Baking with flour is pretty basic, but the results sure can vary, can’t they? An expert can take the same basic ingredients I have in my kitchen and come up with impressive results because that expert knows how to use the basic ingredients with skill.
Entry level resumes are just like flour; a basic ingredient that needs to be used with skill in order to be impressive. You can have your basic information in a fill-in-the-blanks resume template and it won’t trigger a second glance because it looks like all the other fill-in-the-blanks templated resumes the reviewer has seen so far. You don’t have a lot of experience or work history to individualize your resume, but you can make sure that your resume is a skillful presentation of everything you have to offer.
- Look at samples of entry-level resumes. You may want to check out all of the resumes, for that matter. So you can see how they vary. Take note of how the same information can be presented several ways (kind of like a croissant vs a dinner roll) and it is fine. All resumes, no matter how they are put together, need to be well-written and easy to scan for information.
- Make a list of everything you have done: education, coursework, skills, volunteer work, etc. Did any of the sample resumes seem like a good recipe for your basic information?
- Pick a format and put your information into it. Does it work? Can you tweak this recipe to make it work?
- Now proofread your resume after you take a break so you are looking at it clearly. Many times a typo will slip past the writer because you know what you meant to say.
One of the reasons Professional Resume Services began offering a Resume Critique is because many job hunters have asked us to look over their resumes with expert eyes and help them with the details that will take their resumes into the “impressive” category. It isn’t expensive because it doesn’t take that long, but the results of following professional advice on your basic entry-level resume will make a huge difference in your career.
It would be nice if the holiday season went in an orderly fashion, one event to the next, with perfect orbs of celebration repeating themselves in different colors. But that’s fantasy. What really happens is more like the whirlwind of leaves or snowflakes spiraling beyond control because there is very little you actually do control in this busy season. Still, there are things you can do to tame the chaos enough to enjoy the ride.
- Lower expectations. Advertising is selling “perfect” holidays because they want sales, not because it’s right for you this year. Memories are edited by our emotions. Now is the time to talk to family about what is important to each member (cookie baking? game night? visit to an attraction?) and plan on getting each one’s top item in the calendar. You might decide to scratch some things off your list of things to do. Fill in your calendar now with the things you value or they might be lost in the flurry of invitations and demands.
- Now is the time to decide how to handle gift giving in the corporate world. Your coworkers may celebrate different holidays than you do or have different customs for the same holiday. Corporate culture will vary on expected gifts and value but knowing those expectations now helps you figure out what you will do about it. Last minute gifts are not usually impressive, but they invariably are expensive.
- Most of us haven’t hauled out the decorations yet. Now is the perfect time to start eliminating things you no longer use in the home or your workspace. Don’t put the tinsel garland on top of the piles if you can get rid of those piles a little bit each day. Do the old “store it-give it-toss it” routine and clean the spot the pile was on. If you have to store it, put it where it belongs. If you don’t have a place for it, why are you keeping it? In the workplace and in the home the piles do more than get in the way, they are a safety hazard and an image destroyer. If you need everything in that pile you should make a home for it so it doesn’t get lost.
- Start a change jar if you haven’t already and put extra cash into it. This is your “mad money” for indulgences. When it is gone, no indulgence until more is in the jar. Don’t wreck your household budget for frappuccinos with friends. Speaking of budgets; know yours and its limit. Keep January bills in mind when you use that credit card. It’s easier to make your financial plan now, including expected work expenses. Then you can use that plan as a guide to keep you out of impulse spending traps.
There’s no way to avoid all holiday stress, but doing what you can to anticipate it and lessen it will make your holidays more enjoyable this year, both at work and at home.
There are an increasing number of interviews conducted over the phone, and it is important to pay attention to your phone skills. When you think about it, your interview will probably be set up with a phone call and that call will influence the impression you make. You can’t control where you will be when the call comes in to schedule an interview, but if you know what will sabotage your chances of a job, then you can control as much as possible.
- Background noise is distracting. If you are called in a noisy environment, apologize and get to a quiet spot immediately. But don’t make the mistake of going into the bathroom to be alone because the hard surfaces cause an echo that is unmistakable and the potential for another customer to make noise you don’t want is always there. Arrange to talk further in another place.
- If you are actually doing a phone interview, treat it like you would any other meeting. Be prepared with all documents (resume, etc.) and be alone in the room. Don’t have the tv on or background music.
- No gum, food, or drink. Talking with something in your mouth will change the way you sound, even if they can’t see you.
- Smile and sit up straight. People can tell by the sound of your voice when your smiling. Smiling while you are talking exudes confidence and ease. Practice to a friend if you need to. Sitting up in a straight-backed chair will make you feel slightly less relaxed and more professional, and remind you that even if you and the other person are hitting it off, you are still on an interview.
During a phone call the only information that is transmitted is by sound. Anything that will adversely affect that sound will cause problems so take care to remove yourself from any interruptions..
Some will tell you that nobody reads cover letters any more, so there’s no good reason to write them. But there actually are very good reasons to write a professional, researched, compelling cover letter, and here’s the top reason why:
It is your opening argument that the attached resume is worth taking the time to read.
There are many helpful hints on writing your cover letter and it is a good idea to read up on this skill before you start drafting yours. Then start by taking the specific job description you are applying for and matching your qualifications to that description. Find the company’s goals and mission statement. Can you see how they mesh with the job and how you could be the best candidate for that opening?
If possible, discover who will be reading the resumes and use their name in the opening. Present your case for their consideration by a well-written and concise explanation of how your qualifications fit their needs and their goals. Reference any personal recommendations you have within the organization. Think of who will read your letter, what their goals are, and how to show them you can be the one to meet those goals.
