A Little Research Goes a Long Way

I know people have been asking you this since you squeaked out your first words, and you’re probably sick to death of hearing it, but what do you want to be when you grow up? Any idea?

I wanted to do two things, Sunshine: I wanted to write, and I wanted to work in criminal profiling and research violent crimes.  They both seemed like the ideal career paths for me. I mean, I wrote all through my teens and early 20s (and then just gave up hope on everything for a good 10 years before trying to give it another go). And I’ve been reading true murder novels ever since I stole my first one from my mother’s bedside table in the 5th grade.

So, in my mid-20s I decided to go back to school and start working towards that whole profiling and research career. I studied Criminology (got my BA.H in that one) and Psychology (my second degree, just a BA), worked as a research assistant for a while, and obsessively read books and papers on murderers. I talked to a professor who was a former RCMP officer (those police officers in Canada that the rest of the world seems to think rides horses all day while they wear bright red jackets and doofy hats), and he told me all the steps I needed to get into the RCMP for a research position.

Dumbest fucking move ever.

You see, he hadn’t been an RCMP officer for a while now. Things change over time, like the qualifications for different positions. He told me I just needed my BA.H in a social science, preferably something where I studied crime (hence the Criminology), and a background in research. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

One simple Google search would’ve shut that down real freakin fast!

You see, in order to get the position I wanted, now you have to first BECOME an RCMP officer. Not only do I have no want or desire to do so, but my eyesight is bad enough that it disqualifies me from the position. Like, it is impossible for me to ever get this job, ever.

If I had realized this while I was still in school, there is a metric crapload of stuff I would’ve done differently. For starters, I would’ve done a little bit more research into what jobs my damn degree qualified me for. I would’ve gone for more career counseling, volunteered with different organizations, looked into addition certificates and courses to help me out. I would’ve switched to a double major in something else, got a minor or two to fall back on. Maybe even got a part-time job to fall back on once I was out of school (but that’s a whole other post).

As it stands, I have two degrees I got specifically to get me a job I can never have. They don’t qualify me for much specifically in the town I live in. I work customer service in a ‘spirits dispensary’ who would prefer I don’t name them in blog postings. I have tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt from those degrees, plus credit card bills falling out my ass crack from trying to live on 4 hours work a week for months without falling behind in my rent and other bills. And I have to pay this all off with the CSR wages I’m making now, NOT the profiling and research job and salary I had been working towards.

And this was all totally preventable if I had just sucked it up and done a bit more research.

So, as I say way too much to be healthy for my self-esteem, don’t wind up like me. Do a little work towards the work you want to do.

Check Out the Education Qualifications

If you have a job or career in mind, know what you need to get in order to get hired. You wouldn’t expect to just show up on a movie set one day and say, “I’ve never acted, written, produced, or directed in my life, and I have a degree in forensic science. Let me direct your next big budget movie”, and to actually get the job. Some places or careers require schooling, while others prefer you get experience for yourself.

Want to be a teacher? Find out how much schooling you need for that, what courses and majors you need, how many years you’ll be in school. Want to write? You could go to school for creative writing, or you could just write constantly. Neither one is wrong, but they’ll both take you down different paths. Same goes for other creative pursuits. You may be better off just creating content than getting formal school sometimes, while in some situations an education might give you that little something extra that could land you a position.

Have a Company or Position in Mind?

Study and use LinkedIn like it’s your lover: learn it inside and out, make it the best it can be, make it feel appreciated and wanted. LinkedIn can help you get an in with a company, meet people working there, find out more about the company’s culture.

Most businesses have a website these days too. Ever think to look at it? You can learn a shit-tonne from half an hour browsing a company’s website. Find out what they do, their mission statement, who works in positions you’re interested in, who is in charge of hiring.

Find Out Every Step Needed to Get That Job

I knew I needed to get that honours degree. I had no idea I needed to become an actual RCMP officer, which I physically can’t do. A lot of people see that you need to become an officer before moving on to a different job and give up altogether. They’d rather not spend 5 years working in a remote northern community, far from home and everything they love, dealing with criminals and violence and such, to get a desk job doing research. Hell, even if my eyesight didn’t disqualify me from the job, I probably wouldn’t have gone for the officer position anyway. I was just over 30 years old (and still am, btw) competing with people in their early 20s for a physically demanding position, which I am in no physical shape to hold. I’m a desk job person, not chasing perps through vacant lots and hopping tall fences kind of gal.

There are a gazillion different things that a job could require from you that could wind up being a dealbreaker. Believe me, it’s better to know what these are before you throw down $60,000 in borrowed money for a degree that is going to do you no good once you’ve realized you can never get the job you were getting that degree for.

Basically, you need to go and power up The Googles, as my mother calls it. Start researching shit. Look into the jobs you want, the companies you want to work for, the schooling you’re doing, the people you admire. See if what you want is even feasible, and see if it’s something you can definitely be in for the long-haul.

