Career support

The past week has provided several opportunities for me to talk with professionals about job searches, resumes, cover letters, interviewing, and other career topics. I have been asked specific career-related questions and to review a variety of resumes. Each interaction has been appreciated and I have valued the conversations shared with so many. Several people are concerned with their job stability and updating their resume to have ready if needed while others are already searching for a new job and currently unemployed.

During these uncertain days, I am focused on what support I can offer (what is within my control) and one thing I can offer is my professional experience and review resumes for free. I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from some amazing professionals and organizations over the past 25 years. I have been a part of several hiring committees, volunteer selection committees and have one on one interviewing, hiring, and conflict resolution experience and I have written about numerous career-focused topics. I actively research career trends and I want to share that knowledge with others in the hopes to alleviate some stress and offer my professional career support during this unprecedented time.

I have talked with people who were strangers until our recent interaction and I have had past co-workers reach out to ask advice. Even though each conversation has been unique and topics have ranged from limited experience concerns and resume content to how to condense three decades of experience onto a resume, there have been similarities too. The most common thread has been wanting to be prepared…prepared to submit the most professional resume and/or job application and answer interview questions confidently.

I have posted some tips on LinkedIn highlighting some of my past career-related blog posts and FAQ page, but I wanted to highlight some of the recent questions that have been asked a few times recently. I hope this answers some questions for others, but please reach out to me if you have a specific career or resume question.

Q: How can I prepare a professional resume and have a successful interview?

A: Being prepared, whether it’s writing a professional resume or cover letter or interviewing, comes down to being confident about your experience and skills. This confidence can be built by acknowledging your past accomplishments and what you bring to a new job. I always suggest reviewing your resume and matching your skills with the requirements of the job post. Updating your resume for each job and/or title you apply for confirms why you are applying for that specific job – you’re qualified and you’re interested. When you can clearly explain why you are the ideal candidate for the job you can confidently be prepared to answer most or all interview questions.

Q: How can I create a resume if I have little or no work experience?

A: Recent high school and college graduates ask this a lot, but so do those that have been out of the workforce for years. Depending on your situation school clubs, activities, sports, volunteering, or project-based experience such as lawn care, babysitting, etc. provide skills that are important in the professional workplace. Creating a resume that is focused on workplace skills you have learned through activities and highlighting your personal attributes will provide a perspective employer information about how you could fit into the position and/or company. If you volunteered to help process a mass-mailing project to new and current donors for a fundraising event you learned several skills; following directions, computer skills for mass mailings, organizational and deadline skills, etc. If you mowed lawns you have customer service skills, budget (billing and money handling) skills, possibly marketing skills. If you coordinated events for your community you most likely developed communication skills, teamwork skills, planning and problem-solving, and more. Focus on skills you are comfortable with and have developed through a variety of opportunities to help an employer see your potential and work-ethic skills.

Q: Do I have to include all of my past work history?

A: Typically, you will include work history for the past 10 years and/or what is relevant experience to your current career choice and job search. Focus on skills that you are comfortable with and have experience with that relate to the current position you are applying for. Please see my post on finding your resume balance for a complete answer and suggestions.

Q: What is ATS and why is it important to my resume format?

A: ATS is a software – Applicant Tracking System. The software is used by several job sites and employers to scan submitted resumes and applications for keywords from the posted job description. It’s important to confirm that your skills match the job posting and incorporate those keywords into your resume or application so the software will pick up on them when it scans your submission. When formatting your resume, you can include a brief job description under each position/company (highlighting an accomplishment) and create a list of skills used during that employment at the description end. You can also separate your skills in a new section of your resume and combine all of your skills from past employers into one list. The important thing is to use the keyword/terminology that matches your skills with the required ones in the job post.

Thank you so much for reading my latest post. Please let me know if you have any specific career-related questions or if you would like me to review your resume for free. Please comment below with questions or email me at successencourager@gmail.com !

Please stay safe, practice self-care, and focus on what you can control today.

 

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Professional Development Value

Professional development is key to not only successfully performing your career choice but also for enjoying the position! Continuing to learn new skills and enhance the ones you have helps you be more productive but it also brings about a sense of pride and creativity. There are several professional development opportunities available through articles, books, webinars, online courses, conferences and peer to peer communication and sharing resources.

