After graduating with my MPA, I moved to DC in search of a job. I searched long and hard for 7 months. While I searched, I heeded great advice from professionals, parents, mentors, professors, peers, etc. There were some things I wish I would have heeded that maybe would have eased my job searching journey/frenzy.
This is the first post of many to come that discusses those things I wish I would have known, or advice I wish I would have followed earlier, and some things I did in order to find a job.
This first little tidbit starts with the resume. If you struggle with perfectionism, like I do, you might understand this post a little more than the rest. I hope to break some myths and provide advice that I hope you will find it useful in your resume-building journey.
1. Even if your resume is not perfect, send it out.
I cannot express how important it is that you get your name out there. YES, the best rule of thumb is to have a resume that is catered to each company, so make sure you at least do that. And YES quality is more important than quantity. BUT, you don’t want to get stuck with holding onto a less than perfect, but perfectly acceptable resume and let opportunities pass you by.
Personal Anecdote: When I graduated with my masters and started the job hunting process in a field where I had limited experience, I was so concerned that my resume would not demonstrate my ability to succeed in the field.
I had so many questions:
- Do I put my education at the top of my resume?
- Do I include my honors that demonstrated my leadership expertise?
- Do I include a summary or objective?
- Do I demonstrate my skills in my work experience or call it out as a separate milestone in the body of the resume?
I ended up holding onto my resume for longer than I should have. I don’t know the opportunities I missed because I was so focused on making my resume perfect.
CAUTION: Again, I am not saying that you should send out crappy resumes. It is up to you to make sure that your resumes are complete. I suggest that you engage two or three other people with professional experience to help with editing before you send your resume out to anyone. Another Personal Anecdote: Even though we joked about it a lot in my Communications Program, I did accidentally typed “pubic relations” instead of “public relations” – it happens….and to this I say….don’t send an unedited resume!
2. Don’t change your resume just because someone tells you that it is supposed to be that way.
Do your research and ask some questions:
- What do other resumes for/from this business/area of expertise look like?
- What works for me?
- Will the adjustments add to what the company/organization is looking for?
- Am I a fit?
- Are the adjustments too much of a stretch?
- Are the adjustments demonstrating my real skills? Too much, not enough?
My rule of thumb: adjust your resume the way your gut tells you too
Even with all the comments and feedback stick with your gut when it comes to decisions like including a summary, how you demonstrate results, etc….unless you don’t trust your gut.
I had some great advisers who helped me make my resume the best it could be. Sometimes their comments would help me make the best resume….for them! Every person has their flare. Yes, there are certain things that should be avoided, of which I am not going to talk about, but in my resume journey, I had to find out what would make my resume mine. After speaking with experts on my resume, I was I trying to include ALL the comments, information, and suggestions. I ended up changing my resume over and over and over based on everyone’s comments. In the end, I needed to teach myself how to pick and choose which feedback I would use to update my resume, and make adjustments accordingly.
Personal Anecdote: I love to get advice from my father. He tends to know his stuff, and I value his opinion. I was chatting with him about the fears and concerns I had with creating a great resume that would demonstrate my skills even though I was lacking in the specific subject area for which I was applying. He told me that his HR persons were including pictures and that might be something worth considering.
At first, I was repulsed by the idea. All these HR moments popped into my mind and all these thoughts about ageism, sexism, etc., came to light. I am a woman who looks young even though I am 30, which could come across as someone who lacks professional expertise and experience. Including a picture could have also set off some other red lights. However, I heeded the advice and started sending my resume out.
I then attended a workshop where they said including my picture was a HUGE “No-No.” I was crushed and ran home immediately to take the picture off. I was angry and couldn’t believe that I didn’t listen to my gut. However, to ease my frustration, I talked with other professionals who said, while it was a huge No-No, that government contractors HR groups often require pictures of their employees, but that potential candidates will not be required to have a picture until they are contacted by individual HR representatives.
CAUTION: Remember to do your research. There are some things that really are against the rules of resume-writing. I suggest going to workshops and seminars, and letting professionals comment on your resume that do this kind of thing for a living.