Don’t wind up like me, Sunshine. I kinda love-hate my job most days. It would be great if not for the crushing debt of the schooling and living I did over the last 10 years. I could make a living off of it if I didn’t have all these damn bills.  Make sure you don’t make the same mistakes as me, Sunshine. Do your damn research. Plan shit for the future.

It’s Impossible to Schedule!!!!!

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things I absolutely love about my job. I have a bunch of regular customers who are awesome-sauce. My co-workers (for the most part) are like family now. It’s close enough that I can walk there.

I just wish I had a real schedule!

Does anyone else out there have this problem?

Take today, for instance. Last week, I was scheduled for the 4:15-9:15 closing shift for tonight. Over the weekend, that shift was changed to 12-5. Last night, our assistant manager noticed that we only have two people working in the morning for an almost one dozen skid delivery, and my shift was changed to 9-2. Mind you, this change happened around 8:45 (when we close at 9pm). Then, while I was making my dinner after work last night around 9:45, the assistant manager texts me and changes my shift AGAIN to 9-5:30pm.

Even when I get my schedule, I can’t make any real plans. I had to remind my boss a dozen times that I couldn’t work last Wednesday morning (got a closing shift instead) because I finally got a doctor’s appointment and couldn’t cancel again. I’ve had to cancel plans so many times the last few months, because the schedule changes so often and I have no real control over it.

And this is the time of year when I pick up most of my hours. In the winter, it’s so dead that I’m lucky to get 4 hours a week sometimes. Right now, I’m doing 25-30 hours a week (which still isn’t ideal, but it’s something while I look for a permanent job). So if the schedule changes and I already have plans, I can’t just give up a shift to keep my plans. I can’t afford that at all right now.

And I’m on closing shifts almost exclusively. Today, I picked up a morning shift (which I love!!!!). Next week is all closings. The following week I get one 3-8 and the rest are closings: same with the week after that. I wouldn’t really care, except I’m up around 5am every day when the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend has to get up for work. There are days when I’ve already put in a 12 hour day of writing, cleaning, running errands, moving furniture, job hunting, and then more cleaning before I even leave for work. And then, by the time I get home, I have maybe 45 minutes (if I can bum a ride home from a co-worker; otherwise, it’s more like 15 minutes) to make and eat dinner, have a glass of wine to relax, wash my face, brush my teeth, feed and pet the cat, clean up the kitchen at the end of the day, check my emails, make lunches for the next day, and get to bed so I can be up again bright and early the next morning. Weeks that I work just closing shifts, I’m lucky to get 4-5 hours sleep some nights, and then can’t fall back asleep in the morning to save my life.

So Sunshine, is your work schedule driving you crazy? Crazy enough that you can’t even blog properly because you never know when you’ll be home, so you wind up with a notebook full of ideas but no time to type them (I hear that’s common).

Drop me a line, leave a comment, tell me your scheduling nightmares. Let’s all share the miserym so it’s a little easier to get through!

What You’ll Hear While Job Hunting

Well Sunshine, my job hunt continues. Yes, I still have my part-time job, but that is TOTALLY not paying the bills. This week, I was scheduled for a grand total of ZERO hours. Next week, I’m lucky enough to get 8 hours. And the following week….. it’s back down to zero. Pretty sad, eh? If it wasn’t for my tax return, I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent and bills this month, and that scares me. I’ve been trying so had to pick up shifts, or find something a little more….. well, career-like.

But, that’s the way things go for me right now. And boy, do people have opinions on all of that!  Out of curiosity, I asked a question on Facebook the other day: if you could picture me in any job, any career, any profession, what would it be?

Of course, there were a few joke answers on there (otherwise, I would SO totally be a new Spice Girl), and a few “do X, so I can live vicariously through you” replies. Nothing earth shattering, nothing really out of the ordinary. Until, I called my mother.

Holy jumping jackrabbit turds, was she pissed at the answers I got!

“A Spice Girl? How the hell is that supposed to help you? And a hard-hitting journalist? You’re too old to start getting into something like that! What the hell is wrong with people?!?!?!”

These people were just offering suggestions. And to be honest, the journalist one really intrigued me. Coming out of high school, I had wanted to go to journalism school and travel the world writing about conflict and social justice issues.

But, everyone has an opinion on what you should be doing during your job hunt. And, at least to them, everyone’s opinion is right. You’ll hear the same things over and over again, just phrased differently.

“Well if you’re looking for a job, I hear McDonald’s/Burger King/7-11 is hiring. Go there if you’re desperate.”

You know what? I have. And you know what else? I didn’t get the job there. There are enough people who are students, or who have been working these jobs since high school and have years of experience, or who have certain qualifications that I don’t have that are applying for these jobs, that most of our resumes won’t even get a second glance.

And some people just don’t get that. They think that, because you are willing to work, you can just walk out your front door and find any job. Must be nice living in their strange little realities, eh?

“What the hell are you applying at McDonald’s/Burger King/7-11 for? Didn’t you just spend all those years in school getting a damn degree?”

