Education Career Services

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

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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

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

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 26, 2009

What’s the goal of a résumé anyway?

August 26The other day I was going through résumé revisions with a client and got the comment, “This reads like a marketing piece.”  Believe it or not, this is the best approach.  According to the American Marketing Association, the term “marketing” refers to the “activity or process of creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value.” 

What’s the goal of a résumé anyway?  This may be a surprise to many, but the goal is to convince the audience that you’re the best fit for the position.  In this sense, it’s important to position yourself as someone of value above the competition.  Think about it, marketing is meant to be catchy, persuasive, and compelling.  Why not present your experience and skills that way?

A mistake people make is providing too much information or not enough.  Difficult as it may seem, the idea is to come up with a balance between too much and too little.  There are many techniques to gain balance.  As such, I suggest you introduce your skills with a brief branding statement without burdening the reader and provide examples to back it up.  Break it up into sections for easier navigation.  And most importantly, don’t bog the reader down with mundane details or responsibilities that are implied for someone within your field, position, or degree/diploma.

The point of your material is to demonstrate how you do your job and do it better—ultimately, how you impact the bottom-line.  Think of it from your own experiences with marketing.  If you look at two different marketing pieces—which one would you be more inclined to go with?  The one that’s plain and looks like every other piece of advertisement or the one that’s innovative and gets right to the point?  Ultimately, the hiring decision-maker is your customer and you are trying to sell your skills.

As everyone has heard before, the point of a resume is to get you in the door for an interview.  What happens next?  Recently, I was asked for a last-minute resume for someone who was having their first “real-world” interview coming up after having finished college the month before.  She was going in for a phlebotomy/registrar position and what I had to work with was her experience as an esthetician in a beauty salon and (luckily) a little bit of hospital volunteer activity.  Connecting her client interfacing skills with patient interaction, I was able to give her a unique spin.  However, during the interview, the interviewer, résumé in hand, asked, “So, how will your past experiences apply to this position?”  She hesitated because she honestly wasn’t sure. 

Being prepared and knowing your stuff is critical when going in for that first interview.  Keep in mind that no two positions are exactly the same.  This requires you to identify and understand your transferable skills from position to position and from company to company.

Think of yourself as a value-add product and start marketing.  Oh, as with any marketing initiative, that means doing your research and being prepared to back it up.  No matter how compelling a résumé is, going in for the interview prepared is your chance to close the deal.

Sigmarie Soto, CPRW
Senior Writer
Career Services International
Education Career Services

July 6, 2009

Resume Purpose and Objective

Hoping everyone had a safe and groovy Fourth of July. As for me, kept around the house and made sure the four cats were not too frightened. Let’s get to career marketing and specifically resume development and need for change for a minute…the following represents typical questions I have dealt with over the years:

Questions

What’s hot in resume writing, what are some musts that should be included on a resume? What are some new tricks of the trade and methods that can help set you apart? In addition to work experience, what else should be included to make it stand out? Professional certifications or education credentials? New computer/software skills? Training? How important are all of those to making a resume stand out?

What’s hot in resume writing, what are some musts that should be included on a resume?

Resume development is much like home construction: tools of the trade are required.  Without tools, a frame can not be built.  Your frame defines the value you offer and this MUST be including on your resume in the first round of action.  Tom Cruise stated “show me the money” in a movie several years ago.  And so, the same stands true.  Most Employers hire not for charitable reasons, but for selfish reasons.  Your job at hand is to stand out from the pile upon pile of applicants by “showing your value.”  To do this, a frame of reference needs to be established quickly.  Frames of reference include (though not all inclusive):

  • Added Value/Unique Characteristics or Skill
  • Career History
  • Educational Background/Training
  • Relevant Certifications
  • Technical Expertise

Frames of reference are the support beams validating your target and confirming your ability to not only gets the job done, but to get the job done in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Are you the right person for the job? Are you representing yourself in an industry-specific manner? Are you creating the right first impression?  One has 12 seconds to 15 seconds to “show value,” are you?

How important are all of those to making a resume stand out?

Like a house without a proper foundation, marketing material without appropriate frames will fall from lack of support.  Standing out from the piles of peers is not an easy task but can be accomplished.

I will be glad to expand as requested

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

June 30, 2009

Resumes – it’s time to update but why?

Are there any trends going on without my knowledge?

As companies innovate and evolve, representing oneself via marketing materials (resume, cover letter, etc) must fuse company “needs” with candidate “skills.”  In a nutshell, employers want those capable and willing to grow AND not afraid of resolving challenges with “blue-sky” resolutions.

