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

Monday, October 17, 2011

“You can fall, but you can rise also.” - Angelique Kidjo

Happy Monday, Friends . . .

How to Format a Resume is coming.  In the meantime, if you're a little discouraged because it feels as if that dream job isn't ever going to call you back, just remember:

That is your positive thought for the day!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Special skills: Thyping." - Taken from an actual resume

Ohh, the dreaded resume.  The toughest part of writing one is getting an actual resume built.  Once you have your basic format and information added, it will be easier to tweak and adjust for any job you're applying to. 

I am a big proponent of building your own resume versus using a template or one of those online resume generators that spits out something for you.  Writing your own resume from scratch give you more control over the format and stretches out your writing muscles.

There are many key elements to writing a killer resume that gets read.  Much like anything on this blog, we'll break it down into smaller components to make the task a little less daunting.  The first part we'll tackle is the actual content that goes into assembling a resume.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

1.  Your contact information:  Name, address, phone number and e-mail.  This is an easy one to look over when proofreading.  A friend of mine who did his work study in the career study at MSUM once saw a resume submitted by a student with her name spelled wrong.  He knew this student so he knew what her name should've been.  Talk about an epic fail.  Also, there is no reason why you shouldn't have a professional sounding e-mail.  If you want to keep for all of your posse to get ahold of you, that's fine.  However, e-mails are free so sign up for a second one for professional listings.  Sometimes options are limited if you have a common name, but try and nab one with your entire name and as little of anything else as possible, i.e.  This may sound incredibly picky, but I find Yahoo to sound slightly more professional than Hotmail.  I love you MSN and I rely on my Hotmail account more for of everyday interactions, but maybe it's just me that I don't think the word "hot" should be anywhere in a professional sounding e-mail.

2.  Objective.  This one little piece trips me up every time.  How does someone sum up their work history and give a vision for their career path in one little sentence fragment?  Do I even need to bother anymore?  I caught an article yesterday through MSN stating that objectives on resumes are going the way of the dodo.  Here's the link to the Nels Wroe article on what he thinks of resume objectives.

Some hiring managers are old school, I usually am, too, so throwing one on there probably isn't going to kill you as long as it's clear and error free.  A simple, "To get a job in retail" is not going to cut it.  To write an effective objective, try the A + B = C method.  Think of two skills or experiences that you can bring into the career path you are seeking.  For example, "To utilize experience in event planning and advertising within the field of marketing"  Since objectives aren't full sentences there isn't a need to add punctuation at the end.

3.  College education.  Even if it's been awhile since you been in college, this is an important part since most job postings require a certain degree within a certain field.  If you're a recent college date, one smart thing to add since you might be a little light on direct work experience is related coursework.  If you've been out of school for more than five years, leave off your graduation date.  List if you graduated with any honors.  Any other special awards or accomplishments can be listed at the very end of your resume under, you guessed it, Awards/Achievements.

4.  Work experience.  This one's the headliner.  There are various schools of thought on how work experience should be laid out, which we'll cover in how to format a resume a little later on.  What should be listed under work experience should be name of company, dates with months and years listed, position held, and three to five bullet points of what you did.  It's all about the buzzwords.  The start of each bullet point should sound active and accomplished, but there's no need break out the thesaurus.  If it sounds like something Chaucer would've used, find something else.  Each point should have its own buzzword.  I know it can be tedious trying to find new ways of phrasing your accomplishments, but it shows you put the time and effort to really craft your resume.

There is also some debate on whether or not a person should list work experience even if it doesn't relate to what you're applying to.  I'm from the school of thought that says you can gain valuable experience from every place you work.  If you spent four years flipping burgers at McDonalds that gives you a starting point to showcase your customer service skills, commitment to setting forth a high-quality product, and the ability to multitask.  Also, if you omit jobs that you don't think will help your cause, you run the risk of looking like there are holes in your work history.      

5.  Leadership experience.  This can be a key section for multiple reasons.  If you are fresh out of college and don't have a lot of work experience, you can show potential employers your marketability through what accomplished at school.  It can also be used to show skills you may not have gained on the job but still have ascertained elsewhere.  For example, if I wanted to break into the field of college admissions but have zero professional experience doing so, I can highlight the fact I was very active in my collegiate organization who gave campus tours.  Also, companies are moving towards individuals who are well-rounded outside of the office, so if you have any experience in professional networking groups or volunteering, showcase what you've done!

