Resume Writing 101: For The New Job Market

Grads, recent grads, kind of recent grads, youngish, oldish, 8 – 80, dropouts, drop-ins, dropped on head, whatever. If you’re in the market for a new job (and you probably are, considering the money you owe someone), I’ve got great news! There’s never been a better time to be a job seeker. Between the stable (and fast-growing) economy, the steady political environment, and the recent news about NEW RESUME STANDARDS, you’re getting in at the perfect time. So bust out your highlighter, or, if you prefer not to print (environmentally friendly, you’ll go far), turn on the highlighter on your i-pad and get ready to take notes from the most complete resume writing white paper ever written.

Job searching, what a pain. I’ve never met a person who was excited about the prospect of the job search. People are excited about new jobs, leaving existing jobs, making/meeting new friends/coworkers, &, of course, buying beer that tastes like something other than Bud Light, with their first big paycheck, but the job search itself, not so much. One of the worst parts of the process is tailoring your resume to each job you’re applying to; it’s a slog that compares favorably to gator wrestling while peeling M&Ms. But no more, welcome to the 21st century’s 1st big paradigm shift in the world of work… resume development.

Writing a perfect resume is not possible—no such animal exists. Anyone who tells you different doesn’t know anything, don’t listen to them. Now that we’ve got that minor detail out of the way, let’s get down to the art & science of writing the almost perfect resume. And for those of you who are wondering, “who is this guy; and what does he know about job searching and resume writing”. Well, I’ve been in the field of work (both the paid and unpaid kinds) for more than 20 years (started when I was 7). I’ve applied to, and been hired by, more than a few outfits and, most importantly, I recently spent 30 minutes in a Human Relations/Human Resources (H.R.²) office. You’d be amazed at what a receptionist will reveal, if you offer them a smile and a piece of gum.

The new H.R.²/hiring facilitator(s)/Director of Recruitment (but not retention)/Fate Controller, no longer questions your qualifications. In their mind, you wouldn’t have applied if you weren’t qualified (and the resume screening software filtered out 99% of the fit and unfit applicants). What they do want to know about is you. Yep, Y. O. U. you. The real you. The person that goes on Instagram and Snapchat, Facebook (if you still use that archaic medium), Twitter (if #politics and #twitterwars #followback #Trumpsaidwhat and all that sort of thing interests you), but not MySpace, if you have an account, delete it, that’s an automatic strike, and you only get four strikes, like baseball, in Canada, in the winter leagues. Most importantly here, the potential employer wants to know HOW DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 5 YEARS. Not where, HOW? So, now that you know what they’re looking for, let’s talk specifics.

1. Names are important. This is the first thing that every recruiter/interviewer/ screener looks at. You might have the most amazing name in the history of names, something like Dax Ulysses Dellanova, aka DUD, but that won’t grab anyone’s attention in H.R.² You need to differentiate yourself by adding a moniker. This is your 1st, and possibly last, opportunity to distinguish yourself from the candidate field.

As an example, I use “Captain America” so as to highlight my commitment to managing others (Captain), and, “America” clearly exhibits my willingness to move anywhere for the job (so long as there are Americans around, and the compensation is adequate). For those looking to land in a particular region, the right name lets H.R.² know that you are willing to move from your beautiful home in Wichita, KS to find gainful employment in Laguna Beach, or Dana Point, or even Newport Beach. A perfect example of this is Lieutenant Left Coast; this signals two things: you are a “command & control” type (particularly good fit for organizations that prefer the rigid environment of a military chain-of-command) and you’re willing to move to Orange County, CA and live within a block or two of the beach (you have grit). On the other hand, if you’re locked in to one specific location, because the pancakes at the Glass City Cafe, in Toledo, are the best pancakes on earth, then maybe something like, Glass City Guy, or Frog Town Fool, or T-Town Timmy (if your name is Tim) would work. The other sure-fire bet is to incorporate a skill set into your catchy sobriquet.

