Education Career Services

July 15, 2010

Lean Résumé Writing

By Kimberly Sarmiento, CPRW

Have you ever heard the saying “Less is more”?  Well, I don’t always like to hear this particular catch phrase levied in my direction, but when it comes to résumé writing, the statement is spot on.

A four-page résumé does not convey a greater breadth to your career or demonstrate you have immeasurable value with its length.  Instead it bogs a reader down in text, hiding your best accomplishments amidst duties and responsibilities that are often duplicated from one position to the next.  More likely than not, it is wordy and lacks the dynamic sentences needed to engage a reader and make you stand out from the crowd.

As a professional résumés writer I have the opportunity to write for a wide array of professionals.  Often, my client’s original documents are four- or five-page résumés full of information regarding their vast experience.  The problem with that sort of diffuse presentation is that a potential employer gets lost on the first page because the material is not broken up in a reader-friendly fashion.  When there is too much information in a document, the real value – what makes you unique – fails to come across.

Therefore, my recommendation is quite clear (and concise) when crafting your résumé, limit yourself to one or two pages and break up the information with paragraphs and bullets not exceeding three lines.  In general, students or recent graduates should almost always limit themselves to a one-page resume.  Regarding seasoned professionals with extensive experience, don’t be shocked but chances are a one-pager may work best for you as well.

Short, succinct statements containing quantifiable results are the best way to communicate to a potential employer what you can do for them.

So in conclusion, remember “less is more” might not be fun advice to receive but it does apply aptly to things like blue eye shadow, sugar-rich foods for children, refried beans, and most importantly – résumés.

Thanks Kimberly for our insight but I disagree with you on one note: less is more with refried beans? Are you insane?

dhuffman

July 7, 2010

The (huge) line between arrogance and confidence…

Submitted by Sigmarie Soto, CPRW
Head Writer – Career Services International

One thing I hear from clients over and over again is: “I don’t mean to toot my own horn.”  Well—on paper—you really should.  If you’re not using the resume to sell yourself to a potential employer, no one else is going to sell your value either.  There’s a difference between positioning yourself as the total package (which is what employers are looking for) and exaggerating your contributions. 

Accountability and ownership go both ways in the workplace.  Just as you would take responsibility for mistakes and learn from them, recognize your achievements.  While it’s difficult for some people to write about their accomplishments, it’s a little too easy for others. 

Simply put, tell it how it is.  If you created a process that saved hours in time and therefore thousands per week in costs, tell your readers how and how much.  If you came up with a plan to reach customers in a new area that delivered more in revenue than anticipated, tell your readers how, how much, and the initial goal. 

Taking the passive route will make potential employers wonder why they should even call you. 

Providing a full history of your career won’t necessarily get the phone ringing either, but highlighting contributions that could benefit any organization, such as cost savings, operational improvements, revenue growth, and client base expansion, will put your reader in the mindset that if you did it once you can do it again.  Just as we tell recent grads that having a degree is no longer enough, simply doing your job from day to day is no longer enough either.

How do you go above and beyond?  If you were to leave tomorrow, what gap would there be and would it be difficult to fill?

Every discipline brings a different contribution to an organization.  Whereas sales people bring in the money, the operations people are vital in making the process run smoother.  Instead of looking at resumes as tools for bragging, consider them as tools for personal marketing and progression.  If you don’t communicate your value, no one will know of your potential

Thanks Sigmarie, your contributions are appreciated and most valued. We look forward to more.

dhuffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services
Career Services International

July 1, 2010

Worth your Weight in Gold

By Jenna Rew

Saying you achieved something wonderful and have an incredible ability to do something profound is entirely worthless unless you can back it up.  Lots of people lie on their resumes, which is why hiring managers are looking, now more than ever, to see that you can prove the claims you make.

If all you can do is give a percent or a situation, but you can’t say a percent of what or what happened later, then nothing and no one can help you. Your resume might boast those percents or situations and catch a hiring manager’s attention. Be assured, they WILL ask about them. Don’t be left speechless. You will appear to be making things up, even if you are telling the complete truth.