6.  Awards/Achievements.  These could be collegiate or professional.  After the five year mark collegiate awards can start to fall off unless it's a prestigious national award.  It's great that you made the Dean's List but after awhile it's kind of like wearing your letterman's jacket from 1988.  Also, use your discretion when listing awards.  If you won Chili of the Year at your company picnic, it's best to leave that trophy on your mantle.

7.  References.  Sometimes job application sites will have you upload your references separately but usually reference lists go along with resumes.  Also, don't list "References Upon Request."  The last thing HR wants is homework.  Three references should do the trick, however, some companies will ask for up to five.  References should be people you have worked with.  Professors can also work if you're right out of school or applying to graduate school.  Keep references up-to-date.  A reference from a job you worked at 10 years ago isn't going to look especially relevant.  Also, no family members.  I have had people list their moms as references on applications.  The only way this is allowable is if you worked for the family business.  If that's the case then that family member should be listed as your supervisor.

So now that all of the pieces have been dumped out of the box, we'll tackle how to put the puzzle together next.

Positive Thought of the Day:
"Resume: A written exaggeration of only the good things a person has done in the past, as well as a wish list of the qualities a person would like to have." - Bo Bennett

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"There seems to be a perverse human characterstic that likes to make easy things difficult." - Warren Buffett

Well, job hunting isn't easy and Warren Buffett, you are a bazillionaire.  How much is a bazillion dollars?  Ten times more than a zillion.

Although, I have to give Mr. Buffett some credit.  He did start working at the ripe old age of 11.  As a child Buffett would go door to door selling chewing gum his grandfather sold to him.  That's a life lesson right there.  When your grandpa won't even give you free gum to help you turn an even larger profit, you know you're in for a lifetime of work.  Earning a living is hard, and it starts one dollar at a time.  Finding a way to earn a living is hard, and it starts one application at a time. 

That's not to say there aren't ways to streamline the job application process.  I was working through the tedious process of filling out an online application and was reminded of how much longer it would be taking if I hadn't found my own shortcuts.  I still have to put in the leg work to fill out the application, but it helps to have my information handy in a word processing document since applications tend ask the same basic information.

Vanna, if you please . . . just don't let our algebra teacher see my cheat sheet.

1.  Work history.  I have all of my previous jobs listed from current to oldest with the following information:
  • Company Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Employment dates listed with month and year; these will be listed on your resume but it's just as easy  to have your information in one spot
  • Salary information, especially if you received any pay increases during your time at a company.  It's a good way to signal an employer was happy with your work.

2.  Job duties.  For each job I have held I have one sentence that hits the highlights of what I did in that position.  For example, "On a daily basis I handled the office's customer service needs, as well as processed claims and various paperwork."  You can also go with a bulleted list on this one.  The main thing is to hit the key components since most applications don't give you a lot space.

3.  Reasons for leaving.  This one is unavoidable but also important. 
  • Keep it classy.  I have seen everything from, "They weren't going to hire me full time fast enough." to "I didn't get along with my boss." on applications.  These types of statements won't win you admiration for working in such horrid conditions. 
  • Keep it honest.  If you were fired, there's not point in saying otherwise.  Sooner or later everyone's bill comes to.  Even if a future employer doesn't call your boss to hear him or her sing your praises, they will at least call to confirm employment dates and rehire statuses.  A simple, "I was let go." or "I was downsized." will fill the need on your application.  You can explain in further detail when it comes time for the interview. 
  • Keep it positive.  This ties into Point A.  Even if you hated your job and would've trampled your own mother to get out of there, leaving your job needs to be framed as a positive career move.  Since there isn't a lot of space to write flowing prose, a simple statement such as, "I was looking for opportunities in the human resources field beyond the realm of retail." will work.       

4.  School information.  Do I remember where I went to high school?  Yes.  Do I know what street it's located on?  No.  I know Google is a great and fast tool but when you've been filling out tons of applications, looking up even basic information becomes tiresome. 

5.  Optional skills.  Some applications will ask for any relevant coursework, certifications, or trainings you have had that will be an asset to the company.  It's not a bad idea to have this information handy.  For example, "I have taken collegiate courses in human resources, marketing, and advertising."

