Career & Coffee

Resume Writing, Job Search, Industry News and Erin’s weekly musings on all things career.

Writing your own resume. Up to the Challenge? June 20, 2009

Filed under: Resume Writing — erinkennedy @ 2:06 pm

Writing a resume for yourself can be challenging, at best. That is why most people these days hire a professional to do it. It’s much easier for the professional because they aren’t you! It’s hard for people to figure out what information should stay or go. How many pages? What about this job or that job? What about if I went to several colleges? What if I didn’t graduate from college? Should I omit that job in ‘03 because it was only a few months? How do I put this accomplishment into words? Functional? Chronological? I’m terrible at writing, what am I going to do?

It’s hard enough suddenly finding yourself unemployed, but now the task of writing a resume? Forget it!

Take a deep breath and relax, dear reader. Here is a brief synopsis that will help even the “worst writer in the world” overcome writer’s block and put the pen to paper. Keep in mind though that this really is ‘brief’ and you will probably want to discuss any finer points with a Certified Professional Resume Writer.

1.  When starting your resume, the first thing you need to do is put yourself in the mind of the reader. What do they want to see? What do they really want to hear? Are you in sales? Then it’s numbers. Operations? Then it’s process improvements or cost cuts. Business Development? New opportunities, revenue pipelines, partnerships and so on. Always keep your reader in mind. They want to know what you have done– and can you do it for them?

2. After you add your contact information, you need to determine your job objective. What is it that you really want to do? You need to have a clear understanding of your focus. You know what you have been doing, or what you are good at, but what do you really want to do? What is your brand? If you are uncertain, you need to dig deep within and explore your skills, core competencies and what inspires you. Fill your career summary with keyword action phrases and value-added snippets of what you do best. Summarize. Be bold and confident (not cocky) in your language.

3. Getting to the meat of the resume= your work history. It does not have to be a career obituary, “Here lies Erin. I did this, this, and this every day, all day. I did this all with boring bullet point after bullet point, and ended each job without a bang. Hire me?” You can talk about what you did at your job without putting the reader to sleep. Mix it up a bit.

You might add a mini-paragraph after the job title, as your narrative (what you were brought in to do). You don’t want your mini-paragraph to be too long, because the reader may skip right over it. Keep it brief and to the point. Follow it up with your accomplishments, or deliverables, in an action verb, bulleted format.

Show enthusiasm in your tone when writing about your accomplishments. Get the reader excited, create a story! Paint a picture of what was going on in the company when you were there. Were you brought in to clean up a neglected department? Had to put in new processes where none had been in years? Created synergy among a previously hostile union/management environment? That’s a lot of work and it should show on the resume. Bring it out and show it on the resume. Keep it interesting.

4. Education & Professional Development. If you are out of college, you don’t need to add your high school. Personally, unless you are IN college, I never put high school on a resume and sometimes even then I won’t.  Why? If you have a college degree it is a given you went to high school.

What if you went to several colleges? Add the one you graduated from and omit the rest, unless they were for more specialized courses. I’ve seen some resumes with 5 different colleges, no real majors and only a semester here or there. You don’t need to add those. It looks like you were/are wishy washy and can’t stay focused.

Add your professional development and training courses. They add credibility to your resume and show that you are always eager to learn and/or improve.

5.  Miscellaneous. Volunteering is a great thing– especially when it relates to your job or future job. Add it. Hobbies, interests, height, weight and zodiac sign? Omit it.

DO NOT add any political and religious affiliations.

As for your format, I would stick to a reverse chronological style. This is the most popular choice by recruiters and hiring managers. I also create a chrono/functional hybrid style depending on the clients situation.

These are some ideas to help you in the writing process.  Once you start writing, you may not be able to stop! Be confident, have fun and just do it.

 

Using the C.A.R. method on your Resume June 2, 2009

Filed under: Resume Writing — erinkennedy @ 12:44 am
Tags: , , , ,

Have you heard me talk about the C.A.R method? If you are a client of mine, you have. It’s a method I use in every single resume. It is, to me, the single most important factor when writing about your accomplishments.

OK, so what does C.A.R. stand for and what does it mean for you?