Some resources are free or very low costs while conferences or online training can seem costly and require justification. When talking with other assistants, from a variety of industries, the cost is always a concern.

A simple justification is that the best way to find relevant resources is by attending a conference. Last year, when I attend the Accelerated Assistant conference by Office Dynamics I learned so many great tips over those four short days from the professional speakers and during the team activities. Joan Burge shared her experience and resources with the group daily. The learning did not stop there though! After returning to work, I followed up with subscribing to a few of the newsletters from the speakers and read their blog posts, which offered time-saving and organizational tips and highlighted apps and programs. I shared those sites and posts with my coworkers which offered several additional communication and learning opportunities.

So, how do you justify travel and conference fees? I did a lot of research before attending the conference including costs, speaker topics, and experience, balanced with team and networking opportunities and chose the best conference for my needs and learning expectations. I typed up a justification form to present to my manager. I highlighted several topics of interests and the speaker’s credentials and experience, relating the topics to several of my yearly performance goals.

I also detailed the costs; hotel, registration, and flight. Breaking down the total cost of an average conference which is about $2600.

  • $217 a month
  • $50 a week
  • $7.12 a day

That is a bargain for continued education that would provide resources for me to be even more productive!

Luckily, I have a professional and respected working relationship with my manager. When we met and went over the document and talked more about the conference and what was offered his only additional request was that I present my experience with coworkers after I returned. About two months after the conference I completed a presentation to about 20 of my coworkers. I shared my experience, discussed the temporary support team I had worked with daily at table 28, shared websites of the speakers, newsletter links, and books that were suggested.

Most conferences detail the agenda and speaker information while providing justification letter templates or suggested content for meeting with managers to help you through the process. Office Dynamics offers this information as well. I highly recommend attending a conference to open resource doors, to continue your education about your industry and position and to learn time-saving tips that will benefit you long after you return to work!

Almost six months after attending the conference I still utilize resources and relationships I formed during that training. I continue to share tips with my team that I receive via weekly newsletter subscriptions, blog post readings, etc. I’m also looking forward to attending this year’s conference – The Stellar Assistant. With all new speakers, additional content, learning labs and unlimited online access to the videos, participant guide, and bonus materials. I’m anxious to share even more reading suggestions, tips and speaker websites with my team!

What are some of your favorite professional development resources? What books do you suggest?

A few of my favorite reads are; Tribes by Seth Godin, just about anything from Wallace Wattles, Permission to live the Big Life by Joan Burge, As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, A Beautiful Questions by Frank Wilczek, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, there are too many to name!

Thank you for reading and if you have any questions about a sample justification letter or how to talk with your manager about professional development opportunities please contact me and I’d be happy to share more of my experience!

 

Read more about me and the professional services I offer on the ABOUT ME Page.

Shine during your next interview!

You have the skills, the professional and personal experience and the passion needed to apply for the position. You’ve submitted the application, resume, references, and other documents required. You get the invitation to interview. Your palms sweat and you automatically get nervous. How can you convey that you are exactly the candidate they need to hire?

Be prepared! Simple right? Well, it can be, yes. Alleviate interview stress by being prepared and confident to answer any question the interviewee or committee may ask you!

One of the easiest ways to prepare for an interview is to study your resume. Yes, duh, you know exactly what is on your resume, most likely you created it, but it’s not just about your past positions or experiences. Study your resume along with the current job description you want to apply for by breaking down the list of responsibilities and turning them into questions (and answer those questions!).

For example

  • Position requirement – Applicant must have ability to flourish in a fast-paced environment while adapting to change as needed. Question – This statement would become the following – How have I flourished in a fast-paced environment while adapting to change?
  • Answer – Discover your answer by using the facts on your resume or the application you filled out. If you had a position as an assistant in a busy marketing department maybe you were constantly juggling tight deadlines on a daily basis with numerous projects going at one time. Define how you organized those projects and tracked deadlines, keeping your manager or team informed of progress, updates and milestone timelines as they passed. Include a particular project that changed course or the deadline was moved up due to client’s request and again state your role and how it worked out despite the challenges.

Once you turn each position requirement into a question and prepare an answer you will exude confidence and be reminded of all the hard work you have put into your professional development and why you truly are the perfect candidate!

