How Not To Keep A Job

Good morning Sunshine! Hope you’re having a nice, relaxing Saturday morning. I’m on day 17 or 30 days straight of work this month (unless we wind up going on strike on the 26th, then I’m not technically working if I’m on the picket line), and I’m going right goofy.

For those of you who are new around here, I make my living by professionally peddling the Devil’s Brew in a government-owned retail establishment in a Canadian province (I think putting it that way works around my “social media” clause in my contract).  It may not be the greatest job, or have anything to do with what I went to school for, but it a great fit for me right now. I work with pretty much the greatest staff ever. Other stores have told me they’re jealous of our store, because we all get along so great and we’re like family. This job also gives me time to figure out my life, which I need to do very much so right now. And even though I hate people, I seem to like working with the public.

We have two busy seasons, where people buy a metric shit-tonne of alcohol – Christmas, and the summer. We get a few seasonal workers to come in at these times, kinda round out the schedule and make sure we have enough people on staff every day to keep the store open.  Usually, for a store our size, we would get 4 or 5 people to come in and help. This year especially, we needed that many people due to the possibility of a strike and the public’s usual “what do you mean you may be closed for a few days??now I need to buy CASES of booze to make sure the world doesn’t run out!” panic/ But this summer, through some combination of new management and some sort of curse, we have one. We have The Kid.

The Kid must have interviewed really well, because he’s never had a job in his 22 years. He’s never handled money, or touched a cash register, or dealt with the public. The product of helicopter parenting and a God-complex, The Kid believes that he is the be-all and end-all of cashiers. He even once dubbed himself a “cashier ninja” for his ability to hold up a line while he stood there staring into space and adding numbers in his head (we had to remind him that the cash register does all the adding for him, without uncomfortably staring at customers).

Now, I know that everyone has to start somewhere. The Kid doesn’t want to just “start” though. In his own mind, he knows everything and no one can tell him what to do.When I was just starting out as a cashier at my first job, I brought a notebook and pen and actually took notes on everything I had to do. Hell, even when I started THIS job a few years ago, I brought a notebook and pen to my cashier training and took notes on everything I had to do! Not The Kid, though. He knows everything, even though he knows nothing.

It’s only been a few weeks since The Kid first graced us with his cash-ninja presence, but it feels so much longer. Everyone but him seems to realize that he probably won’t last much longer. The only reason he’s lasted this long is because we are severely short-staffed as it is and we need bodies in the store.

Basically, he’s a walking manual for How Not To Keep A Job.  Here’s just a few of the thrilling lessons he’s given us so far:

1- Stand there. Don’t offer anyone any help. See your coworker with the huge line-up? Don’t let anyone in her line know that you’re open too. Just watch her struggle. Customer has his hands full and needs a basket? Just stand there and watch him drop glass bottles on the floor while there’s a pile of baskets next to you.

2- Stare. At everyone. Customer, coworkers, managers. Don’t say anything, just start at them.

3- Don’t think, just talk. If people are offended, it’s their own fault. Some great random phrases to get the conversation started with your customers: “Wow, you were in here yesterday too. You must be a huge alcoholic.”, “I can’t tell if you’re pregnant or really fat. Should you be buying coolers either way?”, “You’re smelly. You should go take a shower, or not look homeless or something.”

4-Don’t listen to your coworkers. They’re not trying to help you. Sure, they’re telling you what you did wrong and then showing you how to do it properly. And yes,  they’re being very patient with you. Ok, and they keep having to remind you of the same things over and over and over again. Easy things like, “Before you try to log on to a cash register, go sign in and grab your till. You can’t just walk up to a register and start using an empty drawer” I mean, all of this SOUNDS like they’re trying to help you. But they’re not. Don’t listen to them.

5- Go that little extra mile to put a personal touch on things, even if it means breaking all the rules. Coworkers told you to hit “assistance” button when you have a big line or need to use the bathroom or it’s time for your break, so that they know you need help and can come out there and help you? Screw that! You don’t play by conventional rules! Just abandon your post, wander into the back, tell them personally that you need help. That face-to-face contact is sure to impress them!