Oddly, I find it’s the same damn people asking the first question that ask this one too. Admit it, if you went into post secondary schooling at any level, you had a small army of people (family members, guidance counsellors, TV personalities, teachers………) telling you that you needed to keep going to school, or else you would wind up working at some sort of “McJob”.

Well, we all went to school like they said. And you know what? A whole damn lot of us STILL need to get these McJobs just to pay the bills. Yes, we have degrees, diplomas, certificates, and hours of training in various things. But you can’t just show your landlord your degree and expect them to let you live there for free. We need money to pay bills, and jobs to make money.

Still, there are people out there who think that, because you went to school, you shouldn’t NEED to work one of these jobs that they look down on. You have an education!  You’re above that!

Except we’re not. There are a lot of us who will wind up in these jobs, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

“So you didn’t apply at McDonald’s/Burger King/7-11? What, you think you’re too good for a job in a place like that?”

This is something I’ve heard at least a hundred times now. Personally, there are some jobs that I will not apply for. It’s not because I think I’m above them, or I’m too good for them, or that they’re shit jobs. There are certain jobs I don’t apply for because I know I would be shitty at them.

I know for a fact that I make a horrible janitor. I worked as one a few summers ago, and was let go after only four shifts. I can mop floors, and sweep, and wash windows just find. But I was dealing with puke, and moldy food, and an allergic reaction to a cleaning chemical. I was probably just the worst person anyone could ever hire for that job. So now I know not ti apply for janitorial jobs at all.

You know yourself, there are some jobs that you know you just can’t do well. Some people can’t work an assembly line job, or an office job, or a groundskeeping job. If you know you’ll be shitty at it, and most likely get fired for not being able to do your job, then why apply?  Taking the time to apply for that job just takes away time from aply for jobs you’d actually be good at.

“You know, it’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know!”

That’s great. Well, I know you. What are you doing to help me find a job?

In the last few weeks, I have had this stupid phrase uttered to me dozens of times, by dozens of well-meaning people. How many of them have actually tried to help me so far? One. Just one. She’s my boyfriend’s mom, and I’ve never even met her in person. But she asked some friends and family in the area, and found somewhere that may be hiring soon, told me who to ask for there, and told them a bit about me. The other 20+ people who have said this to me have done NOTHING to help, even when I asked.

And I know what some of you are thinking: well it’s not their job to find a job for you. And you’re right, it’s not. But if someone is going to say something like this, then they should be willing to help you in some way. I myself do not have a lot of networking contacts locally that I can put friends in touch with. But I have gone to enough resume and cover letter workshops, read resume books, and attended mock interviewss to be of some sort of help to people.

“Any luck with the job hunt?”

Again, I know some people are just trying to be nice and make pleasant conversation. But if I did have any luck lately, would I still be job hunting?

“Back in my day……….”

These are the worst. Honestly, if one of your older relatives starts his or her advice with “back in my day” or “when I was young”, just start singing songs in your head and nod your head from time to time so they think you’re listening. Then, when they finally zip their damn yappers, just say something like, “I’ll keep that in mind, thanks for the advice”.

You see, back in the day here, you could finish high school and just walk into one of the car plants or the shops that supply the plants, and get a job. I have quite a few relatives and family friends who did just that. If that wasn’t your thing, then you went out for a few days with some resumes, passed them out to a few dozen places, and waited for them to call you.

Nowadays, to even be considered for the car plant here as a Temporary Part-Time worker, you have to be a full time college or university student. And even then, there are dozens of rules about how many hours you can work, and you get cut off after a certain age. The same opportunities aren’t around. Most places won’t even look at a paper resume: you have to apply through email or their website. Job hunting is at least 80% online now. Even the local newspaper here isn’t much help. I can remember when I fininshed high school, and you could just walk through the mall looking for “Help Wanted” signs, or check the classified section of the newspaper. Now the classifed section is maybe 8 ads on a good day, and you have to go through the mall’s website, which takes you to the websites for stores that are hiring, and apply through there.

Pounding the pavement to get a job just isn’t done anymore. But you’ll still hear older people tell you to “just get out there, pound the pavement, put your resume out there.” Of course, these are the same people who type with 4 fingers and call to ask you how use The Googles.

“Well why don’t you just go back to school. Take something practical.”

I wish it were that easy! With my degree and experience, I would love to be able to afford to go back to college, maybe get into the Paralegal program. But the almost $60,000 in student loan debt I have is kinda stopping me.

Retraining and getting more schooling is damn expensive these days. You used to be able to work part-time all year and afford to pay off your tuition. These days, unless you’re lucky and either have a damn good job already or get a metric butload of scholarships, you can forget about that. Tuition is so damn expensive, it’s out of reach for a lot of people. And even if you can afford to go back, what do you take? The job markets are so saturated these days, you need experience more than education to break into pretty much anything.