Two more basic tips that can help you prepare for the interview:

  • Study the company. Typically, companies have informative web sites, most have mission statements, progress reports, etc. Learn about the company and talk about key points you relate to with the hiring manager or committee. Did they recently incorporate a new product or program you have experience with? Does their mission statement echo your own passion or interest?
  • Don’t forget to ask the hiring manager or committee questions. Questions such as ‘What are the top three main responsibilities or goals of the employee in this position?’, ‘What is one common company goal and what resources do employees have to help accomplish this?’, ‘What is one common personality and/or one common skill shared by past employees that held this position?’ or ‘Please briefly describe one of the team’s current projects and what role this position will play’.

Of course there are numerous articles with tips and resources about a variety of career interviews. I’m just sharing a few of the most popular that I have personally used or shared with others when editing or creating their resumes. I hope you found them beneficial!

I’d love to hear your favorite interview tip. Let me know if you have any questions about the interview process.

Thank you so much for reading!

Find your next career – Free advice

Are you thinking of a job change, needing to find your first job or looking to change careers? Would you like FREE career consulting? Then please read on!

A career doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment. Your next job search could end up with a career you keep until you retire or it could be a step toward your next career choice! Each employment opportunity is a chance to gain experience.

Even if you leave an office job, working primarily indoors to  begin an outdoor landscaping career, you have skills that transfer. Maybe you gained advanced customer service skills at your past job(s) or can assist with scheduling, or maybe you discovered time management skills to help you create a more efficient process to complete your new projects!

Some of my previous posts focus on resumes, discovering your strengths and weaknesses, practicing interview questions and more, so please check those out. Even with all of that information it can still be difficult to change careers or find a job in a competitive market. You may decide to start your own business, but if you need or want to find work immediately or gain more experience, I’d like to help!

I’ve just added an exciting package deal to my list of services. I am still offering free basic resume edits! And now I’d like to provide four (4) people job hunting assistance by providing a FREE career package to each of them (thru April 30th)! Why? Because I want you to succeed and I find it fun, simple as that!

What does this mean exactly? I’d like to provide some basic edits to your current resume, discuss what type of job you are searching for and help you find a few possible options you can apply for! Let’s work together and find your next career, whether you are looking for a long or short term position.

Interested? Send me an email at successencourager@gmail.com with:

  • Why you would like to be provided this free service
  • The type of job you are looking for
  • Your current resume
  • A brief description of your past job experience
  • Up to three locations you would like to work in (city, state, etc)
  • Please note – I can only offer this to people located and searching in the United States (my skills are limited to knowledge of US job searches for now, but that may expand in the future!)

I will provide this service to four people for FREE! If you choose to purchase services in the future or share my blog with others, then wonderful, but if not, I will still enjoy this opportunity to provide my professional services! Questions? Just ask!

If you or anyone you know may be interested in any other services please see the price list or contact me and I’m always happy to answer general career questions free of charge!

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

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More than just skills are required

An interaction last week reminded me of the importance of personality shining through rather than just skills listed in sequence on a resume. I assisted with an interview for a temporary worker for an employee that was going to be off for a couple of weeks. The resumes for two prospective hires looked similar, well written, good experience, etc. The two interviews could not have been more opposite though!

The first was energetic, saying good morning to everyone she saw as she checked in for the interview, and presented herself in a very confident manner. The second was quiet and almost rude to the person she checked in with, she did not look anyone in the eye as she barely answered questions and she did not allow any personality to shine through at all.

This is what reminded me of how important being confident in your skills, sharing some of your unique personality and showing every employee, throughout the company, the same common courtesy you show the actual interviewers. A lot of employers ask the receptionist, security, maintenance, etc. how the interviewee interacted with them.

It should be common practice to be well-groomed, no sunglasses inside, no gum chewing, don’t bring friends or family (or strangers for that matter) with you, be polite, etc. With that said, I have listed a few more tips below that I hope help you relax and feel confident when preparing for an interview.

