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Job Hunting Tip #2 – Balance

In Tip #1 I discussed the importance of treating your job search like a job and spending at least 3 hours per day on this new job.  So what are you going to do with the rest of your time when your spouse, friends and colleagues are working all day?  You have an opportunity staring you in the face.  Surely you have things you’ve wanted to do but your crazy work schedule prevented it.  Weave these into your daily/weekly schedule.  Better yet, set some targets and goals around some of the items so that you can celebrate when you achieve them.  You’re likely to get regular rejection with your job search.  So it will be great to have accomplishments to balance this out.  Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Fitness – If you’re not at the weight you want to be at, make this a focus.  Is there a sport you’ve always wanted to learn?  Give it a try.
  • Hobby – Maybe you have one that hasn’t gotten as much attention as you would like
  • Kids – If they are in elementary school, why not have lunch with them once per week?  If they are older, now you can go to every game, performance, etc.
  • Projects – Do you have family videos that you’ve been meaning to compile, edit and produce on DVD?  Have you been talking about cleaning out the attic or garage for years?  Have you wanted to install a compost pile or water retention system?  Now is your time.
  • Volunteer – There are infinite ways to volunteer.  And giving back will definitely make you feel good about yourself and will give you a bigger picture reflection of your situation.

See the rest of my series on Job Hunting Tips here.  I also have a related series for Resume Writing and one for Interviewing.

Job Hunting Tip #1 – Hunting for a Job is a Job

My first advice is to treat job hunting as a job itself, especially if you are out of work and need to get back into the workplace.  Too many people feel that glancing through the classifieds, searching some online job posting sites and letting a few
friends know they are looking for a new job is sufficient.  But my strong recommendation is to introduce some discipline, planning and focus into the process.  Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Get up at roughly the same time you would for a regular job and go through your normal work day morning routine.  In fact, do better than that by eating a better breakfast, seeing the kids off to school or whatever you weren’t quite able to do when you had the pressure of being in the office by a specific time.  The main point is to not sleep an extra 2 hours every day and get yourself into a new rut.
  • Dress in business casual attire.  You can decide how far to go with this but the main intent is to put yourself into a serious work frame of mind.
  • Spend your full morning each day of the work week, up until lunch, in your new job – searching for a job.  If you’re following the various tips in this job hunting series, you should easily be able to spend 3+ hours per day.
  • Let your family know you’re “at work” during this time period each day.  For those of you that have worked from home, you know the drill.  But for those of you that haven’t, you don’t want to be interrupted with things that wouldn’t have been important enough to call you at work to discuss.  That’s the litmus test.
  • Set weekly targets for yourself.  How many email outreaches and/or phone calls are you going to make?  How many new companies are you going to investigate?  Keep track of progress and even consider assigning points to various tasks and accomplishments if you the analytical type.

The concept is simple.  Until you find a job, your job is finding one.

See the rest of my series on Job Hunting Tips here.  I also have a related series for Resume Writing and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #10 – Optimizing for Search Tools

Most companies with revenues of $250M or more will use some sort of applicant tracking system, most of which have automated resume search and scoring capabilities.  Just like doing a Google search for something is expected to return results that most closely match your request, these tracking systems search through submitted resumes looking for pre-determined words and phrases.

So how do you go about optimizing your resume for these search tools?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Identify Key Words/Phrases
    The job descriptions for the positions of interest are loaded with the employer’s desired skills and traits for that specific position.  These are almost certainly scored by the automated search tool.  Any words and phrases that seem to appear in a majority of the postings you’re applying for should be embedded into your standard resume.  But don’t stop there, consider creating custom resumes for postings that happen to use some unique words/phrases, especially if they are used multiple times in the posting.  Also keep an eye out for industry-specific terms, buzz words and required or desired certifications.
  • Natural Use
    Remember that after hopefully scoring high enough through the automated search process, your resume will land on a human’s desk.  As you weave in the desired words/phrases, make sure to do so naturally.  In other words, the narrative should seem logical to the reader and not obvious that a bunch of desired words were jammed in.
  • Skills Summary Section
    If you decide to incorporate a skills summary section (see related post), this is a great place to work in the desired key words and phrases, especially those specifically related to skills and certifications (rather than leadership or personality traits).
  • Fonts, Formatting and Special Characters
    Be careful not to go too crazy with fonts, formatting and special characters because they can throw off the automated search tools.  Stick with the standard set of fonts, don’t incorporate borders/boxes/images and where you have bulleted entries use standard bullets (rather than some fancy graphic).