Think about those individuals who chose just the right title to advertise who they are and which skills they possess: Slick Rick, Mother Jones, Moses Malone, Gordon Gekko (I honestly don’t know the connection between Wall St. & small lizards but it worked for him), Pope Francis, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chesty Puller, Jimmy/James Dean (here again, sausage and pop-idol actor/icon, I don’t get it, but I don’t have to, you need to figure out what works for You). These are but a few examples of people who were/are forward thinking. They found a unique tag and huge success followed because of it (and because they were pretty talented).

2. Working with others, on a team, with real people, is no longer optional in the majority of operations. You need to show-off your ability to work with others. Decades of research have shown that no company achieves greatness (measured in quarterly profit and loss statements) without highly motivated, highly successful teams. As an aside, one question you, the job seeker, should ask the interview team, is – “how often do you have team building exercises?” If the answer is anything less than once a month, kindly thank them for their time, get up, and walk out. Don’t waste your time with an outfit that is obviously headed for bankruptcy.

Back to teams. Discuss, at length, every team you’ve ever been a part of. This includes t-ball, youth gymnastics, chess club, swing choir, Young Republicans, The Drinking Dems (if you were in this club, don’t bring up any specifics and definitely don’t make any references to “Natty Light”, that’s an automatic strike), tailgating crews, corn-hole cooperative, etc. et al. They love listening to this stuff; go on for hours if you can, lay it on thick. Remember it’s always “we”, never “me”.

3. This portion of the resume is where you get to talk about your connections, i.e. people your company could tap if cash-on-hand is running low. Without name-dropping (because that’s considered gauche in an interview, save it for yachting up the coast), casually toss out phrases that include signifiers such as “I spent many summers laying by the pool, at my cousin’s estate in East Hampton” & “my dad said the year I spent in Hong Kong, researching Asian market trends, will pay off when I need to find a real job”. And, if you’re not as well-heeled as all that, you can still reference the annual trips to Sundance & Cannes where you “catch up with mom and dad’s friends from prep school… their work is so timely, so… mmmm… brilliant”. Don’t be shy on this part of the resume, it’s networking at its finest.

4. If you already have work experience (not including the car wash where you used to buy weed and hang out for a few hours before heading to Fat Burger), real, honest-to-goodness work, with coworkers, and a boss, and paychecks… try to remember if any of them ever paid you a work related compliment. In this section of your resume (ACCOMPLISHMENTS!), you can include accolades such as “She did a really great job”, or “That’s outstanding insert your name here, you’re a fast emailer”, or “Wow! You did that? Terrific!” This lets your future employer know that you’re capable of good work, even if you don’t do it everyday. And, if you have more than 3 “atta-boys”, make it a separate section titled “PEOPLE SAID THIS ABOUT ME!” or “TESTIMONIALS!“; that’s really impressive.

5. Education section— this isn’t optional. You know, I know, your friends know, you’re an educated fool with money on your mind. However, your new coworkers don’t want to work with a “Pukey” if they attended UNC or NC State or Wake Forest, or any school that has lost an NCAA tournament game to Duke (which does not include Mercer, Eastern Michigan, V.C.U., & Lehigh); nor would a “Pukey” want to work in that type of hostile environment. The same logic applies to the Wolverines-Buckeyes, Bruins-Trojans, Cardinals-Wildcats, & Tigers-Tide, frenemies.

6. The new layout. Here’s where things really get fun, i.e. the BIGGEST piece of the paradigm shift. For centuries, millenia even, we’ve been taught that font size, font consistency, white space, being succinct, etc, are very important. No more. Think Big; Think One-Size-Fits-All, Think of “the box” as six loosely associated parallelograms hanging out in an area where multiple planes intersect. The new resume is FUN. Use 8 different fonts; 10 different font sizes; 15 colors; add links to your favorite work related songs and non-work related songs; make it 25, 30, 100 pages in length; include a brief description of how you picked your spirit animal and why you prefer white wine to scotch; emojisPineapple on Apple iOS 9.3 Woman Dancing: Medium Skin Tone on Apple iOS 10.3 Palm Tree on Apple iOS 10.3  Hibiscus on Apple iOS 10.3 Sailboat on Apple iOS 10.3 Octopus on Apple iOS 10.3 are in; exclamation points are encouraged!!; and mention a couple items of office gossip (use employees’ pet names) so they know you have connections on the inside… write a book; chances are nobody will ever see it anyway, it’ll be screened out with the other 1,500 resumes from hard charging job seekers. So go wild (writing can be very cathartic).

