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

June 28, 2010

Resume Mirror: Reflecting VALUE

Submitted by Steve Klubock,
Career Services International

How do you increase the odds the market will see your value and make a bid (in the form of an interview and eventual job offer)? In some ways, your job in getting a job is to force the company to see its own self in a product advertisement (that being you). Is my twisted logic making sense? Put in another way, once the company makes a connection, you will find yourself in the right position for the next step.

Let’s break it down a bit by comparing common commodities to this concept and how the average consumer/company defines a need to possess. If we were to find living room furniture and feel certain it would fit our current décor, and, most importantly fit through the door, we probably would purchase the piece. If not, we would walk on by. Likewise with a suit of clothes; if we can see ourselves in the suit and if it matches the style we are looking for, chances are, we would buy it.

So how do the above examples apply to selling yourself to complete strangers during the worst job market in 60 years? How do you get the market to see itself in you?

Warning: Attitude realignment may be required.

If you are selling, (and you most assuredly are) your presentation must be about the buyer (company) and his/her needs. With this as a mindset, your skills, education, contributions, and potential must be presented in terms of company need. Thus leading to the next question: how do you figure that one out?

Your résumé needs to present the value package as a solution to the present (and potential) problems challenging the market today and more specifically the company you are targeting. Rather bluntly, your value proposition is the foundation to open doors of communication and resolution.

Time for an exercise: Call ten industry leaders and ask them, point blank, what are the top three priorities or challenges affecting their labor force and what is it they value most in an employee. After about five calls you will see a common thread.

Next, look at YOUR career history and see where you have addressed these areas and how you are marketing those sought after qualities. Take note of what you hear (great knowledge during interview sessions) and know the buyer will ONLY be interested in the product (you) if what you bring can be internalized within the overall goal of the company.

Surely you are not a piece of furniture or made of fabric, but the lessons learned can be used to your advantage. Make sure your resume takes advantage of the top third of the page by highlighting VALUE.  These first few lines of information (Problem, Action, and Result) are the basis hiring executives use when evaluating candidates.

Keep a pulse on the industry you are pursuing and mirror company needs to what you bring to the table.  In today’s labor saturated market, packaging is almost as important as the product itself.

Wishing you success.

Thanks Steve, your 20+ years experience in career management is much appreciated.

dhuffman

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

March 1, 2010

Competency Based Resume

Thinking about a career transition?  Want to change industries?  Think your job title “boxes you in?”  Or do you just want to try something new professionally?  If any of these sounds like you, then you should consider a not-so-run-of-the-mill resume to match your new attitude.

What exactly does that mean?  It means that you should re-think the “job title, company name, location, dates worked” model and go for a competency based resume.  This resume format takes the focus off your job titles and puts it on your skills, abilities and accomplishments.  It also helps the companies and industries you’re interested in to really look at what you bring to the table and how you’ve positively impacted your previous employers.

This may be appear to be a formidable challenge, but getting there is relatively easy.  Go ahead and look at your current, basic resume, no matter the format.  Look at those descriptions you’ve put in your experience section and ramp them up.  Forget the “responsibilities included” and “duties” statements.  Go for numbers, amounts, percents—in other words, if you improved a process at your company, then take it to the next step and describe the impact.  Did it improve sales by a certain percent?  Reduce costs?  Earn money?  If so, those amounts need to be included.  Now you’re speaking a language the employers want to hear.  

If the above paragraph doesn’t convince you, this should.  Employers are telling us they’re getting literally HUNDREDS of resumes PER JOB ANNOUNCEMENT.  That means that you have to make that one-page resume count as if it were a first interview.  You simply must be action/result oriented to get noticed.

Once you get your information ramped up, look at the job descriptions of the field in which you’re interested.  What are the common, global skill sets?  Is it teamwork? Financial Knowledge?  Operations Management?  Once you’ve identified those common skill sets, pick the top two or three that apply to you and then those become your major categories on your resume.  Then take those bullet statements that you’ve already worked on and start plugging them in. 