 

 

Basically, everyone has a damn opinion on why you haven’t found a job yet, and they’re all experts in giving job hunting advice. At least, they all think so. You are going to hear the same crap over and over and over, no matter how little any of it helps you.

Don’t let it get you down though, Sunshine. These people, for the most part, mean well. They honestly think they are helping you. Try not to focus too much on them. Nod your head, thank them for their advice, and you do what you need to do to get yourself out there. Focus on the people who are actually helpful, the ones who give you a little hope that there is a job out there just waiting for you to apply. These are the people, the diamonds in the rough, that will be there when your nerves are shot, you just want to curl up in a ball and cry, and you feel like the world’s biggest failure. These are the people who will cheer you up, hug you, let you vent, help you figure out your next step, and will never once say, “You know, when I was a lad we pounded the pavement for days looking for work” when you’ve been looking for a real job for months. These are the people to keep close.

Happy hunting Sunshine!

 

Job Search Frustrations

My hours at work have been…… well…. pathetic. I was lucky to get called in for an extra shift this week, bringing my total hours for the week up to 9. Yes, you read that right, NINE whole hours this week. My paychecks are so tiny, I’ve had to dip into my meager savings just to pay rent. So, once again, I’m looking for a job.

Now, a little background for my newer readers: I’m actually an adult woman (in my 30s), with a lot of education. So far I have a BA(H) in Criminology, and am doing the paperwork to try and get my BA in Psychology. I have a Certificate of Office Administration, certification in Microsoft Word and Excel, and a bunch of job experience. I’ve worked offices, research labs, volunteer office work, and customer service. I’m polite, cheerful, professional, and can create the most complex organizational schematics you could ever need to keep all of your responsibilities in check. I don’t miss deadlines, I don’t mess around on company time, and I don’t slack off when stuff needs to be done.

And I just keep getting shit on.

Looking for a job today ain’t like it was for your folks, Sunshine. In this town, when my parents were in high school, you didn’t even need to finish high school to get into the local car plant. Most people just assumed they’d leave or finish school, and just get a job in one of the plants. Today, IF you’re lucky and IF they have enough Temp Part-Time positions available, you MAY get in part-time but ONLY if you’re a college or university student in good standing, taking full-time classes. And even then, you’re not guaranteed to be kept on the whole time you’re in school. There is actually an age limit on how old you can be in this program. So if you don’t jump right into schooling right out of high school and land one of these jobs, you’re screwed.

Back in those days, you put on your nice shoes and “pounded the pavement” to get your resume out there.

“Well, all you need is to get yourself out there! Go inside, introduce yourself. Hand in your resume in person. Get out from behind the computer and make yourself known!”

Any idea how sick to death I am of hearing that?

Where I work my VERY part-time job, we don’t take paper resumes. Like, at all. It doesn’t matter how nice you are, or how presentable you are, or how badly you need a job. Everything is done online now. You go to our website, follow the links, fill out some forms, and submit a resume. The only way you EVER get to see anyone face to face is, after all that, you get called in for an interview.

And we’re not the only ones who do that. EVERYONE is like that now.

“Get out from behind that computer! Go introduce yourself!”

Or why don’t you do something a little more helpful, Kind Elderly Relative, like getting me a job, or shutting the hell up?

I’d say that around 80% of my actual job search is online these days. I have a bunch of sites bookmarked that I check at least once a day for new postings: job search sites, company websites, government websites, temp agencies……..

“Don’t just check the agency’s site. Just go sign up with them. They’ll get you a job right away!”

Really? Because I’ve been signed up with FIVE agencies for a little more than a year now. One got me a six week gig a little over a year ago, and not one has found anything for me since then.

“Well then, maybe you just need a little more training. Go take some classes, upgrade your skills.”

What a great idea!  I’m just going to go out to the Education Tree and pull some of that free knowledge down for myself! Honestly, even using free websites like Coursera, you can’t get all the training you need without shelling out some serious cash. And all that education I already have? Well honey, it sure as hell wasn’t free.

Still, I’ve gone out for more training. I’ve signed up with government agencies that help the unemployed, I’ve taken their classes. I’ve gone to resume workshops, typing classes, Microsoft upgrading seminars, mock interviews……. I’ve done it all! And now, I can type up one hell of a resume that no one will read, and practice for all the interviews I won’t get!

“Maybe if you’d stop sitting around at your computer, complaining and being lazy, you’d have a job by now.”

My job search is not a fun hobby. NO ONE’S job search is fun! On top of my part-time job, I put in anywhere from 20-50 hours a week just in my job search. That’s time spent looking through websites, personalizing cover letters, writing emails, and tailoring my resume to positions. I go to job fairs, networking events, and free classes and seminars at local schools. I do online free courses in things like Conflict Resolution and Basic Accounting to fill in holes in my training. I am NOT sitting behind a desk, marathoning Netflix and eating Cheesies while I whine about being broke.

And neither are the majority of people out there in my same position.

