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 LinkedIn.com, 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 ResumeGenius.com. 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 http://www.linkedin.com/YourName, 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!

Sources:
Ladders study: https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/you-only-get-6-seconds-of-fame-make-it-count
Good objections raised about this study methodology: https://resumegenius.com/blog/5-problems-with-the-ladders-6-second-resume-study
Snap decisions made about your resume here: https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/is-it-true-that-recruiters-reject-a-resume-in-six-seconds (like, if you use hotmail or AOL or some other outdated provider, you could be rejected outright.

Please find below some resources for Educators

First (or Second) Job Blues

Seven Ways to Beat Them

This blog is about your first (or second, or third…) “real” job.  And the fact that you may hate it. Maybe you’re not doing what you thought you would be doing.  Maybe you don’t like the hours, procedures, your boss, your colleagues, your commute, your working conditions or frankly, the work.

Here’s how we suggest you handle this situation.

(Before we dive in, allow us to state the obvious: if you are really in any kind of a dangerous or threatening situation, get to a safe place immediately and talk to a trusted adult about it, inside or outside the company. But that is going to be a rare situation.  We are talking more typical scenarios, like general, “I hate my job” feelings.)

1. Work Your Hardest.

I’m sincerely sorry you don’t like your job. Have faith that it will get better there or somewhere else. And if you work at it, you will eventually find a job you love. (Karen and I are big believers in ‘everything happens for a reason’, and according to that philosophy, there’s a reason you are in this job – to learn something new, learn something about yourself, or to meet certain people.)

That said, you’ve heard the saying, “work is called ‘work’ and not ‘play’ for a reason, blah blah blah. And “You have to paying your dues” blah blah blah, but it really is a real thing! Everyone at a higher level than you at one point had to do work they didn’t like or was super boring. And if you are irritated about it, people around you will know it, trust me, and it will be duly noted.  People HAVE been fired for a bad attitude. I’ve seen it happen more than once.

As a wise young man once said, “Embrace the suck.”  He and I were working on a painful project, but we leaned into it and worked hard and learned a lot and made the best of it and ended up having fun despite the ambiguity and tedium.  (Note that working with someone else always makes a tough job more fun as long as you both have a good attitude. Find someone to work with.)

“EMBRACE THE SUCK.”

– Erik

2. Learn as Much as You Can.

I read somewhere that you know it’s time to switch jobs when you stop learning. Which means you should do this first. So, show up every day with a pen and paper. Set your frustrations aside for 8 hours a day and learn as much as you can so that you are not wasting your time there and after you leave, wish you had leveraged more of the opportunity there. No matter where you are, there is something to learn. Talk to as many people as you can. Find someone who is doing something interesting and interview them. Ask them about their jobs and their career paths.

3. Build Relationships

The people you work with now can help you in the future, if you form real relationships with them. So, consider this job a full-time networking opportunity. (More on Networking in an upcoming blog post.) Ask their opinions on anything and everything. Show that you are interested, be a good listener, show you care about their experience and are passionate about the industry.  Reciprocate:  Ask if you can shadow them or help them.  Thank them for their time, advice, insight, even if they are your peer. When you give back and express appreciation, it is noted.

4. Do Not Become a “Recruiter”.

Do not be that guy who bitches about everything at work. You may be justified, you may be right!  But it’s only going to hurt you. I’m not saying not to bitch. It’s good to blow off steam.  Find a trusted friend who you can vent to. For me, it was my office mate; we were on the same level and I trusted her not to tell anyone anything I said. Of course, ideally the person you bitch to is not someone in the office, but they can relate and they are less likely to try to “fix” it than a friend or family member.

5. Resist the Temptation to Burn Bridges.

I cannot stress this enough.  RESIST the urge to slack off, be a jerk, say something you shouldn’t, quit dramatically and storm out the door without giving 2 weeks notice. Seriously. Just don’t. Take a deep breath. Be professional. Don’t set yourself up for serious regrets now or in the future.

Story:  I have had (on more than one occasion, I swear I am not making this up) had despised colleagues become clients.  This one guy was such an arrogant turd. He was just full of hot air; he never contributed in any substantive way. He just swaggered around and listened to himself talk. I never saw him do a lick of work but he would order everyone else around and condescend. It was all I could do not to tell him where to stick it. 