Bullet statements that can’t stand on their own merit need more work.  The end result just might surprise and reinvigorate you.  You’ve now taken yourself out of the proverbial box and are really putting your skills out there.

Obviously, you need a section on the resume that lists your job titles, company name and the like, but that can go at the bottom of the document and have less emphasis than your skills.  Field test both versions of your resume and see which one gets the most hits. 

For some more help with competency based resumes, check your local book store and the internet where you’ll find many samples that will help you with layout issues, content and structure or consider reviewing what Education Career Services and Career Services International offers by way of a complete career management manual as well as specific career topics and services.

Good luck!

Thank you Angelina, your insight is most welcome and will benefit many of our readers.  We look forward to more of your work.  No doubt your students are blessed to have such a valuable source of information at their front door.

Danny

February 5, 2010

Super Bowl at what career cost?

Career management is not always about finding jobs, it’s also about examining potential factors causing unemployment and/or economic difficulties.  With this said, what gives with the topic?  Surely the game is about getting the gang together, having fun, and doing what our great ancestors (going all the way back to the land time forgot) did as they beat their chests after tackling a wild hog and NOT about spending a ridiculous amount of money without thought of who is really paying the bill.

Good news, the days of beating chests are back (at least for one long and expensive weekend).  With me so far?  Good.

This weekend, as you watch the Super Bowl and check out those commercials that may be the time to ask “who is really paying for the $2.5 million to $3 million 30-second price tag.  That’s not even including production, pre-marketing, graphics, and research costs, etc.  What affect does a super-buck blow-out have on my career and who is going to pay the bloated price for a bag of chips simply because a hottie pushes the delight?  Let’s take a pure economic approach to this for a minute and find out who loses and who wins:

Losers:
1. General laborers feel the most pain in the form of lower wages and, in many cases, layoffs; companies are in business to make money and low-bearing fruit is ALWAYS the first to go.  For general laborers out there, no disrespect intended.
2. The average consumer is not able to purchase more than the bare minimum; meaning the price is above their personal equilibrium and most are barely balancing.  With fewer consumers working or working at low wages, the cost of the product must then increase to cover the exploding wages of the company power elite.

To summarize: the average person is paying the tab while our career prospects are being ignored for the sake of juicing the pocket of the few. 

Think about the money being spent for our brief entertainment.  Then think how Monday morning will find many still unemployed, underemployed, or unsatisfied with their job. 

Winners:
1. Dr. Pepper’s recruitment of KISS in full armor and makeup… Gene Simmons has already been pushing the soda with their “Calling Dr. Love” ads.
2. CareerBuilder’s contest to award a $100,000 prize to those creating the most memorable commercial (truth be known, they aren’t bad as far as commercials go).

3. Monster’s promotion to find a “NFL Director of Fandemonium.”  The ultimate winner will receive $100,000 and will be involved in various NFL activities including being on the field for the coin toss ceremony.

I tip my hat to FedEx, General Motors, and Pepsi who opted out of this years event; perhaps they have their eyes on employee development and keeping prices to a reasonable level.

Let’s loop back to the job search and tie it back in to the Super Bowl (after all, I have some ribs needing to be marinated).  A lesson can be expressed as the philosophy used in consumer marketing can also be adopted into your career search.  There’s a reason commercials are brief (other than the expense). 

To be effective, an advertisement, you being the product, has less than 20 seconds to get the decision-maker to contact you based on your commercial (resume).  Maximizing time management, the top third must convey value, detailing how you will make or save money based on your past performances. 

Then again, if I could spend $3 million for a 30-second commercial, I would just pay someone to write my resume for me while I go out chasing a wild hog… and this is coming from a certified resume writer!

Enjoy the game,

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

February 1, 2010

What to Leave Out besides the Kitchen Sink….

By Kimberly Sarmiento

As I was reviewing a friend’s career documents recently, it occurred to me that some people wrote their resume for their first job and simply did nothing but update it with every new position.  After a few career transitions, the document was in need of serious trimming!