6-Make sure your coworkers know you’re on to them. Be loud, be forceful Don’t worry about their feelings; they have none. Yell right in their face if you have to. Make sure they know you are smart, and you know everything there is to know about their job, so you really don’t need their help. In fact, they should be asking you for help!

7-You know how every workplace says they have their own policy for breaks? Well, they’re lying because those policies don’t apply to you. Have a huge line-up? Just walk away and take a break! Supposed to buzz for someone to come relieve you for your break? Why bother? Just walk away whenever you want your break! Supposed to take 15 minutes? I’m sure you can reason out a way to take more! “Well by the time I sat in the office for a bit, and then went to the bathroom, and then sat for a few minutes, and then heated up my food, it was 4:15. So technically my break didn’t start until then.” See, just outsmart them!

8-The same goes for the end of your shift. Sure, the boss says he’s the one to tell you when to cash out and finish up your shift, but you know better than him. He says it only takes 5 minutes to do that? You take 25 minutes! Coworkers try to tell you that’s not how things are done? Well screw them! You know better than them! Just ask your mom, who has probably already checked in on your at least once during your shift and is waiting in the parking lot for you 45 minutes early just in case someone is mean to you.

9- When in doubt, get your mom. No one wants someone’s mom not to like them. Have your mom tell everyone how stressed you are, how you stay up at night crying about your job after the second day there. Make sure she tells everyone what a good kid you are, how smart you are, and how special you are. Everyone will listen to your mom and automatically love you.

10- Do things your own way. Sure, the register adds up all the prices you scan, but isn’t it just more fun to add up all the numbers in your head, even if it takes a few extra minutes per customer because you have to scan so slowly? Damn skippy it is! When the boss tells you to stop doing that (apparently it distracts you from stupid things like taking payments, and making change, and checking ID’s to make sure you’re not serving a 15 year old when the legal age is 19), stop for the few minutes he’s watching you, and then get back to doing what you love! Remember, your way is ALWAYS the best way!

 

This is just the short list of things he’s done THIS WEEK. And that’s not counting all the stupid comments he’s made to us. The concept of keeping the doors locked until we opened so that customers couldn’t come in was well beyond his comprehension. He also doesn’t seem to quite realize that “seasonal employment” means that he’s employed for the season, no matter how many times we explain it to him. He has flat out demanded we order him full-time staff uniforms and get him his own locker (instead of the one marked “seasonal staff”).

And I know I sound like a bitch for complaining so much about The Kid. It’s gotten to the point that he’s already made the most patient workers there snap from frustration. Last weekend, I kept rubbing my temples every time he said or did something unbelievably dumb or rude. And I don’t mean he hit a wrong key on the register, or accidentally gave someone an extra dollar with their change. I mean, his 15 minute break was almost 30 minutes; he mocked out plain-clothes security guys for not standing next to him all night to make sure he was safe (which apparently makes them lazy); he refused to ID people, and then refused to log the few ID’s he got in the system (it’s just logging that yes they had ID and what kind they had, for legal purposes). This was on top of his rude comments to staff and customers, his refusal to help anyone with anything, and his flat-out mocking of certain staff members and shift leaders. By the end of the night, I had my nervous twitch back in my left eye, and I had rubbed off my eyebrows and most of my outer eye make-up from rubbing my temples so much. And I’m one of the patient ones, too! Already this week, he’s had multiple private meetings with the boss about the things he’s doing wrong, and he’s almost been fired more than once. And I have one of the most patient bosses ever! Sweet little old grannies have come into the store, dealt with The Kid, and have almost resorted to purse-swinging violence!

He’s worked all week, as we’re trying to prepare him for our own brand of personal hell called “Dealing with customers who are trying to prepare in case we go on strike, and are acting like it’s the coming of the apocalypse”.  We’ve kept him on the early morning shifts to avoid him having to deal with the night rushes and the after-work/pre-party crowd. But tonight, a Saturday night when we’re already short staffed and have a tasting in-store, we also have The Kid with us. I already have my spiked rootbeer chilling in the fridge, and a big bottle of Chilean Cab Sauv staring at me from the counter.

