There’s a lot of information available for working professionals who are revising their resumes for the hundredth time. But what about working professionals who have never created a resume? Can someone make it through the world of work without a resume? Absolutely. There are such fortunates. I recently helped a client in his 60s create his very first resume.
Shut the front door, you say. I kid you not–this client’s work history was way more interesting than anything on television at this very moment, but he had never written any of it down. I got to hear about it over coffee. He has managed incredibly swanky establishments across the United States (the stories, the scandal, the excitement…). He’s led large teams of employees to staggering success. CEOs have sought him and begged him and paid him handsomely to relocate.
So why is he creating a resume NOW? He’s reinventing himself (he’s not the only one–why do you think so many retirees are pursuing new career paths or considering gigs and part-time jobs?). He decided he wants to pursue a slightly different career path with a large corporation, and that corporation utilizes an applicant tracking system, requiring all candidates to apply online. Even though he’d already made a name for himself within the organization, he knew he would eventually need to formally apply online. He would have to upload a resume. And he didn’t have one because in the past, he earned jobs strictly based on who he is–his reputation spoke for itself.
So we started from scratch. I listened (that part was easy), took notes, and created a pretty amazing resume for this man. And he landed the job he wanted.
Whether you’re in my client’s boat, and you’ve got years of experience under your belt with no resume to show for it, or you’re in high school or college and hope to avoid this predicament altogether, here are a few tips if you’re writing your first resume.
Record everything. You won’t use everything on each resume you create/send when applying for jobs, but you want all details stored in one place. It will save you so much time when you fill out lengthy job applications or try to recall information about a position you held 10 years ago. Names of employers/supervisors, phone numbers and addresses of employers, copies of job descriptions… yes. All of that.
And after you have a resume, don’t ever delete it and just revise it, updating as you go. Save every single version. You never know when you’ll want to revert back to a previous version, pull information from an older resume, etc. Same with cover letters.
It might save you time now to let someone do every single thing for you, but in the long run, you will be back in the same “I don’t know what to do” boat. You need someone to teach you how to write and revise your own work and someone who’s a wordsmith and expert in career development and talent acquisition. It’s okay to work TOGETHER to create your resume. If the professional you hire asks you very few questions and doesn’t really collaborate with you while working on your resume, you can guarantee the finished product will probably not be a great reflection of the real you. And this is a problem. When you start interviewing, your resume will portray you a certain way, and you may or may not match that portrayal. Employers want you to be transparent during the hiring process.
This should help you get started. If you need additional help creating or revising your resume, let me know.
New year, new you. Out with the old; in with the new. Make a brand new start. Or how about one of my favorites, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream” (C.S. Lewis). When New Year’s rolls around, we often find ourselves contemplating change. What type of change are you considering this year? Buying/selling a home. Relocating. Losing weight. Exercising more often. Traveling. Finding the man of our dreams (and marrying him). Getting pregnant. Adopting a puppy. What about a career change or new job?
It’s natural to set goals, make resolutions, and fine-tune our life’s focus in January. Part of that fine tuning for many of us involves initiating a job search. For some, it involves changing careers and embarking an exciting career adventure.
How do you know if you’re really ready to search for a job or change career paths?
When I work with clients who are contemplating a career change, we start by assessing their current level of contentment at work. Are you happy to arrive at work most mornings? Do you hit snooze and feel anxious or depressed about the workplace? How long have you felt dissatisfied with your job? When you attend work events, do you network with others or stay for 10 minutes before escaping? Do you live for the weekend? Are you excited about your current projects and tasks? Do you share your excitement with your friends/family? Or do you complain about the problems at work instead?
Checking our level of contentment is important. We have to evaluate a) how we truly feel about our jobs/careers, and b) why we might feel that way. Sometimes clients find that the problem lies within themselves. Maybe they’re struggling with stress at home, and it’s bleeding over into the workplace. Some of my clients chose a career path for all the wrong reasons to begin with and feel stuck. I’ve even referred clients to counselors if we discover there’s nothing wrong at work, and they just need some overall wellness help.
