Getting Your Resume To One Page

With increasing frequency, employers are asking for one page resumes.  In reality, even if they don’t ask, many will only read the first page.  You have great experience you want to share, short of using a ridiculously small font, how do you condense it to one page without losing all the value?

You can easily gain some usable space by trimming your margins.  There is no need to use the default one inch margins all the way around.  Do not reduce your margins to less than one-half inch.  It is important to have white space for readability.

Don’t go crazy adding new sections.  Each section requires a header which uses a line.  It can be ok to combine relevant sections into one such as Volunteer Experience and Community Involvement or Skills and Interests.

Not everything has to be on a separate line.  Think about where information can be reasonably combined on the same line.

Be careful of using the default spacing between lines.  This can cost you several lines per page.  Set the spacing for single spaced and add lines only where needed.

Monitor your bullets.  It should not take three lines of text to summarize your accomplishment.  Bullets should never exceed two lines and try to eliminate as many unnecessary words as possible.  Do not let one word carry over to a new line.  Rework it to fit to a single line.

Your resume is not intended to be detailed summary of your work history.  While you need to list each position you do not have to provide significant detail on older or less relevant positions.  Focus on what is clearly most relevant to the position you are considering.  Focus on the few key things that are most relevant and will make you stand out.

If you think this only applies for recent graduates or employees with minimal experience, think again.  Employers are expecting one page resumes for all but executive level hires.  Time to start editing for success.

What If the Fit is Truly Wrong?

You do your homework on the company in advance.  You ask probing questions in the interview.  You network with current and former employees of the company.  You believe you have a good read on the company culture and you accept the position.  Now you have been there a few months and you realize you read it completely wrong.  What can you do?  Is it ok to leave after just a short period of time?

First priority is to learn from the experience.  What signs did you miss?  What questions should you have asked?  Figure out what bothers you most about the culture and think about to avoid it in the future.  If you don’t know how you landed in such a poor fit for you, there is a chance you could repeat the error.  Be very honest with yourself and seek to truly learn from this experience.

While job hopping is not the taboo if once was, you want to have a clear sense of what the best next step is for you.  Don’t be so eager to get out of the situation that you jump at the first job that comes along.  Have a priority list of what is important to you in your next position.  Do your homework.

Be prepared to tell your story.  With a short stint on your resume, you are bound to be asked about it in an interview.  Be prepared to address the change.  Own the mistake and show that you are doing something about it.  Try not to bash the other company or your manager in the process.  Just not the best fit for you.

Try to tough it out while you look for another position.  Unless you are in a hostile work environment or are being asked to do something unethical, it is much easier to look for work while you are still employed.  Make a commitment to doing some networking every week.  Build your target list of companies and aggressively work the process.

Early in my career I accepted the wrong job at one point.  It was very quickly clear that there was not enough work to keep me busy.  That is something that makes me crazy.  While I reached out to colleagues and offered to help, there was just not enough work.  I was also concerned about how some of the work was being done.  My biggest concerns were that if I stayed, I’d develop bad work habits, negatively impact my work ethic and could potentially damage my credibility.  I started networking immediately, built a target list of companies and soon landed a new position.  I learned a lot about what is important to me in an employer from that experience and it served me well in the long run.

If you are truly in the wrong job at the wrong company, ramp up your networking and focus on finding a job that is right for you.

Mind the Gap

If you have ever been to London you hear repeated announcements reminding you to “mind the gap” as you navigate The Tube.  While it is helpful advice, minding the gaps of your resume can significantly impact your job search.

Life happens.  Candidates end up with gaps on their resumes for a variety of reasons – some under their control and others completely out of their control.  What is a job seeker to do?

Be Prepared – Many interviewers will be drawn to the gaps on a resume and are likely to ask you directly about it.  If you are prepared to address the gap, it will likely not be perceived as an issue.  However if you fumble through a weak explanation, it tends to raise more questions than it addresses.  Have your story ready.  Focus on any positives that came out of this experience.

Be Honest – Do not list starting your own consulting company in the gap unless you actually did that.  If you never had a client, you never had a consulting firm.  Be honest and own the gap.  Employers do employment verification and background checks.  If you own the gap it is often not an issue.  If you misrepresent it, your integrity is then questioned and you could easily lose the job.