C.A.R. stands for:   Challenge   Action   Results

When consulting with clients and proceeding with the data mining process, I always ask them about their C.A.R. stories. What were the stories behind their accomplishments? What was going on in the company before they took on the issue? Give the reader some background, not a novel, just a hint of what the environment was like.

So ask yourself, what was the Challenge I faced when either a) I joined the company or B) I took on the new situation or C) I was promoted?  Briefly discuss the Challenge. Again, it doesn’t have to be super lengthy. You  just want to get your message across.

For the Action portion, this is where you can talk about what you did to resolve or change the situation. What action or steps did you take? For some jobs, it might be quite detailed, but I wouldn’t advise talking about every single thing. Summarize as best as you can. Remember, HR people have lots of resumes to review and not a lot of time.

For the Results portion of C.A.R., talk about the results. What was the percentage of production increase? How much did you increase sales or people productivity? Use numbers and percentages whenever possible.

These are the things that stand out and make you more employable as employers want PROOF of what you are capable of doing… it shows them what you can also do for them as well.

C.A.R. is the easiest way to pull out your accomplishments if you are having a hard time thinking of what you did/do.

Good luck!

 

Definition of Thought Leadership June 1, 2009

Filed under: Career & Workplace,Resume Writing — erinkennedy @ 11:00 am

WHAT IS A THOUGHT LEADER (and is it YOU?)           

 

 

What is a Thought Leader? Lately I’ve had clients discussing this topic with me and wondering what my take was on the term. So, I decided to do some research on the subject and see what others had to say about it.

According to Wikipedia, Thought Leaders are used to describe a “futurist or person who is recognized among peers and mentors for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable distilled insights (thinklets)”.

I have dozens of clients who are thought leaders—organic thinkers, consistently offering ideas that propel businesses forward—and have crafted résumés to position them as such. Thought leadership isn’t anything new—it’s been around for years and years, but the term has grown in popularity the past 5 years or so.

I remember back in the 70’s and 80’s when my Dad worked in sales for IBM, he had a block sign that was at his desk at work—which he later brought home and sat on his dresser—that simply said, “THINK”. It intrigued the heck out of me and I would ask him, “Think about WHAT?” As I later came to understand it, it was IBM’s slogan for (among other things) developing the top technical and sales teams in the industry by thinking ‘outside the box’—being unique “expert” leaders of their product or service.

Just as it was back then, thought leaders of today are being recruited to work within huge organizations to promulgate an idea and teach this learning to others. It’s going beyond ‘business as usual’ and setting yourself apart as an innovative leader and establishing your organization as a trusted advisor and knowledge resource.

The best part, according to Galen DeYoung’s article, “B2B Blogging: Using Thought Leadership to Drive Positioning & Sales”, is thought leaders are sought after and paid more. They are “perceived experts that companies want to hire. In going with an expert, the perceived risk is lower”.

I also like what Execunet’s founder, Dave Opton had to say about it in his “Keys to Influence” post of why leaders of any enterprise continually succeed (it’s the attitude… and people trust the confidence)…“I can’t prove it, but this is what I believe…”

I have had clients ask me if I would consider them a “thought leader” due to their contributions and if it is worthwhile to brand themselves as such. Do your career accomplishments include a history of pioneering new products or processes, or promoting or discussing ideas relevant to departments and/or companies? Are you singled out for your innovation and expertise in a certain subject? Have you been told you “think outside the box” or you are a “change agent”? If you answered “Yes” to any of those, then you have your answer. Brand yourself on your résumé and look for new opportunities within that realm. Have fun!

 

How to handle a Lack of Education on your Resume May 23, 2009

Filed under: Assessments & Education,Resume Writing — erinkennedy @ 1:29 am

I get lots of clients that are concerned about their lack of degree on their resumes. It is very common and is one area that is a sensitive spot. When beginning the process of resume writing, what to put under ‘Education’ can be daunting.

The good news is there are ways to camoflage minimal or lack of education.

If you started college but never finished, you can list the name of the school, years you attended and major. If you want to focus on some relevant coursework taken while there, list the classes. Adding any professional development courses or training always looks great on a resume and fills in the space that lack of degree left behind.

