Is Your Resume a Don’t?

While Sue Ellen Crandell's resume was a don't (full of lies!), her work outfit were absolute do's!

Occasionally on the blog, I do like to do more than post culturally-significant GIFs and wax poetic about the woes of my life.  On those rare days when inspiration strikes, I hope to provide a little bit of guidance and hopefully make you feel that browsing the blog at work (or in class or wherever else you may be) is a slightly productive venture!

One topic that’s been on my mind a lot is resumes.  It seems that with the start of the new year comes emails from friends (and siblings!) asking for a resume review.  First of all, good for them!  The best thing you can do with your resume is have others look at it.  While I don’t believe that’s there’s one magic lay-out or font that will guarantee you a hire, it never hurts to have multiple eyeballs sharpen the language, correct typos, and help make sure you’re presenting the best version of yourself possible.  This brings me to my first don’tdon’t be afraid to ask for help!

It may seem silly to approach these suggestions as don’ts instead of do’s but I find that, much like The Hairpin, it’s often easier to outline what does not work than to try to pinpoint what does.  Another important don’t – don’t let others tell you that you “have” to include X or that the “only acceptable” format is Y.  Those people don’t know what they’re talking about.  While there is some widely accepted formats and common sense information to include (current contact info, employment history, educational experience, special skills, etc), there is no standard resume and anyone telling you otherwise is just being bossy.

Another piece of advice I give to anyone whose resume I review is that you don’t want to sound like everyone else.  This means watching out for overused buzzwords or tired phrases.  Having been in a hiring position several times, I can tell you that everyone says they’re creative, organized, and are a team player.  Find a way to tell your potential employer by sharing your actual, unique experience instead of tossing around a worn-out expression.

This leads me to another point – don’t be vague!  Each of you is a very special snowflake – be sure that your resume reflects the experiences that make you perfect for whatever position you’re applying for.  The more specific, quantified information you can share, the more memorable you will be.  This also works in giving you several handy talking points for your (inevitable) job interview!  Along these same lines, don’t use the same resume for every position.  Tailor your resume and the provided content to the company and position you’re applying for.  I keep a master resume on file with every tiny job-related things I’ve done, from major projects that I’ve spearheaded to odd tasks I’ve taken over for other staff members.  When it comes time to apply for something new, I can take the master list and edit it down to what is relevant for the position at hand – and then I can craft the specific language further to fit that company!

So, once you feel good about your content (and had several friends review it), it should be good to go right?  Wrong – don’t neglect style!  While you should avoid graphics, photos, or anything lavish for your resume (graphic artists not included), the visual appeal of your resume is a major component.  Avoid fonts that make your resume look like you printed it straight off from WordPad – for jobs that are more tech/design-related, go with a clean sans serif font; for more traditional careers, like law or academia, find a serif font that is dignified and easy to read.  Print off a copy of your resume and look at the layout – does the information flow?  Are all the margins in line?  Is there a consistent format from section to section?

Finally, don’t forget to submit as requested.  This is a no-brainer but be sure to follow the employer’s guidelines – email to the correct person, upload to their website, send a hard copy, etc and include all the information that is requested.  Every employer is different – taking 5 minutes to review their requirements will give you a leg up on everyone who didn’t!  Whenever uploading or emailing, it’s best to convert to a PDF – it’s practically universal and maintains the stylish lay-out you’ve created!  When your resume is free of don’ts, it will be a great tool for the second part of the job hunt – nailing the interviews!  Bring copies with you for any interviews or follow-ups – or keep a copy in front of you during a phone call.

I highly recommend The Hairpin article for some additional suggestions – they also include some don’ts to ponder on including having an objective, odd date abbreviations, exaggerated margins, and anything colorful.  If you’re working in DC (or trying to!), NIH has some nice tips specific to government positions here.  You can also read some good common sense advice here, as well as some tips for recent graduates over here.

Any don’t that I forgot?  Want to share your resume advice tips?  Leave them in the comments!

The First Years Out

As long-time readers know, I was let go from a job that started out great but turned out to be one of the most challenging experiences of my young, inexperienced life.  I learned a lot of lessons from those three years but one of the most important lessons learned is that I will never be as erudite or witty as my co-worker/friend/partner-in-crime-and-drinking Kate.