An opening argument isn’t the entire database of evidence in a debate; it is the distillation of that evidence in a simple form that communicates conviction of opinion. Or to put it another way, it is the advertising copy that gets the buyer interested in looking at the product more closely. If that advertising is full of grammar mistakes and spelling errors, the product is seen as jokeworthy and will probably be rejected.
In the same way, if your cover letter is full of grammar mistakes and spelling errors, your resume will probably be rejected without being read because it will be assumed that your standards are lower than the reader’s. If you know you make grammar and spelling mistakes, use all the tools at your disposal to correct them. Computer programs like spellcheck and grammar checks are helpful, but a person will catch things they miss. Ask a friend who cares about writing well to proofread your cover letter. If you lack a friend with those skills, use a service like our Resume Critique and get a professional opinion.
Cover letters can convince a potential employer to consider a resume they might ignore otherwise. And that is a good reason to write one!
Sometimes in the midst of a job search, you feel powerless. After all, you don’t make the decision to hire yourself. But you DO have the power to do things like this:
- Volunteer to help somewhere during the holidays — bell ringer, package wrapper, etc.
- Let someone with a few items go ahead of you in the checkout line
- Smile at people you see
- Spend specific time every day on following up a job search resource or improving your resume
- Spend specific time every day keeping your home and yourself maintained
- Spend specific time every day connecting with family and friends
- Give the gift of time instead of stuff
Marketing would have us think that money and the latest products are what is important. And money is important; to pay bills and buy food and other necessities. However, this culture creates a sense of worthlessness if you don’t have money for luxuries and that gets many in debt over their heads during the holidays even when they have good-paying jobs.
When you are diligent about keeping your surroundings and yourself clean and organized, you function better. When you connect with friends and family, it reminds you that you are an important part of a network. When you do one thing every day to keep up your search for employment, you are planting seeds that will truly grow in season.
The inner strength to withstand the pressure and be creative about gifts instead of buying them, to smile when you feel grumpy, to choose listening to someone’s boring story because it matters to them and you love them, to keep steadily doing the things that will make the day better when you don’t feel like combing your hair — these are superhero powers.
Do you tend to remember stories instead of facts? I know I do. Most of us do, because we are people who love stories — movies, tv shows, books, gossip, family lore, and all the rest of the ways one can tell a narrative. Even jokes are stories, if you think about it! I don’t know the fancy reasons why this is so, but it probably has something to do with being able to identify with the story teller or a character in the story.
This love of story plays out in your career in several ways:
- Your brand is a synopsis of your story; a general overview of who you are
- Your references are anecdotes of your story; testimonials from people with memories about you
- Your resume is a capsulation of the highlights of your career story; the highlights that affect a potential job opening
It’s a good idea to remember that people usually will think in terms of story. That person interviewing you has sifted through a lot of resumes to choose the best character to introduce in their next chapter. They will try to figure out if your story, who you are, and how you will fit into the ongoing narrative of their enterprise. When you sent that thank you letter after the interview, you remind them of that story.
Not all story is going to be profitable for your career — gossip, backbiting, etc. are not things you want people to remember about you. The way you act and speak today will become the story people remember about you tomorrow. You can change parts of the story they remember by apologies and reforming, but it is really better when you realize that the narrative of your career and life is being written by you every day.
This is the time of year when packages are everywhere. From the shipping packages going past in the delivery trucks to the packages wrapped in fancy paper with a bow on top, you are going to see more of them as the month progresses. But what is a package, really?
A package is a promise of good things bundled into a single unit.
There may be one good thing or several good things inside, but you have to open it to find out what that package holds. Sometimes your idea of a “good thing” is different than the giver’s, but the idea of a promise inside the package is one that is universal. Professional Resume Services offers several packages and they all hold a promise inside:
- Executive Resume Package for clients seeking senior C-level positions
- Professional Resume Package for the professional rapidly approaching executive levels
- Online Branding Power Package to maximize your online presence effectively and attractively
- Resume & Cover Letter Critique Combo — OK, I didn’t call it a package, but it still fits this category
- Coaching Packages give personal help in the exact areas needed
What is the promise in each of these packages? It is the promise of a future made hopeful by effectively showing the best of your past. When a potential employer is able to see the best about a candidate, that employer is more apt to see how they will be a good fit for their enterprise. You or the person you are gifting will not need all these packages, but each holds the same promise and one of them is right for anyone in the workforce.
As the year wraps up and all the packages are opened, the future looks brighter when your packages hold the good things you need.
The holidays are a hard time to be looking for a job, aren’t they? The added pressure to spend money when you don’t have regular income is stressful, and the cultural expectation to have a good time when you are worried about the future is a double whammy.
The end of the year can actually be a good time to find a temporary job that leads to permanent employment. You might be lowering your standard by taking a job as a retail clerk in a department store, for instance, but that job puts you in contact with management, and more, so it will be a chance to network and make a good impression that will be remembered when you apply for other jobs within the company. And sometimes you can get discounts on gifts.
Many organizations will need to use up funds in their budget by the end of the year. If your expertise allows it, there might be a chance to make your own temporary job as a consultant and give them a hand. This too can lead to future opportunities for employment.
Holiday parties are great places to network if you keep yourself alert to the people around you. They are also great places to ruin a reputation if you overdo the drinking. Know your etiquette for office holiday parties.
Just because an office is emptier with mysterious holiday illnesses doesn’t mean that they are not hiring. You will be able to stand out as one who is productive when others are out shopping. Human Resources will always have a future openings list, and your resume on file will be enhanced by the fact you are diligent.
Depression at this time of year is normal when you are worried about the future. Doing something definite about your job search really helps keep you confident. Check out the Job Search Resources for possibilities you may not have explored yet, and good luck!