Four Things to Know Before you Graduate*

[*High School. If you don’t know these things by the time you graduate college, whooo boy. You better get it together – FAST.]

In December 2018, I was reflecting on how I might better serve my students at Rochester High School by teaching them employ-ability and soft skills.  I coined this, “What you should know before you graduate!”  I promptly went on Facebook and asked for industry feedback.  Four key points came up repeatedly. Here they are.

1. Spreadsheet Management

It was interesting to find the sheer emphasis on spreadsheet management. Excel is KING of the software, in many industries and a prerequisite in college.  Specifically, you should know:

  • How to design a spreadsheet with, borders, shading and page breaks and print options to one page.
  • Basic functions – (sum, average, max, min)
  • Pivot tables
  • Conditional formatting
  • How to create a graph
  • Mail merge data from Excel into Word.

If this sounds like a foreign language, I strongly encourage you to follow some YouTube videos, or even better, get a computer skills class under your belt before you graduate.

2. Communication skills

When you talk to people, you need to look them in the eye and be prepared and confident in your delivery. This includes talking on the phone.  You need to plan and be prepared for the meeting, telephone conversation or even a water cooler interaction.  Being distracted by your phone or using it as a crutch will not get you a salary increase or promotion. 

The people you work with want to know that you are engaged, eager to learn and a participating member of the team.   I heavily encourage taking a note book and pen with you when you meet with people, so you look poised, interested and ready to learn or follow a directive. (See our blog on the Importance of Writing it Down.) Also it’s an excellent way to reference the interaction and make sure you are doing what has been asked of you, before you forget the details. If you realize later that you need more information, you can go back and say, “I wrote down [x,y,z], could you clarify….”

3. The mundane and small things.

Ok, guys, let’s get real.  Some of you (you know who you are) have the attention span of a goldfish and speed of a sloth.  I ask sometimes for my students to hole punch, cut paper with a paper cutter, collate papers, type data into a spreadsheet and nine times out of ten, you mess up.  (And it’s not just MY experience – again, this is what I repeatedly heard from your more experienced colleagues.) Instead of learning, being open minded and taking some direction, you throw your hands up in the air like a spoiled toddler and declare give up! 

For the love of all that is holy, PLEASE take pride in your work and be persistent enough to learn a basic skills so the outcome is clear, concise and quality work!  I use this analogy about many tasks kids mess up:

Mastering basic tasks is like kissing:  The first time it’s messy and awkward but with time and practice, it turns out to be quite good.” 

– Karen Malsbury

Now if that doesn’t make you smile, lighten up!  

4. Email and business letter etiquette. 

Business letter writing has been around for decades.  So why do I continually see mistakes and lack of attention to detail? Writing a business letter is simple. See attachment, here:

It should be one page, formal, typed, left-justified and three paragraphs max for the main body of the letter.  Please see this perfect example of a business cover letter for a job application.  Make sure you have the key details before you start, whom you are writing to, their tile and their address in block format,  Write a compelling body with perfect grammar, spelling and punctuation and then end with “Sincerely,” [your first and last name] because you are yet to be acquainted. 

As for email, please adhere to the following Etiquette.

  • Do have a clear subject line. …
  • Don’t forget your signature. …
  • Do use a professional salutation. …
  • Don’t use humor. …
  • Do proofread your message. …
  • Don’t assume the recipient knows what you are talking about. …
  • Do reply to all emails. …
  • Don’t shoot from the hip…
  • Do keep private material confidential…
  • Don’t! overuse exclamation points!!!!! (Annoying and unprofessional.)

Sidebar on emailing teachers/professors about grades: Make sure your argument is valid. Also, please don’t go in for the punch until you have made an attempt to set the scene.  As a teacher, there is nothing worse than trying to explain yourself to 140 adolescents when a) The student hasn’t even seen the assignment in question — the one that I spent time correcting and b) I have no idea what assignment you are talking about because that was before spring break and I can hardly remember what I did yesterday. Give me a break, people!

Emails need to be concise and to the point.  If you really need to write an epic novel, STOP yourself and pick up the phone.  Also remember any email or text that is sent could be used in a court of law. Love this meme. Hahaha!

So, that’s about it, people! Four little things that can get you to the next step. At the end of the day it’s all about a good attitude, listening, acting on constructive criticism, dedication, perseverance and willingness to learn something, even if it doesn’t come naturally.

LinkedIn: More Important than your Resume

No lie.