We put a great deal of emphasis on what should go into your resume – quantifiable achievements, top-line contributions, and cost-saving initiatives for example.  However, we also need to focus on what can come out. 

Collegiate Achievements: Unless you are a recent graduate, there is no need to point out that you lettered in varsity sports, was the captain of the chess team, or served as president of Gamma Beta Kappa.  In fact, even if you are a recent graduate, you can leave those things off your resume unless you can attach an accomplishment with them.

GPAs and Dates: As much as like to infuse figures into career documents, there are a few numbers we can leave out.  Once again, unless you graduated in the last couple of years, the employer doesn’t need to know your GPA or if you graduated with honors.  We also recommend you leave off the date you obtained your degree.  This gives an automatic cue as to your age which can tell your potential employer you are either too old or too young for consideration.

Lists of Duties/Responsibilities: These laundry lists tell the employer nothing about what you have done or what you can do for a company.  Whenever possible, take one of your responsibilities and pair it up with an accomplishment.  But also remember that some things are implicit in your job title.  We expect a Senior Support Specialist to provide support.  You don’t have long to make an impression (30 second at most!) so don’t waste time telling the reader what they can figure out on their own.

References: It is not longer necessary to provide a list of references in your resume or make the statement that references are available upon request.  Hiring authorities expect you can provide them with references.  Prepare a sheet to leave behind during an interview, but don’t worry about in your introductory documents.

Salary Information: Even if a job add requests salary information, it is best not to provide this in your resume or cover letter.  Salary should always be addressed during an interview.

Personal Information/Photos: It was once in vogue to supply a potential employer with a professional photo on your resume along with information about your interest and personal life.  Today, the law protects you from having to reveal this sort of information and it would be best not to open yourself up to unintentional discrimination right from the start with a bad picture or a hobby the hiring executive finds dangerous.

Remember when you craft your resume and cover letter that optimizing space and words is as much about removing needless information as it is about including top accomplishments.  To make an impact, you must make every word count!

Thank you Kimberly; as always, your insight is greatly appreciated.

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

December 3, 2009

Optimize Your Network!

Published author and writer with Education Career Services

As I caught up with a dear childhood friend this past holiday weekend; we discussed many career-related topics.  Our conversation spanned possible future career choices to going back to school and so on.  It was the topic of networking which inspired this particular blog entry. 

She understands networking very well and in fact utilized it to advance in her career.  My work with her will involve defining her next career goal and assembling a resume which positions her in the best possible light.  But I got to thinking about how so many people overlook the resources they have at their immediate disposal.  I want to get readers thinking outside-of-the box when it comes to networking. 

After all, you just never know who might introduce you to your next big opportunity.
Let’s look at five possible networks:

Business Associates: When you think of professional networking, this is probably the first category which comes to mind.  It’s a good place to start.  Former and current associates can be a great source for career opportunities, but this is just a beginning.

Professional/Social Associations: This is a very large group of potential networking contacts.  Many of them might not know the details of your career, but they are likely open to looking over your information and passing it along to someone they might know.  But don’t limit this category’s possibilities.  Professional and social associations could include the following:

                Industry Associations
                Interest Groups
                Alumni Associations
                PTA Groups
                Church Organizations
                Neighborhood Watch Committees
                Hobby Groups

Friends and Family: Some people have no problem asking friends and family for favors.  But if you are like me, this is the last group you want to hit up in a job search.  Yet this group might be the best suited for providing you valuable direction in your career search.  Since your friends and family may know what you do but not be well-versed in your accomplishments, don’t feel shy handing them a resume highlighting your career details.  In fact, you should provide a resume to all networking contacts.  Don’t assume that knowing you equates to knowing what makes you valuable as an employee.