6.  Reference information.  Have the names, phone numbers, work addresses, and job titles of your references handy AND preapproved.  Do not list someone as a reference before asking for their okay, even if you're 100% sure they will say yes.  Doing so shows a lack of respect to the people who will have your back.  I have been called for a reference check on someone who didn't warn me I was a reference.  I still gave positve feedback, but I was also perturbed. 

If you come across an application for a great job that's due tomorrow and you don't have references lined up, call the people to see if it's okay to list them.  If they won't answer their phone, start looking for other professional contacts you can get ahold of. 

Once you have a person's approval, it is okay to list them repeatedly.  However, as a courtesy, it would be a good idea to check in with them every few months to still see if it's okay to list them, if they're still with their contact information is correct, or to give them a heads up you're looking again. 

I hope your list will help make the application process a little easier.  Isn't it nice to be at a point in life where you can't flunk out if you have a cheat sheet to help you with your work?

Positive Thought of the Day:
"Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy." - Lao Tzu

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Pursue excellence and success will follow." - Rancho, 3 Idiots

Since it's Columbus Day Vanna has the day off.  It's actually a blessing in disguise because I can post without her incessant lists.  Stay with me on this one . . .

I'm a big movie junkie and I came across a movie the other day that hit home.  Sometimes when I'm adding movies into my Netflix queue I get into a really artsy mood and add a bunch of independent or foreign films.  Side note:  Stop being ridiculous, Netflix.  Make a decision and stick with it.

Anyway, I had added a Bollywood movie titled 3 Idiots, which was directed by Rajkumar Hirani.  I honestly can't tell you why I added it my list.  Since I couldn't think of why I wanted to watch this film I almost sent it back without seeing it.  Economic sense got the better of me since I figured I had paid for it I might as well watch it.

The basic premise of the movie is about two friends who go on a journey with their collegiate adversary to find their long-lost friend.  The two friends haven't seen their missing compatriot for ten years and miss him dearly.  The adversary is looking to find the missing person to fulfill on a ten year bet that he is the most successful out of their graduating class.  During the journey there are flashbacks of how the 3 Idiots became fast friends as college freshmen and the pressure of succeeding to escape poverty that was so prevelant in India.  Don't fret.  It's not nearly as depressing as Slumdog Millionaire.  It hits on the importance of learning instead of being right, and if you follow what feel in your heart, you'll never be a failure. 

One note:  If you've never seen a Bollywood movie, there will be musical numbers throughout the film.  If you can sit through movies about sparkly vampires, you can sit through people singing.    

What sucker punched me right in the heart was a moving scene at the end when one of the three friends goes to a highly anticipated interview after months of emotional and physical tumult.  His reaction to being asked how he would fit into the culture of the corporate world stunned me.  I don't know if I can fully explain the emotions and feelings this movie stirred up in me.  I do know that I can't make you feel the same way I felt after seeing 3 Idiots.  My hope is you can have the courage to face your future, even if it's for two hours at a time. 

I give it 4 out of 4 staplers.

Positive Thought of the Day:
"The movies we love and admire are to some extent a function of who we are when we see them." - Mary Schmich

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Dating is pressure and tension. What is a date, really, but a job interview that lasts all night?" - Jerry Seinfeld

Dating is a lot like landing that great job interview.  You spend countless hours looking for the "right one."  You wear outfits that you would normally never wear.  You rack your brain for the best possible answers to questions they might ask.  You are constantly worrying if they might reject you.  Most importantly:  You spend the whole time trying to portray who you think they want you to be.  At least with job hunting there's always a chance you'll end up with a really great dental plan. 

I have to make an admission.  As I was trying to tear down yet another writer's block, aka procrastinating on my next cover letter, I was sorting through old online articles I had saved to my favorites.  I came across an article on the 11 Dating Mantras to Live By I had found through  As I was reading through each point to remember while dating I couldn't help but notice how many related to job searching. 

So, I can't take credit for today's list.  Authorship rights go to Erin Meanley of  Vanna, if you please, the pirated list . . . (Editor's note:  The numbered list was written by Ms. Meanley.  The clarifications below each one were written by me.  I know you're a smart bunch, but just in case there's any ambiguity . . .)