Action photos have replaced headshots and are now commonplace with Fortune 500 applicants

7. Add a picture or six. This used to be appropriate only for those industries where a pretty face was considered essential for the position (television newscaster, actor, cheerleader, banker, candy striper, male escort, realtor, etc.) but today’s work setting requires employers to not only assess whether or not your skills, personality, social media game, and activity levels will be a good fit with the liveware already employed but also if your image (to include your sense of style) is going to be cause for daily conversations/work stoppages revolving around your choice of headwear. Additionally, include pictures that are not of you. Do you have friends that look like they would fit in with the culture at the place you’re hoping to be hired? Include their photo. And Beagles, great breed, very popular with most hiring managers, they’re people oriented dogs with a great demeanor— make that connection for H.R.², don’t assume they’ll know you based on your 10,000 words alone. One other category of photo to consider is the “artistic you”. Any great shots of brick next to grass, in lowlight, blending bokeh, soft, and blurry into one image, like you were drunk and accidentally snapping photos as you fell to the ground, those are perfect. This shows your creative side; and if we know anything about the future of work, we know that creativity is our last best hope to stave off the relentless pursuit of bright young minds around the globe (teamwork only goes so far, we aren’t doing any team building exercises with the Swedes).

Bokeh & Blurry – Minneapolis, Lake Street, Southside, dusk, sunset, dirty bus window filter

After completing your masterpiece and sending it out into the interweb, do yourself a favor, hand deliver a second copy to the person in charge. Walk it right into their office and give them a copy (with a $20 bill paper-clipped to the top, not folded, make it conspicuous). This lets the boss(es) know you’re serious about your desire to work for their company. More than likely this won’t get you a job (or even an interview), but it will make you feel like you’ve done everything in your power and well, that’s something.

Good luck as you begin your quest for gainful and meaningful employment. A few last pieces of advice. Don’t be afraid to ask Google if you aren’t sure about something; but remember, Google doesn’t have all the answers. Don’t take every piece of advice that is given regardless of the source; some people don’t realize that their “skills” had nothing to do with their successful job hunt. And last, whatever you do, don’t give up; this process can take a decade or longer and include many sidequests, false-starts, and shitty days. Ever Forward job seekers!

Call people who know people. Networking is key, even with a great resume.
This is tongue in cheek, sarcasm, not real, but glean from it what makes sense, a few ideas aren’t so far from reality.

 

Life Policies: “Best Practices”

The last thing graduates need at this time of year is another article extolling them for their hard work and dedication, and offering unsolicited advice that pertains to their future. That said, it may be handy to reflect upon the skills and knowledge that have been picked up along the way. From that starting point, one can expound on the deeper meanings and offer takeaways that expand future opportunities. Moreover, this would be an appropriate topic for a blog that logs millions of hits daily and is ranked as a perennial “Top 10” (according to people who know these things); but since The Oatmeal is a little busy with other fun stuff, I guess I’ll do it. Whether finishing up your first full year in kindergarten (a disproportionate percentage of  my readers fall into this category, but that bodes well for 26.3s long-term viability), leaving elementary behind for middle school (a.k.a. Junior High), pushing on from 8th to 9th grade, receiving your high school diploma, or attaining one or another type of college parchment pronouncement, here are some Best Practices for life (and these should in no way be confused with the “best practices” used by Trump University, Enron, Washington Mutual, or Lehman Brothers).

First off, make sure you have a list of life policies that you support (e.g. people should be nice), policies you could support, if they were enacted (like, free ice cream every saturday, for everybody), policies you don’t find logical (such as, one can join the Marines at 18 but can’t legally drink a beer until they are 21, with minor exceptions), & policies you believe were written by cavemen (Smoot-Hawley, yes, literate cavemen). And then expand your list based on what you’ve learned in your time on earth.

