Shit Advice for Your Job Search

Hey Sunshine, remember when I said your life is full of well-meaning people who want to give you well-meaning advice on every aspect of your life? One of the times they come out in full force is when you announce you’re looking for a job.

Everyone and their uncle come out of the woodwork to tell you what worked for them when they were looking for a job. It doesn’t matter if the last time they had to write a resume was in 1972, what worked for them should work for you! The thing is everything changes with the times. I’m sure your Uncle Howard looked sharp in his plaid suit, with his crisp one-page resume showing that he was fresh out of high school when he walked into the local department store or factory or whatever was the major employer back then. And sure, walking in off the street and asking to see the manager worked for him then. He got his entry level job and was able to stay there until retirement, slowly progressing his way higher up in the company until he was in charge of people.

Yeah, that doesn’t work anymore.

Even in the years I’ve been looking for work (on and off since I was 18), things have changed. I’ve been to dozens of resume workshops over the years, and just the changes in writing a resume are drastic. In high school, there was one format that everyone used because a streamlined resume made it easier for employers to find information. It was one page, with your name and info at the top, and a section called Objective where you explained why you were applying for a job. If you brought a resume like that into a workshop these days, they’d tear it to shreds.  Still, this is the way almost every well-meaning relative and family friend has told me to write my resume even to this day.

This is actually something we’ve talked about at length at quite a few job hunting workshops over the years. It seems everyone is somehow getting the exact same advice from people, who then get mad when you either don’t follow it or you do follow it and don’t get results. A bunch of us over the years talked about getting attitude from (or straight up yelled at by) someone who seems to think we lied to them about taking their advice because “if you really did do [xxx] then you would’ve found a job by now!”

But what exactly is this shit advice we’ve all gotten?

#1:”You don’t need the internet. You need to get out there and pound the pavement! Back in my day, you walked right into a place, asked to talk to the manager, and you shook their hand and gave them your resume. It helps them put a face to the name! You’ll never get a job just sitting around playing on that internet all day!”

When I was looking for a part-time job in high school, I walked through the mall with a folder full of my resume. I passed them out to every store that had a “help wanted” sign in the window, and eventually got a job at a mall kiosk.

Fast forward to four years ago, when I graduated from University with my first degree. I needed to pay rent and buy food, so I went back to the mall. No one takes paper resumes there anymore. Every sign in the window said, “apply at [jobs@storename.ca] or check our website”. The mall itself even has a page on its website telling you what stores are hiring, and where to email your resume. And this is just at the mall.

At the store where I work right now, all our hiring is done through corporate. You apply online, they do one massive day of interviews for all the stores in the area, and you wait to hear back from them. All of our job postings are done on the corporate website, and you apply online by filling out forms and uploading your resume. Still, we get an average of 3-4 people a week walking into our store with their resume, asking to speak to our manager. And every time, I have to tell them that they can only apply for jobs with us online.

#2: “Well even if they say to apply online, you need to show up there with your resume! They need to be able to put a face to the name. And showing up there with a copy of your resume after you applied online shows your dedication.”

Actually, when a company tells you to apply for positions with them online, showing up in person with a resume just shows that you don’t know how to follow even the most basic of instructions. They specifically ask that you fill out an application and submit your resume online, and leave it at that. Showing up in person shows that you can’t even do that. If you can’t follow instructions to get the job, then what would make them think you can follow instructions enough to do the job.

In a lot of cases, whoever you leave your resume with has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you get the job anyway. My manager has pretty much zero say in who we hire. All applications go through corporate. Two managers for the whole county interview every prospective employee, making notes and grading each applicant on certain criteria. Then, they sit down, divide the applicants up by what store they’re nearest to, and pick out the best employees for each store. My manager right now has no say in who we get at our store. The only thing he can do is, if someone worked seasonally for us before and is applying to us again, tell the hiring managers if he liked that employee or not.