Kate is just one of those all around awesome people, who (conveniently for me), wrote a great blog post last spring about the stages of post-collegiate life (click it!  read it!  love it!)*  I love this post because it showcases not only Kate’s trademark levity but also covers some serious ground.  According to Kate, here is what will happen after you graduate**:

  • You will move back home – This was only not true for me because I was very comfortable with being exceptionally poor.  Like, skipping meals to buy $2 PBRs at bars where the bartenders would conveniently forget I had more than one poor.
  • You will have a terrible job – Sorry, folks.  This is a non-negotiable.  You will have a terrible job, be terribly underpaid, and probably hate yourself a little bit.  And as for crying at your desk?  That happens to the best of us.  Embrace it.
  • You will get a pet – Kate got a dog.  I prefer minions.  Either way, you’ll need something to love you unconditionally when everything feels like it’s going wrong.
  • You will go to graduate school – Let’s be honest, all of y’all are in graduate school or already have that secondary degree or are in the midst of applying.  Even I can’t hold out forever…
  • You will be jealous of your peers’ lives – Whether it’s job envy or a desperate yearning to afford the vacations that everyone else seems to take, you will hate Facebook and it’s annoying window into the wonderful lives of others.  The good news is that in a few years, the divorces and epic burn-outs of your peers will start replacing all this good news, so at least you can revel in a little schadenfreude.
  • You will have so much fun – Amen, sister friend.  Those first three years out were hard (and it’s not gotten that much easier) but the amount of fun you have barely scraping by with great friends to commiserate with cannot be overstated.  And as long as you remember to have fun, everything seems to work itself out eventually.

*This post was originally published on the George Washington University Honors Program blog.  Even if you’re not a GW student (or an honors student), they have a lot of great resources!

**As a disclaimer, I agree with the author that these stages only apply to poor, pathetic humanities majors.  Engineers and science nerds, congratulations on your decent salaries and job security!

Profiles in Post-Collegiate Courage: Sondra Morris

Calling courageous post-collegiates! Our interview series is back with a vengeance as a semi-regular blog feature!  Want to nominate a courageous post-collegiate to be featured (including yourself)?  Email postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom].

I’ve lived with some pretty interesting characters over the years (oh, heeeey Tawnya!) and today’s profilee is no exception.  Sondra and I were classmates at R-MWC and then she had the (mis)-fortune to live with me for several months.  Sondra is one of the smartest, funniest, sassiest, well-informed, and interesting women I’ve ever met.  After graduating, she stuck it out in our college town, working away at the college, until this year, when she packed up her worldly possessions and, like so many young Americans before her, headed West.

Looking professional at her first post-collegiate big girl job

Sondra, share a little about yourself with the blog readers:
I grew up in a military family, so my family moved around quite a bit as I was growing up. Between kindergarten and my senior year of high school, I attended nine schools in two different countries and four different states. When it was time to choose a college I said, “Fuck it; I’m going to stay at one educational institution for four years no matter what.” So, I took a giant leap of crazy and attended the only woman’s college I applied to, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. It was fabulous and I loved my experience there, so much so that I accepted a job on campus after graduation. Unsurprisingly, my travel-happy upbringing kicked in after six months on the job and I was ready to skedaddle. I stayed on another year and a half to save up cash and deal with some personal baggage, then I quit my job and road-tripped out to Los Angeles.

For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always given off a very put-together, organized, ready-to-take-on-the-world vibe.  What was your initial life plan when you were getting ready to graduate in 2009?
Well…I didn’t have one. My senior year at R-MWC was spent coming to terms with the whole “I like girls” thing, so I wasn’t thinking too far into the future. My biggest concern back then was coming out to my parents and gauging if I’d have somewhere to crash if they weren’t okay with it.

One of the things that we have in common is we both choose to stay in Lynchburg following graduation, albeit for different reasons.  Are you glad that you took a job with your alma mater?
In retrospect, I can see that staying in my college town was the best thing that could have happened to me for personal and financial reasons. It was cheap, I knew enough people to have a fabulous support network, and I was only a few hours drive from most of my friends. Of course, working on campus was a whole different story. No one really talked to me about the transition from student to staff, so I wasn’t at all aware of how to navigate my relationships with friends who were still students. Then there were staff members I’d really offended as a student and suddenly working with them was kind of challenging. I spent my first year working getting strange looks and questions like, “Why didn’t you graduate on time?”