LinkedIn is national and international. As of March 2019, LinkedIn had 610 million registered members in 200 countries, of which more than 250 million are active.

If you do not have a robust, high quality profile on, you are SERIOUSLY hurting your job prospects. Have you heard this one:

The average employer spends 6 seconds looking at a resume.

– Often-cited study conducted by The Ladders in 2012. Though it has been disputed, specifically by So then The Ladders wrote a good follow up with some real doozies. All good reads. See sources below.

So, certainly there is a lot more to the story, but the good news is, your LinkedIn profile and activity offers GREAT opportunity to stand out, capture attention and engage!  

If you are only using LinkedIn as a digital version of your resume, you are missing OUT!

Now, of course, LinkedIn should reflect your resume (see our two resume-writing blogs: one about Resume Design and one about Resume Content) but there is SO Much more to do with LinkedIn. Here are a few things that you should leverage. (You might consider carrying a few of these advantages over to your resume.)

1. Your LinkedIn Profile Picture

You can and should use a professional head shot on your LinkedIn profile.  Personally, if I look at someone’s LinkedIn profile and they have no photo, I think they don’t take LinkedIn seriously (which leads me to wonder if they take their job search seriously. Probably not.)

By “head shot”, I mean, a nice, “professional”-looking one, from the shoulders (or waist) up, with a light background and no one else in the picture – even if you sort-of-kind-of crop them out. It should look like a professional photo even if it is not. (It doesn’t NEED to be! Just go for natural outdoor lighting and a plain background.)

I’m sorry I have to even say this, but in the photo, you should be dressed professionally. A modeling, sporting, or formal event photo is typically not appropriate. I recently saw a profile picture of young woman with her midriff showing AND nipples visible through her shirt. And she wasn’t seeking a job in adult entertainment (or was she?) If you are unclear on what we mean by “professional”, and even if you THINK you are clear, allow me to refer you to our To Wear or Not To Wear blog.

Lastly, on LinkedIn photos, there is now also an option for a large background picture, or “Cover Photo”, much like Facebook. This is another great opportunity to stand out.  Keep it simple, maybe a pattern or image relevant to your career, like a drawing table, table of the elements, notebook and pen, etc.  Or a photo of a landscape, your college campus or cityscape… Don’t make it to complex; nothing that will distract from the rest of the content.

2. A HEADLINE: Give yourself a title.

This is one of my favorite “new” things about LinkedIn: You can give yourself a title under your name.  It doesn’t have to be your exact serious title of the exact position you have/want.  You could write “Project Manager” for your headline. But you can also be a little more creative or descriptive, like “Project Manager and Master of Efficiency”. I just saw one that started with, “Highly-Caffeinated…” Now, don’t get TOO cute, but, you know, you could show a little personality.

You can also combine phrases!  Like, “Project Manager | Team Relationship Manager | Time-Keeper”

(I know you want to know how to make those little slashes:  It’s SHIFT+ BACKSLASH ( \ ), and you should bold them to make them stand out.  BRILLIANT! )

3. INTRO: A Summary of Brand YOU!

Okay, now this is REALLY my favorite new thing on LinkedIn.  Remember in the Resume blog we were talking about how an “Objective” is possibly limiting.  Well, this is what you want instead.  A PROFILE SUMMARY of you, and your core competencies.  (I would add that THIS is what you should have at the top of your resume under your name and contact info.)

This is a good time to think about your Personal Brand. (We will write a blog on how to do this soon! In the meantime, google it. There are many articles on Personal Brand Statements. But ours will be more fun, haha.) 

You can write in the first person, ie. Use the pronoun “I” to talk about yourself.  As in, I am an energetic business student with a passion for x, y and z…”   You could also get creative and address a problem, such as, “If you are looking for/If your company is experiencing x, y and z, I am the candidate for you…” Go look at some of your connections and find some that you like. Follow a similar style, we won’t tell.

4. Recommendations!

Endorsements are okay, but recommendations are GREAT! Ask your close contacts to write them for you. Consider asking teachers/professors, bosses/supervisors, colleagues, clients, anyone who can legitimately say something glowing about your performance and skills; specific examples even better.  Also, don’t forget to return the favor! (Note that these are people who might also be a reference for you when you are interviewing.)