In the unusual case of no education or training at all, omit the section completely and concentrate on making sure your accomplishments stand out.

Whatever you do, don’t fabricate a degree. We’ve all seen the news and watched top execs be publicly stoned and dethroned after being “found out” that their big degrees were big lies.

Something important to consider: not every employer is looking for education… or will exclude a candidate because of lack of it. Remember: BILL GATES DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL.

The majority of the time, employers are more interested on your contributions or accomplishments. If your work history is impressive, then you don’t have to worry about education because your accomplishments speak for themselves. You will have to portray yourself as successful WITHOUT the degree. Not all self-written resumes do the trick. That is where a resume writing service comes in. At the risk of sounding pitchy, a certified resume writer knows how to bring out your best qualities and focus on what the employer wants to see– with or without the education.

Remember how hard you’ve worked to get to where you are today. THAT is what you will sell on your resume… what you did for one company, you can do for theirs. THAT is the bottom line.

 

Interview with a Recruiter May 15, 2009

Interview with a Recruiter

Recently, I had the pleasure of having a conversation with a smart, straight-talking recruiter, Peggy McKee.

Peggy McKee is the owner of PHC Consulting. Her firm specializes in matching medical and laboratory sales reps/candidates with companies, and does so with great success. Despite the economic downturn, Peggy’s company has flourished and she’s had to hire additional staff to meet the placement demands. With her strong understanding of the medical sales industry, interviewing and hiring, she’s helped develop teams of top sales talent for laboratory service companies.

Having my clients in mind, I asked Peggy several questions about her recruiting process, what is important to her regarding hiring the right candidates, her thoughts on résumés, and more. I’ve wanted to “officially” interview a recruiter for a while because of the number of questions I get from my clients about what recruiters look for.

Our conversation went something like this:

EK: “Peggy, where do you find your candidates? Do they come looking for you? Do you recruit them? How does it work?”

PM:     “40-50% of candidates come straight to my website (www.phcconsulting.com). The other half is split between referrals, direct soliciting and social networking. “

EK: “Are candidates are expected to pay you?”

PM: “Absolutely not. Candidates should never pay a recruiter. Companies pay the recruiter for the placement. That’s how it works.”

EK: “It seems like I remember way back when some candidates had to pay the recruiter a percentage or a fee for the placement. I’m glad to know it’s not like that anymore… at least not with all recruiters.”

EK: “So you use some of the professional and social network sites to find talent?”

PM: “Definitely. I use LinkedIn and Twitter to find candidates by typing in keywords, names, titles, searches, groups, etc.”

EK: “And you’ve had good luck going that route? I’ve heard LinkedIn is really a great platform to find top talent. I tell my clients about it all the time.”

PM: “Yes, I use it all the time and love it.”

EK: “OK, let’s talk résumés. Do you have any pet peeves? What are your likes and dislikes? What do you like to see or not see?”

PM: “Well, I want to see 3 things:  how can you make me money?… how can you save me money?.. and how can you save me time? This is what the client wants to know, so this is what I look for.  I don’t like to read long paragraphs. I prefer bullets. I like to see experiences and accomplishments. Love to see numbers, rankings, percentages, etc.”

EK: “Just bullets? Ugh. Boring. I tend to stay away from just bullets. It looks like a grocery list. Numbers are great. Especially in sales résumés… definitely a must.”

PM: “No, I like the bullets. Paragraphs are too long. And yes, numbers are great and show me what they are capable of doing. “

EK: “OK. What about cover letters?”

PM: “I don’t like them, but I have to add that if you are going to write one BE BOLD! Don’t worry about “expectations”. Write something interesting!

EK: “I agree. Nothing worse than a canned cover letter. Make it as authentically YOU as possible.”

EK: “Any last thoughts about the résumé or cover letter?”

PM: “Have your references ready. Bring them to the interview. Have a clear and focused objective on your résumé so we don’t have to guess.  Be ready to answer “tough” questions at the interview. Don’t shy away from them. Be honest.”

**************

Peggy was so fun and enlightening to talk to that I look forward to continuing this conversation and bringing you more insight.