  •  If you check in with a receptionist or front office support person, get their name. When you are introduced to the interviewer, turn to the person you checked in with, call them by name and thank them. Also, include their name in the thank you letter you send as a follow up to the interviewer(s), especially if they are extra helpful with something again don’t make up something, but just be perceptive
  • Speak to everyone you encounter; saying hello, good morning or good afternoon, etc. Be yourself. Don’t force interactions, but be polite to those you meet or see even if briefly
  • Know your resume and the job descriptions; highlight your skills required for the position – study your own resume…sounds simple, but try to focus on the skills you have that relate to specific requirements the prospective job requires. If one requirement is multitasking or handling a busy front desk give examples from past experience that relates to that. For example ‘while at my previous employer (or current position) I supported a department of ten and have formulated a system for prioritizing deadlines…’
  • Don’t be too serious, be respectful, but also allow some of your unique personality to show through. Incorporate personal hobbies or a personality trait in an answer. For a simple example if you have an antique coin collection that you have had for years, maybe it was passed down through your family, you could say that collection has helped you learn to pay attention to detail, research, etc.
  • Practice interview questions with a friend or even with yourself; review average interview questions and be prepared to answer. Even if you are asked ‘if you were a cereal what kind would you be and why?’…Yes, I had that asked to me once. Seriously. My answer? “Granola, I realize it’s not a standard cereal like corn flakes, but I’m unique, not standard either, I like to try and be healthy, but I’m not always, and I think granola is a little bit of a nature lover and so am I.”….the man said it was better the last person’s answer of ‘Apple Jacks…because I like apples’ (insert a giggle here)….I think that is a unique question, you can’t really be prepared in advance to answer it, but be ready to share a little about yourself!

Have you had a unique question? Any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

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Side jobs – finding your perfect fit

Side jobs, part-time work, freelancing and start-ups are popular ways to earn extra money these days. They don’t just supplement income while working full-time; it’s becoming more and more common to use one or more of these opportunities as full-time income. This can either work out to be a career of juggling different jobs for ever or to gain experience for a certain career you wish to move in to. Some people love the variety it allows while others want to move on to something more stable and focused.

Whether, working a variety of side jobs, freelancing or part-time opportunities all allow a form of working for yourself and gaining experience. This can allow for future advancement at a particular job, focus on your own business start-up or allow you to explore different jobs until you gain experience and find something you want to do permanently. As you can see this flexible career lifestyle can offer a lot of paths to explore.

There are so many opportunities to make extra money or start a variety career lifestyle. You can read about many on any given day through a simple internet search. Some are very focused and require specific training; fitness coach, teaching Spanish, legal consultant, etc. But others are a bit more adaptable; personal shopper, event planner, freelance writer (with so many different topics out there to write about), pet sitter, etc.

I’m not saying the more adaptable options are easier or take less to do, I’m simply saying the skills to do them may already be known. A pet sitter might be a good choice for someone who has always been around animals, etc. While being a legal consultant requires more formal training and/or experience.

Before trying to force yourself into one or several of the available opportunities ask yourself what experience you already have, what you enjoy doing and what you could charge for.

Of course time is a huge factor. Do you have certain hours you are available due to a full time job, family responsibilities, classes, etc. Once that is determined you start to explore opportunities available during those hours; you may not be able to mow after a certain hour, but you could write a blog post or post a webinar about a topic you are experienced in no matter what time it is.

Here are a few questions and comments to consider when determining what side job (part-time, etc.) opportunity may be right for you and your current lifestyle –

  • What do you enjoy? Explore this, write it down, focus on how to make it a business or service to offer. Do you like photography? If you do and have a digital camera, can you offer your services as a second photographer at a wedding, corporate events, local bands that can’t afford someone that photographs full time, senior photos or high school sporting events, etc.? Be creative and be observant; what niche can your talent and passion fill? Don’t completely re-invent the wheel, just focus on a particular aspect that you can make better.
  • Do you want/need work outside the home or work from home? Answering this question allows you to explore jobs like mowing, pet walking, wedding/event planner and/or officiant, personal shopper or driver, etc. outside the home or writing, virtual assistant, web designer or content writer, online tutor, survey taker, jewelry or craft maker (selling online), etc. for working at home.
  • Do you enjoy helping people solve a problem, working with the public and communicate effectively? Do you enjoy working alone, creating more so than working face to face? Do you have internet and online work capabilities? Obviously, this answer gives much insight into what opportunities you will enjoy more than others.
  • What services are in demand in your area that will pay you to provide that service need? If you live in a neighborhood with large yards there may be an opportunity for mowing or landscaping that obviously is not in demand at an apartment complex. But if your passion is gardening and you want to work in that field but live in an area that doesn’t seem to have a need, be creative. Can you offer your services of plant watering, container gardening, cooking classes for container gardeners, etc.?
  • How much will it cost for you to offer this side job or start a business and how much should you charge? If it’s a part time job and they provide all that you need, how much does it pay? You will want to make sure it’s worth your time either by earning extra money or it provides an opportunity for you to gain experience.
  • How will you get work? You can search for part time work online through career sites or asking in person at area businesses. If you have skills to offer through side jobs or self employment, there are man sites out there to post your services on for free, you can search that particular talent/skill and see what third parties offer help finding that type of work , you can create flyers and hang them in busy places such as libraries, laundry services, public post boards, get business cards made and hand them out at any given opportunity, make yard signs and ask friends to display them in their yards for you, make or order decals for your vehicle with a web page and/or phone number as well as hats and tee shirts or other apparel, you can also advertise via social media sites and word of mouth.