Do Not Bash A Former Company or Manager – Positively explain your gap without maligning a former company or manager.  Sure it stinks that they laid you off after two years of positive reviews.  It likely had nothing to do with your performance but more the cost structure of the company.  If you talk about what a jerk your manager was to eliminate your job, it raises a red flag about how you interacted with your manager.  Be honest but frame it as positively as possible.  Things happen.  Differentiate yourself by how your respond to those things you can’t control

New Year’s Resolutions for Job Seekers

The ball has dropped, and you’ve made a promise to yourself that 2017 will be a year to remember when it comes to taking the next step in your career.   But, if your number one goal for the New Year is to land a new job, hopes and wishes are not enough; you need to define and execute a plan to ensure your success.

Finding a new job is both an art and a science, and there are a few tried-and-true guidelines for helping job seekers prepare to land that coveted job in the New Year.  So if you want to start 2017 off on the right foot, career-wise , consider adding one of these to your list of resolutions:

  • Create a plan – You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going.  Define your goals and a specific plan to achieve them, along with actionable steps.  Assess your skills, strengths and interests.  Think about the type of work you enjoyed even it was in internships, part-time jobs or even volunteer experiences.  Document your plan and measure your progress against it.  Set weekly goals, and hold yourself accountable.  Reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your weekly goals.
  • Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags and make the appropriate reservations.  As you embark on your job search journey, you also need to have the appropriate tools.  Is your resume up-to-date and ready to go?  Have someone else proof it for you to ensure that it has no typos or grammatical errors.  Practice writing customized cover letters, and ask for feedback.  Consider developing a networking profile to share during networking meetings.  Think about who you can use for references and ensure that you have their current contact information.  Having the right tools won’t get you the job, but it can get your foot in the door so you have an opportunity to sell yourself for the job.

 

  • Develop a target list – What companies are you most interested in working for?  What industries interest you the most?  What companies hire for the roles you are considering?  What companies are in your geographic target area?  Start your list and then expand your research.  Use online tools to create a robust target list.  Research those companies to learn more about them.  Use your target list to direct your job search efforts.  Prioritize your list based on where you have contacts, alumni connections or LinkedIn connections.  Look at recent posting history to further prioritize your list.

 

  • Network, network, network – This is the single most important thing you can do in your job search.  More positions are filled through networking than all other approaches combined.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 80 percent of all jobs are filled through networking.  Online postings often receive hundreds of responses.  To stand out and be noticed, you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager.  Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts.  Networking is NOT asking for a job, however.  It is meeting with someone at the company to learn more about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, they skills they value, the corporate culture and their hiring process.  Networking involves a significant amount of listening.  The holiday season can be the perfect time for networking – some businesses are less busy so managers are more likely to have flexibility for meetings, you will see family and friends at holiday gatherings and you can ask who they might know in your target companies, as well.

 

  • Identify networking contacts – Identify all your contacts (family, friends, former colleagues), and see who they know at your target companies.  Think about former work colleagues, former student colleagues, etc. and see who they know.  Utilize your alumni database.  Search LinkedIn.  The true power of LinkedIn can be found in the groups, so identify relevant groups to expand your network. Work to identify contacts in all your target companies.  Do your neighbors or your parents’ friends have contacts in those companies?  Ask for 15 – 20 minutes for an informational interview.  Come to the discussion well prepared and learn as much as you can.  Ask each contact for at least three other people you should contact.  Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow-up when you see an opportunity at that company.  Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week.  It makes a difference.

 

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare – For each informational interview, prepare as if it were a real interview.  Research the company.  Prepare your questions.  Make a positive impression.  Demonstrate your interest and passion by coming well prepared.  Practice with friends and family if you are not comfortable.

 

  • Always say “thank you” – Interviewers remember when candidates send a hand-written thank you note.  Stand out from the crowd.  Time is a precious commodity so say thank you when someone is willing to share time with you.

 

  • Add value to your resume – If you know you are missing critical skills on your resume, can you volunteer a few hours per week?  Most non-profits need the help and would give you an opportunity to develop and enhance your skills.  Maybe an unpaid internship is a good investment to add critical skills to your resume.  In addition to adding valuable skills, it also shows your initiative and creativity.

 

  • Protect your social media presence – Many potential employers check applicants online before making an offer.  Be careful what you post knowing that it may be seen by a potential employer.  Pay close attention to your security settings. Put your best foot forward.