I really admire you for handling that transition from student to staff so well – I had enough difficulty adjusting to post-college life without working there!  But moving across country – that’s a REALLY big step.  Tell me more about that.
Now that I’m actually here in LA, my biggest fear is never finding a job and having to the leave the sunny, bright, salty, hot, smoggy oasis that is SoCal. I moved out here because I was just treading water after college and I needed to do something that would help me break out of the cycle of just working to pay bills to live in a city that didn’t provide me with what I need to thrive creatively and spiritually. A few of my R-MWC sisters had already made this move and when they urged me to try it too, I realized I didn’t have much to lose if things don’t work out. I’m hoping to get two things out of this move: (1) Fun. Like, the kind of fun that will become stories that will become anecdotes for my acceptance speech when I get the alumnae achievement award in ten years. (2) Some life experience to become a better writer.

Enjoying the LA life with Sam and Lianna (click photo for Lianna's interview!)

Speaking of writing, what challenges have you faced pursuing your dream?  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
My biggest challenge as a writer is specific to the fact that I’m a woman. Male mentors like to discount my subject matter or say I write with a ‘weird’ or ‘common’ voice if I say even the slightest thing about my life. It’s only with female mentors that I’ve really felt supported in writing from my experiences. I guess this goes back to the personal always being political for women, but it sucks. My advice for other writers–male and female–is to get into some sort of writing group with people you feel you can learn from and be supported by. It’s great to get feedback from your friends, but it’s usually more helpful to hear from other people who understand technique and think with that weird writer’s brain. I’m a junkie for writer’s groups…especially if they serve wine.

You have a real enthusiasm and love for blogging and social media.  What have you gained from these experiences?
The web is amazing. Writing for it and networking across it has taught me that it pays to be vulnerable when you write–your audience connects to your words, you get a hell of a lot more out of it in self discovery, and your writing comes from such a deeper place. I hate sharing myself though, so it’s kind of ridiculous for me to be a writer because I write all this stuff and then I never want to show it to anyone.  My big writing goals for 2012 are (1) Write more and (2) Stop being a pansy and get super vulnerable.

When I spoke with fellow writer Sara last year, she gave me some book recommendations for postcollegiate readers.  Any thoughts?

Enjoying a pre-DC United match tailgate together for my 27th birthday

For Writers: Read something by Pam Houston. I saw her on a panel at the AWP conference in 2011 and she’s simply amazing. Also, try some of Francesca Lia Block‘s short stories. And if you like poetry, check out Andrea Gibson.

For PCs: At the risk of sounding like a hipster, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Any of the Roadtrip Nation books. Also, Young, Broke, & Beautiful by Broke Ass Stuart.

Finally, if you could go back to that rainy morning of your college graduation, what advice would you give yourself?
“Get over yourself and revel in graduation day: take pictures, kiss friends, and go out for brunch with everyone you know after the ceremony. Starting tomorrow, you don’t have anything planned in your life, so make a list of everything you want to do and just start doing it. Be epic.”

Many, many thanks to Sondra for agreeing to the be the first (but not last) profile of 2012.  As she says, she’s all up in the Interwebs – check out for links to Twitter, Tumblr, etc.  As always, you can leave questions for Sondra in the comments section as well!

How To Quit Your Job (in 5 Easy Steps)

As you may remember, a few months ago I was struggling with my current job.  As with most jobs, it had its pros and cons but as I realized it was time to move on, I started job hunting aggressively.  It took a few months but just last week, I was offered a new position with a university- with a pay increase and tuition benefits!  While the job is outside of my field (more on that tomorrow…), it offers me the stability that my current job does not (I may have been facing a move to another city by summer, which is not part of my plan!) and the opportunity to possibility to go to graduate school.  This means a lot of change is coming my way in the new year but first, I have to get down to brass tacks…leaving my current job.

In the past three years, I have left many jobs but never in this circumstance – I’ve been fired, I’ve been let go, I’ve been in positions that were eliminated, and once I left a part-time/temporary gig for another temporary gig.  This time, I’ve had to sit down and plan how to leave my current position in the best way possible, which naturally involved making this handy list of the 5 steps to leaving your job!

1.  Find another job first.  In my particular circumstance, it made sense to secure another position and finalize the details before notifying my current employer.  This gave me leverage to negotiate a salary increase, choose a start date that would be beneficial to current job (to leave on a good note), and to buy myself as much time as needed to mentally prepare.  While this is not a necessity, it’s the best way to start this process.