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #9 – The Post-Interview Audit

If you haven’t searched for a job in a while, then you’ll be updating your resume and using it without knowing how good it is.  Of course, you should get advice from family members, friends and former work colleagues.  But there’s another hugely valuable audit tool to gauge the effectiveness of your resume.  It’s the post-interview audit.

After conducting any sort of interview using your newly updated resume (including phone interviews), immediately pull out your resume and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What did they specifically notice from my resume?  If they use phrases like “I saw that you _____.  Tell me more about that.”, then you know they got the information from your resume.
  • What did they not ask you about that you were really hoping and expecting they would?  Potential formatting problems and an opportunity to use the Quick Glance Test described in a related blog post.
  • What did they misunderstand?  In other words, they asked you a question and you found yourself clarifying their initial observation or conclusion.

You should do this following your first few interviews and after any interview that went especially well or especially poorly.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #8 – Upper Management Positions

If you are interviewing for a position on the senior management team, there are a couple of additional resume sections that can help if you have the background and experience to populate them.  Such sections include the following:

  • Board Positions (including advisory boards)
  • Mergers & Acquisitions – describe each one, including the value and your involvement before and after.
  • Funding and Capitalization – describe each occurrence that you had involvement in
  • Conference Speaking Engagements

Another dilemma for executives is the length of the resume.  This problem can be solved by having two versions.  The complete version that has all of the items in the list above and a fair amount of detail throughout should be called your Curriculum Vitae (CV) while the 3-page version should be called your Resume.  Your initial solicitations should be done with your Resume.  But in your solicitation, make it known that you have a more complete CV available upon request.  In fact, put this at the end of your resume in place of where you would otherwise put “References available upon request”.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #7 – The Quick Glance Test

Here’s a great exercise that I tell everyone to perform.  Give your completed resume to a friend or family member that has not seen it before.  The less they actually know about your professional background, the better.  Tell them that you are going to give them a short amount of time to glance over your resume and then ask them to tell you what they remembered.  But don’t tell them the amount of time you are going to give.  Give them exactly 20 seconds to look at it. Then ask them what they saw or what they remembered.  They better have noticed at least 3 of the key things you want to be noticed or else you have a formatting problem.  This will most likely be company names that you worked for or job titles.  And possibly/hopefully something from your Skills Summary section, if you included one.

Then give them 40 more seconds to see if they can pick up most of the remaining hot points.  For a hiring manager looking through a stack of resumes, the first 20 seconds of reading will determine into which pile your resume goes (investigate further versus not a fit).  I’m not exaggerating.  A hiring manager with a stack of 30+ resumes has no choice but to spend about 20 seconds in their initial sorting exercise.  The ones that end up in the good stack will get a further look (the additional 40 seconds) to decide if they are a “definite phone screening interview” or just a “maybe for a second round if the others don’t work out”.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #6 – Word Selection

This is critical, especially the action verbs that you choose to use.  For example, if you accomplished some particular objective, why use a verb like “met” when you could use “achieved” or “exceeded” instead?  Also, typically you should start out each sentence with an appropriate verb rather than hide the verb in the middle of the sentence.  Consider the following:

  • Good management verbs – directed, managed, oversaw, led, supervised, assigned, chaired, founded
  • Good administrative verbs – designed, developed, established, negotiated, executed, implemented
  • Good accomplishment verbs – achieved, exceeded
  • Good adjectives to describe yourself (cover letter, etc) – resourceful, innovative, action-oriented, self-motivated, creative
  • Try to avoid (too passive) – participated, facilitated, arranged, influenced, analyzed, responsible for

