does this puppy look like it's having a Happy Halloween?
No.  No, it doesn't.  Stop dressing up your pets.  If not for them, for me and my well-being. 

Also, if you're over the age of 12 it's no longer trick-or-treating.  It's begging.

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween, Friends!

Positive Thought of the Day:
"If you are an adult and you are planning to dress up for Halloween . . . don't.  I will find you.  I will hurt you." - Lewis Black

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Weekends don't count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless." - Bill Watterson

All work and no fun . . . makes for a very long week.  Happy Friday, Friends!  Whether it's been a long week of sending out resumes, a tough week at work, or maybe both, it's time to put your feet up and enjoy the weekend.  Keep your head up, Champ!  A little positivity is just around the corner!

Positive Thought of the Day:
"Oh, you hate your job?  Why didn't you say so?  There's support group for that.  It's called "everybody", and they meet at the bar." - Drew Carey

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, 'Always do what you are afraid to do.'" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

When job hunting one tends to run into quite a bit of rejection, which can lead to the notion of, "I'm such a loser.  Why do I even try to do ANYTHING?"  Listen, Eeyore.  You can do lots of great things.  I have so much faith in the great things you can accomplish that I'm going to issue you a challenge.  During your job search I challenge you to do one thing you think cannot do or absolutely hate.  If you can triumph over something that has kicked your self-confidence into the corner then you can land that dream job. 

What started this notion for me was when I was facing some difficult challenges at work last summer.  I just wasn't thriving with the company I was working for due to reasons I won't go into on this blog, but, unfortunately, I was dealing with a lot of tough emotions.  I was pretty down in the dumps and needed a way to gain some confidence back into my life. 

So, I decided to take up running.  In order to give you some understanding on how much I hate running it ranks right behind racism and homophobia as things I despise most in this world.  For years I told myself I couldn't run.  My body wasn't built for it.  I didn't have the stamina.  Why bother?  There are plenty of other ways to get some exercise.  One day I randomly told myself I could do it and maintain it is a way of life.  None of this, "I ran for one day so cross that off my Bucket List." stuff.  Was I going to run every day in hopes of completing a marathon?  No.  There's a better chance of me going back to school to become an astrophysicist than becoming a marathon runner.  My goal was to run, for however long my body allowed, multiples a week.

And, I started.  And, it was awful.  I walked more than I ran, but I still ran.  Every time I would go out I would run a little bit farther.  I kept running through the fall right until the ground had frozen over at the start of winter.  I did it.  I had reached a goal I never thought I'd make.  I also found a new job that got me out of the unhappy situation I was in.  Maybe it was just a random coincidence, but I also feel that inner-confidence and contentment tends to lead to outward change. 

I don't know if my job happiness hinges on the coming of the Harvest Moon, but at my then current job over the summer I was running into similar issues and politics I had run into in the past.  My confidence started to pack its backs and writing its Dear John letter.  I couldn't let it leave again so I decided to add on to my challenge of running.  While I had picked my running "regiment" again once the weather had thawed, I still didn't have the best endurance. 

My normal parade route went from my rented house, down a gravel road to the corner and back.  I still was doing a lot of walking between running stints.  On a motivated day I could run to the corner without stopping.  That was such a feat in my mind that I allowed myself to walk the entire way back instead of my jogging/walking combo.  My new goal was to run to the corner and back to my house without stopping.  The next time I went running I made all the way around without stopping.  The aftermath left my calves stiff for two days, but I can still say I did it.  I have to say, this was not a long-term goal.  I've only run to the corner and back twice.  However, still . . . An accomplishment is an accomplishment.

Whatever you choose doesn't have to me monumental.  Maybe you've always wanted to learn how to make red velvet cake.  Whatever you choose doesn't have to be something you share with others.  There is that old adage that if you say it out loud than you're more apt to do it.  I sometimes feel that if you say it out loud than you're more apt to feel foolish if it doesn't work out.  The point is this is YOUR goal, so it's YOUR business.  You can do it.  Just remember:  Even if you don't believe you can get it done, there will always be one person who thinks you can.  Me.                         