1.  I can't control his behavior; I can only control my reaction to it. 
To steal another dating cliche:  "He's just not that into you."  Calling repeatedly after sending a resume or an interview isn't going to help your chances of getting the job.  Follow up one week after either/or and leave it at that.  Being too eager can actually hurt your chances.  Plus, HR is super-busy with HR-y stuff.  There's a fine line between showing interest and being a job stalker. 

2.  I am a human being worthy of love.
Just because they aren't calling you back doesn't mean you wouldn't be a great employee.  The hiring process always takes longer than everyone thinks.  If a job isn't calling you back, put your hook back into the water.  There are plenty more fish in the sea who would love to hire you.

3.  Everyone is responsible for guarding their own heart.
This is the age-old trap that gets even the most cynical of daters.  "I had a great time tonight.  Can I call you sometime?"  We spend the rest of the night looking at our phones to make sure it isn't on silent.  You may have nailed the interview.  They may even tell you nailed the interview.  Yet, that is no guarantee you're the one they're going to hire.  Why?  Who knows?  The point is to pat yourself on the back, but stay diligent in your search.  We all know what happens when we assume.     

4.  Big picture, big picture.
Every resume that doesn't get read or interview you don't land is just practice for the getting the right job.  Don't dwell on the things you don't get.  A job may look perfect on paper and you really, really want it, but who knows?  It may have a toxic work environment.  The boss may smell like tobassco sauce.  Everything we go through is a lesson to be learned to help us see the big picture.
5.  Life never ceases to surprise me. 
There have been jobs I never thought I had a chance at that have called me for an interview.  There have been jobs where I thought I would be a shoe-in for at least an interview that didn't call me at all.  Throw your hat into the ring.  If you don't even try your chances still stay at zero. 

6.  I am lucky to be alive. 
Remember this when you're counting all the things you don't have or the jobs you're not getting.

7.  It's okay to be sad.
You're going hear 'no', and you're going to be disheartened.  It's okay to be bummed out.

8.  I'm taking it one day at a time. 
This is a good reminder to not wish away your life until the job posting date closes on your dream job.  Take time to step away from polishing your resume and combing through  Go to the movies.  Read a chapter in your favorite book.  Take a shower.  Your psyche and your family will thank you.    

9.  This too shall pass.
You will land that great job you've been pining after and the heartache you went through to find it will be a distant memory.  If what you really wanted was easily attained, how fulfilling is it really?  
10.  Everything will work out fine in the end. 
It's easy to fall into the pit of despair when job hunting.  You tell yourself awful things that destroy yourself confidence.  When you hit that point, tell yourself everything will work itself out.  Yes, Pollyanna, it will.  One thing that has helped me to keep my chin up is I take a dry erase marker and write nice things about myself on my bathroom mirror.  What I write ranges from my ability to engage people to my shiny hair.  It doesn't really matter what it is, and I don't really read it once it's up there.  The important thing is when I see the list grow, I remember I will be okay because of all the great qualities I possess. 

11.  Serenity now!
Whenever I say this line, I scream it like George's dad on Seinfeld.  It doesn't always calm me down, but it makes me laugh.   

Positive Thought of the Day:
"Employees make the best dates.  You don't have to pick them up and they're tax deductible." - Andy Warhol

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant." - Mitchell Kapor

Now that you have your grocery list written it's time to go shopping.  Shopping for jobs is a lot like shopping at IKEA.  There is a lot to look at and you have to put some work in to get a finished product, but if you can find the right colored track you can at least get started.  And, with any luck, you'll get to meet Ace of Bass.

Big Task; Little Steps.  Vanna, if you please . . .

1.  Human Resources would love to see your face . . . when you come in for your scheduled interview.  While it is easier to remember a name when there is a face attached to it, dropping in unexpectedly and requesting an interview is not the way to get remembered.  If you have the time to pick up an application or drop off a resume, that's totally fine.  Any more than that is presumptuous.  I once had a co-worker say to me, "I wish I could work in HR so I could have a job where I do nothing."  HR may not look very busy since a lot of what is done is on the computer, but make no mistake:  HR's day is jam-packed just like everyone else's.  Dropping in unannounced for an interview is disrespectful to their time.  Also, HR doesn't want to hear a sad story about how you drove 7 hours to see if you could be interviewed.  That just shows a lack of planning on your part.  Don't call us; we'll call you.  Literally.  Don't call on the phone and ask for an interview, either.