According to the Professional Resume Writers Association, the level of credibility and believability between “telling” versus “showing” is 7% to 93% respectively. Think about those figures for a second and KNOW the power of numbers and showing.

This is why I cannot stress enough, KEEP YOUR RECORDS. Document the accomplishments you make, include the initial problem or situation, what you did and what the result was. Look for numbers to quantify your claims. If you don’t know, ask. Worst case scenario: your employer will tell you he can’t give you that number and you attempt to look it up yourself or give your best estimate. Even one quantifiable thing can be better than an entire resume filled with fluffy daily duties.

Hiring managers know the general responsibilities of the positions they are looking to fill. The last thing they want to see is position after position listing the same things over and over again. Value comes from adding something to the company. You want to be worth your weight in gold, not part of the dime-a-dozen crowd.

I recently reviewed several resumes where individuals offered years of experience but didn’t list anything worth chatting about. It was all run-of-the-mill daily responsibilities nobody cares about. Upon digging deeper, I found some had significant achievements to brag about but were selling themselves short.

The time to be modest is NOT when you are trying to find a job. Your employer is not going to spend a significant amount of time trying to pry the information out of you. Either you give it up or you get passed over.

Don’t let yourself be one of those people who may look good on paper, but when it comes down to it, is no greater than the other half-dozen people sitting in the corporate waiting room. Record your accomplishments and wear them proudly on your sleeve.

Great submission Jenna,

dhuffman

June 4, 2010

Mix at your own risk!

By Kimberly Sarmiento, CPRW
Career Services International

Today’s job seekers are advised that social media sites and on-line networking are valuable tools for professional advancement.  But much like a poorly written cover letter or résumé can do more harm than good, a badly managed on-line presence can hurt you professionally.  How do you optimize your chances at success in the new virtual business world?

First of all, blend the social you and the professional you with great caution.  LinkedIn now features sections where you can link your Facebook and Twitter account to your profile.  While many seem to think this is a great way to show your personality to a potential employer, I would advice against connecting your LinkedIn profile to a site you use to express yourself freely

Even if you don’t have drunken debauchery filled weekends where pictures of you could arise, there are plenty of thoughts, comments, and interests your boss does not need to know about you.  If you want to keep these spaces free for your personal expression, do not connect them to a professional site. 

You should also be aware that even if you do not connect your Facebook or MySpace account to your LinkedIn profile, your employer could still search for you.  Therefore, you should check your privacy settings.  While your LinkedIn settings should be set for the most open access, your personal websites should not.  Make sure whatever an employer can access when they search for your name will depict you in a professional, positive light.  

One suggestion to mitigate these concerns might be to create a second Facebook or MySpace account for professional, semi-casual contacts.  If that is the case, manage your friends list well and make sure no one on it would tag you in a Spring Break photo from 1988 that you swore you burned the negatives of years ago.

When it comes to connecting a Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile, make sure your tweets are professional and well, very non-confrontational.  If it isn’t proper to discuss a topic at your office, it probably isn’t a good idea to tweet about it

You probably already realize it’s a bad idea to tweet about the hot waitress serving you lunch.  But also know you might want to avoid tweeting about strong dislike of people who belong to certain religious or political affiliations or your opinion about controversial subjects.  Yes, this is the land of free speech but that doesn’t mean speech is consequence free.  While your employer can’t really fire you for having an opinion he or she disagrees with, there are many grey areas of employment and promotions where revealing your belief that marijuana and prostitution should be legalized might not favor you.

Finally, realize that any tweeting, blogging, or general commenting you do about your company on-line could violate company policies.  Make sure you are not giving your employer legitimate grounds for dismissing you by reviewing your company handbook.  When in doubt, leave out numbers, specifics, or any other information which could be considered confidential.

While the digital age is fantastic, one thing old fashion forms of communication afforded you was the chance to think twice.  You might write the letter – but you had the chance to throw it away before you mailed it!  Remember that what you put on-line in an instant can be accessed by the wrong person before you have the opportunity to remove it

By constantly considering what you put on the Internet from the point of view of a hiring authority, you can make your on-line presence a boost to your career rather than a stumbling block.