5. Other Ways to Optimize your LinkedIn profile

  • Customize your LinkedIn Profile URL to, not a bunch of numbers. (You can check/change this in settings. Also, put this link on your resume.)
  • Include your contact information! Seriously! I suggest at the end of your summary, say something like, Please reach out to me at [email].
  • Add videos, blogs, link to your personal website, samples of your work – good stuff that can make you stand out.
  • Build your network but be careful of being annoying. I like to be a bit selective (e.g. people related somehow to my industry, or just people that I know personally.)
  • Post/Share articles, comment on others’ posts, write articles, be active.

Get to it! Have fun. You should be proud of your LinkedIn profile!

Ladders study:
Good objections raised about this study methodology:
Snap decisions made about your resume here: (like, if you use hotmail or AOL or some other outdated provider, you could be rejected outright.

Please find below some resources for Educators

10 Basics of a Job Interview (Part I)

You just got a call/email asking if you would be available for an interview for that job that you applied for! 
Congrats! GEAR UP! Here’s some advice on how to prepare.

1. Review the job description again, making notes.

Typically, you are applying based on a job description, so you should spend some time making sure you understand the position, and make a list of any questions you might like to clarify during the interview.  Cross-reference: Make some notes about how your skills and interests match up with the job description.  These are good points to emphasize in the interview.

Also, I just want to note here that you are not likely to have ALL of the qualifications listed on the job description and that is OKAY. Don’t let that deter you! Here’s a statistic for you:

“Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.”

Source:  Techniche Universitat Munchen,,
but you can find it quoted several places, including

Seriously? Be that guy, not that girl. (P.s. All the women should read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg! Also, definitely check out more on that study.)

2. Know the Company and Industry.

ABSOLUTELY do some research on the company that you are interviewing with. You should be able to demonstrate a general understanding of their business.  You also should know anything big currently going on with the industry.  You don’t need to know EVERYTHING (you can’t possibly, and they won’t expect you to) but you should know enough that you don’t come across as having not bothered to do any homework.

As a bonus, you might know someone (or someone who has a relative you can talk to) who works here or in the industry. Pick their brains a little bit about what they know, but also be sure to do your own internet research.

3. Know your interviewer.

Hopefully the recruiter is going to tell you who you will be interviewing with (if not, ask), unless you are just having an informational/screening interview (which sometimes will be on the phone) with a recruiter. 

Look him/her/them up on LinkedIn. Google them. Have a feel for who they are and make note of any interesting facts or commonalities that you have, e.g. hometown, past employer, alma mater, interests.  Better yet, if they’ve posted an article on LinkedIn, ask about it. Great point of discussion. 

4. Bring a notepad, pen and copies of your resume.

Resumes…. pad of paper…pen… business card (if anyone uses those anymore.)

Seriously, do not even think about arriving at an interview without these items. Maybe even invest in a little portfolio thingy, like this. You can pick one up at an office supply store – a nice leather one to use for many years, or a cheap pleather one for $15 on a certain marketplace website.

5. Be prepared for tough questions. Rehearse.

Oh, man, some interviewers like to ask tough questions and the tougher the better so be prepared for the worst and trust me, you’ll be ahead of the game. If you’re like me, you dont think fast on your feet and always think of the PERFECT thing to say, several hours ex post facto. So, here are some practice questions*:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to demonstrate leadership.
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  
  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work. (This is a trick question. Be humble and carefully admit your mistake… then turn it into a positive.)
  • Describe a situation in which your work was criticized (This is similar to the above – be sure to turn it into a positive.)
  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
  • Describe the biggest challenge you have encountered in your work life
  • What did you do in your last job to make your team more effective?

6. ALWAYS have questions for the interviewer.

When an interviewer says, “Do you have any questions for me?” (or even if they don’t ask that, you should ask questions), have some good ones ready. Ideally, they should include some clarification about the role, but maybe they really did a good job explaining so you don’t have any.  So, here are some other good basic questions:

  • What would you say would be the biggest challenge for someone taking on this role?
  • What do you enjoy the most about your job/working for XYX company? What is the most satisfying part of your job?
  • What are your biggest frustrations with your role? What about it keeps you up at night?  
  • Beyond experience and skills, what would you say are the biggest soft/personal skills that a candidate needs to bring to this role?
  • Tell me a little bit about the culture here at XYZ company.
  • Tell me a little bit about how the company has grown or evolved over the past several years?

7. Be prepared for a phone or video interview!

Ugh, I don’t like phone interviews.  That’s not to say I haven’t had some AWESOME ones but it’s harder to make a connection.  So, that just makes all of these other tips even MORE important: Be prepared so you know what you’re talking about so you can be more comfortable/less anxious.