Kindergartners often leave their first year with a sound understanding of basic social skills. It’s not a stretch then to move from simple niceties (Hello, Please, Thank You, Sorry, Pardon me, snack sharing) to the ideas of: sharing more than a snack with your fellow wo/man; holding a door for the person behind you; comforting a person or animal that is scared; standing up for those who may be unable to speak/act for themselves: the elderly, children, persons with physical, mental, emotional, disabilities, pets and other animals; and those who often go unheard: the homeless, people experiencing poverty, individuals suffering any form of abuse, the marginalized members of our communities. Six-year-olds know many of these things a posteriori, there’s no reason the rest of us shouldn’t be able to think about others’ well-being, in addition to taking care of oneself.

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By the time kids finish 5th grade, they have figured out that what they are good at is very often an activity that they enjoy, it’s not a coincidence. Some have a natural talent (e.g. athletics), some have been gently pushed in a general direction (e.g. readers/writers), some find that numbers just make sense in their heads, and others, well, some kids like everything, they are curious about the world.

Curiosity is a trait we are born with, i.e. it is innate. As children grow, and learn, and make mistakes (lots of this by the end of 5th grade), most of them come to understand that curiosity is a precursor to ridicule. Anytime you admit that you don’t know something, you open yourself up to comments from those who know, or think they know. Due to this form of “peer-sneering”, the overtly curious fall into two camps, those who keep the questions to themselves (which then divides into another set of camps; the closet nerds/dorks/geeks and the kids who learn to become less curious and accept the status quo without question)…

And this is a good opportunity to talk about sheep. Those who “follow blindly” as some would say, are not sheep. Two differences; 1) this assumes sheep are not smart, au contraire. Sheep understand that they are not lions or tigers or bears and therefore they place their trust with the shepherd and the sheep dogs (the caretakers/protectors). 2) People are smart; they have figured out how to navigate their own waters without capsizing their boat. This doesn’t make them weak, or stupid, or followers, it makes them people. Not everyone was born to lead, or question everything, or fight the power; nor was everyone born to build bridges, analyze massive volumes of excel data, or teach children how to read. Remember that if we were all the same, our world would be a very dull place and we know what the dull life leads to.

…and those who don’t care (like me) about what others think, we are just curious about everything and want to know who, what, why, how, when, where, and furthermore, are you certain.

Another thing noticed by graduates of the 5th grade is the speed at which life is moving—the pace of everything has quickened (excluding snails, tectonic plates, & molasses). This is to say, the adults are cramming more stuff into the same number of hours (13 & ½ to be exact). Therefore, regardless of what category of curiosity you fall into, attention spans need to be lengthened if you hope to pick-up all of the bits of information that are being thrown at you. And whether one is trying to learn everything—because why not, or because that’s the better of the two options you’ve been given in life, or you are focusing on exactly what the adults existing in your hemisphere have asked you to focus on, remember how much fun it is to be curious and learn new things. Appreciate the fleeting moments of bliss that come from every extraordinary discovery. They are often unexpected and appear out of left field—from people that you may not even be aware of. Therefore, introduce yourself to classmates that are outside of your peer-sphere. Share the joys of an aha moment as you get to know your cohort. Each member has a strength or three and a weakness or five, learn from each other, help each other, and begin to engage in the larger community you are a part of. Middle school can be scary, do everything you can to make the next few years as pleasant as possible.

Paisley Park Tribute & Memorial: 24 April 2016
Paisley Park Tribute & Memorial: 24 April 2016

If you’ve made it to the end of 8th grade, you’ve gotten through the most confusing and confounding part of life (for most). Congratulations! Between the ages of 10 and 14, our bodies and brains undergo a lot of changes. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental transformations (i.e. health & wellness) can make your head spin out of control. It is at this point that you need to “Slow It Down. Put more thought into your actions, inactions, and potential actions. Don’t “just do it”, as the shoe company implores you to. Contemplation should become a staple of your lifestyle diet.

