My old resume was bad. Like, really bad. It was basically a list of my education & work history with a trail of references at the end. The funny thing is I didn’t even think it was that bad (after all, it had gotten me jobs in the past!) — until I started getting rejected by jobs on a weekly basis. I wish I had kept the stack of letters that were mailed to me that all said the same thing:
Thank you for the interest in our awesome job at our fantastic company. We have reviewed your sorry excuse for a resume and, after our laughter subsided, concluded that you are not nearly great enough to work for an organization as fabulous as us. Please don’t try again, you suck.
Too Good For You, INC.
Ok, so they didn’t quite say that word-for-word, but that was the gist. What’s particularly heart-crushing is it took my resume a revision or two to even start getting rejection letters — previously I was just ignored entirely. Frankly, when rejections started coming in the mail, I wrote ecstatic comments all over twitter about how thrilled I was that employers were acknowledging my existence, even if they weren’t particularly interested in it.
Yes, this was a low point for me, bloggers… but a learning experience!
Well, eventually I admitted defeat and decided to get outside help with my resume. I visited a career services organization where I paid $20 to have my resume looked over and to get help with my cover letter.
I will never get a greater return on investment than that $20, swear to god. If the girl helping me out didn’t make me look like a rockstar on paper, I would have never landed the interview for my current position. Now, the book I promote for job seekers, What Color Is Your Parachute? 2012: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, doesn’t put a lot of stock in resumes, but my opinion is that they’re essential — and you better be proud of it because you’re going to show it to everyone.
Some resume essentials:
– target your resume & cover letter for each job. This added an hour to the application process for every job I sought, but it’s absolutely necessary. Highlight the skills and experiences that make you perfect for the position you want, scrap everything else.
– use key words like “facilitated, organized, designed, managed, performed, enhanced, engaged, promoted, etc.” to describe work you did previously. I thought I was merely President of the Chemistry Student’s Association in senior year — turns out I was fulfilling a “leadership role that allowed me to recruit and mentor new students” as well as “organize large scale events” and other such amazing things that I didn’t really know were amazing until I saw them described with the right words on paper.
– keep your references on a separate page. I still don’t really understand why this is so important, but my resume ends with “References upon request” because that’s what everyone says to do.
– keep the text and design simple. We’re all sick of Times New Roman in size 12, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a good idea.
– save your resume as a PDF. This is Mac & PC friendly, viewable online or on mobile devices, and small to attach to an email.
Now, give your resume to everyone.
E v e r y o n e.
Ok, maybe not everyone, but have it handy to pass it along as needed. I kept a copy of mine on my iPhone so I could readily attach it to an email or print it off no matter where I was. For the job I landed, I had to pass my resume on to a person I only knew online via twitter — she worked in another faculty at the University, and after a brief conversation on the phone, asked for my resume to pass it along to the faculty I wanted to work in. Now, I’m pretty sure this was paramount to me securing my new job which bring up the most important thing:
Network every way you can. Everyone you know is a contact — everyone from every job you’ve had, school you’ve attended, Facebook friend, neighbour, whatever. Like I said, my network contact was someone I followed on Twitter. Opportunities can show up in the strangest places, be ready.
Finding the network contact you need can be a daunting task if you don’t know anyone that works in the field you want to — in which case, you better start meeting people. Volunteer, ask to shadow, Google the leaders in the field until you stumble upon anything: a blog, a group, a Facebook page, and then start participating in the discussion. Sometimes you’ll probably feel stuck, but in the end you might be surprised which task or person led you to the job you wanted.