Now that we are all accustomed to working remotely, be prepared for a video interview: dress professionally*. Whether or not you’ll be on camera, (if they ask you to Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout, Go-to-Meeting or Microsoft Team) you’ll look and feel professional/sharp/organized. Video ettiquette: IT IS RUDE TO HAVE YOUR CAMERA OFF, esp. if the Interviewee or anyone senior to you has theirs on. If you must have your camera off (e.g. if you are somewhere distracting or driving – which you shouldnt be,) say hello face to face and then apologize that you need to have your camera off for whatever reason.)

Make sure you are in a nice quiet, private place with a good phone/internet connection and do NOT use a cheesy background filter if you are on video!

8. A few important things to AVOID on an interview

  • Wimpy handshake:  LEARN A GOOD FIRM (but not too strong) HANDSHAKE.  Women – this means YOU TOO.  Men, NEVER shake a woman’s hand like it’s 1920, where you just take her fingertips. UGH.  WOMEN HATE THAT.  I could go on, but I won’t. LEARN IT. PRACTICE with your friends, parents, classmates, peers, mentors.  CONFIDENT.  ENTHUSIASTIC. RESPECTFUL.
  • Bad news: In an effort to show you did your homework, don’t bring up anything negative about the company you read online/in the news. It could be uncomfortable.
  • Overly personal information:  While I encourage friendly ice-breaker conversation, keep it professional and safe. No politics, no religion, no “party like a rock star” stories when asked about your weekend. Also, I know this might sound odd, but try to avoid bringing your mom into any kind of professional discussion. There have been too many stories like this over the years. [Story: I had I had a summer intern whose daddy knew the CEO, and her mommy called HR and said that her precious butterfly had to leave the office every day by 3 p.m. to take a class. Now, we all know full well that was total bullshit. But, too bad for you, but I am now scarred for life and when any potential employee brings up his/her mom in a way that suggests over-involvement, it’s game over.]
  • Salary*, Benefits or What’s In It for Me (WIFFM): This is all inappropriate for the first interview. In fact, the recruiter may screen you for your salary range requirements BEFORE the interview to make sure you are in the ballpark. Salary and benefits, including vacation and holidays, and even official work hours or work-from-home options are follow-up conversations with Human Resources/Recruiting once you are offered the position. You should KNOW what your reasonable salary range should be given the position and your experience (and any salary history) but in the interview, you should focus on communicate your skills and how you can contribute in a significant way to the company, not what they can do for you.

9. Ask about next steps.

Make sure you follow up with HR about next steps, either on the way out the door or in an email a few hours/next day. Are you supposed to send samples of your work? Writing samples? References? If so, do that promptly – same day or next day. Also, the recruiter should be able to tell you how soon you can expect to hear back, but it may be vague.  Do not pester your contacts. Hiring usually takes way longer than you would expect. But not always, so be ready.

10. Lastly, send a real ‘Thank You’ note*.

I highly recommend you go OLD SCHOOL and send a hand-written ‘thank you’ note. I really would. (In fact, you should always send ‘thank you’ notes to people, even family, for any gift, even if that gift is just an inordinate amount of time and energy. It’s called respect and appreciation. But I digress.)  You’ve got to admit, no matter who it’s from, a hand-written note is just way better/more sincere (because it’s more effort and more meaningful) than an email. 

That said, an email thank you is better than no thank you at all.  So, if you’re going to wuss out on the hand-written note, send a thank you note to the recruiter and ask him/her if they would please forward your note to the interviewee. Please be sure to also thank the recruiter. An email is fine, otherwise, they’d get a stack of mail every day.

Buy some simple, classy notecards (that either say thank you or are blank).  You should always have a box of these on hand anyway.

“But, Kim,” you say. “I don’t know HOW to write a thank you note! What do I write?” Come on! It’s easy – about 3-4 lines.  It goes something like this:

  • “Dear __________, (First name is usually fine, but if you are more comfortable using Mrs./Mr./Ms., that is always respectful.) 
  • Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me this week about the [insert] position with [company]. 
  • [insert one creative line here – call out something specific you talked about.  Examples: I really enjoyed talking/hearing about xyz. I’m particularly excited to hear that the company does xyz /position will include xyz.  Or, I followed up on that thing you mentioned and saw that xyz. I picked up a copy of [xyz] book/read that article/watched that video you mentioned and blah blah. One simple unique line or two.
  • I look forward to hearing back/talking more about how I can leverage my skills to make a strong contribution to [company].
  • Thank you again. 
    Kind regards/Sincerely (SPELL IT RIGHT), 
    Bob Smith

Alright! Congrats. You got this!