Positive Thought of the Day:
"If there is tomorrow when we're not together there is something you must always remember.  You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." - Winnie the Pooh

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than everyone else." - Albert Einstein

Rules, rules, rules.  They're everywhere.  They even get you before you get the job.  Damn The Man.  Always trying to keep us down.  Resumes have their own list of do's and don'ts.  This list is as all-inclusive as I can make it.  I'm sure there are others I am forgetting or others that people prefer.  If you have any others you have on your own Do's and Don'ts list, please feel free to leave a comment.  The more ideas we have, hopefully, the better our resumes become.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

1.  Do build your resume on your own.  Plugging your information into an online resume builder may be easy to begin with but can turn into a nightmare to reformat once you save.  E-mailing preformatted resumes can also be dicey and an ugly looking resume can be tossed before a single word is read.  Also, some online resume formatters can also charge for use of their sites.

2.  Do make the basic information for each listing eye-catching.  Generally speaking the first thing that happens to a resume is it's scanned over for the highlights to see if it's "worth" looking into what you actually did at each position.  So, ensure that the company name, location (optional but handy if you have moved around or a company has more than one location), dates of employment, and position title.

October 2005 to May 2006
Director of Operations and Volunteer Coordinator

3.  Do keep everything as flush to the left margin as possible.  When I scan down a resume I don't want to see a lot of white space.  Everything I need to see should be there through my first pass through your resume.

4.  Do use bullet points instead of numbers for each task that you have done.  It might seem nitpicky but the start of each point shouldn't be a readable part of the line.  

5.  Do practice the art of brevity.  If a bullet point is longer than two lines, it's too long.  Try to actually keep as many points to one line as possible.

6.  Do try and quantify achievements as much as possible.  "Trained 75 employees on computerized inventory information system" has more gravitas than "Taught others about inventory spreadsheets".

7.  Do be honest.  There's a line between quantifying achievements and embellishing achievements.  The truth always comes out either in word or by action.  A prospective employer can gain a clearer picture of what you did at a job by obtaining a reference check or observing actual results if you're hired.  It's better to overdeliver than underachieve.

8.  Do use resume paper.  I've mentioned this before.  Are the accomplishments on the paper what's ultimately more important than the actual paper?  Absolutely.  But, show that your professionalism and take the extra step to print your resume on actual resume paper.  Plain or cream.  Any other type of background is distracting.

9.  Do adjust the margins if need be.  The hard and fast rule of resumes is becoming more obsolete.  Don't go crazy, though.  Anything over two, plus a reference sheet, is too much.  Adjust margins to keep it to two pages.  Try and stay within the 0.75" margin range.  If your margins start creeping to 0.5", it's time to start editing to cut out any unneccessary information.

10.  Do save your resume with your name and what it is in the title, i.e. Lindsay Haugen Resume.  This will put a virtual dog ear on your resume so it hopefully doesn't get lost in the shuffle of other resumes. 

Resume Don'ts:

1.  Don't add pictures.  Unless you're applying to be a supermodel, pictures are never necessary.  Ever.  

2.  Don't add hobbies.  Good for you for having a green thumb, but I'm not going to see how that relates to the job opening within my web design firm.  If you have a blog about gardening with flashy graphics, that might be a workable angle.  Otherwise it's not needed.

3.  Don't use crazy fonts or font colors.  Even if you're applying to an ad agency where creativity is key, keep your resume plain and simple, but add in a marketing portfolio with your application materials.  Times New Roman, size 12, black ink.  Think of this as your resume's Chanel suit or Rolex watch.  Timeless and classic.   

4.  Don't use gimmicks to deliver your resume.  By gimmicks I mean schtick.  Don't tie your resume to a boot and tag a note that says, "Just trying to get my foot in the door."  I once had an applicant bring me flowers with her resume.  That's another story for another day.       

5.  Don't use full sentences.  Sentences belong in your cover letter.  Since full sentences aren't used, punctuation isn't needed after each bullet point.  Capitalization of each line is, though.