This is going to be one hell of a long summer!

What about you, Sunshine? Have you ever had a coworker who you knew just wasn’t going to work out? Someone who drove you bonkers? Or maybe you’ve dealt with someone like this before and found a way to make it work?  Drop me a comment below, let me know how you handled things…… or let me know the worst of the worst stories you have about that coworker (we could all use a bit of a giggle).

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Believe Me: I Know My Job!

So I can’t say exactly where I work, but it deals with selling alcohol in a store run by a provincial government. Now, we are trained to a ridiculous degree! I met the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend after I had been hired on here, and showed him the training booklets I got just to be a seasonal worker. And then the books for the tests to be a casual worker. And my Service Knowledge book. And Product Knowledge books. And my Customer Service training books. And the notes from my in-class training. And the online modules for my mandatory training. In short, I am constantly either in training, about to start training, or just finishing training.

And one thing we’re trained on constantly is the ID laws for our province.

Here’s the gist of it all: in order to buy alcohol at my store, you need to have valid government photo ID with you. I can ask anyone at any time to produce their ID, and deny a sale if they don’t have that. Yes, the legal drinking age here is 19. That doesn’t mean that if you’re 20 you don’t need your ID. We are legally obliged to ID anyone who appears to be under 25. And that’s not all.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not the one paying for it. If you touch it, talk about it, point to it, offer money for it, pass money to someone in the store, or say something like “Thanks man, I’ll pay you back for this later” in front of us or our security staff, you’re getting ID’d. We have this little thing called a Second Party Purchase, where we know someone is buying alcohol for someone else. If you carry it up to the counter for someone, you’re getting ID’d. Yes, there are a few exceptions: if you’re a child carrying it up for a parent on crutches, or you lift it up onto the counter for a wheelchair bound friend who can’t do so themselves, we will most likely let that slide. You are allowed to help, as long as it is clear you  are only helping.

We get this training drilled into us. Do you know how much of a fine we can face PERSONALLY if we serve an underage person? $250,000!!! So we are damn sure to ID everyone we need to! Not only that, but we look out for each other. If I see a group of customers all picking things out together, I’ll be sure to tell my co-workers to make sure they ID the whole group. You are damn right we’ve all got each other’s backs!

All of this being said, it amazes me that amount of people who come through my store and seem to think that either the rules don’t apply to them, or that they know our jobs better than we do.

Case in point: last week, I walked by a group of three young men in the vodka aisle discussing what brand of vodka to buy. All three of them were pointing at bottles, and were talking about how they would pay their friend back later for buying the vodka. When they came up to the register, I motioned for my coworker to ID the whole group.

Well, the young lad who was paying went off! Apparently his dad is a cop, which means he knows the law inside and out, because the first responsibility of being a cop is to make sure your son knows exactly which laws don’t apply to him. According to this boy, even though him and the cloud of cheap Axe body spray he called friends had all decided together which bottle to buy, we couldn’t legally ID his friends because they didn’t touch the bottle.

Normally, our story would end here. Child Who Is Not Smoll would yell and scream, and then leave without his bottle. But not this time!

No! After being denied once because his friends didn’t have ID, Boy Child came back in the store to try and buy the bottle again! Now, since we just saw him in there trying to buy for his friends, and it’s recorded on the store’s security camera that he was denied for his friends not having ID, we can’t sell him this bottle. The only way we can sell him the alcohol is if his friends both come back with their ID. But he wasn’t hearing any of this!

No! His dad is a cop! He knows the law! His friends didn’t touch the bottle! And he came back in alone!

Needless to say, he was rejected again. As he slowly meandered on out the door, he had some very loud choice words for my coworkers and I. Out shift leader told him that since he had already created a scene twice in a span of less than 15 minutes, he was not allowed back in the store for the rest of the night. If he did show up again, he would be denied service and asked to leave.

Did that stop him from coming back?

Well, if it did, would I still be writing this?

He came back with his friends a while later, claiming that because they all had ID now we had to not only serve them, but APOLOGIZE to them for not serving them earlier!