2.  EXTREE, EXTREE!  READ ALL ABOUT IT!  It helps if you're wearing a newsie outfit while reading this point.  While the classified ad of your local newspaper is not completely dead, it is on life support.  More and more companies are opting for the more convenient, and sometimes more cost-effective, online ad.  This is where your list comes into play.  Some online job search engines can produce over 2,000 postings.  Who has that kind of time and energy to sift through that many ads?  Much like Ikea, once you can narrow your search down to either the green or yellow line, the easier it is to get to your dream job/futon.

Whether you are utilizing,, or, utilize the categories and parameters to cast out your net.  Remember:  The wider the net, the more fish you'll hopefully pull in.  If you have very specific criteria in terms of type of job or company you do/don't want to work for, salary, or location, that's fine.  However, just be forewarned that having very narrow specifications may lengthen how long it takes to find a job that meets your requirements.

Don't always rely on online classified or search engines either.  Sometimes companies will only post openings on their website.  So, if there is a certain company you have your eye on, check their website frequently.  Also, start to notice trends and patterns in the types of job openings you want so you'll have an idea of the likelihood of finding a job.  For example, teaching and admissions positions tend to open up in the Spring and are usually filled by the time school starts in the Fall.  So, if you would really like to break into academia at good ol' Alma Mater University, start looking when you dust off your capris and t-shirts.

3.  'Cuz we still like seeing fossils at the museum.  Even though we are in the Age of the Computers, some companies will still only post job openings in the newspaper.  The Sunday paper is going to be your best bet in finding the most amount of listings.

4.  Trees are overrated.  Just because more and more companies are utilizing the Internet to find their applicants doesn't mean you shouldn't have resume paper handy.  Some online postings will still request a hard copy of your resume and cover letter.  Also, as mentioned in point three, if a company only posted their job opening in the paper, more than likely they're going to want any application materials sent to them.  A box of 24 lb resume paper will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 - $10.  You won't need to go with anything that's much more expensive than that.  You want your resume to say, "I'm professional."; not, "I got duped into spending $30 on paper."  Use the full-sized catalog style envelopes.  Trust me.  Maybe I'm too picky but folded resumes and applications are the worst. 

Best of luck in your shopping endeavors.  Don't forget to pick up milk!

Positive thought of the day: 
"I feel that luck is preparation meeting opporunity." - Oprah Winfrey

Monday, October 3, 2011

“The trouble with unemployment is that the minute you wake up in the morning you’re on the job.” - Slappy White

Whether or not you are employed while job searching the biggest step is getting started.  I know.  Just call me Captain Obvious. 

One of the reasons why we put off finding a new job or tell ourselves the job we’re in isn’t so bad is because job hunting scares the bejeebers out of us.  Yes, it is daunting.  But, just like eating an elephant, all you need to do is take it one bite at a time.

Vanna, if you please, bring out the list . . .

1.   Find your heart’s desire.  Grab a notebook or Post-It and write down what types of jobs you would like to do or companies you would like to work for, even if they’re seemingly out of your reach.  Saying you want to be a movie star or a world famous belly dancer may sound silly, but it may also be that tiny little voice you’ve been shushing urging to take a look at your inner entertainer.  You need to be your own biggest cheerleader.  If you don’t believe in your dreams, who else will?

2.   Find a pattern.  Take your list and group any job or company into as many relateable groups as possible.  If you have a list of, say, ten items and the top three are the humane society, Red Cross, or youth director, maybe a shift towards the non-profit sector is in order.  Or, if you are leaning towards such positions as development director, recruiting, or even accounting, take a look breaking into education.  Ivy covered walls look pretty, but they don’t bring in money from donors, give tours to potential freshmen, or allot financial aid to thousands of students.  Getting a handle on what career paths you want to travel down now will help your actual career search later.  