I once found myself working in a corporate job, earning more money than I’d ever earned before in my life. The workplace was pretty upbeat, and the dress code was very casual. The expectations were reasonable. My colleagues were friendly and fun. So what was the problem? I just didn’t enjoy my tasks. I chose the job based on earning potential, not fulfillment potential. And I wanted to live closer to my husband (who was my boyfriend at that time).
Once I’d identified that I was dissatisfied at work, I examined whether I could change aspects of the job or my attitude. I worked diligently to find things to be grateful for at work, and that helped the days go by faster. But there wasn’t much I could do to alter other aspects of the job. I couldn’t force myself to love the nature of the job. And I couldn’t relocate the company or work remotely. My husband couldn’t relocate because he owned a business in a different region.
What should I do next? Once I’d established that I either had to accept the job and continue doing it or search for a new one, I went through my normal decision-making process.
During my time of reflection, talking to my mentor, and praying about the decision, I saw the solution clearly. I decided to send a message to several friends living near my husband. I asked for their help in finding employment. And I waited and prayed.
Less than 24 hours later, one of my friends, someone I’d known for years, responded and offered me a job. He warned me that the position didn’t pay very well. But he also gave me the option to accept the job temporarily while searching for more gainful employment. I saw this as a clear sign to move forward and make the change. I accepted the position after a phone interview and gave a two-week notice at work. By Christmas, I was on my way to relocating and interviewing for other jobs while working in a temporary job.
I’m not trying to tell you that if you click your heels and make a wish—or say a prayer—your dream job will fall in your lap. But I am trying to share a career discovery and decision-making process that has worked pretty well for me. Take the right steps and remain action-oriented. But don’t forget to follow your gut at the end of the day. If a big paycheck isn’t satisfying you, that’s okay. Can you make lifestyle adjustments to lower your standard of living? If you used to love serving others as a teacher, but you feel exhausted in every way, it’s okay. What other careers interest you? Do you have transferable skills?
We can talk one-on-one about your current feelings about work. And we can develop a plan of action for the coming year. Reach out to me for help if you’re ready to get to work and find career fulfillment.
In my twenties and into my early thirties, I repeatedly heard this from supervisors, more experienced colleagues, and authors: “Show up early, stay late, and dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” I took that advice to heart. Almost daily, I arrived early and stayed late, even though no one around me did so. You don’t want to know how much I spent on my work wardrobe. I was the poster child for going above and beyond. I utilized LinkedIn and Facebook like crazy immediately after they hit the internet. My goal was to prove myself a productive, passionate employee. I knew employers were looking for productive employees. This soft skill is consistently ranked near the top of employers’ preferred soft skills lists.
I killed it at work and consistently set and exceeded goals, created successful new programs, and found solutions to organizational problems. But my work-life balance was a joke. A true workaholic, I found myself wallowing in work rather than living a life of my own. My relationships suffered, and my health did, too. I found that the more I worked, the less productive I became. The more I worked, the less I cared about the purpose/mission which used to drive me to succeed. The more I worked, the more discontent I felt.
Over time, I learned to strike a better balance. I left work at work and discovered my own interests aside from my career. More importantly, I maintained a high level of career success while living my own life. I could simultaneously be productive and feel well. One of many ways I struck this balance was by learning to take more breaks at work. Sounds ironic, doesn’t it? How does taking breaks help you become more productive?
Sitting in a chair kills your back. This isn’t new news. Many companies now offer employees standing or convertible desks or at least more ergonomically correct desks. But most of us still find ourselves seated while working if we work traditional desk jobs. You have to give your body a break if you expect it to perform all day long. Stand up and stretch. Break out some yoga poses. Fit in three sets of squats or crunches in a few minutes’ time. Walk around the office, to the restroom, or to the fridge to get a bottle of water. Whatever you do, don’t sit still for longer than an hour without changing your body position for at least a few minutes.
When we get up and move, we come back to our desks ready to work again and feel more productive and focused and less tense.
There’s no shortage of research indicating benefits related to experiencing nature and breathing fresh air. Want to be more productive, less stressed, and healthier? Spend a little time outdoors each day at work. You don’t have to work from home in the woods to reap these benefits. Go out on the balcony and absorb some sunlight for a few moments while making a phone call. Meditate on the flower bed for a few moments. Walk outside with a coworker for 10 minutes twice a day. Then go back to work renewed, invigorated, and more productive.