Thanks Kimberly

Dhuffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services/Career Services International
dhuffman@careersi.com

June 1, 2010

Resume Language: Grammar, Consistency, and Point of View

Although the rules of grammar, such as parallel sentence structure, consistency, and punctuation, do apply, the statements we create for resumes are somewhat fragments in bullet or paragraph form simply because we eliminate the pronouns (he/she, you, we).  However, this doesn’t mean correct grammar in any other sense of the word should be absent.  Above all things (along with accuracy), grammar adds to the professionalism of any document. 

What would you be more inclined to read—a document filled with glaring errors or a document that reads smoothly?  Keep in mind that people who read resumes on a daily basis, such as human resources professionals, hiring managers, and executives, probably see a whirlwind of poorly-written documents one right after the other.  And although applicants may not be writers by profession, they are expected to know and apply basic rules.  Otherwise, that resume is at risk of automatically going into the “no” pile.

When creating a resume, always keep your target readers in mind.  Are these people going to be able to read this without tripping over ideas or punctuation?  Are they going to understand what I meant to say there?  Because resume writing differs from most other types of writing, we need to make sure it is clear and concise (without being overwhelmingly choppy).  For instance:

Option 1
                * Responsible for the automation department and a $100M budget; led 45 personnel in system testing and verification; managed relationships with vendors.

Option 2
                * Oversaw automation department, controlling $100M budget, leading 45-person team in system testing and verification, and managing vendor relationships.

They both say the exact same thing, but Option 2 lets the reader flow with the sentence as opposed to stopping at every semicolon and also connects ideas/responsibilities in one sentence.  The use of the comma after “department” and before “controlling” connects the second part of the sentence to the main idea, which is overseeing the automation department. 

According to the Professional Association of Resume Writers (PARW), the use of either third-person or first-person is fine as long as it is consistent throughout the document.  Why eliminate these words?  Again, it enables the reader to flow with the document as opposed to feeling like they are reading a biography or letter.  Since they are more concerned about the value they can get from the applicant, they need something they can skim through.  Being consistent is important because the omission of pronouns can confuse the reader if it suddenly switches from first- to third-person.   Using Option 1 from above: “[I was/he was] responsible for the automation department and a $100M budget; [I/he] led 45 personnel in system testing and verification; [I/he] managed vendor relationships.”  Although they both work in this instance, it does not always.  As an example:

First-person: [I am a]Senior Executive offering world-class experience in sales, business development, partnership building, and operations leadership.  [I] Create strategies to reach target consumers while expanding profitability through product development improvements. 

Third-person: [He is a] Senior Executive offering world-class experience in sales, business development, partnership building, and operations leadership.  [He] Creates strategies to reach target consumers while expanding profitability though product development improvements.

Generally, the third-person approach is more commonly used and has its advantages in terms of easier readability for your target audience.  Consistency in all areas of your resume is vital, including spelling, capitalization, punctuation, spacing, and font, because you don’t want to confuse readers.  The only questions you want them to ask are, Could you provide me with more information? or When are you available for an interview?

Sigmarie Soto, CPRW
Head Writer – Career Services International

May 13, 2010

Bigger, Faster, Stronger on the Job Market

By: Leslee Remsburg, CPRW

Many job seekers today believe they are struggling to get noticed by potential employers due to gaps in work history or lack of advanced education degrees.   Just last week, I had two interesting conversations with job seekers needing major résumé overhauls to mask these red flags. 

These days, there is no shortcoming of applicants with lapses in employment – which puts many job seekers in the same boat.  And demonstrating real world experience and success can certainly make up for not having a college or graduate-level degree. 

Having the best résumé means having the most strategic résumé, and to do that means showing potential employers how well you adapt and effect positive change in your work environments.  Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory is not just about the physical assets of being bigger, faster, and stronger.  It is, more importantly, about being able to succeed in your environment, whatever that may be, and it takes more than strong arms to do so.