2.  Tell your boss in person.  It may be tempting to send an email or leave a letter on someone’s desk, but a face to face conversation is needed when giving notice of your intent to leave.  I practiced what I was going to say with my mom during the post-Thanksgiving drive home and it really helped me work out exactly what I wanted to say and what I needed to ask.  Be sure to reiterate all the positive things you enjoyed about the job you are leaving, outline all tasks that need to be completed before you go, and to secure any future recommendations/references you would like to have.

3.  Follow-up with a letter.  If previous difficult employment situations have taught me nothing, it’s that you need to have everything in writing.  After your conversation in person, write a brief, one-page letter reiterating what you discussed and be sure to include all details (final date of employment, major tasks to be done, any necessary HR details like leftover vacation time, bonuses, etc.)  Be sure to keep a copy for yourself.

4.  Organize your business.  Have you ever started a new job and stepped into a mess that the person before you left behind?  DON’T BE THAT PERSON.  I’m convinced there’s a cubicle in the seventh ring of hell for those people.  Do your very best to leave your desk/filing cabinet/electronic data/coffee maker/pen cup/whatever in a more organized state than it was presented to you.  This makes a good impression on the supervisors you are leaving behind and it’s amazing karma for all the jobs you will start in the future.

5.  Leave no trace.  Just as you would never dream of leaving behind a granola bar wrapper in a state park, leave no trace of your personal life at your old job.  You would be amazed how many people feel comfortable leaving their old tax forms behind, just begging for someone to indulge in a little identity theft, or a trail of personal emails sent from the business email account.  Be sure to take or shred all personal data (except what is kept in HR records with the company), clear any private electronic data (trust me, the new person will dig through your old files), and any personal tchotchkes.

Above all, be sure to be gracious, resist the urge to say what’s really on your mind about your coworkers, and remember that your future references are based on those final impressions just as much as the first impression you made when you started.

Any other tips for quitting a job?  I would love to hear your stories of departure!

Profile in Post-Collegiate Courage: Tawnya Ravy

Calling courageous post-collegiates! Our interview series is back with a vengeance as a semi-regular blog feature!  Want to nominate a courageous post-collegiate to be featured (including yourself)?  Email postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom].

I strive to offer different perspectives on this blog, especially considering that this blog is borne out of the realization that I have no idea what I’m doing with my life and where I’m headed.  This week, I wanted to introduce you to my college classmate (and – full disclosure – current roommate/slumlord – just kidding!) Tawnya Ravy.  What makes Tawnya’s perspective so different from mine as she has used the post-collegiate years to work her way through a master’s degree and into a doctorate program at the George Washington University, all while turning around to teach students not much younger than we are!  She was kind enough to share a little advice on taking the higher education post-college path.

Tawnya, from undergraduate leader to doctoral candidate and teacher in just a few years

Hello, roomie!  For those readers who do not share a domicile with you, would you mind sharing a little about yourself.

I am originally from California, but I have now lived on the East Coast almost as long as I lived on the West Coast. I just turned 26 years old and now live in Fairfax, VA.  As you know, I attend Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia and then straight into the graduate program at GWU.   I originally wanted to pursue law but majored in English and never looked back.  