 

  • Sweat the details – They really do matter! Many cover letters and resumes are not moved to the “interview pile” because of lack of attention to detail.  There should be absolutely no typos or grammatical errors in the cover letter or resume.  Do not cut and paste your cover letters – it is too easy to send with the wrong company name or wrong job title.  Be careful not to brag about your attention to detail when the letter has obvious errors.  Don’t exaggerate your experience – two years is not extensive experience in anything.  Be sure to be well prepared.  Arrive on time.  Know who you are meeting with.  Don’t ask the interviewer what the company does, instead have some well-thought out questions already prepared.
  • Remember, it isn’t all about you – A hiring manager has business needs to address.  That is why they received approval to fill the position.  There is a specific job to be done, and they want to find the best qualified person to fill that job and the best fit for the organization.  Don’t focus your cover letter and/or interview on what this position can do for your career or how much you need particular benefits.  The employer really doesn’t care.  Focus instead on how you can help the company meet their business needs.  What valuable skills do you bring to the table?  How can you make a difference?
  • Be responsive – When employers do start calling you for interviews, be responsive and professional every step of the way.  Make a positive impression with every interaction.  Dress professionally, arrive a few minutes early, answer your phone professionally and come well prepared.

 Differentiate yourself – There are many candidates for each open position.  Use every opportunity throughout the process to differentiate yourself positively.  Again, the focus should be on how you can meet the employer’s needs, not what they can do for you.

 Don’t leave your career path to chance; now’s the perfect time to revamp your approach as you resolve to pursue new opportunities in 2017. Develop a plan and execute it flawlessly, and there’s a good chance you’ll be celebrating a new job in the New Year.

 

Making the Most of a Career Fair

As we are preparing in the Graduate Career Center for our fall Career Expo, it is important for students and alumni planning to attend our expo or any career fair to prepare in advance to maximize their time at the end.  Career fairs can be a valuable source of contacts but to be successful, the job seeker must prepare thoroughly in advance.

 

Research the Companies

Do your homework in advance.  Identify the companies participating and see if they align with your target companies, industries or positions.   If yes, research each company you plan to visit.  Learn what they do, who their competitors are, what recent press coverage they have had, etc.  Check their online postings to see if there are specific jobs which may interest you.  Know something about the companies you hope to meet and have specific, thoughtful questions prepared for each one.   Obviously if there are no companies of interest, don’t waste your time but do some research before jumping to that conclusion.  You should never ask a company “what do you do” at a career fair.  They expect that you have done your homework in advance.

Prepare Your Materials

Have multiple clean copies of your resume with you.   Also have business cards available.   Be prepared to share them when asked.  You also want to be sure to have a notepad so you can jot down appropriate notes after each conversation.  Have a calendar available in case you are asked to schedule a follow-up interview.  Use one pocket for your own business cards and a separate pocket for those you collect.  You certainly don’t want to share the wrong cards!

Put your Best Foot Forward

Dress as if it were an interview because it could be.  You are certainly making a first impression on the company representative so you want to appear professional.  Some companies have the flexibility to do on the spot interviews if they are impressed so you want to be ready.   When it is your turn to meet the representative, make eye contact, shake hands confidently and introduce yourself briefly.

It’s about the Relationships

This is about making connections.  You can apply online all day and there is no guarantee that a human ever actually looks at your resume.  At the career expo, you are meeting a representative from the company.  They have committed their time and resources because they want to meet our students and alumni.  Let them know you are interested.   Demonstrate your interest by being well prepared and asking insightful questions.  Even if they don’t immediately have the right job for you, if you make a positive impression they could bring your resume back to the office and share it with an appropriate hiring manager.  Make a strong connection.  Do not ignore contacts who may work in a different functional area that what you are interested in.  They can and will share resumes and their feedback with their colleagues when they return to the office.

Follow-up Matters

For the people you had conversations with at the expo, send a handwritten thank you note within 24 hours thanking them for their time and reinforcing your interest.  Few people will do this so it helps you stand out in a very positive way.  If they don’t have a card, jot down their name and company before moving on to the next table.  Saying thank you makes a very positive impression.

 

If you are going to take the time to attend a career event, invest the time in your preparation so you can maximize the benefits.

Underqualified for the Job You Really Want?

You’ve found the perfect job posted and are excited to apply.  As you reread the job description, you realize that you don’t meet all the qualifications posted for the position.  Instead of immediately admitting defeat, take a more proactive approach.