Online Networks:  If you are not a member of a professional online network such as LinkedIn, consider putting a profile up today.  However, don’t underestimate the value of online social networks as well.  Reconnecting with old high school friends means connecting with people who developed careers in the years since you last saw or spoke with them.  As you reminisce about football games and evil teachers, if you discover they are in a career field which interests you – don’t be afraid to let them know you are looking for a new opportunity.

Old Professors:  If you think college instructors were just there to give you a grade, you were wrong.  They are vital sources for career advancement.  Think of the number of people who pass through their classrooms an onto industry success.  Students – cultivate relationships with current and past instructors!  Everyone else, contact old professors and see if they remember you.  Strike up a conversation about your career and your goals.  They likely will be able to put you in contact with someone who can help you, but expect to repay the favor someday.

Hopefully this blog has given you some new ideas about someone you can contact in your career search.  Remember to prepare a dynamic resume highlighting your accomplishments and value so they can pass it along with their recommendation or introduction.

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

November 16, 2009

Mirror’s Reflection

Submitted by Victoria Andrew
November 17
In adventurous activities, having a buddy system tends to garner more auspicious results.  For example, the quest of losing weight generally becomes much more exciting and inspiring when one has a friend offering words of encouragement.

In more enterprising pursuits of daredevils, the main benefit of the buddy system is enhanced security.  One may be able to rescue the other in a crisis.  In scuba diving, it is essential to have a dive partner to assess your equipment’s safety.  In the U.S. Air Force, “wingmen” protect one another in battle.

In the mining industry, a “butty partner,” is one you work with“butt to butt” in order to maximize productivity.  Firefighters will only enter a burning building adhering to the “two in, two out” principle.  Similarly, in order to better withstand the arduous odyssey of your career search, it is advised that you find yourself a “helping hand” who is your trusted ally along the way.

Here are a few suggestions to optimize the buddy system for a job search:

1. Choose carefully. In our difficult economy, you may have a plethora of friends in a situation such as your own, desiring a more prosperous and promising position.  It would most likely be more harmonious if you chose someone who is not in your same exact field, so as not to spark fireworks of competition for the same position.  However, do chose someone who whom you share a mutual passion for landing a new career.

2. Sign up for the marathon together.  When running partners prepare for a race together, they find it beneficial to develop a mutual training plan. They decide on the specific dates and times they will run together, and hold one another accountable.  You and your job search companion could conjure such a game plan, complete with specific times you shall convene to discuss your goals, target markets, networking, and interviews scheduled.

3. Cultivate a strategy of attack.  Together, bounce ideas off of each other as to how you will both engage in your job searches.  Consider reading out loud together the Personal Career Marketing Manual by Danny Huffman, published by Education Career Services.  Share and critique each other’s resumes. Write branding statements for one another.  Rehearse diverse interview scenarios together.  Go shopping for powerhouse interview suits.  Brainstorm contacts in each other’s individual networks, in case you might offer each another a fresh approach.

Due to the length of this blog, let’s take a quick breather until tomorrow as we conclude the topic with the final three suggestions,

Thank you Victoria for this submission. 

If you have any comments, submit and don’t be surprised to hear back from Danny,

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

August 31, 2009

Repaving and Resurfacing the Resume Road: Part II

The following was submitted by Kimberly Sarmiento.  Kimberly recently published a career management book covering the in’s and out’s of cover letter development.  She is also a writer for Education Career Services.  The first part of the submission was presented on Friday.  Please refer to the previous posted submission.  I’m confident you will find her submission to be helpful…

August 31Prove you are a Safe Driver:

The appearance of job-hopping can trigger a lot of concerns for a potential employer.  If you have been employed at several locations in a short period of time, there are a few ways you can mitigate the appearance of being a flake.

First off, you do not need to include every position you have held.  If you left one job at the end of 2007, held your next position from April to July of 2008, and then took another job in September of 2008 and currently hold that job – you can omit the middle position without showing a gap in your employment (remember we are using only years – not months).  So unless that position adds value to your resume, leave it out.