My store isn’t unique in this either. The only time most managers, whether it’s a store or an office, get to see an applicant is if they’re chosen for an interview. For a lot of places, it’s not even that manager that gets to pick applicants: it all goes through algorithm software, corporate managers, and then the chosen ones end up on the manager’s desk. It’s only then that they would be able to ‘put a face to the name’. And from what a few friends in HR positions have told me if they have to interview someone who previously insisted on bringing in their resume in person, they toss the application as soon as the interview is done. Again, if an applicant can’t follow basic instructions to get a job, then what would make them think the applicant could follow directions on the job?

#3: “You just need a killer resume. Get a template to follow if you need to. It’s easy enough, just objective, education, work experience, and then references.”

This is so wrong these days. For starters, most people realize your objective for applying for a job as soon as you apply: you want to work there. You want a job, or else you wouldn’t be applying. You don’t need any of that “It’s my goal to use my 17 months of HR experience to further my career with…….” bullshit anymore. Yes, putting an objective in was THE thing to do for a very long time. No one reads them anymore. They just take up valuable space at the start of your resume and give those reading the resume a reason to toss it.

Second, stay away from just filling out templates!  Yes, you can use one as a guide. I have 4 or 5 different templates printed out and kept in a file folder at my desk. Different types of jobs or industries require different resumes, and it’s good to have a guide as to how that resume should be done. Don’t follow it step by step though, or just fill out a template. This is especially true if anywhere on your resume you mention being able to you Microsoft Word or any other word processing program. If you can use Word, then you should be able to create a resume pretty damn easily.

Resumes are more than just a list of your past jobs and education. Your resume is your own personal advertisement for yourself. It’s a marketing tool to show people what it is you can do, and what you can do for them. They don’t care for a list of your grade school and high school, or a list of your college and university courses. A job in a corporate office may not care that in 12th grade you worked as a line cook on weekends.

What do they want to know about? Your accomplishments, anything that shows that you can do the job you’re applying for. Can you spin your line cook job to show that you were willing to give up free time to work, that you showed extreme dedication to learning any and all new skills to advance your work, that you were able to work your way up from dishwasher to food prep to line cook despite being a full-time student and only being able to work nights and weekends? That’s the kind of things that make you look good. Showing up for a shitty job twice a week to flip pancakes for a few months is nothing. Unless you need to give a chronological list of past employment, or your past employment if only part-time student jobs, leave off what isn’t relevant to the job you’re applying for.

And while we’re at it, forget the references. I actually know someone who, on top of having the most shittily formatted resume I have ever seen, would also include a page of references (each one formatted differently), and 3 or 4 letters of reference from past employers and a family friend. He never updated any of this and used the same little resume package for everything he applied for. Yes, he was able to get jobs while he was using this package, but to be fair he got them despite this. He already had the job and just needed to formally apply. You don’t need to include references with your resume unless a job ad specifically asks you to. And forget the “References Available Upon Request” line. Every employer knows that if they request references, you’ll give them some.

#4: “Ok, well now that you have a resume, just spread it out there. Blanket the city with it. Apply to every job you can, put your resume in everywhere. Print stacks of it, mail it out to companies and ask if they’re hiring. Just get that resume out there.”

Ok, how about you don’t do that. First off, we already went over why you don’t apply with a printed resume to places that ask you to apply online. Same thing goes for mailing them a resume.

Secondly, you shouldn’t be applying to every single possible job out there with one resume. Remember a few paragraphs ago, when I said that different jobs need different resumes? Well, that means that different jobs need different resumes. You need a different resume depending on your past work experience, your education, the type of job you’re applying for, and to make sure the algorithm software chooses your resume.

I know, that sounds pretty messed up. Hear me out though.

If you have a lot of relevant experience in the field you’re applying to, then a chronological resume should work great for you. It can showcase that you’ve spent years working towards the position you’re applying to and that you have a growing knowledge in that field. Just be careful with this one: if you have any gaps in your employment history or made any major career changes, this is going to highlight that like your mother pointing out every calorie you’re eating at Thanksgiving dinner while telling you you’re looking “a little more Monroe-esque this year”.