There are other questions to ask yourself, but once you have focused and answered the few above you can start to search for opportunities to make money! Don’t over think it though, be adventurous and start exploring!

Do you have any tips to add? Please share them. Do you have any questions? Please ask them!

Thanks for reading, I hope this has inspired you to explore your options and to be creative.

To be trustworthy or not to be trustworthy

Of course it’s important to be trustworthy. BUT don’t use that term on a resume.

There are many personality traits we all value and obviously have, but you must choose your words wisely when writing your resume. Including the obvious can actually hinder your chances of a thorough review of your resume. Especially, more recently with numerous resumes being received for open positions employers can be more and more selective when handpicking their top choices. One way they narrow down the count is by ignoring ‘the obvious’. You have a short window (usually just a quick scan by the employer, of your resume in 30 seconds or less) to stand out and find yourself on the interview call list.

Don’t use that limited time frame with obvious generic words, instead define why you are unique…brag about actual accomplishments, be specific…use examples of how you are trustworthy (show don’t tell), instead of telling a prospective employer you are.  Let your resume reflect your actions…your accomplishments…by sharing results. For example instead of ‘team-player’ you could write a short blurb about how you led a team and solved a problem, finished a project before the due date, coordinated a committee, etc.

Below are a few words and phrases to avoid on your resume:

  • Go-to person
  • Results driven
  • Team player
  • Hard worker
  • Strategic thinker
  • Dynamic
  • Self-motivated
  • Self-starter
  • Detail-oriented
  • Highly qualified
  • Trustworthy
  • Results focused
  • Energetic
  • Think outside of the box
  • Confident
  • Professional
  • Successful
  • People Person
  • Familiar with
  • Reliable
  • Problem Solver

Keywords/phrases to include on your resume:

  • Achieved
  • Improved
  • Completed
  • Developed
  • Analyzed
  • Justified
  • Counseled
  • Facilitated
  • Implemented
  • Trained
  • Mentored
  • Managed
  • Created
  • Resolved
  • Volunteered
  • Increased/Decreased
  • Negotiated
  • Generated
  • Revenue/Profits
  • Under budget

Do you have any tips, past experience, keywords to use or avoid? Please share them!

Questions? Please ask them!!!

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Finding your resume balance

Too much or too little…finding that perfect balance for your resume.

It’s sometimes tough to balance necessary information with multiple jobs on a resume. You don’t want to lie or hide anything, but you don’t want to focus on irrelevant experience and skills when you have relevant material to cover that relates to the position you are applying for. So how do you find that balance?

I have discussed this with other hiring managers and employers. The answer is not a short one, but I hope to clarify a few general ‘rules’ in this post.

During positions I held that gave me an opportunity to be on a hiring committee or volunteer selection committee I focused on how applicants matched their skills and experience with the duties listed for the position. Confirming they actually read the entire post and identified their related skills. As a writer of open position duties, I tried to be specific, yet open to related skills; writing such statements as ‘office experience or equivalent education/training’, etc.

The committees typically focused on seeing a personality showing through on a written, typo-free, well-organized resume while scanning for keywords in the applicant’s employment history that matched the open position. We focused on achievement while paying close attention to those that stated an accomplishment in the highlight of each position they held. Showing professionalism, even if their employment history was short or listed more than one job in a year. We asked ourselves if that position helped them gain experience, did they accomplish a goal or solve an issue and did they word it in a way that confirmed they were ready to make a commitment with our company. We would form questions we wanted to ask the applicant quickly, which was always a good sign.