Estimates are clear; one has 12 seconds to 15 seconds to grab the reader’s interest, no more.  After this initial (and ever so brief) encounter of the first kind, decisions are made to discard or retain for closer inspection.  No doubt about it, the concept of instant gratification has seeped into the hiring process and now refuses to depart without a fight.  Corporate evolution via labor acquisition is now in time warp and the candidate must, as a natural reaction to this paradigm, hit quick and hard with the facts and only the facts.

In the end, individuals maximizing the marketing “hot zone” lands the interview.  For today’s resume/marketing trend tip, show your value/contributions as quickly as possible…that is, in the beginning.  So where is the beginning and how do I maximize it?  The “hot zone” resides in the top third of the resume.  In this pivotal region, employers are seeking value and take the approach: “What can you do for my company—now?”  So it seems that without a meaty worm on the hook, the big fish never bites (or calls to arrange an interview)! 

Elements attracting interview invitations are qualifiers defining what you will do for the bottom-line.  Unfortunately, too many resumes use the “tell me” approach as opposed to the “show me” approach.  The “tell me” approach uses fluffy soft words without a true declaration of action…this passive rhetorical road leads to burger flipping (I am speaking as one who flipped many burgers way back when.  As a result, I do respect the trade).  “Show me,” takes the reader to the context, the challenge, the action initiated or coordinated, and allows the reader to experience the results of your knowledge.

In the next submission, resume format will be examined. When you may ask?  Soon…very soon.

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CEIP, CPCC
Career Services International
Education Career Services

June 1, 2009

(In)visible anger

The last few months I have seen (and felt) so much anger in just about all sectors of the market.  No doubt there is cause for so many ill-feelings as unemployment, foreclosures, higher gas prices, and on and on are no hitting harder each day.  As a professional resume writer and career coach, I hear heartfelt stories all the time.  Who’s safe from economic devastation?  Not to spoil anyone’s breakfast but no one appears to be safe.

Since, in my opinion, no one is “protected” from crisis way, becoming prepared is the only sound practice in this crazy world!  So you’re asking how does one protect him/herself; good question.  Without any hesitation, I believe the first step is to recognize there are more people than available job positions.  Okay, what does this do?  Another good question.  Recognizing you are not the only contestant in a competitive market brings reality to a new level.  Since there are more people than job positions, you must develop a plan to increase your value, your worth, and your immediate contribution. 

What determines value?  On a company perspective, what can the job applicant do right now—not next week or even next month?  Recent graduates, you offer theory and perhaps a capstone, intern, extern, or a bit of experience to go with it.  Is this enough?  For some yes, for some no.  For experienced executives, knowing is not always enough either—you must be the top performer as well.

Let’s make a connection to American Idol for a moment.

Paula and Simon decreased hundreds of thousands of wanna-be’s to a baker’s dozen.  In most cases it was clear that the vast majority of applicants were pretenders; only a hand full truly belonged.  After months of hard work, the top ten dwindled to only a few.  Here’s where you come in….for the pretenders, lack of true talent (or value) will create a schism between the ones who can.  In career management, this schism is created and reinforced within 15 seconds of reviewing your cover letter and/or resume.  Leaving you with one approach: you must prove quickly that YOU offer value….and still no guarantee (this is where so much (in)visible anger comes into play).

Getting back on track, your cover letter MUST accompany your resume in EVERY situation.  Your cover letter MUST be tailored to EVERY job posting.  In other words, do not submit a blanket cover letter—incorporate words from the posting and from research about the job and/or company (if known).

Don’t submit a response to a posting without doing your homework.  How many contestants on American Idol blew their one chance by not knowing the words (and many still became angry at Simon for eliminating them due to lack of homework)?  In addition to creating a tailored cover letter to fit each job posting, so should your resume be constructed.  Do not submit a blanket resume under any situation.  If you do, don’t become angry at your invisibility!  Place key terms, your connection to the job, and what you can do for the company immediately. 

There’s no easy way to become “visible” but there are ways to shed light on your work and value.  These are tough times but that does not mean anger is the answer. 

Complete your homework, get involved in your career campaign, and never forget the words.

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

April 10, 2009

Career Methods Have Changed, have you?

No doubt the world has changed dramatically in the last few months in every industry and sector.  Finance 101 is clear on change: modifications from one side of the equation must be offset by the opposing side.  In everyday terms: changes in our employment arena must be juxtaposed equally by those seeking career transitions.

 

Guided by the above premise, our blog welcomes input while offering hints, answers, and a dedicated medium for all our members trying to reach beyond status quo.  With unemployment at historic levels, how and where does one begin to keep up?  Bringing the words from my finance professor, “begin at the beginning,” and so shall we.

 

Ten, five, even three years ago the method in which one prepared and delivered career management documents (resume/cover letter) is radically different from today’s accepted format, tone, verbiage, and length.  Let’s take verbiage for a moment:

 

Verbiage is not just how words fit together; it also includes the implicit meanings behind each word and its placement.  The words you choose empowers the reader to uncover things about you such as personality, work ethic, desire, confidence, and priorities, just to name a few. 