Needless to say (even if I am saying it here), they did not get served. Even better, we had police on sight for a separate incident later that night. You know what? They had no clue who this Boy Child was, and had no officers on the force with his last name!

Want to know the worst part of all of this? His two friends seemed pretty apologetic throughout the whole thing. If they had just come back with their ID, we would’ve served them. Even if the Boy Child had flipped out a little tiny bit at first like he did, but they all came back with ID and apologized, I would’ve served them.

But after all of that, the three of them left empty handed.

The moral of the story Sunshine? While you may think you know customer service, the people in each position get specific training for their job like you would not believe! So don’t be THAT customer that tries to teach employees about return policies, or ID laws, or anything else.

Customer Service Representatives get a shit rep, and take a lot of shit from people. We are all people, and we all deserve the respect you would give any other person in any other job. So be kinds, be polite, and don’t be that asshole who thinks they know our job better than we do!

A Little Bit o’the Purge

Well a belated Happy New Year to you all out there, Sunshine!

I had a busy few weeks leading up to this. Volunteered for the 6am shift at work for the holidays. That meant 3 weeks of getting up at 4am, then walking to work in the snow at 5:30am. But I was done by 2:30pm every day, so it was worth it for me. If I could get a Monday to Friday job like that, I would take it in a heartbeat. It meant a lot more time with my Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend, and being able to cook dinners again. For the first time ever, I cooked a whole chicken! Did a lot of baking, decorating, had a slight existential crisis, multiple panic attacks, and drank a lot of Starbucks (thank you gift cards!).

But now I’m back to my normal life for now. Working closing shifts again, hours are getting cut drastically. I’ve picked up a few shifts from co-workers this week already, so I’m getting around 25 hours this week (compared to the 40 I was getting before the holidays). Next week I’m down to 8 hours, and the following week I have ZERO hours on the schedule. This means I’ll have to go back to waking up early, getting myself all ready in case there’s a chance I could get called in and pick up some hours, and keeping myself busy around the house. I’ve done a few very grown-up things so far, and have a few more on the list (appointments with my bank, my doctor, and finding a new eye doctor). But the big thing right now that AAB and I are focusing on is a good clean and purge of our stuff.

Last night, AAB started cleaning out his dresser. Because of his job, he has a tonne of clothes that wind up too ripped and stained to donate. So he turned what he could into rags, threw away a whole bunch, and then gathered up ALL the laundry (somehow there’s 4 baskets sitting here. How the hell did that happen?).

I started with my jewellery. My baby Bowser kitten went through a phase a few months ago where he kept jumping up on my dresser and knocking over my earing boxes and necklace stand. After a few weeks of half-assed organizing his post-leap messes, I just gave up. I dumped most of the stuff into a giant bowl, and kept tossing random things on top of it: socks, scarves, empty plastic bags, lotion bottles.

So last night, I spent a good hour and a half untangling necklaces, pairing up earrings, grouping bangles, and hiding away the few things I got from grandma. While going through all of this, thoughts kept popping into my head as I handled certain pieces: do I really need this? Will I ever wear this? Is this something I really want? So I started seriously thinking as I untangled and matched up pieces.

And you know what? It turns out I didn’t need half of this stuff. I had a necklace tucked away in a small baggie that had a few broken links. I swore for more than two years that I would fix it and wear it again someday. Two years! And you know what? There was never a time where I said to myself, “Gee, I wish I had that old tarnished faux-gold and faux-pearl necklace on right now. It would totally complete this look.” It was a great necklace, and I wore it once to a fraternity formal to jazz up an old LBD. I hadn’t worn it since, and didn’t really have anything else to wear it with. It wasn’t expensive (just one more piece from my lovely Ardene collection). It held no sentimental value. It wasn’t some rare irreplaceable piece. Every season there was something similar at Ardene that I could get for a very reasonable price if I was ever desperate for a piece like this. But right now, it was just this tangled mass of chains with a string of faux-pearls slowing falling apart. It was taking up space, and that’s all it was doing. So, I tossed it.

