So…What Do You Do?

Focus Your Job Search

“So…what do you do?”

Don’t you hate that question? You get it at parties, you get it at job fairs, you even get it at the dentist! I don’t know about you, but I’m a lot more than just my work. If I’m a job seeker, though, my resume is not the place to tell you who I am.

Employers get hundreds (sometimes thousands) of applications for every position that they post. This creates a mountain of reading that recruiters just cannot do. Often, computers read your resume first and rate it based on how relevant it is to what the recruiter wants. Or, if you’re an overworked recruiter, you read really fast (i.e. 6-10 seconds per resume).

“Who” is a complicated question that gets to the core of our humanity. “What” is a lot easier to communicate. In recruiting, it’s how we evaluate a candidate for further consideration. In this article, I want to get your resume from “Who” to “What.”

Questions to Ask Yourself When Looking for a Job

One of the hardest parts of the job search is knowing where to start. Full time work provides a location to work, equipment to work on, a community to support and direct you, and, in most cases, clear instructions on what to do on a day-to-day basis.

When you are seeking work, that can all go out the window very quickly. Job searchers must now turn inwards and answer a couple of deep questions.

  • What do I want to do?
  • What can I do?
  • What place (where) do I want to do it?
  • What do I expect from my work?

I have found these questions to be the most basic as well as the most troubling. I ask you to ask yourself, because every day that I’m at a job fair I ask job seekers, “what do you do?”

We’ll take a deeper dive into each, but first you need to gather a few tools:

  • A copy of your resume you can write on
  • A pen
  • A highlighter

1) What do you want to do?

For just a minute, I want you to imagine a perfect world where you don’t need to work but instead just want to work. What would you do? I want you to ignore the lightness of your wallet and the anxiety you feel about being around the house all day.

But I’m going to make this harder. You now need to answer this question in three words or less. Write them at the top of your resume where it’s so big you can’t ignore or forget what you wrote. 

2) What can you do?

Now, write down a list that ignores your list of what you want to do. This list is for the things you can do whether you want to do them or not. Here’s where I want to you get really specific and list all of the things you can do.

This is the most important part to recruiters and companies. Many will train you, but they want you to come in being able to meet the minimum job expectations.

Now I want you to condense this list down to just three words. Maybe you can do a lot! That’s great, but what are your key skill sets? What would jump out to me as a recruiter? Write these skills down on your resume.

3) What place (where) do I want to do it?

The easy answer to this is “within a X distance drive.” Let’s include this and then go beyond the physical location. You should also consider things like a welcoming environment, a company with a social mission, a younger/older workplace, a progressive/conservative workplace, etc. These are going to be different for each individual.

4) What do you expect?

Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty of the job details. Realize that expectations may have to be compromised, but it helps to write them down. Start with the most obvious expectation and the reason most of us go to work each day. Here are some things you might expect

  • I expect to make $XXXX
  • I expect XXXX kind of health insurance
  • I expect XXXX other benefits
  • I expect to have some level of autonomy in my day-to-day work
  • I expect to be valued for my creative contributions
  • I expect to work in a team-oriented environment
  • I expect to maintain a work-life balance

We expect a lot out of our work. As well we should. We spend a lot of time there! But get this down into three words.

Edit Your Resume

A common misconception is that resumes should be only one-two pages. A resume should be as long as it needs to be provided that:

  1. It accurately and concisely represents all of you
  2. Is long enough to thoroughly address everything that a job description asks for

We’re going to make a generic resume from which you can start. You will constantly be editing this resume for every single job for which you apply.

  • Highlight: I want you to highlight everything on your resume that points strongly to one of the words that is written above. It can (and usually should) be the word itself.
  • Circle: Anything that may be relevant for a job. Education is a good example; you may well need or should include it on your resume, but often the role you’re applying for does not explicitly require it. Often, these circled items will be listed on your resume but de-emphasized.
  • Cross Out: There’s probably a lot of stuff left on your resume. Cross it out. These are like hoarding shoe boxes or 1980s Christmas decorations or Beanie Babies. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and throw it out.

Want more resume tips? Be sure to check out this article.

Getting to “Who”

It’s not that recruiters and HR managers don’t care about who you are…it’s just that resumes are not the appropriate place for it. “What” is clear and objective. It’s also what catches our attention in a stack of resumes.

Once you get to the interview, show off “who” you are in order to stand out from the other applicants.

Are you looking for work? Check out our open jobs.

Resume header: Your professional email address

One of the most common resume “uh-oh”s I see is with email addresses. Is it overly picky to care about someone’s email address? Here’s the point: this is just one of the many elements that can contribute to a professional image.