When I’m working on something dead serious or conflict-ridden, I need a mental and emotional break. Why not spend a few moments recording a silly video of yourself for your child? You’ll build your relationship while letting yourself unwind. Read a Laffy Taffy joke. Look at a few photos you keep on your phone of fun moments with your friends and family. Play a quick game of hacky sack with a colleague. You’ll both get a little exercise while looking ridiculous and build your friendship, too. It’s healthy to be happy, and happy workers are productive.
Yes. I said it. A NAP. When I worked as a full-time faculty member, I purchased a reclining rocker for my office. It served two purposes: it eased my back while grading, and it provided a perfect resting spot mid-day. I’ve never been one to fall asleep when I rest or nap. But if I close my eyes, get still and quiet, and pray or meditate for even five minutes, I feel less groggy and more productive.
Don’t have a reclining rocker? Rest your head atop your arms on your desk for a few moments. Walk to your car and recline your seat. Always set a timer in case you’re tired enough to fall asleep. Resting during your lunch break may be a good option if your employer frowns upon mini breaks at your desk.
A few cups of coffee a day won’t hurt you (unless your doctor says otherwise). If coffee’s not your thing, find another hot drink you love. The point is to relax, sit still, and enjoy something simple without trying to multi-task and answer emails, too. It’s hard to remain tense after spending a few minutes sipping a hot cup of coffee or tea in a quiet space. Or take a coffee break with your mentor, colleague, or business associate.
Read one page of inspirational literature. Keep a daily reader or devotional book at your desk or bookmark blogs you find motivational and inspirational. This feeds your spirit and gives your mind a fresh focus on positive content.
Take a break to network with your colleagues, friends, mentors, or family members. You’ll feel less isolated and do good to others at the same time. Send a message to someone struggling to ask how she’s doing. Chat with a colleague about a big project. Send thank you cards to a few people who’ve helped you recently.
Create a short gratitude list every day during one of your breaks. Keep it in a journal or Google doc so you can reflect on better moments when times are tough. Thinking about blessings distracts us from problems at work. A positive distraction can help us revisit the problem with renewed determination to find a solution.
Need help striking a better work-life balance? Want to teach your employees or students to be more productive? I can help.
We only learn from the past if we reflect on the past. This is true in every area of life, and our career journeys are no exception. Recently I reflected on which three job roles/work experiences best prepared me for my role as a career coach/entrepreneur. I also contemplated which job experiences I enjoyed most and why.
I only had time to discuss my three favorite/best jobs. There have been many more. I believe none of our work experience is wasted. Even jobs I held for a short time taught me crucial soft skills, including conflict management and problem-solving strategies. When I had to quit an interim director’s position for a non-profit due to a hostile work environment, I learned big lessons. I learned how to stand up for myself at work, to carry myself with grace and dignity, and how to discern red flags during the interview process.
Did you know that even the most boring work experience prepared me for future roles? Although I didn’t love technical writing, that experience helped me revise and edit well, and I’ve used that skill as an English faculty member and as a content manager. I also rely on my own writing skills when producing content for my career coaching business.
And that one-year gig in software sales? Absolutely helps me during free consultations, when producing content, and when reaching out to my network to drum up referrals.
It’s so important that we reflect on our previous jobs before leaping forward with our job search or making a big career change. Why? If we don’t, we’re doomed to repeat our own mistakes. We may not identify red flags as truly red during the hiring process. And we will work in professions which leave us feeling unfulfilled, depressed, and disgruntled.
Even though I don’t know you, I know you don’t want that for yourself. And I don’t want it for you.
Take time to reach out to me to schedule a free consultation. Simply spending 15-20 minutes on the phone with a career coach can help you uncover and discover many of your career desires and goals. I’ll walk you through a simple assessment of your career journey. We can talk about your own best and worst jobs. I will direct you to more career development assessment tools if necessary. And I’ll provide you with quality career development and job search tools as we work together.
What are you waiting for? Let’s get to work.