Yes, we all have our times when it just overwhelms us and we need a break. There are days, or even weeks, where there’s just no new postings out there to apply to. There are the weeks you get 7 interviews, and are driving or bussing all over town. Then there are the weeks where you’d give anything just to hear the phone ring.

My darling Sunshines, you are not alone in this search. I know it seems like everyone out there has a job, and advice, and opinions, and they all want to help, even if that “helping” just makes things worse. I know what it’s like to have no one around who really understands what it’s like to spend 9 hours typing cover letters and researching positions, just to have people look at you like you’ve done nothing all day. I know the loneliness, the despair, the feeling like there must be something wrong with you because no one out there seems to want you.

So just know that you’re not alone in all of this. I’m here, and there are plenty more of us out there too. Just keep on shining, and someday maybe we can all blog about how great things are for us, and how these tough times made it all possible.

Finding Your Faults

I know, no one wants to admit to themselves that they’re not perfect. I mean, we all know that nobody is perfect (oh god, please don’t let my sister know I just wrote that. I swear Tara, you ARE perfect! Please don’t be mad at me!). It’s just a part of being human, I guess.

We all have our faults, and most people try to ignore them. In my experience and observations, that just leads to a lot of denial and fights. Having faults is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s something we all need to recognize and embrace, for a number of reasons.

Have you ever been in a job interview, and the interviewer asked what your biggest strengths and weaknesses are? I know that conventional wisdom (and most job counsellors) will tell you that you need to choose a weakness that emphasizes your strength. For example,  my biggest strength is my ridiculous organization abilities. At one point in university, I had a multi-calendar colour-coded system for keeping track of all of my classes, volunteering, and jobs. It was really quite extensive, and impressive. I always bring that up to show that I can handle as much my bosses want to throw at me without missing a deadline. the job counsellors I saw said to say that my biggest weakness was that I tend to take on too much responsibility. However, thanks to my superior organizational skills, I am able to handle as much as they want to throw at me.

Is that really my biggest fault though?

For job hunting purposes, I say it is. You never want to answer that question with “I have no faults”, or “I can’t think of any faults”. Not only do you look like an conceited asshat, but it shows something about you that no one wants in an employee: you think you can do no wrong, so wrong must be done by everyone else.

Now, this isn’t exclusive to job hunting and interviews. We all have faults in our every day lives. Now these faults aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but they’re something you need to acknowledge, like your whole life is a job interview.

Case in point: you all know that my roommate and I were in a relationship for quite a few years, and broke up last year. Right now, we’re great friends. We can hang out, and tease each other about our faults, and about how everything went to hell in a handbasket between us. Before the breakup, though, was a whole different story.

Before the breakup, it was constant fights. Neither one of us ever wanted to admit to our faults, and they kept coming out in full force to butt heads. After the breakup, when we were forced to confront what it was that came between us (besides the obvious fact that we have absolutely nothing in common and hold completely different values and visions of our futures). That is where knowing and acknowledging your faults comes into play.

He has a serious problem with communication. When something or someone bothers me, or pisses me off, or just generally upsets me, I speak up. Letting people get away with behaviours that bother you without letting them know how they affect you is a lot like faking an orgasm: you’re just reinforcing their bad behaviour, so they keep doing the same thing that isn’t working for you, over and over and over, no matter how little it works for you or how little you like it. While it might make them feel good about themselves, it does absolutely nothing for you, and leaves you feeling unfulfilled and upset.

Now my ex didn’t share this view. I would flat out tell him if he was doing something that was bothering me. He, on the other hand, wouldn’t say shit if begged him too. Seriously, I flat out asked him dozens of times “What is it that I’m doing that bothers you, so I know for future reference”. It wasn’t until AFTER we broke up that he unloaded all of that crap on me. The one and only time he ever actually said anything to me, I tried to explain (not excuse) my behaviour to him, so that he would understand why it is I do the things I do. He saw it as an attack on him for finding fault in me, instead of an attempt to work towards fixing a problem between us, and clammed up.

Now that we’ve broken up and are seeing other people (he has a really sweet girlfriend I’ve friended on Facebook and talked to a bunch of times, and I struck gold with possibly the most caring and amazing man to ever exist), we can look at the things we did wrong with us, and find our faults. He knows that communication was a big problem with us, and is actively working to be more open and understanding in his new relationship. Both of us know that we have a problem with the way we argue subjects that are important to us, and we both act like our opinion is the only one that matters. This is something that I’ve been looking into within myself, and am trying really hard to work on.

Finding and admitting to our faults is not an easy thing, but it’s an essential part of life. There is no way you can grow as a person, without looking at what is holding you back from your growth. I know that I have a real problem with motivation. You’ve probably noticed that I go long periods without posting on here. I have notebooks filled with post ideas, research, and rough drafts of ideas. I have every good intention of sitting down at my computer and just typing on here for hours upon hours, setting up post after post to be posted for weeks on end. But as soon as I sit down….. well there’s Facebook, and Tumblr, and Jenna Marbles on YouTube, and random articles on BuzzFeed………… the next thing I know, hours have passed, and I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing.