Fast forward 10 years and here he is, my client. HA! Boy, was I glad I hadn’t told him what I REALLY thought of him! Turned out that having him as a client was easier than working with him because its more tolerable for a client to be arrogant and useless than a colleague.  Also, I think he had been knocked down a few pegs in the interim. Karma.

6. Take Control: Make a Plan Forward.

Instead of being discouraged, start thinking about and making notes on your next step.  What do you like about this job? What don’t you like? What more do you need to learn? Is there a place to move within your company? Do you need to go elsewhere? What kind of companies are out there? Again, network. Read. Learn. Take a free online class. (No, don’t presume you need to go back to school/to grad school  – more on this in another post.)

Consider finding a mentor or coach to help you determine if this is really the right job path for you – it may be, you just need a plan.  Is this dissatisfaction with your job just circumstantial? Or is this really not a good career fit for you? Story: A good friend from high school earn her degree in Pre-Law… and then Law… and then when she started practicing law at a firm in Chicago, she HATED it.  Ruh roh. But it happens, though ideally you figure that out sooner. And you will find something that works better for you. (She did.)

7. If Things Get Ugly, Document.

Again, if things are bad and you’re trying to do all the right things (like points 1-6), and you really are being mistreated, disrespected or harassed: Document, document, document. The only way to complain in a credible way is to write down exactly when and how someone is mistreating you. Specifically, write down who exactly said or did what to you in what circumstances on what date. Note if there were any witnesses. (And, again, if you’re being truly abused, get help right away.) And of course, start looking for a different job. 

Be sure that when you do resign, ask for an exit interview (if you aren’t offered one as a matter of course) and be honest (but polite and professional) with what your experience was. Be thoughtful and constructive and specific. If something is seriously going wrong at your company, they can’t fix it if they don’t know. Sometimes they can’t fix it without enough evidence.

As someone with an “over-developed sense of justice”, I believe that it is your responsibility to communicate this information to the administration for the good of those who come after you. Don’t assume that someone else will report it and/or deal with it. You would be shocked to know how many people actually don’t ever provide feedback on anything.

One Last Word.

There are certain skills needed to productively move forward through long agonizing hours, days, weeks doing something you would rather not be doing. Unfortunately, many of these skills come with time, age and learning the hard way.

So, in the meantime (or instead of learning the hard way), I recommend reading/listening to  “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie (I also suggest, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey.) You won’t regret it. It’s $10 on Amazon. Even though it was first published in 1936 (Yes, it’s older than your grandma and more relevant than ever), it’s easy and fun to read and if you follow the advice in this book, it will impact your whole life in a positive way — and even help you make the most of a bad job situation.

Godspeed.

First or Second Job Blues

Write. It. Down.

Some of you might already do this as second nature, but if you don’t, a critical habit for your success is to write things down.  And we mean actually writing with good old-fashioned pen, not typing on a phone or computer. “WHAT?!” you might be thinking. No, seriously.

Trust us on this one. Just try it. Get yourself a pen (or pencil or cute little rainbow set of fine-tipped markers, or whatever brings you joy) and a simple notebook. For a few weeks, try taking simple notes (a rough outline, key points) in your lectures or meetings.

Look! PEN! And PAPER! SO Old School.

Try making a lists of things you want to accomplish each day. When you finish them, check them off. (Very satisfying) If you dont accomplish them, move them to the next day’s list.

Why?

Taking notes helps you LEARN and REMEMBER MORE. Making lists, setting goals and having plans helps you PRIORITIZE, FOCUS and ACCOMPLISH MORE.  We are not making this up. It’s scientifically proven:

“It seems that writing anything down makes us remember it better. On the other hand, not writing things down is just asking to forget.
It’s a kind of mental Catch-22: the only way not to have to write things down is to write them down so you remember them well enough not to have written them down.

– Dustin Wax, Lifehack

source: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/writing-and-remembering-why-we-remember-what-we-write.html

Don’t be Shy.

Just because no one around you in class or a meeting isn’t taking notes doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. You’ll just be that much farther ahead of them. I amazed by the number of young people who come into my office for a conversation, to a meeting or presentation without a notebook. (In fact, just today I sat in on a high school field trip presentation where the teacher had to actually TELL the students to get out pens and paper to write down detailed information, like the cost per square foot of retail space.)