If you don’t have a solid build-up to the exact job you’re applying for, you were out of work for periods of time, or you are applying for something in a new field, then go with the functional resume. This just emphasizes your skills instead of your past jobs. I’ve got education in office administration, psychology, criminology, women’s studies, and a bit of business. I’ve worked in offices, customer service, academic research, security, food services, and have volunteered in everything from fraternity parties to food banks to fundraising. There is no way laying that all out in chronological order would impress exactly no one.

You can combine both of these types together like I do. My resume starts out as a functional resume, but then just lists my past jobs and education. Above all, it needs to be tailored. Like I said, companies use computer programs and algorithms to sort through the hundreds of resumes they get. If you throw a basic resume out there, putting the same resume in for every job, the chances of that resume having the words those programs are looking far are pretty damn slim. You really need to be tailoring your resume to each job you apply to, pulling words from the job ad that match your experience.

How the hell are you going to tailor your resume to every job you apply to if you’re applying for every single job out there? Well, you don’t. You just don’t apply to every single job out there. Want to make a general food service/fast food resume and use that at every restaurant and fast food place in town? Go for it. Make a general resume tailored to a certain field if you’re going to send out mass applications. But you can’t just use one resume for everything though, and you can’t apply to every single job out there.

#5: “Oh you Millenials are just lazy! Why don’t you pry yourself away from that computer screen for a bit, go out there and network! It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and you’ll never get to know anyone sitting at that damn computer!”

What’s your LinkedIn profile looking like these days? I’ll tell you right now, mine is a complete mess. My summary is too long and wordy, I have too many former jobs and volunteer positions listed in detail, my photo is really old, and I don’t even have a decent headline. I know this holds me back at times. LinkedIn is a tool that more and more big companies are using, and it’s becoming a much more important part of job hunting and career planning.

Fact is, a lot more of our job searching now revolves around the internet. Job ads are sometimes only posted online, applications are submitted online, background checks by employers are done online, and networking is done through email and websites like LinkedIn. The internet is becoming more and more important these days.

#6: “Well that still doesn’t excuse anything! When I was young, I walked into the local factory and got a job there. I worked my way up to the office job I had, I didn’t just expect to have a job handed to me!”

You have no idea how many times I have heard stuff like this over the years.My hometown has one major industry that the town has revolved around for decades.  Back when my dad and all of my aunts and uncles were young, anyone with a grade 9 education could go and apply there, get a job right off the street.Starting on the line in the factory, a lot of these guys were able to work their way up to nice office positions by the time they retired.

Today, just to be considered a TPT (temporary part-time) job in that same factory, you have to be a full-time student in either college or university, under the age of 25. To get the same job these men got as high school drop outs 40 years ago, you now need a high school diploma with grades high enough to get you into post-secondary school, and then you need to basically win the lottery and be one of the dozens of people hired among the hundreds of people who apply. I know a tonne of people who would love the chance to get in there and work their way up the way people did 40 years ago. That’s just not possible there anymore.

I have seen job ads for entry level positions that required degrees and years of experience. More and more people are having to work at unpaid internships and volunteer positions to get experience just to get their first job. Jobs today require more education to qualify, more experience to qualify, need more specialized training to qualify. Basically, jobs are harder to get these days than they were before.

To top it off, the job market is changing. More and more jobs are popping up online, or in small start-ups. Now, these jobs can be risky to take but offer the chance to work your way up back like our parents’ generation did. Every single time I have applied to one of these jobs, the ‘work your way up’ crowd has laughed at me. It’s like they’re not respectable jobs.

Pretty much, no matter what you do in your job search, you’re going to get these questions. Nothing you do is right, you’re not trying hard enough, you’re not trying the right way, and everything you do is wrong. Fan-fucking-tastic, eh? Just remember that we know what we’re doing. We know things have changed, that markets have changed, that ways of doing things are different. Don’t let all of this get you down.

As always, if you need someone to vent to I’m always here. Drop me a line at TheFailedGrownUp@gmail.com and vent away. Don’t worry about annoying me, or bumming me out. Nothing’s gonna dull my sunshine, and I’m pretty much a recluse when I’m not at work. Emails are nice from time to time.

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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.

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!