 

Not too long ago the level of competition for a job posting was isolated to limited regions or communities.  With global electronic job postings, the pool of applicants has increased from double digits to triple digits.  The propensity to become lost in the crowd of applicants is now more than a fear, it is a reality; but as times have changed, so have successful candidate approaches.

 april-10-2009

For a moment, let’s look at the top third (sales zone) of a resume from a recent client of mine and follow with a revised version.

 

Michael’s original resume (notice there is no true focus, simply a bunch of words pieced together without discipline and without the reader in mind):

 

CURRICULUM VITAE

M. J. W. BSc ACA

 

Profile

 

  • A highly experienced insurance executive
  • Proven background in corporate start-up for insurers, Lloyd’s syndicates and insurance brokers
  • Excellent understanding and practical application in insurance regulation within the FSA, Lloyd’s and Qatar
  • Qualified finance director with IPO experience
  • Strong operational experience, accomplished in change management and BPO
  • Exposure to fund raising, M&A activities
  • Senior executive board experience over last 10 years including publicly quoted companies.

 

Michael’s revised resume (notice the level of confidence, direction, and power behind the words not only chosen but placed strategically):

 

M.J.W.                                                                                                                         

 

Executive capturing high growth in complex market conditions through bottom-up strategy and analytical approach.  Fuses financial and insurance background with expertise in FSA, Lloyd’s, and Qatar markets to establish top-quality organizations and governance integrity.  Excels in operations leadership, business development, startup ventures, restructures, outsourcing, and M&A activity.

 

ù    Revitalized NNNNN Group, creating discontinued business unit to address $500M in outstanding liability products and facilitating structure change; transformed company into two trading platforms to manage European commercial lines as well as major international accounts.

 

In today’s aggressive and highly competitive market, choice of words can label you as a qualified candidate near the top or label you unfavorably.  Quickly returning to the words of my finance professor, “In any market, create a competitive advantage quickly by presenting credibility with numbers.”  Is your material wandering or weak?  Do you establish yourself with a competitive advantage?  Take a second look at your material and if you have any specific questions, send them to me and we can go over.

March 16, 2009

Continued: Paper Equals Perception

For anyone who may be a tad confused, the following is a continuation of our previous submission….check it out and become caught up before continuing this submission.

 

What I see must be the logical choice. In the world of perception, what does the element of sight “see” on the page?

 

Spacing: is the white space symmetrical, reader-friendly, and comfortable (too much white space indicates waste or diminished skill; if not reader-friendly would one even bother to review; is the reader comfortable with the look or are the words or margins cramped with too much information)

Tone: is your tone assertive and confident (using passive verbs indicates a passive character or work ethic)

Balance: are you prioritizing value and maximizing the hot zone (placing key strengths and bottom-line results at or near the bottom of the page is not effective as you have the readers attention for approximately 12 to 15 seconds)

Focus: are you in control (do the readers have to guess intention? If so, you are telling a potential employee you are looking for an interim job and not a committed career)

Objectivity: just the facts, please (by using a first person approach, you introduce emotion and subjectivity—not necessarily a positive)

Metrics: show the reader what you deliver by showcasing quantifiable accomplishments (saying you are a team leader, in and of itself, means nothing. How many individuals or departments did you oversee, what was the challenge, your action, the result, and are any programs you initiated currently in use)

 

With each class, with each training session, and with each faculty development program, what and how something is written is much more powerful than what is actually said. Simple errors on print display more than a misspelled word. One mistake creates a perception of complacency or of one not being detail-oriented or sloppy. Another example my professor described of how one error changes perception was as follows (and this one I do remember): “While at a local IHOP, I ordered a stack of pancakes and cup of juice. Friends ordered omelets and coffee. When the waitress returned with the stack, I noticed there were no bottles of honey. Once the young waitress returned, I leaned into her area and asked ‘if she could give me some, honey.’ Unfortunately I paused between the words ‘some’ and ‘honey’ (notice the comma). The waitress was rather upset.”

 

Examining the statement causing the tension, the waitress perceived my request as inappropriate while that was never the intent. Consequently, we truly are what others believe us to be! Leading me to ask, what does your résumé portray?

 

Developing marketing materials, catching one’s work ethic, character, and persona can be most challenging. As our career blog progresses, you will be (re)introduced to concepts, designs, and tips to assist you in paving your career management success not only for the student of today, but for the executives of tomorrow.

 

Maybe I should have paid closer attention during graduate school?

 

 

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

dhuffman@careersi.com

Education Career Services: http://www.educationcs.com

Career Services International: http://www.careersi.com

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