Motivation

I’ve tried to start half a dozen new posts in the last few days, and nothing has come of them.  I can get a paragraph, maybe two, into them and that’s it.

I just have no motivation right now.

Since I graduated from University, my motivation has just plummeted. I mean, I still get up every day, do  my thang. I have my job search, my free online classes that I keep starting and never finishing, my housework………. but that’s it.

I used to craft. I used to write. I could write 8 12-page research papers in a matter of weeks, on top of constant reading, volunteering, and Buffy marathoning. I could research for hours, curl up in a ball and write all night, and still have the get-up-and-go to head off for drinks after that. I was a damn machine!

But lately……. I’m just blah. Honestly, I thrived on all of those deadlines. Knowing that things had to be done by a certain date and certain time gave me drive. I could manage dozens upon dozens of deadlines and projects at once. I had a scheduling system that encompassed a monthly calendar, a 4-month calendar, a day planner, a monthly task list, a weekly task list, and both daily and weekly to-do lists. And I loved it!

These days, though, I don’t have that. I have a decent job in customer service. It pays enough to kinda pay the bills. I’m looking for a second job, or a full-time job, but there’s no huge rush on that. I can manage for a while on what I’m doing.

There’s no structure for anything, though.

My job has an ever-changing schedule. Just today, my evening 5 hour closing shift got changed to a full-day 8 hour closing shift. I jump from closing to open to close support to afternoons all in a week sometimes. I can’t make a strict schedule for my time with my shifts jumping all over the place. I can’t say “I’ll get up and write every morning/every night before bed” when I don’t know when I’ll be waking up or going to bed. When I work a closing, I’m up later trying to unwind.

Add to that the fact that I have no deadlines. If I don’t update this blog, no one comes after me. There is no one demanding I update this. There is no negative consequences to not updating, other than losing the few readers I have. Basically, all of the structure I had forced on me before is gone, and I don’t know how to deal with that.

I’m not alone in this, either. I’ve talked to so many people who come out of school feeling empty, feeling lost, with no one there to tell them what to get done. I keep telling myself that I’ll make my own structure, that I’ll give myself deadlines, but it never works. I don’t have anyone else here to enforce them.

Anyone else out there in the Internet have this problem, Sunshine? Drop me a line, let me know how you deal with the post-grad lack of structure!

Do What You Love and…….. Starve?

Sound pretty shitty, doesn’t it?

For years growing up, I was told that if I do what I love, then money would follow. The thing is, people didn’t seem to care what I actually loved. What did I love way back in high school? I loved writing, and reading. Even once I finally went back to University (almost a decade later), marking papers and reading student works were the only things I loved more than writing papers.

Who the hell can make a career out of any of that though?

Turns out, plenty of people. When I was told to “do what I love”, people assumed that just meant me sitting in a room, writing. I would be a writer, first and foremost.

But there is so much more to all of this than just writing.

I could have been an editor, or a professor, or a ESL teacher. I would have been happy researching for a company, or a lawyer, or a researcher. I could have become a private tutor, helping students with their academic writing.

None of this was made known to me, way back in high school, before we really knew how to use this whole Internet thing. Back in the days of dial-up, you didn’t have The Googles (as mum calls it) to search for “careers in writing”, or “what can I do with an English degree”. Nope, we had bare-bones web surfing back then: GeoCities for making web pages dedicated to hot celebrities; IRC chat rooms; AIM or ICQ for instant messages; and Hotmail for our email. That’s it. Somewhere out there was porn, but we couldn’t access it at school (believe me, we tried).

Point is, all I ever knew was that I loved to read and write. I still do. I’m broke as all hell, and I just ordered three new(er) books from Chapters this week (damn you Celia Rivenbark for having a book out there that I don’t own!!!!). I was always told that I would be a writer, and needed a career to fall back on.

Well that’s a crock of shit if I ever heard one.

Yes, things are rough out there. Believe me, I know that as well as anyone. I live in the unemployment capital of Canada, where getting 9 hours a week is considered “gainfully employed” to make statistics look good. I know the job search scene, and the toll it takes on you.

And I know what it’s like to feel like a total bitch, because you’re looking at jobs and thinking “well, I need a job, but do I really want to do THAT?!?!”

I am a writer, at heart. I sit at a desk, type things, organize things, research things. This blog is one of many things I do related to my craft, in addition to my part-time job. I know damn well that I would be horrible at certain jobs, because I would spend too much time hating them. Hell, even knowing that, out of desperation I have tried some of these jobs! That is how I know that I AM the world’s worst janitor (it only took me throwing up in a garbage can 7 times in an 8 hour shift to prove that to myself).

My desk-type personality tends to lead me towards other desk-type things. I went to secretary school, and worked in an office for a few years. I went to University and worked in research offices. I am a desk worker. But even that has its limits.

I know that right now, I can’t support myself with my writing. VERY long story short, after being forced out of it for many years, I am only now getting back into my craft. That means no portfolio, no old blog posts, nothing for reference on a CV. I need a job to pay my bills and get the hell out of this house (don’t worry, I have enough Roommates From Hell stories to last a lifetime on here for y’all). While there are a lot of things that I would be horrible at, I KNOW that I can rock a desk job like no-one else. Not a telemarketing job, not a soliciting job, not a call centre job…. a straight up desk job.