6.  Don't fold your resume.  I mentioned this before, too.  When sending a resume, use 8.5" x 11" envelopes to send your resume.  When you're dealing with stacks, literally stacks, of resumes, ones that don't lay flat are the bane of HR's existence.
7.  Don't list more than five points per each position.  A resume is meant to highlight what you've done; not give a blow-by-blow account of everything you've ever done.  One exception to this rule is if you've been with a company for an extensive amount of time, say 10 plus years.

8.  Don't forget to proofread.

9.  Don't forget to proofread.

10.  Don't forget to proofread.

I hate being a buzzkill.  Do's and Don'ts aren't meant to take the joy (Bwahahahaha!) out of writing resumes.  They're just meant to help send out the best finished product as possible. 
Positive Thought of the Day:
"It's not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them." - T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Resumes:  The Art of Packaging of What Ya Got.  Whether you're fresh out of school or have a work history as long as my leg, writing a great resume is vital.  Writing a great resume can also be daunting.  How does one package their career, part of their life's history, into something compelling enough to make a manager feel you might be the right fit for his or her team?  While ultimately your voice needs to come through your resume, we'll go over some basic resume formats.

So, Vanna, if you please . . . boot up Microsoft Word:

Basic Information:
Regardless of format every resume needs your contact information.  Make sure the address listed is where you can most easily pick up your mail (in case any paperwork needs to be mailed to you).  Your phone number and professional e-mail should also be listed.  Even if you don't have Internet at home you should still have an e-mail set up.  More and more companies are contacting applicants online, and application confirmations are also being sent electronically.  Another thing to remember is to make sure your outgoing ring and voicemail message are professional sounding.  No hiring manager is going to want to hear Justin Bieber's newest smash hit or you yelling, "LEAVE ME A MESSAGE, YO!!"

Whether you center your contact message or left justify it, each bit of information should get its own line and your name should be bolded and one to two font sizes bigger than the rest of your resume.  Getting your name stuck in their heads' is important.

Lindsay Haugen
XXX Awesome Street
Anywhere, MN 56549

Types of Resumes:

1.  Chronological.  Pretty self-explanatory but this format lists all of your work and leadership experience in the order of most recent until your very first position.  This is the most common and most preferred.  It's the easiest way to scan through someone's work history to see how long they've been at each position or if there are any employment gaps.

2.  Functional.  This focuses more on skills and experience rather than listing a chronological work history.  This is usually used by job seekers who are doing a career change or have significant employment gaps due to such things as going back to school or staying at home to raise a family.

3.  Targeted.  This is where you list key skills and experience geared towards a specific job posting before listing a chronological work history.  This can be time-consuming because you have to really have to take a close eye to what a job posting is asking for to pull out key components of your past that will fit the bill.

Format Side Note:
Regardless of what format you use any collegiate experience should be listed.  If you're just out of high school and need a resume for either college or a job you're applying to, naturally you should list that.  Otherwise, even if that is your highest degree earned, your high school graduation is probably not needed  Maybe I'm in the minority, but I feel that most hiring managers are going to assume a person has a high school diploma or GED or that information can be explained on an application.

Long story longer:  Education can be listed at the beginning or end of a resume.  If you're fairly new out of school, I would list it at the beginning of your resume.  Once a person hits right around the five year mark of being out school, education can move towards the end of your resume.  Your graduation date can come off as well.  In all candor, graduation dates are simple math gateways to how old a person is. 

If you are still in college and starting to apply to jobs to get a jump on starting your career or if you're in the middle of  obtaining an advanced degree, simply put "Expected graduation date May 2012".  Never list a degree until you have it in your hand.  True store:  I have heard of a person listing a degree thinking they had everything needed to graduate completed only to find out a credit wasn't completed, which actually caused their diploma to be pending until the issue was resolved.  Talk about an awkward conversation AFTER the resume was submitted with a degree listed. 

Whew!  That was a mouthful!  Hang in there.  Once you get your information laid out, polishing it up will be a piece of cake.  German chocolate . . . with that weird coconut frosting. 

Next time we'll cover some basic do's and don'ts of resume writing. 

Positive Thought of the Day:
"It takes more than just a good looking body.  You've got to have the heart and soul to go with it." - Epictetus