So for the next few weeks, especially on days when I do not have a shift and I don’t get called in, this is what I’ll be doing to stay busy. On top of my usual job hunting and cleaning around the house, I’ll be purging and organizing our stuff all over the house. Today, I went through a basket of lotions and hair products. While I did jump between curling and straightening my hair when it was longer, and needed some heavy duty moisturizers and split end menders for the ends at that time, I haven’t touched any of that stuff in months. I chopped my hair in a pixie, and just use a little putty and texturing spray in now. So why keep all of these almost empty bottles of hair products sitting around the house taking up space? Especially when recycling goes out tonight? Later today before I leave for work, I’ll be gathering up some odd random holiday stuff (Halloween costume ears, swords, Christmas sweaters and socks, etc.) and storing that stuff away.

So Sunshine, do the objects you surround yourself with bring you joy? Are they things that you can say definitely add value to your life? Or do you have piles of “maybe someday I’ll use it” crap all around you? Maybe this year could be your year to finally go through some of this stuff and say, “If I don’t need you, I’m not keeping you.” And this goes for anything you have that is just a drain on your time and space: books, beauty products, friends, volunteering opportunities, partners, socks……….. Take your time, go at your own pace, and get rid of the junk that’s just taking up precious space in your life.

Don’t Let Them Bring You Down

So I know I’ve mentioned my Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and how amazing and awesome I think he is. He is a hard-working, dedicated man who works a very physically demanding job but still comes home and mows the lawn for me. For the most part, he is sweet and kind and caring and amazing at snuggling me when I’m sad or cold or scared. Of course he’s not perfect, like all of us. He has his demons and struggles he’s dealing with, and I try to support him through that the very best I can.

But sometimes, something in him just tweaks a bit, and his work rants become so hurtful and almost demeaning to me.

To start, he works 8-11 hours a day during the week, and 4-6 hours on Saturdays. He comes home filthy and tired and sore, so I voluntarily do the majority of the cleaning indoors. I also have this blog, my Tumblr blog, two or three writing projects on the go, my customer service job which is usually 30 hours (6 days) a week, and I’m taking online courses through work and sites like Coursera. This is on top of 10-20 hours a week of job hunting, resume writing, cover letter writing, and online workshops and networking events. I’m not exactly sitting around in my underpants, eating pizza and marathoning Netflix all day.

But when AAB gets upset, and work sucked, none of what I do counts.

Last night, we had a pretty decent fight about an on-going issue we’re working on. He got upset that all he wanted to do was take a shower and a poop, but I was texting him from work and he felt like he needed to reply. I told him that he should have just told me, “Look, I wanna poop and shower. We can talk about this when you get home.”

His reply?

“Well I don’t have time to sit around and analyze things and figure out the exact perfect thing to say. I don’t get to sit around on Facebook and write a stupid blog and do nothing all day………” He then went on to describe the extremely strange and dangerous job they did that day.

That really hurt though.

It hurts to think that everything I do around here, everything I do to better myself, is seen as some sort of luxurious downtime wasted on frivolities. I know he didn’t mean to hurt me, and he appreciates what I do around here. He was upset about his job, about where his life is now compared to where he wanted to be at this point in life, about the long hours and dirty environment and backbreaking labour. Sometimes he needs to feel like what he’s doing is important, more important than anything else, to help keep him going when things look bleak. And I get that.

The thing is, there are a lot of people out there like this. Too many, in fact. And they are like this more often than not. They drain your drive, crush your spirit, steal away the very essence of your being in order to make them feel all-important. I know I can go to AAB, tell him that what he said pissed me off royally, and he’ll apologize. We’ll end up curled up on the couch, all snuggled in together with the cat, talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up, where we thought our lives would be by now when we were younger, where and when we screwed it all up for ourselves. And he’ll be genuinely sorry that he hurt me, because I feel the same thing he does.

So if you have someone in your life that  gets you down like this Sunshine, someone who has to ruin you to build themselves up constantly, tell them. Tell them you’re not going to take that from them, that what they’re doing is pretty shitty and you won’t tolerate it. And if they don’t get it, if they don’t give your a real heartfelt apology, if they don’t understand why they can’t do that to make themselves feel better, then leave. You don’t need that in your life, Sunshine.

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!

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.