Along with the changes they’ve undergone, another characteristic of the “rising” 9th grader is their acceptance, to varying degrees, of those with whom they don’t share many visible similarities. Many students are putting 2 & 2 together and realizing that a label: “Brown, Yellow, Puerto Rican, or Haitian” Native American, African American, African, Middle Eastern, Indian, Hispanic/Latina, Asian, Pacific Islander, Indigenous Peoples from every continent, White, Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer, Nerd, Jock, Drama-kid, Geek, Punk, Skater, Gearhead, is not as important as the fact that we are all human; one race of people with a multitude of differences that should be respected, celebrated, understood, and cherished for what they are—unique.

High school graduates have learned a lot about the word “character”, and standardized testing. Only one of those will have any long-term affect on their life (I know what some of you are thinking, and no, I don’t think the ACT/SAT etc. are all that important either, not in terms of how one lives their life). Character; what it means, how it affects one’s life trajectory, why it’s important, and which qualities are the most salient in each individual’s particular situation, these are the things that will impact and guide lives. The residue that adheres to the students, from engaging each new day (this is the foundation of character), will carry them through the remainder of their journey. A few of the most essential character traits, in my book, are: resolve (a.k.a. grit, tenacity, sticktoitiveness, all of which tie in to work ethic), empathy, judgement, tact, and optimism; qualities found in many a 26.3er.

The grad who plans to join the Navy needs to have a lot of resolve. They spend long periods of time at sea, often with Jar-Heads aboard. The combination of a new environment and living alongside Marines is more than enough to make them question, if only briefly, their choice of military branch. Resolve gives them the ability to deal with that insecurity and move forward (or let the boat move them forward). Empathy and judgement; these two go hand-in-hand. If a person has developed a strong sense of empathy for others, they are likely to use better judgement when dealing with a given situation. They understand that life is not painted in black and white; it is, rather, a million shades of grey.

Tact. I have noticed a general decline in public prudence and sensibility. This is not to imply that everyone is rude and thoughtless but there are trends. Customer service continues to decline (this could be directly related to wages), both in real and perceived terms (and perception, to the perceiver, is reality). Tact is not reinforced; rather, the opposite of tact, disregard or carelessness in one’s manners, is occasionally reprimanded with little or no mention of the steps needed to correct the behavior. Be proactive, take the opportunity to teach when it presents itself. And if someone is taking time to teach you (without being an ass about it), pay attention. The so called “soft skills” are equally, if not more, important, in many entry-level jobs. 

Optimism is maybe the most important of all. We live in times that have seen long-term wage stagnation, hyper-vigilance amongst some individuals who are not comfortable in our increasingly diverse country, extreme political divisiveness, and an economy that works really well for about 1/5 of our population, but not nearly as well for the rest of us. It’s hard to be optimistic when “everything” seems to be working against us. Yet, not everything is horrible. The economy is getting better, if ever so slowly. We’re still waiting for the labor market to hit critical mass, in hopes of seeing wages rise, but jobs are returning, in most places. And hey, by 2021, you might be a “baller, shot caller, [with] 20″ blades on [your] Impala“.

Beyond high school, the age of post-secondary graduates varies dramatically. Non-traditional students are becoming a norm and the subjects covered are much broader now. The variety of jobs that exist today includes many that nobody had thought of 30 years ago (e.g. app developer, Baltimore Ravens cheerleader, professional hacker). So, in order to address everyone, from chefs to shellfish farmers, aircraft mechanics to actuarys, and educators to eco-system managers, I’ll recount some of the most relevant knowledge as it relates to every profession in every field, everywhere, ever (ok, maybe that’s a little too much).

The two concepts that professors should have figuratively beaten into your skull, regardless of what the course syllabus spelled out, are how to think creatively and how to think critically. The combination of these thought processes bear responsibility for our collective future (that’s heavy, maybe too heavy, but it’s true). As a world, we are going to have to be extremely creative in coming up with new ways to support a larger population while witnessing the automation and mechanization of more jobs. This doesn’t guarantee a net loss of future jobs but it does require a lot of thought about how we’re going to make our economy work for everyone, not just the lucky “makers“.