Someone once wrote they had coordinated a team to focus on outreach to donors that had contributed funds more than five years ago (but nothing since then). This was an interesting and confident statement. As the committee read that, we wanted to know the details, how did they reach out to them, what was the anticipated goal, did they achieve it, etc. We needed to meet this person!

With most employers giving a resume just 20 to 30 seconds review, you want to highlight your skills and experience most relevant to the position you are applying for. Most managers say they understand not putting jobs that lasted less than six months onto a resume, unless it’s extremely relevant. If the short-term employment provided an opportunity for you to solve a problem, learn a new process or skill, etc. then include it.

Remember, any employment lapse needs to be explained either in your cover letter or during the interview process. If you leave off a few short term jobs, you should be prepared to answer why. Were they unrelated to the job you’re applying for? Were you not given the tools to learn the job properly and you decided to find a better one? Were they more than ten to 15 years ago?

Most of us have had jobs unrelated to current career choice or focus. Right out of high school I cleaned houses and offices for living. Although, I did not gain any writing or specific professional assistant/office experience, I did gain customer service and a stronger work ethic. So I incorporated those skills onto my resume for my early career job search. As time went on and as I gained more work relevant experience I left that position off my resume.

I’ve also had gaps in employment history. I was laid off from a job and it took me over six months to find a new one. Another time I had a stressful position I eventually quit after almost three years for a different job at a different company and that company decided to not fill the position after all…it took me almost five months to find another job. During the first gap I helped my husband grow a contracting business. I processed invoices, did some advertising, and helped answer phones, etc. That was relevant experience and I have included that as an explanation.

The second employment gap I was actually grateful for not feeling stressed to find ‘just any job’. My husband’s business was going ‘well’ (better than it had been) and I focused on a few small freelance projects and we got through the months with some budget cuts and without extreme debt or stress. I used that time to focus on writing, I volunteered, wrote some business blog posts, and spent time with my mother who was dealing with health issues. Once I started seriously applying for positions, I looked at my resume and knew a gap of several months might not look the greatest to potential employers. I reviewed how my time had been spent and actually realized the freelance opportunities and volunteering provided new skills that I included in my cover letter. Caring for my mother and scheduling appointments, filling out insurance forms, etc. also taught me additional skills.

Remember applying for a job is a ‘project’. Review the job and your experience/skills carefully to best match yourself with the right job. You want to be happy at what you do and succeed by meeting the goals of the position/company. I keep at least two forms of my resume updated; one business focused and one writing focused. Over the 25 plus years I have been working I have gained experience in both fields and include the skills that best match the position.

Key points when job searching and developing your employment history section:

  • Keep the resume content honest and relevant
  • Research the position requirements, skills needed and company; focusing your resume and cover letter content to highlight your experience and why you are the best match for the position!
  • If you have several positions lasting less than six months review them and highlight the most relevant and be prepared to discuss gaps in your cover letter and/or the interview
  • Review all of your experience and job titles (positions) before applying. Focus on what skills overlap with requirements (customer service skills can expand into several requirements/titles including receptionist, assistant, sales, public transport, almost any job where you will deal with the public or even other employees.)
  • Complete a self-evaluation; what type of job are you looking for, what benefits do you want/need, can you further your education or begin a degree while working (do they have tuition assistance, support, etc.), acknowledge some ‘deal breakers’ (yes, you can be picky and require certain request and decline other requests), etc.
  • Focus on applicable positions that will help you accomplish long term goals while matching some skills and experience; not all positions have to be viewed as permanent…they can lead to long-term career goals
  • Utilize your cover letter as your opportunity to confirm why you are the ideal candidate and highlight accomishments from previous positions that relate to the job you are applying for

Finally, if you have had contract or employment through temporary services It’s best to list the services and highlight the positions that are relevant (yes that word again!). And remember education, training, workshops, certificate completions, etc. are worthwhile topics to include as training and experience.

Questions or want to share your personal experience tips? Comment below or email me at successencourager@gmail.com. Thank you so much for reading!

Resumes – Time to brag

Resumes are important for career changes, finding a new or different job, and to personally see what skills and experience you have all on one convenient form. Even if you are starting a business and not currently applying for jobs, it’s important to have your skills and experience on a resume to easily access your work history and knowledge you have gained and earned. This will help prove why you will succeed at the business you want to start or expand (especially if you request funding).