The Job Description is a wish list.  Employers provide a detailed listing of what they are seeking in the “ideal” candidate.  Would it be great and make their life easier if they found someone who had already used their specific software system, worked in their industry and knew the needs of their customers?  Of course, but it is also possible to be very successful in the role without any of those things.  Particularly early in your career, the ability to learn new things is a huge asset and can overcome many objections.  Have examples prepared of how you learned a new software system, new industry, etc. to demonstrate your ability to adapt quickly to become a productive member of the team.  Don’t apologize for what you don’t have but ensure that you present your knowledge and experience positively.

This is not the time to just submit your resume online.  If all they are looking at is your resume, you may well not make it to the pile they will invite for interviews.  Increase your likelihood of success in two ways.  Submit a well-written customized cover latter that focuses on your transferable skills and your strong interest in the opportunity.  Also, network within the company to learn more and to identify an internal supporter who can pass your resume to the hiring manager with a recommendation.  Use very opportunity to stand out from the crowd of candidates.  Do not mention skills you are lacking, focus on the positives you bring to the job.

Don’t forget to emphasize relevant experience that may have come from a volunteer experience or even a position you held while in school.  All experience has value and it also demonstrates that you are a well-rounded candidate.  Often skills developed off the job can be key in landing that next opportunity.  Consider what it is about you that is unique from other candidates and focus on how that adds value for the company.

If this truly is the “perfect job for you,” go for it but be sure to put your best foot forward to increase your likelihood of success.

Evolving Your Brand with Your Career

Much has been written about the critical nature of managing your personal brand.  For your career it is the tangible tools such as your resume and cover letters, it is also your social media presence and your professional reputation.  Do the various components of your brand change and evolve as your career does?  Absolutely!

Your Resume

Early in your career, your resume contains a much heavier focus on your education and the skills you have developed in your internships or early career positions.  As your career evolves, the focus increases on your specific career accomplishments – what results you achieved in a specific role, how the company benefitted from having you there in that role and the skills you can transfer to a new role.  The more recent and relevant positions have the most bullet points and early career positions are just noted.

Your Cover Letter

As an early career job seeker your focus is more aspirational.  You certainly address your relevant experience and education but you are seeking the experience you desire to advance your career.  Later in your career, you are more focused on your career accomplishments, your functional and/or industry knowledge and the transferrable skills you bring to the new opportunity.

LinkedIn

While LinkedIn is critical throughout your career, the focus changes as your career grows.  Early in your career, you are focused on building contacts in companies on your target list and people in jobs you aspire to hold one day.  Recruiters may actually find you on LinkedIn for opportunities within their company.  You can learn a lot from those contacts.  Later in your career, you are still networking but you are often sought out as the mentor for younger professionals who aspire to work in your field.  You can also leverage contacts to share best practices.  Your profile should become richer as well.  You will likely have professional association involvement to add, presentations at conferences, industry awards and recognition, etc to further establish your credibility in your field.  If you have a blog or press coverage you should include those links as well.  The profile gives you an opportunity to showcase the bigger picture of your career and can also reflect any volunteer work or board activity.

Your Social Media Presence

Students and young professionals are very present on social media and need to ensure that it is professionally representing their brand.  Employers are turned off by the wrong type of photos or content.  Keeping professional and personal separate can be a critical lesson.  As careers evolve, the social media presence often varies by role with marketing types being much more active and visible than their colleagues in finance roles.

 

Your Growing Body of Work

 

As your career evolves, you are also building a portfolio of your work.  Maybe it is presentation at an industry conference, a publication, press coverage, speaking engagements, sample materials or projects, etc.  Post appropriate links to your LinkedIn profile if the information is not confidential.  Have samples of work you can bring to an interview to have available.  Early in their career applicants will often use a paper from school for a writing sample but the experienced professional has multiple real-life resources to draw upon.

 

As Experience Grows So Do Expectations

 

When employers are recruiting for entry level positions, they realize the candidates have little or no work experience and expect them to be less polished with the process as well.  With more experienced candidates, the employers’ expectations increase significantly.  Not only do they expect quantified results, a flawless resume, a well-written customized cover letter, they also expect to see involvement in professional associations, volunteer work, etc.  Be sure your resume and LinkedIn profiles reflect these other critical professional experiences.

Resumes and LinkedIn profiles should be living documents – updated continuously as your career progresses.  Keeping your information current and relevant can help the right employers find you.  Your professional brand grows and changes as your career advances so be sure to properly reflect that growth in all your career collateral.