You had a pretty impressive resume coming out of college, especially with being Student Body President.  What was your initial plan when we graduated?
Luckily, my plans were pretty much set on the last day of college because I was accepted into the GWU English Graduate Program. My plan was to pursue a PhD. in literature.  I had ambitions to finish my PhD early as well as harbored dreams of traveling and teaching abroad.    I thought that graduate school would give me the flexibility and credentials to do so but have learned that finding the time was more difficult than I imagined because it eats your life!
I know a lot of our fellow classmates, as well as students across the country, who choose to wait a few years for graduate school.  What made you decide to go right away?  Do you have any regrets?
The fall before I graduated college, I was planning on attending law school. Half-way through an application process, I realized that I did not have enough passion for law to make it worthwhile. Luckily, I was already majoring in English because someone told me that it was the best preparation for the amount of reading/writing required in law school. I discussed my options with a trusted professor who suggested I begin applying to graduate schools right away. My first choice was GWU, and I heard from them fairly quickly in the application process. So far, I do not have any regrets about beginning graduate school right away, especially because I thrive in academia and was able to utilize my undergraduate experience right away, building off those four years’ of momentum.
Since I witness your day-to-day life up close, I am always impressed by the balance you strike between school (graduate classes, dissertation research) and work, which for you is teaching 2-3 classes a semester.  How do you maintain that balance and choose what opportunities to pursue?
I am flattered that you think I have struck a balance. It is much better now than it was when I first started. I was working over 40 hours a week in an unpleasant working environment while maintaining a full course load in my first year of graduate school. I realized quickly that this could not continue if I wanted to succeed in my program, so I moved back with my parents for a little while.  Now that I have an M.A. I am able to teach and continue my studies, but the fact remains that my teaching load often trumps my graduate work – something that will only get tougher down the road.
Having so much on your plate, what things have you wanted to pursue but haven’t been able to yet?
I have been fairly blessed in that I have been able to do most of what I set out to do. I am sure I had some wonderful, crazy ambitions in college to take a month’s road trip around Europe, but I have ultimately been satisfied with a week’s trip here and there. The one thing, right now, that I would love to do is teach college abroad for a year or two. I loved living abroad in college, and I want that experience again before I settle down in my adult life. The trick will be timing – when exactly to do this in the never-ending process of obtaining a PhD.
It could seem that things have gone smoothly for you – straight from college to a graduate program with teaching opportunities on the side.  But there are challenges on every post-collegiate path – can you share some of yours

Tawnya, with fellow graduate school scholars, enjoying the District's signature cherry blossom season


I would say that graduate school itself has been a great challenge, as it is for most people, but especially because I have been completely unfunded from day one. The biggest challenge for me has been achieving that desire to support myself while going to graduate school full time. Now it has evolved into balancing the desire to teach a full load and to make progress on my graduate work. At the moment, this is further complicated by the fact that I am receiving little support or guidance from my advisers. I am proud of what I have accomplished so far, but as I enter the dissertation-writing stage of my program, I am more than a little anxious about the challenges to come.
Something tells me that you are more than up to the challenge!  Obviously strong planning and hard work have contributed to your success but do you have any examples of random happenstance that have helped bring you here?
When I began the graduate program, I was fairly confident in my ability to do scholarly work, but, as an unfunded student, there was no opportunity to try my hand at teaching. One day I received a fairly random email about an interview process for new M.A. holders – a teaching opportunity. I arrived to meet my future boss with no idea what I would do in the classroom. The fact that, despite my obvious inexperience and lack of preparation, he still gave me a job is a miracle. It was this opportunity that convinced me that I have chosen the right profession. After teaching for two semesters, I had an “aha” moment when I realized that I would love nothing better than teaching at the college level.

Last week, when I interviewed Sara, she shared a couple books that inspired her own writing.  As the resident literary expert and book buff, is there a book that you think encapsulates the post-collegiate experience?

This is going to sound weird, but I often think of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim when I think of my own post-collegiate life. Officially trained for one career, Kim ends up in an entirely different role which, although exciting and rewarding, threatens to compromise his true nature and his path to a higher calling. I realize that there are many books about newly graduated people facing a new, “real” world, but Kim is the novel which, for me, speaks to the fundamental compromises we all make upon entering adulthood.

Tawnya and I, in an obligatory roommate photo at a recent luau-themed soiree

My gratitude for Tawnya for taking time out of her ridiculously busy schedule to share all this with the blog (I guess I owe her a dinner now…)  Interested in more graduate student advice?  Feel free to leave additional questions in the comments section and I’ll be sure that Tawnya answers them!

Friday Frivolity: Staying Positive with Jesse

Another fabulous Friday!  I’m thrilled because I’m slipping out of work a little early today to head down to my former home, the charming and delightful Lynchburg, Virginia, to spend the weekend with some friends, see a show by Endstation Theatre, and enjoy a little respite from city living.

Before I leave you for familiar faces and simple pleasures, I wanted to share a Funny or Die video that was sent to me that I love.  Scott Gairdner does an absolutely wicked Jesse Eisenberg imitation and in this video, gives us a taste of what kind of advice Jesse would give to preteen girls.

Although I’m no longer a preteen (praise be to the deity or non-deity of your choice!), I’ve enjoyed imagining what kind of advice Jesse would give me in my day to day life.  Perhaps I need a little bit of his obtuse, curt advice because I know he would respect me too much to coddle me.

Sadly, I can’t embed the video, so jump over here to check it out and have a great weekend!