*Additional references to check out:
Read “To Wear or NOT to Wear” before your interview.
Watch for Future Posts on:
– Crushing Your Job Interview (Part II)
– Talking about Salary (NEVER during the first interview)
– Business Communications Basics (e.g. Cover Letters, Memos, Conference Reports and Thank You Letters)

10 Basics of a Job Interview

To Wear or NOT to Wear

That is the question. Trust me when I say that the phrase “dress for success” is a real thing. No, really! You want to look like someone who takes their job and their career seriously.

There are two parts to this post: What to wear to an interview and what NOT to wear to work once you have a job.  Here are some considerations for interview wardrobe selection:

  • Company Culture:  Our first recommendation is to think a little bit about the company and the job that you are interviewing for.  So, are you applying for a creative-type job where you can be a little more expressive of your personality? Or are you going to a more conservative corporate business role like accounting, legal, consultancy, administrative where the important thing is to NOT stand out? Are you applying for something that is more hands on, manufacturing, labor intensive where you’d want to look nice, neat but also practical?  Keep these things in mind as you choose your work wardrobe.
  • Err on the side of caution:  As a rule, for an interview, it’s always better to be too dressed up vs. not dressed up enough.  It’s ALWAYS respectful to dress up. First impressions matter.  You won’t “lose points” for over-dressing but you will for under-dressing.  
  • “Sexy” vs. “Put Together”:  There are two types of “dressed up” for women. There’s fancy, party, night-on-the-town dressed up, which usually leans a little more towards “sexy” and “alluring” (read: tight and lots of skin), e.g. not work-appropriate. Then there is “dressed up” to look stylish, neat, classy, professional and my favorite term:  “Put together.” Always go for this in a work environment.
  • Men have it easier. For men, “dressed up” is usually just “dressed up”.  Nice slacks and shoes, a button-down shirt (side-bar: Nicely ironed or, if you don’t iron, “wrinkle free”, though that is sometimes false advertising and you really should have an iron/learn to use it) and a nice/interesting/colorful tie: This is about as dressy as most companies get these days.  I can’t say a suit coat is required unless you are really going for a big interview at a large, conservative corporation, but again, better to over than under-dress.  (Disclaimer:  This advice is based on living in the more conservative Midwest.)
No, please.
  • So, Men: Sorry, we don’t have a lot of clothing advice for you. Get a few nice pairs of slacks and button-downs that coordinate. Once you see what your colleagues are wearing, add to your wardrobe from there. Sweaters. Golf shirts. Invest in two pair of nice leather shoes… Perhaps we should find a guest writer/interview to speak about men’s wardrobe? (If so, please comment. For starts, I posted a Pinterest page below.)
  • One “No” for men: No cologne/aftershave/Axe/strong smells, just deodorant or antiperspirant.
  • Also, make sure your facial hair, if you have it, is neatly trimmed. If not, of course, be cleanly shaven; trendy stubble could be misinterpreted..

So, getting on with a work wardrobe for the women.  A work wardrobe can be wildly varied and should suit your personality and work culture, role and environment, so it’s easier to give you general rules for what NOT to wear.  (And remember, just because you see a few people at the office wearing things on our “NO” list, doesn’t mean that it’s okay. It just means these people are in need of some unfiltered advice.)