I’ve also noticed that a lot of people would rather take a laptop to class or a meeting and type their notes up.  Some really lazy people just take a photo of the teacher’s assignment or notes on the dry erase board after class.  This may be efficient and make for neater notes, but for real, it doesn’t have the same effect:

‘Overall, it seems those who type their notes may potentially be at risk for “mindless processing.” The old fashioned note taking method of pen and paper boosts memory and the ability to understand concepts and facts.’

(Source: https://www.medicaldaily.com/why-using-pen-and-paper-not-laptops-boosts-memory-writing-notes-helps-recall-concepts-ability-268770 )

Writing Notes is a Sign of Interest and Respect.

An additional bonus to writing things down is that the person talking (teacher, colleague) sees that you are conscientious, organized and responsible, and that you think what they are saying is important.

They are also not wondering if you are actually checking your email or playing computer games. Do not underestimate the importance of this in your education and career. I have spent many hours preparing for a meeting only to have both colleagues and clients typing away on their computers while I’m presenting.

CNN Business “Should Laptops and Phones Be Banned from Meetings?”https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/03/success/meeting-laptops-phones-ban/index.html

Being on a screen during a class, meeting or presentation is nothing short of RUDE. I believe strongly in a NO SCREENS RULE: If you are so busy and so important that you can’t leave your screen for one hour, then don’t come to my meeting. If you NEED to be on your phone during a meeting, the polite thing to do is to tell the presenter before the meeting that you are not trying to be rude, you are expecting a very important call/email. Then sit in the back and try to pay as much attention as you possibly can.

Last point: Practice Making Lists

In addition to note taking, if you get in the habit of writing down what you want to accomplish every day (in addition to any appointments on your calendar), you are more likely to prioritize the important things you need to do and not get distracted by less important things.

Keeping lists is a wonderful way to stay organized and productive. We will talk more about this in our blog about keeping a PLANNER and setting GOALS.

Now go grab a pen and notebook.

Write it down!

10 Basics of a Job Interview

You just got a call/email asking if you would be available to come in for an interview for that job that you applied for!  YEAH!  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:  This fascinating study was conducted by the Techniche Universitat Munchen, and is posted here https://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/detail/article/31438/, but you can find it quotes several places, including https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140403095421.htm

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 not caring enough 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 get a fancy leather one that you’ll have for the rest of your life or a cheap 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 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. Make sure you are in a nice quiet, private place with a good phone connection. Personally, I like to dress like I am at the interview, even though they can’t see me (but what if they ask you to Skype or Facetime?) because I feel more professional/sharp/organized.

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,  Bob Smith

hAlright! Congrats. You got this!


(P.S. Read the post “To Wear or NOT to Wear” before your interview.)

10 Basics of a Job Interview

Personal vs Professional Life – Online

I know, I know, you’ve heard this before: Being on social media means that your personal life is no longer private. But it’s true.

And, while you should make the effort to assure that only your friends can see what you post, that’s easier said than done. Believe me when I say that employers definitely DO check out candidates on the internet.

You should google yourself – or have someone who is not in your social network google you, or get on the social media you use, to see what an employer can see.  

That’s the first step.  The ongoing challenge is to begin to practice censoring yourself a bit.  There are endless stories on the web about how one quick, careless decision (e.g. post, tweet) can lose an opportunity or even your current job. (Search that: “lost their jobs from social media”. Ouch.)

Especially when you are starting out your career and building your reputation, it’s just better to be overly cautious.  This goes double for people in certain careers, which may be more strict or sensitive, like teaching or law enforcement.  Remember that when you are employed (or a student), you are representing that company (or school), even in your personal life.  Kind of like how your actions reflect on your family/parents.    

Also, the smaller or close-knit the town you live in, or the industry you work in, the faster your reputation will spread and the harder it will be to shake. (Future blog post: “Never Burn a Bridge”.)