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #5 – Education versus Work Experience

If you have already had two or more jobs, realize that college is enough behind you that your Professional Experience section should go before your Educational information.  Also, the further college is behind you the less you need to include about it.  In other words, after 8 years and 2-3 jobs you only need to mention the name of the college and your degree (major and minor, if you have both).  You do not need to mention GPA or various areas of concentration (unless they are important to the career you are going for).  And if you graduated with honors, that’s always worth mentioning.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #4 – The “So What” Rule

Hiring managers want to understand the positive impact people had in their various positions as much or more than the actual roles & responsibilities they had.  I find that, way too often, people spend too much space listing all of the various aspects of their job responsibilities (what they did) without stating what they actually accomplished for the benefit of the company they were working for.

I recommend following the “so what?” litmus test.  After reading each section of your resume, assume the readers are saying “so what?” to themselves.   Make sure you are answering this question for each job.  Give some real quantifiable results that you produced.  Increasing revenue, increasing market share, reducing cycle times, reducing costs, etc. – and by how much?  Anything that can be quantified to show that you actually made a difference rather than just performed your job function.  Look at the following two examples and decide which is more compelling to someone that doesn’t know you.

  • “Managed the central Texas sales region made up of six account reps and three sales engineers”
  • “Grew revenue 35% year-over-year within the central Texas sales region and achieved in excess of 125% of quota three years in a row”

If you are a member of the senior management team, it is OK to describe growth-related achievements of the company itself (revenue growth, etc), even if you were not the VP of Sales.  You were a member of the management team that led the company to these results.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #3 – Skills Summary Section

For someone fresh out of college or someone that only has a couple of jobs under their belt, this would not be appropriate.  But if you have taken a path that has enabled you to develop a diverse set of skills, you might want to put this smack dab at the beginning of your resume.  Similarly, if you are competing for a General Manager or executive-level position, you probably need to show diversity.

When developing a Skills Summary section, be careful about the order you put the skills in and even the ones you choose to list at all. They should match the type of job you want.  It’s fine that five years ago you had a job as an HTML programmer and LAN administrator.  But if you are going for a marketing management job, you won’t want to overload the Skills Summary section with a bunch of high-tech skills.  Since this section is almost always situated at the very beginning of your resume and will be the first thing the reader looks at, some people will decide to read further strictly based on this section.

Finally, don’t mention specific employers or job titles in your Skills Summary section.  Skills are areas of talent like business development, sales, M&A or financial.  The layout for this section could look something like this:

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See the rest of my 10-part series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related 5-part series for Job Hunting and a 7-part series for Interviewing.

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Resume Writing Tip #2 – The “Objective” Statement

This is purely my personal opinion, but I think they are a complete waste of space.  I liken them to the “What would you like to change in the world?” question in a beauty pageant.  There are only two possible answers: “Achieve world peace” or “Solve world hunger”.  It’s the same with an Objective statement.  Having read thousands of resumes over the years as a hiring manager, I always completely ignore it.  It’s common to try and fit your resume onto two pages (or three if you have 12+ years of experience).  So the space taken by an Objective Statement just isn’t worth it.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #1 – Formatting

I put a lot of effort into formatting of resumes.  After you get your basic content correct, I recommend putting a lot of attention into the formatting.  Look at spacing, font size, readability, margins, indention, etc.   Especially make clever use of line spacing, bullets and bolding.  I recommend avoiding underlining and italics if possible.

Basically, section titles (ie – Professional Background, Education, etc), company names and job titles are the first thing you want someone to see upon initial glance.  So these should be bigger and bolder than the rest of the text.  At the other extreme, the actual years of service at a particular company (ie – “1999 – 2003”) is one of the least important pieces of information, so it should carry the smallest font size within the document.