One of the conversations I had last week was with a man we’ll call Bill.  Bill has a four-year degree and 10+ years experience overseeing IT operations for large multinational companies.  Bill’s biggest concern was that he had been out of work since 2008 when he left his job to take care of sick family members and sort out their affairs.  He explained to me that he had documented carefully in his cover letter (yes, he was sending this out to potential employers) the unfortunate circumstances that surrounded his recent abandonment from the working world.

Personal experiences such as this do not need to be explained in an introductory letter; rather, a brief statement on the resume no more than eight words would suffice.  Leaving these details on a cover letter would likely halt the reader from moving on to an accompanying résumé to save probable time wasted on unhelpful details.  What do I mean? Focusing on what valuable contributions you have made and are ready to make are always more important.  Employers want to see you can save them time and money- that’s it!

I also spoke with a woman last week we’ll call Sally.  Sally would like a management position since she has been in “senior” roles, tasked to identify problem areas within her department and given opportunities to implement improvements.  Her selling point, she told me, was that she was earning not one, but three advanced degrees online in her spare time.  Of course, Sally thought this would improve her chances of obtaining an interview based on her résumé qualifications but she didn’t quite think through this one.

Sally is on her way to obtaining graduate degrees in business administration, geography, and law.  What an interesting mix… it’s like taking all the leftovers in the fridge to make an unappetizing casserole.  It’s not valuable to have multiple, disparate online degrees.  Pulling out the good stuff from Sally (real contributions she has made that have positively impacted her employers) was like pulling teeth- but it will mean more on paper and in an interview.

If you want to get noticed by your current or a potential employer, show them how well and how quickly you can adapt and become a productive part of their team.

May 3, 2010

Five Things NOT to Put on a Résumé

Submitted by Team Career Member and professional writer Leslee Remsburg, CPCC

1. An “Objective”
Do NOT write “…seeking a position that will utilize my sales/marketing abilities…”.  Instead, define your expertise and highlight your strengths with statements like “Sales/Marketing Manager who increases revenue and market foothold on global scale offers proven success driving billion-dollar sales through integrated media.”

2. The word “responsible”
This is an absolute NO-NO on a résumé.  Avoid starting every job description with “responsible for” or including this word anywhere in your document.  Résumés where every sentence begins with a powerful action verb grab more attention than rundowns of basic “responsibilities”.  Words such as “captured”, “catapulted”, and “championed” just to name a few will make your résumé a standout.

3. Work experience older than 15 years
It’s not relevant, which is what a résumé should be.  Especially for those in the IT field, beware of listing outdated technologies on your résumé.  These days, employers want to have cutting-edge, customized solutions to help them grow and transition in our expanding, global economy.

4. G.P.A.
Grade point average demonstrates academic qualities but means nothing in terms of on-the-job performance.  How do you handle a crisis or make your work environment more efficient?  Answers to those questions mean more.  The only exception to the rule is for recent college graduates with little experience who have graduated within the last two years (according to the Professional Resume Writers Association and the National Resume Writers Association).

5. Personal interests
As a favor to yourself AND the hiring manager, don’t waste valuable space on your hobbies and family description.  Focus on the facts and present material that is attention-grabbing and demonstrates workplace value to any potential employer.

Leslee has been a professional resume writer since 2005; her experience and wisdom is always appreciated… thank you Leslee!

dhuffman
Career Services International
Education Career Services
dhuffman@careersi.com

April 14, 2010

The yellow brick road to an entry-level job

Recent UCF graduate, Fernanda Barros, has this to say about the search…

What do you do when you hit the most vulnerable point in your life and somebody says “You are graduating in a tough economy, where nobody is hiring and the competition is tremendous”? These dreaded words seem to be a common thread amongst college graduations, leaving new graduates wondering about their future.

“How to find a job after college” and “college grad job hunter” are just a couple of the 130-million website options you get when typing college grad plus job into a search engine like Google. Every year thousands of college graduates trade their alma mater jersey for a business suit. They walk the stage, shake the hands of important people they never met, and listen to a motivating speech about life choices.