General rules to abide by:

  • NO EMPLOYER TALK: Never say anything negative about your employer on social media.  There’s a story about a woman who was fired for posting on Facebook saying her job is ‘boring’. Really. To be on the safe side, if you want to post about your job, make sure it’s positive (and nothing confidential, like the actress on Glee who posted info about the season finale and got blacklisted in Hollywood).
  • DON’T POST DURING WORK: If your company has strict rules about social media use, be careful WHEN you post:  A woman was fired for tweeting during a city council meeting when, as a clerk, she was supposed to be typing the minutes of the meeting.
  • NO POLITICS: I know it’s tempting, but avoid expressing your political comments on social media.  First, no one really cares about your political opinions, and second, you only stand to alienate a potential employer.
  • THINK TWICE before you joke about something that could be misconstrued as sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise insensitive.  This could be as simple as posting a picture of yourself in an inappropriate Halloween costume. 
  • G or PG RATED: Be careful about photos of yourself doing something risqué – anything suggestive, naked, illegal, or using controlled substances, even using alcohol or nicotine, could work against you.
  • ENLIST A GUARDIAN ANGEL: Consider assigning a good friend to keep an eye on your social media and call you out when you post something that might be risky, for whatever reason. My friend Anne does this for me pretty regularly and messages me promptly. “Sure you should post that thing about your son’s business?” I know she’s saved my ass a few times. (Thanks, BFF.)
  • DOUBLE CHECK BEFORE POST/SEND: One last thing: If you are going to post/text/email anything that might be truly offensive (or illegal) to someone privately, you better double or triple check that you are REALLY doing that (and make sure you trust that person not to share). I think we’ve ALL at some point accidentally sent something to the wrong person and it didn’t go well. [Story: In fact, just last night I texted something to my boss “Jane” that I meant to text to friend “Jane”. That could’ve been very bad. I immediately changed the former’s contact info in my phone to “Boss Jane”.]

We are not trying to make you paranoid, deter you from social media (hahahaha!) or over-edit yourself. We are just trying to illustrate that you CAN damage your opportunities and your career if you are careless, don’t THINK carefully about what you put out there on the internet, of even if you just hit “send/post” too quickly. This is a critical time in your life when you are building your own personal brand and you want to be thoughtful about how you want to be portrayed and how you might be portraying yourself unwittingly. That’s all. Think about it. Be aware.

Here’s another point on this topic: Past experience and how it influences your future career (This is also applicable to Blog Post #2: “Resume Basics – Content“.) 

When you list your experience on your resume, think about the way you list it that is most helpful and also consider that maybe it is NOT helpful. It doesn’t all have to be relevant, of course.  Sometimes your experience just shows that you took initiative, responsible and learned a few things. 

As an example, I have seen “modeling” on several resumes and LinkedIn profiles.  If you have a lot of this experience, recently, I would list it under experience but be careful how you do it. Modeling teaches a lot of life skills, like how to work in a highly competitive, stressful environment; time management and public relations skills.  

On the other hand, it might be completely irrelevant to the job you are applying for and could work against you or attract the wrong kind of employer. [Story: I worked for a scumbag boss who would bring anyone in for an “informational interview” who had “modeling” listed on her resume.] So, unless this is a career you want to pursue, I would consider carefully.  Remember that you are marketing your brain and skills, not your body.  (Unless you ARE marketing your body or don’t care if someone only wants to talk to you because of it.)

Also, consider the reputation of the company you might have worked for, e.g. “Waitress at Hooters.”  Think about how those things on your resume might influence people looking at your resume in both a positive and negative way and think about how those things might help or hurt you. (In this case, maybe just list that you were a server or hostess at a national American sports bar chain?)

One last thought: If you have two very different work/career options going, consider having two distinct resumes.   If you want a side job in modeling, for example, create a modeling resume (which is an entirely different format).  If you want an internship in accounting because you are studying finance, do a finance resume and leave the modeling off. 

Keep in mind whenever you put something out into the world, that you are building your personal brand, whether you are trying to or not.  (More on Building Your Personal Brand in a future post.)

Personal vs Professional Life – Online – 1 of 2
Personal vs Professional Life – Online – 1 of 2

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.”

https://www.pinterest.com/kimmers2101/business-casual-dress/


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.

EXPERIENCE:

  • 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.

EDUCATION:

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:

NAME
CONTACT INFO
EDUCATION (If you were most recently a student)*
EXPERIENCE
SKILLS/ACTIVITIES/AWARDS

*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.)

Color:

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.

Education:

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.)

Experience:

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.

Interests/Activities/Awards

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.

Photo?

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.