One other trick is to hold your resume at arm’s length to see if the important section titles and information are readable and easily discernable from the rest of the resume.  Also see my related post explaining a “quick-glance” test related to identifying formatting problems.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Chicken Enchiladas

Thanks to Kelly for this recipe that makes enough for about 6-8 people.  Two preparation methods are described below.  The rolled method takes longer but is more “familiar” to most people, with each enchilada rolled in its own tortilla.  The layered method is ideal when you don’t have as much preparation time available and generally follows the concept of layered lazagna.   Continue reading “Chicken Enchiladas”

Tips for Optimizing Your Grades in College

Sorry but no rocket science here.  Mostly common sense, but I can virtually guarantee that following these 7 basic steps will make a huge difference in your grades during college.  I can’t promise a 4.0 GPA but am willing to bet that systematically following these basic principles will add at least a single grade point to your freshman year average versus the typical student.  After a couple of years, most college students naturally figure these things out as they develop and refine their own personal system.  But during your freshman year everything is so new, exciting and DISTRACTING.

Continue reading “Tips for Optimizing Your Grades in College”

10 Golden Rules for Entering College Freshmen

By the time a young adult graduates high school and is ready to head off to college, they shouldn’t need to be given a full set of rules to follow.  After all, moving out of the house means they have the freedom (and burden) if making their own decisions.  Nonetheless, after going through this a couple of times with my kids I decided to capture my personal list of “golden rules”.  They seem so basic and obvious.  But then again aren’t most of life’s rules basic and obvious?  If you are an entering college freshman, check out the list below and see if you can’t stick to it.  Then, if you can remember to do so, look at the list again at the end of your freshman year and see how many of these rules you think are truly Golden.  Continue reading “10 Golden Rules for Entering College Freshmen”

Teaching Your Kid to Ride a Bike – Could It Be This Simple?

How many ways can there possibly be to learn to ride a bike?  Most of us probably use the same method that our parents used with us when we were kids.  And it usually involves some combination of holding onto the seat and/or handle bars while we run along side our learning child.  Then, at some arbitrary point when we think they are ready, we let go.  For a while we run along side, just in case we need to grab quickly.  And then, magically, when we think the kid has it down we let them ride ahead until they decide it’s time to stop and they have no clue how to do so.

The only reason I wrote this particular advice document is because I accidentally stumbled on an alternative method of the “running along side” part of the process.  I have three daughters and used this technique with all three.  In the cases with my older two daughters, after just two times out at about 15 minutes each, they were riding on their own.  In the case of my youngest daughter, I decided to skip the training wheels stage and see if the technique would enable her to learn to ride a bike at the age of three and a half.  It worked, but took about five outings.

If it works for you, pass it along to others.  And sorry, but I don’t have any special hints on braking, wheelies or riding without any hands.  Continue reading “Teaching Your Kid to Ride a Bike – Could It Be This Simple?”

Aspromonte Family Gnocchi

Thanks to mom and uncle Don for passing down this Italian family tradition.  Like most gnocchi’s, this is a potato-based pasta, which means it’s easy to get stuffed on a smaller portion.  The recipe makes ~6 adult servings.  Just about any tomato-based sauce can accompany this gnocchi, including sauce with ground meat, meatballs or Italian sausage.  But please, no canned or bottled sauces.  Also a warning that this recipe takes quite a bit of preparation time, so plan accordingly.  Continue reading “Aspromonte Family Gnocchi”

Gramma Toni’s Shrimp Dip

My mother used to make this shrimp dip for Super Bowl parties.  The recipe makes a little more than 1 quart, which is enough for 10-12 people to munch on as an appetizer.  It refrigerates very well – getting even better on the second day after all the flavors fully combine.   Continue reading “Gramma Toni’s Shrimp Dip”

Margaritas – Batch Portion

This recipe makes about 2.5 gallons of medium-strength margaritas.  That’s enough for 12-20 people, depending on how heavy they drink on average and how long the party is.  It is also ideal for a 5-gallon water cooler that has a pouring spout.  Continue reading “Margaritas – Batch Portion”