It might seem obvious that certain e-mail addresses do not convey professionalism. Hotmama78@hotmail.com? I’ll take your word for it, but our office might not call you in for an interview.Benchpress247@yahoo.com? Unless I’ve advertised for a personal trainer, that’s probably not relevant.

Aside from a professional-sounding address, for consistency of personal branding, I recommend an email address that closely matches the name on your resume. This kind of address has the added bonus of always being recognizable; it takes the guesswork out of a contact list.

Did you know that there are certain details that should not be in your email address? At Peak Performers we are widely recognized for our nondiscrimination advocacy. Unfortunately, not every other employer shares this value. To play it safe—and, again, to demonstrate that you’re familiar with professional, industry standards—I recommend an e-mail address that doesn’t include:

  • a reference to age or year of birth
  • race or national origin
  • religion
  • familial status (marriage, children, being a grandma/grandpa, etc.)
  • or a reference to any other characteristic that is a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

One of my favorite “inappropriate email address” real-life examples is the curse of a name that inherently sounds unprofessional. Ms. Goodbody, anyone? My guess is that if life has saddled you with a name like this, an email address is probably the least of your worries. For professionalism’s sake, the author over at SnagAJob suggests using a firstname.middleinitial.lastinitial@mail.com type of format. This helps Ms. Goodbody land that coveted interview–and gives her a readymade joke once the recruiter sees her resume!

Above all, the most important thing is that you give out an e-mail address that you actually check. The hazard of setting up a new, professional e-mail address (kept separate from your personal e-mail correspondence) is that you’ll forget to check it. The solution is simple: set up account forwarding. This way, you’ll be able to send and receive e-mails as a professional, with the convenience of being able to check both accounts wherever, whenever.

Since Gmail seems to be the most popular e-mail provider for these new, professional addresses, I’ll leave you with a tip on how to set up e-mail forwarding with Gmail.

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Resume header: What’s in a name?

As my favorite leading lady Julie Andrews once sung on screen, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

In this series, however, we’re not going to learn how to sing (at least that’s not the plan). Instead, we’re going to learn how to write a resume, starting at the top and working our way down. The Alps and singing nuns might not be involved (again, not in the plans), but we do guarantee you this: if you follow these guidelines, step by step, your resume will convey professionalism and help you look like you know how to get a job.

Why is it important that your resume conforms to certain standards? Recently, an eye-tracking study was conducted to discover how long, on average, a recruiter spends looking at each resume. The results will blow you away…

Six seconds.

That’s only six seconds of glory for you. How can you make the strongest possible impression, within that minuscule amount of time? Your resume needs to be clean, easy to visually search and scan, and yet tell a recruiter everything they need to know. Very, very quickly.

Your name

It seems overly basic, yes? But let’s start by thinking about how you write your name.

In today’s recruiting world, it’s important that your name be consistent across all of these many platforms we now use. We call this “personal branding.” And as any catchy advertising jingle shows us, consistency is the key to making your brand stick.

Do you go by your middle name? A shortened version of your first name? It’s not vital that your resume match your legal name, but it is important that you be consistent.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your full, legal name is Ronald Eric Smith. This is the name on your official forms of ID such as your driver’s license. However, everyone actually calls you Eric. Your professional-use email address is ericsmith@gmail.com. On Facebook and LinkedIn, you’re Eric Smith. Your resume might therefore read: R. Eric Smith.

Here’s another example: Let’s say your legal name is Ronald Eric Smith, but everyone calls you Ronny. Your email address and online profiles are all under the name Ronny Smith. Your resume might therefore read: Ronald “Ronny” Smith. Or, since this is a pretty well-recognized nickname, it’s not necessary that you specify it. But if you can’t stand being called Ronald? Then your resume should definitely read: Ronny Smith.

One more example: Let’s say your legal name is Ronald Eric Smith, but everyone calls you Rattlesnake. We’re sure there’s a great story behind that nickname, but this is neither the time nor the place. Your resume should read: Ronald Eric Smith, Ronny Eric Smith, Ron Eric Smith. Anything, really. Just please, not Rattlesnake!

Unprofessional nicknames aside, there are many name scenarios that quite possibly apply to you. For instance, you might have a name that’s difficult to pronounce. In that case, consider writing the pronunciation in parentheses, briefly, next to your name.

Lastly, if you have a pretty common name—Ronald Smith is a good example again—we ask you to seriously consider including your middle name on your resume. This will spare recruiters a name mix-up, and it will help distinguish you from other applicants.

For more insights into the nuances of what name you should put on your resume, check out these helpful articles:

https://www.pongoresume.com/blogPosts/180/put-your-brand-name-on-your-resume-not-your-real-name.cfm
http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/when-use-nicknames-legal-names

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