Thing is, I can recognize that this is a problem for me. Today, I sat down, threw on a random SOAD playlist, turned off Facebook (but kept Tumblr up because… reasons), and decided to do some research and actually type something today. Sure, it’s not much so far, but it’s a start. It’s something I can admit is a fault, and something I can now work on.

So, Sunshine, knowing your faults is a GOOD thing. You need to know what it is that holds you back, so you can work on yourself and push yourself forward. You will always have faults, and you need to own them. You need to take that fault by the nards, look it in the eye, and say “I know you’re screwing with my life, and it’s going to stop NOW.”

And on that note, I am done my non-procrastination for the day. That amazing man I mentioned is here for a visit tonight, and I’m going to introduce him to the amazing world of Jenna Marbles and how to call in sick to jobs you don’t work at. So until next time Sunshine, keep on keeping on!

 

Resume Basics

So it’s not secret: you need a resume to apply for jobs. Back when I was in high school, you just went to the computer lab, plugged a bit of info into a resume template, and you were good to go.

Oh, if only life was still that simple.

In today’s economy, there may be hundreds or thousands of people apply to one position, meaning there is no way for hiring managers or HR personnel to read every single resume they receive. Some places use computer software to look for certain words or phrases. Some places take a quick browse through a group of resumes, pick the best ones, and toss the rest (so you’re competing against a group instead of everyone, which can really suck depending on whose resumes yours is between). Some quickly browse through all the resumes, looking for certain things to eliminate candidates, and certain things for picking the best potentials.

So how do you compete?

For starters, you need a damn good resume! You need to create something that will catch a prospective employer’s eye. You need something that not only emphasizes your best attributes in the working world, but shows how you would be a perfect fit for that specific company.

So, you know, no pressure or anything.

It sounds like a daunting task, but once you learn how to create a resume, it’s easy to make one that you can proudly hand out.

Don’t Use A Template

I know, it’s so much easier to just plug in your information in a bunch of pre-chosen spaces, in a nicely formatted template. Don’t though! If you make one tiny little change in your resume that doesn’t follow perfectly with the template (add an extra previous employer, or a bunch of volunteer work, or a second contact phone number), you could screw up the formatting of the entire document. Suddenly, that nice and pretty one page resume of yours is three pages long, with dates not lining up with experience, and contact info all over the place.

Also, if you’re applying for a job that requires you to use Microsoft Word, using a template could very well be one of the things that eliminates you from the running for that job. There is a little button in Word that looks like a wonky backwards P. That button shows all the “non-printing characters”. In other words, it shows your key strokes. So if you try to say that you are quite proficient in Word, and then they see that you can’t even format a resume without using a template (because they pushed that button while looking at the resume you emailed them), your resume gets tossed right in the recycling.

Also, templates don’t always translate well to PDF format. Now, while you shouldn’t be creating and formatting your resume in PDF anyway, some companies require you to send it in that format. If you create it in Word and then create a PDF file of it, some templates will throw the document’s formatting all out of whack.

Don’t Use an Objective

Everyone already knows what your object is: to find a damn job! Putting in an objective just takes up valuable space that you could be using to brag about how awesome you would be in the position you’re applying for. Also, if you’re applying for multiple jobs at a time, then personalizing your objective to each and every one of them is just way too time consuming to deal with.

Use Words From the Job Description

Remember that computer software I mentioned that looks for key words? Well, a lot of those words come from the job description! Sometimes there are very important things that a company is looking for in a potential new hire, and if you have those things, your resume needs to show that. If they need a bilingual employee who also has Advanced Microsoft Certification and 4 years of Human Resources experience, and you have all of that, then it damn well better be in your resume! They are not going to know that you’re the perfect candidate for the job if you don’t tell them.

It’s not just requirements that you need to look at though. Look at the language and wording they use. You should try to mimic that. If you say you are an exceptional customer service rep, and they say they want an dynamic customer service rep, then you’re not on the same page. Mirroring their language shows that you would already fit right in with the company.

Use Bullets, Not Paragraphs

Again, they could be getting hundreds of resumes for one job. No one is going to sit down and read what looks like a short story with some contact info on the top. You need to be direct and to the point with your skills and qualifications, and bullet points are the way to do this.

Don’t Lie

If you’re not bilingual, don’t say that you are. If it took you 6 years to get your degree and you were maybe an average student, don’t say that it took you 4 years and you were on the Dean’s Honour Roll every year. If you’ve never worked a day of your life in customer service, don’t say that you have. When you’re writing your resume, you should be like Shakira’s hips: don’t lie. Don’t even try to stretch the truth. If you’re not qualified for a job, then don’t pretend that you are. If you want that job so badly, talk to someone in the company and ask what you need to do to get that job. It may mean taking classes, volunteering, or getting expensive certification, but it’s a hell of a lot better than lying about already having these things. Remember, people who lie on their resumes, even if they do get hired, get caught eventually.