Critical thought is something we’ve always done, it’s just that we aren’t told we’re thinking critically when we are young. The idea of observing, reflecting, thinking about the how and why (analyzing), and then taking that knowledge and forming new ideas and sharing them, is a complex way of describing what four-year-olds do at the beach. They look at a sandcastle and then go about figuring out how to construct their own. And while they’re at it, they often try some new-fangled engineering fete, fail, and move forward. With all the knowledge accumulated over the previous 14 – 20 school-years, post-secondary graduates should have a pretty good idea of how to do this. The real challenge is making sure that they are working across sectors, industries, and geographic locales. Combining creative and critical thought is not new but it should be practiced more liberally so that together we will be able to solve just about any problem we encounter (still working out how to combat Nyquil packaging).

Now Hear This!

Don’t take the bad advice of the “greatest” graduation speakers. “Go[ing] confidently in the direction of your dreams”, “Follow[ing] your passion”, etc., etc., is great… if your dreams include being a math teacher in rural America, lots of call for that particular position. However, if you dream of reading Shakespeare while noshing fish & chips and quaffing a Tallgrass Brown Ale, at the Anchor & Hope, in the Southwark neighborhood of London (yes, the same neighborhood where the Globe Theatre resides), then I might suggest you adjust your navigational settings to something a little more realistic. Like teaching Shakespeare, and Morrison, and Ellison, and Cisneros, and Fitzgerald, to students who will, generally speaking, not show much interest in the subject matter (which is not to say that they won’t learn anything, just don’t expect much when teaching certain books). But that’s ok; because there are students that will be engaged and their lives will be changed by the work you do and the bonds that you build with them. And, because teaching provides a steady wage (not as much as it should, but steady). Of course, if you are independently wealthy or have parents who are willing to bankroll your efforts to achieve Nirvana, etc., no, the other nirvana, then by all means, do it up; and bring a friend if you feel so inclined (back to the kindergarten knowledge—sharing).

I’m not advising anyone to become a disinterested automaton, mindlessly working to increase profits and productivity. Dream; Dream BigLive with Passion; imagine SeReNdIpItOuS events, do all the things that provide your spirit with the fuel it needs to carry on. But, remember, life is a lot easier when you can pay your rent on time, eat regularly, buy seasonally appropriate clothing, and have a little “back-up” in the bank, for emergency situations. So, if at all possible, find work that pays a living wage, appreciates you, helps to advance your skill set while dropping new knowledge into your noggin, and encourages you to be creative in your processes. Then, each day, use your remaining hours to work on your dreams and passions.

Lastly, here are a few pieces of advice that you probably didn’t learn in school but are of equal import.

  1. When watching/listening to a story that involves people making decisions that you don’t agree with, it’s good to remember that while one may not agree with the action(s) taken by said person/group, those actions, placed in the proper context, can be understood.
  2.  “It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all; the opposite of love’s indifference“.
  3.  Sometimes you need to “Take a Walk. Not necessarily to Bolivia or even across state lines, just get out and walk, clear the head, breathe, give yourself an opportunity to think.
  4. Whenever you are considering new laws, rules, et al. (in any setting), think about who’s not at the table. Too often we witness the implementation of new policies that haven’t been properly vetted. Key stakeholders are left out of the negotiations and therefore they don’t have any real connection to the new legislation. You can’t blame somebody for ignoring a policy if they had no voice in the process.
  5. Take a road trip if you have the means; “Talladega“, Baltimore, Kansas City, El Segundo, or anywhere else that you haven’t yet ventured. Meet new people, try new foods and see America’s beauty from a different vantage point.
  6. Sometimes you’ve gotta let loose. However, it is advisable, during these escapades, to have a trustworthy friend nearby, so as to keep you from doing anything that may prevent future employment opportunities from occurring.

Best of Luck and Congratulations, as you turn the page and step into a new chapter in your life.

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