Typically, an employer spends about 20 to 30 seconds skimming through a resume. Obviously, it’s important to grab their attention quickly. Business investors and loan officers may skim through sections of a business plan, but will pay close attention to your skills and experience to ensure it’s a solid investment/loan.

For those seeking work outside the self-employment realm, you should update your resume for every job you apply for; using each job description as your outline to match your skills with the skills required. Even if you are applying for a job that is almost exactly what you are currently doing you should add any new skills you have learned and connect that information with the requirements of the particular position you’re applying for. This is not a time to be modest; be proud of yourself and share that with the employer!

Here are some key points that can be used to ensure enough information is provided without getting too wordy. You want to make your 20 to 30 second review highlight your most valuable skills that match the job requirements.

The basic outline of a resume includes: The Objective (optional), Skill Highlight, Work History, Training, and References:

Your objective is what catches an employer’s eye first, I realize some hiring managers say this section could be deleted. I like to use it to not just focus on my objective, but to focus on what I can provide to a potential employer. You can have a general focus as long as it relates to the type of work you are applying for or you can make it specific to the company and type of position you are seeking. For example “Seeking a position with a company that will encourage me to utilize the skills I have learned over the past several years and offer an opportunity for additional learning in (insert your category info here).” – that is a simple example, but you get the idea…it’s a direct statement, YOUR statement, to sum up what you are looking for and how you help the company/department to advance. Be specific, but keep it to two or three sentences. Or of course you can leave out the Objective entirely.

Under your objective highlight your skills such as equipment you are trained to use, computer programs, databases, web research, safety skills/training (CPR, OSHA), etc.

A basic web search will provide you with thousands of tips and resume templates!

Basic resume outline and tips:

  • Center your contact details at the top of your resume. Include your name, address (at least city and state), phone number and email address
  • After your objective (optional) and/or skill highlight, list your career history, starting with the most recent (there are also options to do a task focused resume). Include job title, employer company name, and dates employed by month and year. Under that information outline your key responsibilities, skills and accomplishments. Use the past ten years of employment (up to 15 years). If you had a break in employment mention that and why at the end of your resume or in your cover letter. Were you going to school, starting a family, did you move, were you taking care of a loved one, starting a business, traveling, etc.? Did you gain any new skills during that time? Did you gain experience and skills through volunteering? List them if you did.
  • After your employment history list your education, training, awards and/or community volunteering, organization memberships, etc. if there is room. This is also an optional section. If you have achievements relevant to the position you are applying for then list them.
  • Keep it simple and easy to read. Include some bullets and a basic font. Don’t add color or bold attention grabbers this can be distracting and some employers dismiss resumes formatted like this entirely. (And NO, don’t use scented or textured paper!)
  • It should be no more than two pages, so highlight only the relevant skills for the current position you are applying for. Ask a friend or someone to proofread it.
  • Never exaggerate on a resume! Leaving out a job that didn’t work out is not lying, but you need to be prepared to explain that gap during the interview. Be honest, be yourself and highlight only what you confidently know and will discuss at the interview.

Finally, but a key first impression, is the cover letter, the intro to your resume. This is your chance to introduce yourself so be confident and professional. Brag a little and confidently highlight why you fit the job description and should be considered for the position. Describe at least one of your accompaniments that relates to the position. It can be a volunteer opportunity you organized or helped accomplish, a spreadsheet you created to be more efficient, a money saving technique you came up, a training manual you developed, a new procedure that saved time and money for the company, a project you succeeded at with a team or alone, etc. Throughout the letter (and resume) use action words such as developed, completed, improved, created, trained, resolved, etc.

Research the company and include at least one key point about them in your letter, this key point can be their mission statement and relating to a particular section of it, incorporating a recent announcement by the company or milestone they achieved, a record sales year, etc. This shows that you are familiar with the company and/or what they do.

Always end your cover letter with “thank you for your time and consideration” or similar appreciative statement. And end with ‘Sincerely, Respectfully, or Best regards followed by your first and last name.

Additional information – Most libraries and community education programs offered through colleges and local school districts provide resume assistance, computer program training and refresher courses, etc. If you have been out of the workforce or need more experience with certain programs before applying for jobs, explore your local options!

Do you have any tips you’d like to share or have questions? Comment or visit www.danabuchanan.com or email me at successencourager@gmail.com

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