  •  NO Leggings.  I know that athleisure is really in right now.  But it was not ever meant to be worn in a professional environment. Because NO ONE should have to see your ass, and I don’t care how tiny and cute it is. As a rule, unless you are exercising, if there are no pockets on the seat of your pants, you should cover it up. On a similar note, your pants shouldn’t be too tight in the back OR the front:  My boss once had to have a “cameltoe” conversation with an employee. Can you imagine how THAT went? I don’t know who was more mortified.
  • NO Cleavage. Same general story with your top front side.  I should not be able to see serious cleavage, even when you lean forward. (And make sure are wearing a t-shirt bra and/or a tank top under that thin/white blouse. No one wants to see your nipples either. AWKWARD.)   
No one should be distracted by this. We are WORKING. Not flirting. That’s for after work.
Congrats. You have flat abs.
No one wants to see them.
Dress like an adult.
  • Midriff: I know cropped shirts are also in.  NO BELLIES, no matter how flat.  That is how belly-dancers dress, not professionals.
  • NO COCKTAIL DRESSES.  No sheath, “bodycon” or otherwise body-hugging dresses of any length, especially short. [Story: One evening after work, I ran into a young colleague friend on her way out of the building. She was in a little skin tight, short, fancy dress and heels and I (assuming she had just changed in the bathroom) said, “You look nice, Sam! Are you going out tonight?” and she said, “No, I had a client meeting today.”  (A conservative client, no less.) Facepalm.] In sum: If you would wear it on a date or out dancing, don’t wear it to work.
  • Dress Codes and the Fingertip Rule:  Most companies have dress codes. Because they have to; if they don’t, it’s a free for all! Usually there is a “fingertip rule” for skirts and dresses. (Shorts and rompers are also not work-appropriate, though lately dressy LONGER bermuda shorts are in fashion, which can be classy/preppy.) Work clothes should come a couple inches above the knee, NOT a couple inches below your crotch.  [Story: This summer, I walked up the open lobby stairs behind a woman in a short summer dress and was shocked to accidentally see her underwear.  Aaaaiiiieeee! This is beside the point but, really, how does she sit down at her desk? Is she flashing everyone? And more practically, isn’t she cold?] 
  • Let’s Review: No ass/front bottom, no belly, no boobs/nipples, no underwear flashing, no upper thigh. It’s surprisingly easy to avoid these things if you make the effort to stock your wardrobe like the professional adult that you aspire to be.
  • A last hint:  Before you walk out the door in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror. Check all your private parts, and after assuring all those are covered, ask yourself: “Would I wear this to the beach?” “Would I wear this to a nightclub, bar, dancing or on a hot date” or even, “…Out shopping or to the movies with my friends?”  If yes to any, then, NO – better reconsider. 
  • On the other hand, does your work outfit make you feel smart, professional, organized, mature, confident, competent and/or ready to be the best version of your professional self?  If yes, then YES!

At this point, if you’re asking, “Well, then, Kim and Karen, what DO I wear?” Excellent question. We are not fashion experts, we are career consultants, so please allow us to direct you to Kim’s Pinterest board for some starter ideas, or search for yourself! Keep in mind the personal brand you are trying to build for yourself and, forgive me, but “Dress for Success.”

To Wear or NOT to Wear

Resume Basics – Content

In our first post, “Resume Basics – Design”, we talked about the visual design of your resume and that it’s more important that your resume is easy to read and find information, well organized, than cool-looking and really design-y. Here, we talk about what to put on your resume.  The basics, but how to beef it up a bit, legitimately.


  • Obviously, include your employer, title and dates of employment. Then some details on your responsibilities and skills used or developed. (For example, if you were a waiter, you strengthened customer service skills, speed, accuracy, memory, professionalism, grace, dedication and reliability.) Call out specific projects, clients/brand names or accomplishment.
  • Value-Add projects:  If there was anything extra or unusual that you did or any recognition you earned, like you won an intern of the year award or if you can actually say that you lead a team or 5 interns or you organized a company picnic, include any extra relevant and specific experience.
  • Results:  If you have impressive results, always include those. Some people love data. Make sure you explain why that data is good (like an improvement over the prior). Example:  You handed out 250 free Popsicle and 300 coupons every Saturday in the grocery store resulting in an increase in Popsicle sales by x% over a non-promotional day. Pay attention to that stuff while you are doing it, or go back to your employer and ask for data if it’s collected. 
  • Keep notes while you are employed: Always look for opportunities to learn or do something you can put on your resume. You don’t have to have it on there 5 or 10 years from now, but when you are fresh out of high school or college, you want as much as you can – as long as it’s relevant. (Again, resume only one page.)

As always, A few things NOT to do:

  1. Don’t get too cute or fluffy. And for goodness sake, NEVER lie or even over-exaggerate what you did. If you get asked about it and aren’t convincing, or an interviewer follows up with a previous employer, you’re so screwed. Some industries are a tight network and you could ruin your reputation before you even get started.

2. Be careful about including experience that might send a message about you that you don’t want to convey.  If you were a stripper or a model or a drug dealer, think about if that might either turn off a potential employer or attract the wrong type and consider how you might word something on your resume to show that you were reliable, responsible, strengthened your entrepreneurial skills, customer experience, etc.  Also consider that there MIGHT be something on your resume that you need to leave off or seriously edit. 