While the ceremony only lasts a couple of hours, many of them are wondering the same thing; how long until I find a job after college? Can the economy affect my chances of getting hired? How do I make my four years of hard work pay off?

According to Money magazine, it generally takes three to nine months for a college graduate to land their first job.  Experts on the subject say there are many steps to the process of entry-level job seeking; three stand out like a sore thumb and should be taken seriously.

Number one: Networking. Turn that baby shower and going away party into a chance to meet people that can give you that boost needed to find that perfect job. Challenge yourself by making new connections in multiple places even if it makes you uncomfortable (especially if it makes you uncomfortable). New connections mean new possibilities.

Number two: the interview. According to experts, the interview is where new graduates lose their battle with a potential employer.  Since the foul economy has left many with a bitter taste in their mouths, just landing an interview is a huge step, being prepared is imperative. Getting to know the company’s market, products, and goals prior to the interview will give you that extra something that your competition might be lacking.

Number three: have a goal. Well, a reachable goal. That’s one thing all experts agree on. Having a reachable goal makes knowing what you want and going for it easier.  Fight any senses of depression and keep tweaking, do not lose hope if you don’t get a call back… because you’ll be lucky to get three calls for every 100 resumes sent out!

Graduate, set a goal, network, and do not run screaming if you don’t get hired on your first interview. Understand finding a full time job is a journey, not a road trip.  Perhaps one day soon you will come to recognize the difference in the two. Until then, best wishes and remain positive.

Thanks Fernanda Barros for your insight

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International, www.careersi.com
Education Career Services, www.educationcs.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dannyhuffman
Creator, The Huffman Report, www.westorlandonews.com

March 30, 2010

Green Challenge and Opportunity

Victoria Andrew presents…

The global challenge to focus on sustaining our environment is transforming our white and blue collars into green!  Multitudinous companies and entrepreneurs are pursuing strategies to capitalize on the New Energy Economy.  Simultaneously, many industrial and corporate employees are migrating to green professions by mastering training programs on how to produce alternative power, accelerate energy efficiency, and renovate buildings with sustainable energy systems.  Professionals are primarily attracted to green development to satisfy the demand for implementing environmentally conscious design, policy, and technology.

Some careers obviously fall into the green-collar category, such as the hundreds of jobs available for the Spanish wind company, Gamesa, in Fairless Hills, PA.  If you engineer wind turbines or solar panels, your job is clearly green.  Yet, some propose that the work of decarbonizing America’s economy will also galvanize millions of new jobs.  In the next 20 years, an estimated 75% of buildings in the U.S. will either be brand new or substantially rehabilitated according to green standards.

Green IT is also taking root, whether you’re looking at specific methodologies from power management to virtualization, or taking a top-level look at corporate-sustainability goals.  The Worldwide Green IT Report unveils how far corporations had come in greening their data centers.  The overall results unveiled a consistent agenda for most firms to integrate green IT as a cost-savings tool.  In the past, green IT was merely a wish-list item, yet now it’s essential for the majority of the major corporations surveyed internationally.  Especially in Silicon Valley, job opportunities are being backed by millions of dollars into the renewable energy industry.

According to a CareerBuilder.com hiring trend survey, thirteen percent of employers said they plan to add green jobs in the new year, compared to merely one in ten from 2009.  The survey also disclosed the following top 10 environmentally-friendly jobs for the green economy, with salary information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

1)       Hydrologist: Median annual income $51,080.

2)       Environmental Engineer: Median annual income $50,000.

3)       Conservation Biologist: Median annual income $52,480.

4)       Toxicologist: Median annual income $79,500.

5)       Environmental Attorney: Median annual income for attorneys specializing in construction, real estate, and land use is $70,000.

6)       Landscape Architect: Median annual income $53,120.

7)       Corporate Waste Compliance Coordinator: Median annual income $39,000.

8)       Pollution Control Engineer: Median annual income $66,000.

9)       Urban and Regional Planner: Median annual income $45,250.

10)    Environmental Chemist: Median annual income $51, 080.