Secondly, if you can group employment under one label – do so. For example, if you have sold real estate for ten years for multiple agencies, you could do the following:

Real Estate Agent     (1999-2009)
homes-to-go (1999-2001) ▪ home must sell (2002-2004) ▪ buy a home today (2005-2007) ▪ sell today (2008-2009)

This can demonstrate a continuous career path even in the face of changing-jobs.

Finally, changing jobs can be due to career advancement. There may be times when you will want to mention: Recruited to or Hired to establish in a line underneath your position to show that your change of positions is a reflection of your talent.  Just be prepared to discuss any questions your employer may have about loyalty and commitment in your interview.

So to recap, even if you are on a career path that needs to be repaved and resurfaced, you can still produce a resume and cover letter that paints you in the best possible light.  Always be truthful in your resume and answer all interview questions honestly, but use the above tips to give you an edge.

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP
dhuffman@careersi.com
Education Career Services: www.educationcs.com
Career Services International: www.careersi.com

August 28, 2009

Repaving and Resurfacing the Resume Road

The following was submitted by Kimberly Sarmiento.  Kimberly recently published a career management book covering the in’s and out’s of cover letter development.  She is also a writer for Education Career Services.  Given the length of her submission, I will present the first half today and will then follow-up with the conclusion on Monday, August 31st.  I’m confident you will find her submission to be helpful…

August 28Some clients have a direct progression in their employment history.  Their career path is like a long stretch of freshly paved interstate, no speed bumps, no pot-holes, and no off-ramps.

But there are others out there, including myself, who have more interesting employment histories.  Our career path is like a county road with large divots and plenty of side streets – we might even switch to dirt road and back to blacktop again. 

These types of resumes may need to address frequent job changes, seemingly unrelated positions, and time off for personal reasons.  That’s ok!  You don’t have to drive along an employment interstate to have plenty to offer a potential employer.  You just have to know how to make the scenic drive look as appealing as possible. 

Fill in Pot-Holes:

The consensus of the three major resume writing associations is that years are enough for your employment history.  So right from the start, you can eliminate “holes” in your resume if you went unemployed for a few months by just using your starting and ending year.

Example:
Don’t Do:         Most Recent Position: Employer: March 2009-Present.
                        Previous Position: Employer: Jan. 2004- April 2008

Do:                   Most Recent Position: Employer: 2009-Present
                        Previous Position: Employer: 2004-2008

Connect the Dots:

Seemingly unrelated positions, particularly those that appear unrelated to the position you are applying for may give a hiring manager a reason to overlook your resume.  That is why it is best to lead with accomplishments – not your job history.

When you begin your resume by highlighting your skills and accomplishments, you show right from the start that you are qualified for the position you seek.  It doesn’t matter if you achieved market growth while working as an underwater basket weaver and you are now applying for a business development position.  If you have the figures and data to back up your claims, that it what will sell you to your potential employer.

Keep the Road Going:

Having spent several years as a stay-at-home mom, I am familiar with the gap that can leave in your resume.  Hopefully, you will have spent some time working in a volunteer capacity or in part-time or freelance positions that will keep your resume current. 

NOTE: If you are in the middle of taking time off for personal reasons – pursue opportunities now – education, volunteer, or part-time – that will reflect well in your resume when you return to work full-time.

If you have, then use these positions to create a continuous, if unconventional, career path.  If you have not, then you will need to address these gaps in your resume during your interview so be prepared to discuss why your skills are still sharp and what you have learned during your time off that will add to your value.

Once again, leading with your accomplishments will be an invaluable strategy if you are in this position.  You do not need to identify a time frame for you key bullet points.  You simple need to show the action you took and the results.  If you saved a company $2M and increased revenue $10M, it really doesn’t matter if it happened five years ago – those are still results you should own and spotlight.

On the 31st Kimberly will take us to the next level: Proving you are a safe driver.  Until then, let me hear from you and if you have specific questions or topics you would like covered, give me a shout.

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP
dhuffman@careersi.com
Education Career Services: www.educationcs.com
Career Services International: www.careersi.com

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