[Story:  I saw a resume for someone on LinkedIn who had waited tables at Hooters. Additionally, her profile picture was less-than-classy (See: Midriff and Nipples in the “What NOT to Wear” section of our related post). Finally, she had listed “modeling” under activities.]

I respect waitstaff, models, dancers, etc. I am well aware that they are very hard working and that those are legitimate professions and good money. But I’m merely suggesting that, as you move forward in your career and want to build some credibility and professionalism, you might want to be selective in what you include and what you leave out or how you communicate it. For example, the above-mentioned young lady might (a. change her profile picture to something more professional and b.) say she waited tables at an American restaurant chain. We will talk more about this in another post – about Separating your Personal and Past Life from your Future Professional career. And, how to use LinkedIn.


If you are most recently a student, consider listing education FIRST, above experience. (I wouldn’t say this is a hard and fast rule, especially if you have some killer experience – if so, list EXPERIENCE first.) If you haven’t graduated, you can put expected graduation date.  Maybe list your grade point on your resume if it’s really good?

Include your degree, major, minor, overseas study, special coursework. YES – Consider calling out relevant coursework.  When I was in college, in some more senior level courses we worked on assignments for actual clients. When I was in grad school, we had extremely specialized courses that I listed a few of on my resume.

BEEFING UP the resume

 Okay, so your resume is feeling a little thin. What are some other things you can do to add one or two items to your resume? 

Training:  Take a training class. Teach yourself. Get certified.  There are many free (or nominal fee) courses online! Complete something relevant.  Take an Ideo +Acumen course on Human Centered Design or Public Speaking. Free! Get certified in Google Analytics.  Sign up for Toastmaster’s Club and learn to give public speeches – one night a week for a 6 months.

Non-profits: We will have a whole talk on volunteering but get out there and DO something out of the goodness of your heart. Why? Because its easier to get a free job than a paid job and its good for your soul and your community.  It also looks good on your resume, though hopefully you are doing it for more reasons than that. Did you serve on your subdivision social committee? Did you coordinate a can drive for the local food bank? Did you help organize a 5K or park cleanup that attracted an impressive number of participants? Did you head up a committee at your church?  Did you install a Free Little Library at the local park? Ideally, you can volunteer your time doing something that is relevant to a future career.

For Profits:  Offer to conduct a free (short term) internship or project work; Coach or Referee; Camp counselor; even just job shadow a few places; find work/projects/activities through your college; anything you can learn and put on your resume.

Clubs, organizations and networking:  Join some. Commit to the ones you enjoy and benefit you. Consider fraternities (not necessarily just the college ones, also ones like Lion’s Club, Elk’s Club, PEO, Masons) and get involved on sub-committees that interest you; go to regular meetings, presentations, outings and put this on your resume under activities/interest.  You might not only learn something but you’ll make connections. More on networking on another post.

Be creative; be entrepreneurial:  Start your own company by selling stuff for others on eBay on a commission; mow lawns/rake/shovel snow/gardening/landscaping; babysit/ pet-sit/house-sit; odd jobs.  Try Kelly Service temporary jobs; make phone calls or campaign door to door for a political candidate you endorse.  All of these things demand shorter periods of time or you can do around the edges of other jobs/school.

Be interesting.  Do what you love and include it in your Activities/Interests/Awards section:  Don’t go crazy, but remember that sometimes in an interview or when scanning through piles of resumes, something might catch a potential employer’s eye, so put a couple fun things here without getting too personal.  Did you hike the Appalachian Trail?  Did you referee youth soccer? Were you a member of the local Skydiving or Archery Club? Remember to do most of these things because you’re passionate about them and you truly want to engage, not just to put it on your resume.

A few miscellaneous resume items:

  • Objective/Personal Statement: Not a fan but open-minded.  If you feel you need one, because it’s not obvious or there’s no email (“cover letter”).  Just keep it super simple. I’m looking for an administrative/entry level marketing role at a ___ company where I can learn ___ and contribute ____. I worry that something too specific might limit opportunities, so don’t be too particular about what you are looking for. But then if you need to be too vague, what’s the point?
  • “References: Available Upon Request”:  Skip this on the resume: It’s presumed you have references.  BUT, be sure to think about who your references are (teachers, professors, bosses) and make sure that you have permission to use them as a reference. Get their name, title, phone number and email and have that tucked away on a prepared document for when you need it.
  • These two above items, IMHO, only serve to take up space that is better filled up by all the interesting things you can include as noted in previous sections.