So, how do you find the quintessential green job for you? Consider the following possibilities for hunting down a green-collar career:

1)       Idealist.org : Idealist is an interactive site provides a diverse job listing in the green sector, green career fair notification occurring throughout the U.S., and even an on-line career center for those new to the industry.

2)       GreenJobSearch.org: This comprehensive listing of jobs is searchable by keywords, state, and major cities.  It also offers helpful tips for job seekers.

3)       EnvironmentalCareer.com: You can take advantage of their advanced search engine, view all jobs, create an account, and post your resume on this site driven by visionary determination to ensure a green future.

4)       JobsforChange.org: This progressive site provides a keyword search and category listing that tends more towards green/white collar jobs, as opposed to green/blue collar careers.  An excellent advice section discusses everything from interviewing to job-hunting resources.

5)       GreenCollarBlog.org: You will find an extensive listing of green job boards with separate sections for jobs inLEEDs construction (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), solar, clean energy, wind power, etc.

Riding the new wave of green collar jobs is the ideal career path for 2010, especially if you wish to capitalize on the New Energy Economy, or synergize your socially progressive ideologies with an environmental mission.  Now is the time to take advantage of the huge demand for executives, project managers, engineers, educators, scientists, and individuals of multitudinous industries to penetrate the green world.  Both economic security and social change await your future if you decide to “go green” once and for all.

Thank you Victoria for sharing such valuable information.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International, www.careersi.com
Education Career Services, www.educationcs.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dannyhuffman
Creator, The Huffman Report, www.westorlandonews.com

March 24, 2010

A resume dilemma… one page or two?

If I asked a hundred recruiters, hiring managers, or people walking at a mall, they would all have slightly (some radically) different responses to the question: How many pages should a resume be?  To help un-muddy the waters, let me give you my take…

True enough, some questions do not have a clear-cut answer… this happens to be an example.  Being in the career management industry for decades and being a certified resume writer, a certified career coach, and a certified interview professional, there may be nothing more confusing than page length.  Way too many things to consider which would disallow a blanket answer.

Regarding length, things to consider include social and economic conditions, industry expectations, and position being sought as well as experience level / background / accomplishments and your goals.  All of these elements should be considered and a proper strategy based upon those elements is paramount to a successful campaign.

Times, technology, and attention levels have changed and so have the medium of information exchange.  As such, I disagree with traditional strategies proclaiming that a one-page resume is a mistake or that it automatically puts the candidate in a diminished capacity.  Heck, 8 years ago, the traditional long-winded approach was accepted… but not anymore.  Today, hiring managers are time-crunched and want to know YOUR value immediately… much like a 30-second commercial.

The foundation of my dissent comes from the top three career management associations in the country.  To summarize, The Career Management Alliance, The Professional Resume Writers Association, and The National Resume Writers Association advocate a single page resume over multiple pages.  I summarized a few of the reasons for your quick review:

     1) There is a 12-15 second reader attention (you have only seconds to attract the reader and define value immediately—not 2 or 3 pages down the road as the reader will never get past the first page).
     2) Resumes, under current standards, should not describe an employment history beyond 10 years (15 years is appropriate IF there is a direct correlation and benefit).
     3) Our sensate culture expects instant proof in the top third of the page. The remainder of the resume will confirm the top third; this is best represented with a single page document.
     4) Though not directly asked, the associations recommend the chronological resume format NOT to be used… I state this as many multiple page resumes use a chronological format (would just hate to see you fall into that trap).
     5) The top three associations recommend an assertive semi-functional format (leading into the single-page format). This strategy is finding a great deal of success for executives, students, and entry-level candidates.

The reasons above are not all-inclusive or exhaustive. But remember, there are no clear-cut ways as much depends upon external forces and changing expectations.  For example, if an industry, position, or client is best served with a two-page resume, go that route; if you are unsure about what is best for your situation, make a comment here or contact me directly. I will be glad to throw in my two cents.

A final word of warning (not to confuse you more than I all ready have): there is no one right way but there are many wrong ways.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
Education Career Services
dhuffman@careersi.com
www.linkedin.com/in/dannyhuffman
407-206-5883 (direct line)
866-794-3337 ext 110

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