I often work with clients who want to jump right into writing a resume. I understand that desire because a resume is one of the most important tools in your job search and career development toolbox. Many clients are also skittish about spending too much time or money working with a career coach, and they assume working on their resume may be their first and final step to career success. Before you start writing your resume, make sure you’re truly ready. Don’t bypass key steps which will ensure a stronger resume.
Before you even consider revising or creating a resume, you have to do one thing: define your career goals.
Get clear about why you’re unhappy with your current job or feeling motivated to change careers, seek a promotion, or switch jobs. If you don’t know the why, the “how” won’t help you in the end. Creating a solid resume is a pertinent part of your job search. But if you try to create a resume with no clear career direction in sight, your resume will, at best, be a generic list of your experience, qualifications, and accomplishments. It won’t include a concise professional summary because you must consider your career goals when writing a professional summary. It won’t feature keywords matching jobs you’re applying for, because you won’t know which jobs you hope to land. Because it lacks keywords and phrases matching the positions you’re applying for, you may not receive any offers for interviews because your resume will never make it past the ATS (applicant tracking system). And you’ll have to include all your experience rather than hand-picking which experiences best match the position you’re applying for.
Obviously this is a poor approach for resume writing. Instead, work with a career coach (or if you’re a college student, a career services professional on-campus) to define your career goals.
If you feel unclear about where you’re going—but know you don’t like where you are—taking these three steps can help point you in the right direction for you. Reach out to me to schedule a free consultation.
Let’s face it—interviews can be downright scary. Many of us, no matter how much work experience or charisma we possess, feel intimidated when we’re being analyzed and assessed by recruiters and hiring managers during interviews. Even basic communication with human resources professionals can feel daunting. We don’t want to use too many exclamation points, but if we don’t use ANY, will they understand our enthusiasm regarding the job opening? There’s a lot to consider and many steps to take prior to and during a job interview.
Hopefully these two videos and tips will help you walk through the interview process unscathed and come out on the other side with a job offer in hand.
Calling and emailing to inquire about interview details.
After you’ve landed the job interview, you might need to contact the employer to verify details. Of course, my first suggestion is to prevent this situation. You can do this by asking a few key questions when the interviewer contacts you. Take notes when the recruiter calls you to schedule the interview or save the email you receive containing pertinent information. During that initial call, or immediately after receiving the initial email, verify time, date, and location. If you’re unfamiliar with the job site or interview location, ask clarifying questions or request a physical address. Don’t forget to ask where to go within the building and where to sign in when you arrive, either.
If you forget to ask these questions, or if you think of other questions you might need to ask, don’t hesitate to call or email the employer prior to the interview. But use caution—no recruiter wants to respond to 10 emails from a candidate before she’s ever interviewed the candidate.
Backing out of an interview if you decide you’re not interested.
If you decide the job opening isn’t a good fit for you, or if you land another job after scheduling the interview, you need to respect the potential employer enough to politely decline the interview opportunity. I suggest doing this via a short email so there’s a lasting record of your communication; voicemails are too easily deleted and forgotten.
Even if you don’t believe you’ll ever be interested in working for the company in the future, be prompt and polite when declining interview opportunities. You might change your mind and apply for a different job opening in a few months. Or the recruiter you’re communicating with might leave that company, and you may find yourself facing her when you apply with Company B in a few months. Ending on good terms is key to successful professional networking.
Running late to a job interview.
Again, prevention works better in this case than damage control. Try to avoid arriving late by taking extra precautions against tardiness. Allow yourself about twice as much time as usual to shower, dress, eat, and drive to the interview location. Set at least two alarms so you won’t oversleep. Allow yourself at least 5-10 minutes of quiet reflection time before leaving for the interview. And plan to pull into the company parking lot about 10-15 minutes prior to your actual interview time.
If all these tips don’t work, and you run into unforeseen problems on the way (such as a horrible traffic jam), call or email the employer immediately. Don’t wait until five minutes before the interview starts to call to notify the employer you’re running late. Call as soon as you realize you simply don’t have enough time to arrive promptly. And by all means, don’t make up ridiculous stories about having to stop your car at the end of the driveway to help an elderly woman carry groceries into her house, which held you up for an hour… or anything equally as unbelievable. Employers aren’t stupid, and they’d rather you simply let them know you’re running five minutes late than listen to your false fish stories.