Get started! You can do it! Build that stand-out resume!

Check out our Vlog on building content on your resume.

Resume Basics – Design

This is a two-part post on how to build your resume, first from a Content standpoint and then from a Design standpoint.

We see A LOT of resumes and after a while, they all start to visually look the same.  

That isn’t necessarily bad: A potential employer will want to be able to easily find the information they are looking for, like your education and experience. But you want to be sure your resume stands out in a GOOD way (with easy-to-find info), not in a BAD way.  

In presenting your key information, in general, I suggest:

EDUCATION (If you were most recently a student)*

*If you held a job AFTER college, or if your college internship work was particularly relevant to the job you are seeking, you can definitely list experience BEFORE education, with the goal of displaying the most compelling information first.

Resume “Objective” or… “Headline”/”Intro”

Traditional resume “Objective” is out of fashion. They tend to be boring, unhelpful and not differentiating, e.g. “I’m seeking a job at your company just like everyone else, so that I offer my skills to your company, just like everyone else, see?) Worse, an objective could be potentially limiting at this stage in your career. Sometimes, its helpful just to get started in any position at a company you want to work for and you can learn the ropes and switch your role eventually. (It goes without saying that you shouldn’t take position doing something you KNOW you won’t like, just to get in, duh.)

Instead of an objective, we recommend a headline or intro paragraph, much like the top section(s) of your LinkedIn profile. See our post on LinkedIn here, (or feel free to stalk Kim’s LinkedIn profile, here.

Basic Resume Design

Your name should be big and bold at the top so I can see it clearly if I am looking for it in a stack of resumes. Then contact information. When designing it, don’t be overly cute or clever. Think function over form: Keep it simple and easy to read. An over-designed resume is distracting and annoying. Remember, I need to easily find the info I’m looking for, but consider separating or emphasizing different sections with graphics, lines, icons or color blocks, whatever.  Type font must be legible font (e.g. standard 10-12 pt size). Use bullet points or short phrases, vs. big paragraphs and long sentences which are harder to read/skim.

Here’s a great example of a beautiful, simple resume template. (Thanks to Anna Maria for this one.)


Remember that resumes are often printed in black and white only, so don’t rely on color. If you use it, that’s fine, but be sure to stick with black text (or something close to black for contrast) and only one additional color for design accent. If you use color, print it out in black and white to make sure it still looks good. Again, #1 priority is EASY TO READ.


Again, if you are currently a student, or just graduated, Karen recommends putting your education first. I could go either way on this, education at top or after experience, depending on which you have done most recently (e.g. if you are a student, education at the top). If you have substantial experience (considering your life stage), list it first. Importantly, consider briefly highlighting relevant coursework or big projects, esp. with “real” clients. (More on this in Resume Content Basics.)


In chronological order, any (ideally, relevant) work experience, paid or unpaid; volunteer experience. List your accomplishments and responsibilities. Use “active” words like: created, designed, managed, coordinated, lead, organized, initiated, executed, wrote…etc.


Sports, clubs, organizations, memberships, committees, acknowledgements, including the dates (by year, e.g. 2010-2011) of participation. Maybe passions and something interesting about you but nothing that might be seen as oversharing or polarizing.


Hmmm. Probably not, unless you’re sure it’s just a classy, professional headshot.  If you’re just using a photo because you think you’re more likely to get hired because you’re really good looking, just don’t.

But, if you strongly believe that a photo helps make you more memorable (supposedly this works with real estate agents, which is why they all have photos on EVERYTHING), go ahead, and consider matching it to your LinkedIn profile picture.

Length of Resume: ONE PAGE per 10 Years’ Experience

This is a rule. Someone might tell you that this rule doesn’t apply anymore, but I am here to tell you IT DOES. I cannot imagine what you have done in 10 years that you can’t keep to one page and I’m more likely to think that you cannot edit yourself. Also, it could come across as arrogant or disrespectful to make someone look through two pages. Unless I am looking at senior level resumes, I personally disregard 2 page resumes.  

One last suggestion:

Look at other resumes. Ask a relative, teacher, mentor employer if you can see examples of good resumes they’ve received.  Ask that same person if they will look at yours and offer feedback.

Worried that you don’t have ENOUGH on your resume? No problem – we will talk about building content in our next post, Resume Basics – Content.

Watch our vlog on how to design a resume.