3.   Find jobs to apply to.  That’s all for tonight, folks!  You’ve been a wonderful audience . . . Okay.  Seriously.  Now it’s time to do the leg work.  Times, they are a-changin’.  Gone are the days when you would get spiffed up to pound the pavement in hopes to land an on-the-spot interview.  As someone who has worked in human resources (HR), do not assume that just because you dropped off your resume you will get an instantaneous interview.  Just because it looks like we’re just sitting at a computer playing Angry Birds doesn’t mean we are.  Presumptuous interrupting of the workflow of HR is not the best way to get your foot in the door.  It’s actually a great way to annoy the gatekeepers of the hiring process. 
Next we will cover how actually take that focused energy and actually search for jobs . . . Onwards and upwards!

Positive Thought for the Day:
"Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs." - Henry Ford

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Trying is the first step to failure." - Homer Simpson

Job hunting is a perpetual ego-kicking machine. 

It doesn't matter how many gold stars you received in school.  Or, how many times your picture went up on the Employee of the Month wall.  Unless you’re extremely lucky you’re bound to suffer through the sting of rejection at some point in your job search.  Even the most talented, qualified, and experienced job seekers are told "no" sometimes.

Hopefully you have a strong sense of self, a healthy dose of self-confidence, and supportive people in your life.  Rejection can still suck even if you’re armed with an arsenal of all three.  It can shake us to the very core and cause us to question why we are even putting ourselves out there in the first place.  We tell ourselves, "What's the point?  I might as well stay at my lousy job.  At least it pays the bills." 

But, rejection does not have to be a job hunting death sentence.  How does one pull themselves up by their proverbial boot straps?  I'm a big fan of lists.  So, Vanna, if you please . . .

1.  Admit that it sucks.  You don't have to rent a billboard.  You don't even have to tell your friends and family you received a rejection letter.  In this day and age you don't always receive that.  You have every right to keep your lips sealed.  What you need to do is reconcile any raw emotions you have with yourself.  Moxie and gumption are great things, but it's okay to say, "I'm angry/sad/frustrated/etc. I didn't get that job.  I think it would've been perfect for me."  Beating yourself up for being bummed is only going to make you feel worse.

2.  Have a short memory.  You feel bad.  You realize you feel bad.  Guess what?  The sun will still come up tomorrow unless you're Mayan and 2012 is fast approaching.  After drowning your sorrows in a vice of your choice throw that rejection letter in the trash.  Open up the classified ads.  That fantastic job isn't going to wait for you to get back on your horse.

3.  "Don't drive angry" - Bill Murray, Groundhog Day.  This may seem contradictory to point two, but make sure you are in the right frame of mind before you saddle up your horse again.  Moping around for days isn't going to help you, but neither is sending out applications when you feel dejected.  I once sent off an application without proofreading at all because I was still reeling from a rejection letter I had received earlier in the day.  At the time I didn't see the point of putting my best foot forward since it didn't seem to matter anyway.  You're good enough.  You're smart enough. And, doggonit, people like you.  Remember that before clicking the submit button on your next application.
4.  Take a closer look at your resume and cover letter.  Rejection can be a push towards creativity.  Whether you wrangle family, friend, foe, or you take a hard look yourself, make sure what you’re sending out is truly a great reflection of what you have to offer.  I know rehashing through resumes and cover letters can be painstaking and mind-numbing, but it is completely necessary.  Sometimes you have crafted a really good cover letter but a tweak to a word here or cutting out filler there can turn it from good to great.  Sometimes you hit a patch of bad luck and a resume dipped in gold won't do the trick.  Just make sure you have laid all your cards on the table including a well-polished cover letter and resume. 

Always remember one postive thought each day:
“Life only demands from you the strength you possess.”- Dag Hammarskjold

Friday, September 30, 2011

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here...

That's what it feels like when entering the realm of job searching.  Job hunting can wrench the gut of even the most experienced job seekers.  Do not despair, friends.  We can work (no pun intended) through the process together!
My two main goals of this blog are to be informative and encouraging.  Looking for a new job; let alone finding a career, can be confusing, isolating and disheartening.  I have waded through the drudgery of crafting resumes, trying on suits, and smiling through interviews.  I feel your pain . . . 
However, being in human resources, I have also sat through interviewees’ stories of cut up underwear (yep!) and received applications filled in with glitter pens and Xeroxed notebook pages submitted as cover letters.  My posts will hopefully offer some insight into the minds of those working through the hiring process as human resources (HR; I have been surprised at how many people do not what HR stands for) representatives.  Maybe this insight will help smooth out some of the bumps in the road along the way to reaching your dream job.