In the meantime, if you want to get in touch with Peggy McKee and help her celebrate her 10th year in business, you can go to her website or visit at www.phcconsulting.com.

 

Keeping it Relevant on your Resume April 10, 2009

It is very important to keep the information on your resume as relevant as possible. Remember, the hiring person is only going to take around 15 seconds to scan your resume, so yours has to be “quick and dirty”. In other words, keep your information current and pertinent to the job you want. If the reader has to weed through loads of extracurricular activities, you may find your resume tossed aside which takes you right out of the running.

 

Many times a client will send me “extra” information to put on their resume. Or, it is already on their existing resume. This “extra” information consists of things like:

 

– Church Involvement

– College Activities / Fraternity/Sorority info

– Sports Teams or Leadership

– Marital Status/# of Children

– Political Affiliations

– Scouts

Now, in certain circumstances you DO want to add college info, i.e. relevant coursework, volunteer activities, intern/externships, etc.  This is good to add if you are fresh out of college and looking for your first “post-college” job. However, when you are in your 40’s, it isn’t necessary to talk about your fraternity. I get this a lot. I know it was a great time for the client and they learned a great deal about life, service to others, and brotherhood. But if you have been in the workforce for 5+ years, you’ve really built up a good amount of experience that will warrant it standing alone on the rez without the aid of your college courses or social clubs. The exception to this rule is, if in this short amount of time after college when you tried your hand at say, sales, but your degree was in finance and now you want a finance job, THEN adding your relevant college courses would work in your favor.

 

In truth, sometimes extracurricular information can work against you. As important as your church or religious affiliation may be to you, it is never a good idea to add it to your resume. Why? Well, many reasons. One is– what if the reader is a different religion… one that doesn’t care for your religion at all (and you know we all have our differences!)? Right there it is a strike against you. Same goes with politics. Not a good idea to say your “volunteer” involvement was to work on so-and-so’s campaign. Now, if you have actually WORKED in a campaign/political environment, of course you would add it. I’ve had many clients who worked in PR or journalism-type fields for certain candidates and it was OK for them, because it was relevant to the PR/journalism job they were trying to land.

 

Obviously here in the States, adding marital status is not a good idea. In fact, people just don’t do it here like they do in some other countries.

 

You may think, “but I’ve heard it is good to add my community involvement, or that I coached soccer”. Really, it’s not relevant to your job search. Yes, you can handle a team of 8-year olds, but does that compare to running the operations of a multi-million dollar manufacturing facility? No.

 

If you are questioning what to add or what not to add, please, ask a certified resume writer. Let us be the ‘reader’ for you. We can help you decide what needs to stay or go. Our goal is that you get put into the “YES” pile, not in the circular file. Just remember that even though it seems important to you, or if it was at the time, if it isn’t going to help you get the job, then leave it off the resume.

 

Color is Back! March 22, 2009

Filed under: Resume Writing — erinkennedy @ 8:38 pm
Tags: , ,
The Use of COLOR on Resumes… dare we?

Folks, a new day has dawned.

I never thought I’d say it or believe it, but color is here. Hopefully to stay.

Way back when I started my resume writing career (10 years ago), color wasn’t used. I was trained by an executive resume writing firm almost 6 years ago, and at that time color wasn’t even something we would say out loud! It was only on resumes that most certainly WOULD NOT land the job.

But times have changed, finally, and color can come out of hiding and proudly show itself.

Now, when I talk about this, you don’t want to have every header and subheaders different colors. What I mean is, color in small doses is good. Perhaps a deep red or navy blue for bullets or subheading titles.

An example can be like this:

JOHN SMITH………….Business Development Executive

or in a branding statement like this:

John Smith
Provide Leadership through Innovative Marketing Styles and Strategic Business Sense
(see just a hint of Navy Blue?)

I will also use it to emphasize a value-added bulleted list. I never overdo it and use it sparingly. Too much of a good thing can be just that– too much.

So, good people of the job seeking world, REJOICE, and add a touch of color to your resume.

Erin Kennedy, CPRW, CERW
http://www.proreswriters.com