Proofread

I like to read things like Failbook, and Monday Thru Friday, and pretty much anything else that’s part of the whole Cheezeburger network of funny sites. I can remember seeing a post on there more than a year ago, where a guy posted a picture of part of his resume online. He had passed it out to a bunch of companies already, after asking a friend to proofread it. His friend assumed he would read through it again before sending it out, and as a joke added “excessive masturbation” to his “Skills” section. Well he didn’t proofread it, and it was sent out to a bunch of companies with that in it. And no, he didn’t get any interviews from them.

As funny as that is, not proofreading your resume is one of the worst things you can do. Spelling and grammar mistakes are one of the things companies look for to eliminate resumes from their pile. If they have 500 resumes for a receptionist position, they’re not going to call back anyone who claims they would be a “grate resepshionist”. It’s not just obvious mistakes you should be looking for, either. Look for any little thing that could be wrong. Even an extra space or a missed period could be fatal to your job prospects. Remember, it’s ridiculously competitive out there. Don’t let a stupid mistake kill your chances.

Don’t Try to Be Cute

Repeat after me: I am not Elle Woods. I will not print my resume on coloured paper. I will not spray my resume with perfume. I will not put doodles, clip art, or my picture in my resume.

Your resume is a formal document. If you’re applying for a job in a creative field, then create an entirely separate document to show off your creativity. Send in work samples, or a link to your website. Some web sites out there recommend showing off your creative side in your resume. But there are so many businesses out there that will not take you seriously if you do that. It’s better to play on the safe side, send your creativity separate from your work experience, and leave your resume as professional as possible.

 

So, now you know what NOT to do with your resume. But what exactly do you actually DO want in it? Well the fine folks at Owl Purdue have a resume workshop up on their website that shows you what basic info you need on your resume. While I would trust them with my life when it comes to formatting documents in MLA vs. APA formatting, I’m a little wary of their resume advice. For starters, they recommend using an objective. Aside from that, they do have some great advice if you’re really stuck.

Another suggestion is to LOOK at resume templates, just don’t use them. A lot of templates have great titles and sections, and show you what you need to fill in for them. You can use these as a guide, to help you get all the basics in.

Also, Google is your new best friend. Try “resume tips” or “resume help”. There are thousands of sites out there with advice on how to format your resume.

As for the basics, there are some things you should get together before starting. They are:

  • Name, address, contact info. If you don’t have a Gmail account, get one. And make sure your email (and your voicemail message) is professional sounding.
  • Your prior work experience. Write down you past employers, your job titles, the dates you worked for them, and all of your responsibilities. You may not need all of this info for your basic resume, but having it all together makes personalizing your resume for different jobs a hell of a lot easier.
  • Do the same thing for your volunteer experience.
  • Education. Write down where you went to school, or where you are going to school, the dates you went there or your expected graduation date.
  • Contact information. You generally don’t put that on your resume, but while you’re going through your work and volunteer experience, it’s easy to pick out who to contact from each place.

So that is the very basics you will need to get started. Good luck with the writing, and good luck with the job hunt, sunshine!

Professional Wardrobe Basics for Women

After the first month of first year, no one dresses up for classes anymore. It’s all just sweats, jeans, sweatshirts, and anything comfortable you can get your hands on. So half of your wardrobe ended up being full of the most comfortable clothes you could find.

The other half of your wardrobe ended up being the more “speciality” stuff. You had your clothes for going out drinking with friends. You had your party clothes. You had your one nice outfit to wear to events with your family. There were dresses for formal events, dresses for sorority events, your one nice pair of dress pants for presentations and job interviews, costumes for Halloween and themed parties, a onesie to wear to sleepovers for girls night, and every free t-shirt you’d collected since starting school.

Now, from all of this, what can you wear in a professional setting?

Yes, you have your interview outfit. You may even have two or three office appropriate outfits you can wear. But what happens when you land an internship, or get an interview for a job you really want, or get a position in student government that requires formal meetings with officials from other schools? If you’re not prepared, you wind up making a mad dash to the mall, buying whatever you can find that will work, and usually spending way too much.

And even if you wind up avoiding all of this while you’re a student, what happens when you’re looking for a job after graduation? No matter if you’re applying to be a secretary, or a graduate student, or a pipe fitter, or a human resources manager, you need clothes for interviews and office settings.

So what are the basics you should grab?

Where To Spend

First off, look at what you will get the most use out of. It makes more sense to spend more on items that will last longer if they are things you can wear for years. A few pairs of good dress pants in black, grey, brown and/or navy blue will last you quite a while.

Blazers are another thing you can spend a bit more on. Stay away from anything too trendy (shoulder pads, giant glittery buttons, bright contrasting lapels, etc). If you want a trendy blazer, then buy it cheap or used. A good classic black blazer can make almost anything look professional.

Skirts are another thing you can spend a bit more on, if you buy classic pieces. I like to make sure I have one black pencil skirt, one grey pencil skirt, and a grey flared skirt in my closet.  Any other skirts, I get for cheap.