Understand that if you’re late to a job interview, your chances for landing the job drop significantly. You’re communicating to the employer that the interview appointment simply wasn’t important enough to you to ensure prompt arrival. Arriving late demonstrates lack of time management skills—and all employers want to hire candidates who demonstrate mastery of this soft skill. Whether you feel this way or not is irrelevant, so do your best to arrive a little early and avoid this scary predicament.
Deciding what to wear to a job interview.
Selecting interview attire can feel overwhelming. You want to make a great first impression. Do it by selecting interview attire which is appropriate, comfortable, and professional. And yes, you can find a suit which meets all three criteria! If you’re uncomfortable and wear clothing which is too tight, too long, too short, or another TOO, you’ll be unable to focus on responding to interview questions. And if you under dress, you’ll quickly recognize your mistake and will feel embarrassed throughout the interview. You might think it’s okay to wear jeans because the dress policy at that company calls for casual attire. Don’t. If the employees wear jeans, you still need to wear interview-appropriate attire. Go for business casual if you’re interviewing with a casual organization. Wear a suit otherwise.
If you can’t afford a suit, pair up separates which create the impression of a suit. If you’re a male, by all means, wear a tie and shine your shoes. And if you’re a female, avoid super high heels, excessive perfume or makeup, and over-the-top accessories. It’s also important to remember that your appearance includes your facial expression and non-verbal communication. When you greet the employer, smile. Ensure your posture is open (don’t cross your arms or fidget with your purse). Leave your phone in the car or at least put it on silent mode.
Realizing you are poorly prepared for the interview.
When you don’t research the company/position, you’ll have a sinking feeling in your stomach when asked, “What do you know about our company?” or “Why are you interested in working here?” And you WILL be asked these questions—most employers ask common interview questions, even if they word them a little differently.
You can prevent this by spending plenty of time researching the company and the job role online. If you know current employees, reach out to them and ask their opinions of the work environment, company culture, supervisors, etc. Wouldn’t you rather learn that your potential boss carries a terrible, micromanaging reputation BEFORE the interview than AFTER you’ve accepted the position?
You’ll also need to practice responding to interview questions, especially those tricky questions about why you’re leaving your employer or why you were out of work for two years. Think carefully about your interview outfit, and map directions to the interview site (whether you prefer printed directions or simply enter the location into your smartphone).
Answering difficult interview questions.
We all get tired of responding to the same old commonly asked interview questions. But guess what? You’ll probably be asked those same questions, so you better prepare to respond well. The best way to prepare to respond to interview questions is to schedule a mock interview with a career coach. If you can’t afford to pay for professional interview coaching, at least print out common interview questions and ask a friend or family member to grill you a few times. Or if you’re more comfortable preparing on your own, sit in front of a mirror while responding to questions or record yourself responding to questions using your webcam.
Interview coaching not only helps you prepare the right words to say, but it also helps you avoid the wrong phrasing. A career coach can also provide objective feedback regarding your body language, level of anxiety, and more.
Overcoming general anxiety and introversion during the interview.
Let me assure you that you’re not the only one who feels anxious about interviews. I rarely work with a client who expresses total confidence before a job interview. Even if you aren’t introverted, you may feel anxious because you haven’t interviewed for jobs in years or because you genuinely want to land the job and don’t want to screw up during the interview.
There are many ways you can ease your anxiety and even overcome introversion. Prepare and practice. Research the company. Dress appropriately, comfortably, and professionally. Follow every bit of advice in this article and on the videos, and you’ll find that you’re much less nervous. You can also ease your nerves by avoiding cigarettes and excessive caffeine before the interview, getting plenty of sleep in advance, and eating a well-balanced meal or snack with water.
Getting rid of anxiety can help you perform well throughout the interview process and end the interview knowing you have a great chance of being selected to fill the position.
The interview process can genuinely be scary. But there are so many ways you can prevent your fears from standing in between you and your dream job. Reach out to me to schedule an interview coaching session and to up your odds of interview success.