Monday, July 12, 2010

Fix Your Resume - It Looks Like Everybody Else's

Generic resume advice is everywhere. Following generic resume advice like the majority of people on the net will give you (wait for it...) a generic resume. It may look impressive by itself, but if your resume doesn't stand out from the giant stack of resumes your prospective employer will surely get on a regular basis, then it will be ignored.

Acheiving the "perfect resume" simply isn't a realistic goal in the current job market. The US has a record number of qualified and unemployed people, most of whom have stellar resumes. Think of the modern job search as being 80% about who you can connect with and only 20% about making a good resume.

So if you devote 10 hours a week to your job search, I would spend 8 hours talking to friends, family, and other people about their jobs and availability. The remaining 2 hours -- if that -- can go towards your resume. Don't get too caught up with job sites and Craigslist, a simple inquiry email to a friend can be infinitely more valuable than 50 resume submissions online.

Since the resume is clearly less important than getting the word out, you have my permission to not agonize over it. But here are a few simple rules you can follow, since you still want the resume to stand out in a crowd.

The resume should be tailored to the desired qualifications of each position - usually a list of 3 to 5 main bullets in the job description. One of my potential jobs required these general skills:
  • Process Improvement
  • Communication
  • Management
  • Reporting
  • Online Advertising
So instead of listing my employment history for the last 5 years, I listed these qualifications in bold and pasted in bullet points of various things I had done to demonstrate each. I also lifted keywords directly from the job description and bolded them.

Any time you have a chance to mention a number, whether it's how much money you saved, percentage of efficiency you improved, number of accounts you closed, etc, include it. So instead of saying, "I worked on the Meely Worm process improvement and helped our team become better," say something like, "I helped develop and launch an internal process improvement that saved 16 hours per week in labor costs, amounting to $16,000/year savings for XYZ Company."

Combine that with a slick heading up top, and you have a very readable first page of your resume. I put employment history, education history and various certifications and degrees in small bullets on the second page...if they are interested in page 1 -- and if the resume came from the right source -- they will keep reading.

When I applied for jobs, they were all similar enough that I could use the same resume for each one. One job placed a much higher importance on Process Improvement and no priority on Online Advertising, so I reordered my sections. I kept the blurb on advertising in there, because it was interesting and pretty cool in its own right. I wound up getting an offer for that job.

If you want a pretty resume, steal a page from Apple (their stuff is very pretty). The default font on their Keynote software is Gill Sans, and it looks great on a monitor or printed out.

This is my resume format (the details have been fictionalized...because it's more fun that way). This resume format, combined with word of mouth introduction from people who were already employed there, got me first and second interviews at two different technology companies in the of them is globally renowned. It really can be this easy. Steal and tweak at your own leisure.

Friday, July 9, 2010

How To Make Your Facebook Boss Proof

Step one of your job search: announce that you are looking. I went on facebook and posted a status update to all of my friends and family. I got an overwhelming response of positive messages and job leads, ultimately leading to a great job. This was in March 2010, so the economy was officially screwed by this point.

I like facebook. But as it becomes more popular, you start to collect more and more "friends" who you wouldn't normally hang out with, like your boss. It's also not unheard of for a prospective employer to stalk your facebook profile during your interview process.

Keeping your information private is common sense, but it's also a very easy mistake to make in haste. So here's how you fix your privacy settings on facebook.

At the home page, click Account --> Privacy Settings.

Under Sharing on Facebook, click Custom.

At the bottom of the list of text on the right, click Customize settings.

At the top of this list, where it says Posts by me, click on the box at right (mine says Friends Only) and select Custom edit.

Make this visible to Friends Only (or be even more selective, it's up to you). Under Hide this from, type your boss' name and anybody else you don't want to see your status updates. Save settings.

Your settings for Posts by me should now say Custom.

That's all there is to it. I prefer facebook over other more professional social networking sites, because it's a direct link to people (family and friends) who will typically go the extra mile to help you succeed. In my case, using facebook is much more effective than any recruiter has ever been.

Anyway, more on this later. Clearly facebook is only one piece of the puzzle -- you need to fix your resume and other things before you can get a job -- but it's a great place to start.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Job Market Sucks - Find A New Angle

I don't want to find a job. And I'm glad I don't have to look for one right now.

Quite honestly, the economy sucks. Unemployment is still at 9.5%, and out of 1.5 million fresh faces graduating from college each year, 60,000 of them are bright eyed, bushy tailed, and unemployed.

I wish I was making these numbers up. The other figure that depresses me is the 1.2 million people in the US who are not searching for work because they believe that no available work exists. People have given up.

But I found a job. I got my bachelor's in 2007, and have had a 9-5 ever since. And despite all this news about the economy being in the shitter, I managed to get a new job with a $10,000 raise in February. My former company was going through a salary freeze, and despite our division turning a record profit, I got tired of seeing the less profitable divisions benefit from our hard work without us doing the same. So I jumped ship.

And it isn't just me who is finding work in a troubled economy. My circle of friends, most of whom work for a giant aerospace company in the area, have each been promoted within their organizations a few times in the past three years. The point is that it can be done. If these guys can manage to hold onto their jobs and get promoted in a tough economy, I am willing to bet that other less fortunate college grads can do so too.

The job market has changed. And there are more people than ever competing for the same jobs in the same places. They get on a job site like CareerBuilder or Monster, they post their resume to any jobs that fit their desired criteria (which at this point is pretty much anything that doesn't require selling insurance), and they wait. A few weeks later, they talk to me about how frustrated they are that it hasn't panned out, "I've applied to 50 different jobs, and NONE of them will email or call me back!"

Then the victim mentality sets in. The unfairness of the whole damn situation overwhelms them, and they roll up their sleeves and try their luck on Craigslist. The process repeats.

You just have to learn how to play a different game.

I don't mean to hold anything in your face, or demean the fact that you may not have a job right now. I've been unemployed and searching before, and after a while it can really wear on you. But what I can do is share what has helped college graduates like me get work in a shitty economy. Anything to save you from moving back in with your parents.

My first piece of advice: accept that the world is an unfair place. Accept that it's also far more abundant than any bloated job site will indicate. Read "The Alchemist" if you want an inspirational folk tale to help your search. I'm serious.

Every single job that I have found throughout my career except one has been through somebody that I know. This isn't just about networking, it's about putting that social network that you have to good use. The BEST way to get an interview is through somebody you already know. Spamming job sites with your resume does not work, because that's exactly what everybody else is doing.

And yes, I found my $10k raise through somebody I knew. My personal and professional relationship with them got me an interview, and once my foot was in the door, getting a job became much simpler.