Sounds pretty entitled, doesn’t it?

Well, I’ve got the education. I’ve got the office experience. And I am a desk worker. I thrive best sitting behind a desk, typing at a computer. I am a data entry clerk, or a dispatcher, or any other position where I type a lot and don’t have to make phone calls.

And the thing is, doing stuff like that is what I love.

From what I was told for years, even for decades, if I just strive for that, then the money will follow. So where is the money, Sunshine?

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!

NaNoWriMo

So I’ve been neglecting my writing for quite some time now. There just always seems like I have enough time to do 10 things in a day, but I have 12 in my list.  But, November is National Novel Writing Month. I, having blown off my writing and prep for months now, do not have anything novel-ready to begin writing. I know that my New Years Resolution was to FINALLY get started on that, but life happened.

So, instead, I’m doing my own spin on the month. Instead if writing every day on the NaNoWriMo site and trying to reach 50,000 words in a novel that I know will turn out all wrong (because that’s how my writing turns out when there’s no planning behind it), I’ll be using my blog to reach that goal instead. This month, I am aiming to reach 50,000 words in my blog posts, and attempt to write every single day. This will be with a combination of pre-planned posts (I’m working on outlines and topics as we speak), research queued up to post sporadically throughout the month, and some more personal posts (mainly along the lines of my Roommates From Hell posts).

So, hopefully, you readers will enjoy this. And, hopefully, I will enjoy it too.

Haitus

Once again, I’ve been gone quite some time. Honestly, growing up I always wanted to write. Having a blog like this (if they had existed when I was a little kid) would have been a dream to 8 year old me. But I’m not that kid anymore. I’m technically an adult now, even if I don’t feel like one. And for a while, having this blog just made me sad.

As an adult, I’m expected to have my life together, somewhat. I should have some sort of career, and a few good close friends, and have that whole “relationship” thing figured out by now. Most of my old friends are married, have kids, have amazing careers, own homes…… and then there’s me. I’m still living in a rented student room, stuck in a relationship I don’t want to be in, but am too broke to get out of. I work part-time in Customer Service, most of my friends have moved away, and in a city built on the auto industry, I have to walk everywhere. I am the exact opposite of an adult right now. Hell, I even  have  Jake the Dog “Adventure Time” onesie in my closet!

So, this blog made me feel like a fraud. Like I have no business telling people what to do, no business giving advice, no business pretending I have anything figured out. So I just quit writing after my temp job ended.

But I realized recently that having no business makes this my business. I know how things can go wrong, where they’re likely to go wrong, and how even the best laid plans can fall to pieces. I’ve been there, I’m living that. I can’t walk you through exactly what to do, but I can help you know what not to do. I’ve spent years trying to teach myself things that I wasn’t taught. I’ve done resume workshops, read assertiveness books, attempted crazy cooking experiments, all on an extremely tight budget. I can help you through that. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who also aren’t perfect (which is everyone, btw), and I’ve made it a point to learn from their mistakes as well. I can help you thanks to that. I have had so many bizarre, odd experiences in my life that I have a completely different view of things now than I did 10 years ago. I’ve changed, like we all do. And I can help you through your change.

So, I’m not promising to update this blog every day, or to change the world one word at a time. But I am going to push myself to put myself out there more, to write like I always wanted to, and to use this to help me through the changes I need to make in my life. I just  hope that, by me doing this, someone else out there learns from my mistakes before they go and make their own.

Your Degree DOES NOT Equal Your Career

There are very few degrees out there where, once you graduate, you can call yourself The Thing. Medical school, law school, engineering school……. that’s most (if not all) of them.  And those are mainly very advanced degrees with years and years of extra schooling on top of the 3-5 most people in University do.

For the rest of us, we are not automatically sociologists, psychologists, accountants, or artists. We have to navigate the world after graduation and prove to others that we are capable and ready to put what we’ve learned to good use.  Just putting “BA(H) Criminology” on a resume doesn’t tell a prospective employer doesn’t tell them anything about what you can do for them.  What did you learn while getting that degree? What skills do you have that would be useful to them? How the hell is a person who studied crimes going to function in an office?

Look through what you did in your educational career. For many people in the social sciences, you can highlight skills such as critical thinking, statistical analysis, and research. Telling an employer “I did research under Prof. Z on internet reactions to series finale episodes” tells them what it is you did, shows you have a strong enough work ethic to commit to (and finish) a project, and may be a good starting off point for you to highlight some of your biggest strengths.

For some jobs, even highlighting certain courses you took that directly relate to the job (such as emphasizing a Philosophy of Law class when applying for legal research positions) shows that you have some background knowledge that can prove to be useful.

So yes, having that piece of paper handed to you while you suffocate in a a shapeless gown and goofy hat is a huge accomplishment. That piece of paper is not the be-all and end-all of what you did with that education. Look beyond the paper and figure out what it is you did that makes you unique and perfect for a position.