The last things you should really invest well in are your purse and your shoes. You need things that look put together, not trendy, and that will last. You don’t want to buy a cheap purse, only to have it fall apart in an interview a month later. The same goes for shoes. You need a few pairs (flats and heels), so don’t go too crazy spending on them. But don’t just buy the cheapest ones you can find either.

Basically, anything you will be spending a good chunk of money on needs to be something you can wear again and again. Don’t go out throwing money down on trendy pieces, bright colours, flashy things, or big jewellery. You want things that are classic, that pretty much anyone would wear. You want the basics. Pants, skirts, shoes, blazers, purse, all in neutral muted colours. This way, you’re not dropping money on new pants every few months, and you can mix pretty much anything with basics.

What To Save On

This is where you can have some fun with your look. I worked with a woman who always wore black or navy pants or skirts, but had on the brightest, most patterned blouses I’ve ever seen. It was easy enough for her to throw a cardigan or blazer over the blouse when she needed to tone down her look a bit, but she could also be as bright and shiny as she wanted to.

Blouses and shirts are the first thing you can skimp on and still look damn good. Styles change every year anyway, so it’s best not to spend too much on these items. Just don’t go too out-there, and know your audience. If you’re still applying for jobs and need interview clothes, tone it down a bit. You’ll need a basic white blouse, maybe a black one, and then get some colour that isn’t too loud. I like to stick with jewel-tones (deep purples, burgundy, deep blues, reds…… anything that looks like it could be found on an antique crown).

If you already have a job, or have been hired somewhere, take a look at what everyone else is wearing. You can still look like you, but you need to fit in a bit here too. If the office is more conservative, then tone down the brightness and patterns. Pinstripes are always a safe bet, as is argyle. If your office has a more relaxed vibe to it, then you can start breaking out the plaids, polka-dots, stripes, and more abstract prints.

Another thing you should skimp on a bit is cardigans. This is only because you can never have too many of them! I just did my annual closet cleaning for charity, and thanks to a combination of weight loss, garment damage, and things just being so out of style they can’t be worn in public anymore, I am down to just two cardigans: a roomy grey one, and a more fitted green argyle one.  So on my list (thankfully it’s near Christmas, and we just got a brand new Forever 21 in our local mall, so I can wait until my Christmas gift cards come in) are cardigans in black, grey, burgundy, bright red, and brown. I like to have one for every day of the week, and for every occasion.

And you should always try to save money on anything that goes under your clothes, but over your undergarments. Who needs to spend $80 on a pair of pantyhose? You and I both know they will last maybe a month, if you’re careful, before they rip and run. I found it’s always better to grab pantyhose at the drug store, where they’re not so cheap that they’re super poor quality, but they’re not so fancy that they cost you more than any other part of your outfit. Any sort of under-shirt, tank-top, camisole, or t-shirt that you wear under your blouse or sweater is the same. Unless it’s going to be seen by everyone, don’t spend a lot on it. I always wear a tank top under my blouse, just in case of buttons popping off. I also found a great place that sells tank tops for $3.50 each.

How To Save

This is where planning early comes into play. You need to keep your eye out at all times, but not in an obsessive sort of way. When you’re at the mall, check out stores that sell office attire. There is usually a clearance or sale section somewhere in the back. It’s always a good idea to check back there, see if there’s anything you need. I found a fantastic red dress that reminds me of Mad Men on clearance two years ago, that I still have and love. At 75% off, it was a steal! I like to throw a black cardigan over it, some black tights or pantyhose under it, and cute t-strap heels with it. Pearls (fake ones, of course) can dress up the look, a simple silver necklace with tiny hoops dresses it down, and my red and green bells makes it festive enough for an office Holiday Party!

It’s also good to check places often, like every time you’re at the mall. Let the employees there get to know you. And clearance sections are just the “what’s left” things in the store, so it’s often hard to find things in my size. Checking back often means there’s more of a chance of me finding something as it’s going into that section and there’s still some in my size, as opposed to me finding a rack full of things I can’t fit into but wish I could.

Another place to check out often is the nearest thrift stores and second-hand shops. People give away things that don’t fit them, that just need a little care (sew a seam or button), don’t fit their needs, or they just don’t wear. You can find some high quality pants and skirts there, if you just look. My favourite pair of dress pants are my grey pinstriped ones from Value Village, that were only $3 because the hem fell out of one pant leg!

Find Your Style

I never understood Pinterest until I had to work on my professional wardrobe. Need to know what’s in style? Need to know what to do with a cardigan? Want to wear polka-dots but don’t know how? Just look it up on there! I looked through my closet, found the styles and colours I gravitate to most, and then started looking them up on Pinterest. I have something like 130 pins in my Dream Closet board, most of it being work attire.

Women’s magazines, websites, fashion blogs…. the list of places to find a little inspiration for your style are seemingly endless. It’s all just a matter of finding what works best for you, sunshine.