Yesterday we celebrated American independence. 238 years ago a bunch of men gathered together and put together a document that would forever change the path of the people living on this continent. But it didn't end there.
Over the next seven years, the people of the colonies fought tooth and nail for their freedom, many times coming close to losing their bid for autonomy yet never giving up.
In celebration of America’s independence, take the time today to celebrate your own independence. Think about what you have done in your past that has led you to where you are now. Take time to plan out where you want to be 5, 10, 20 years from now. Look at the steps needed to achieve those goals and then start putting together a document (résumé) that will help you start on that path. Print it out, take a quill pen (or the nearest ballpoint) and sign your name across the bottom just like John Hancock.
You've taken the first step to the rest of your life!
This past weekend marked the release of what could be the biggest blockbuster movie of the summer, Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Now, you may not be Michael Bay (if you are Michael Bay, call me, I have an idea for another amazing movie franchise) and you may not make millions of dollars, but there are two things that you can do to transform your writing this week.
A few weeks back I extolled the benefits of reading as they related to improving as a writer. I firmly believe that other than writing itself, reading can be one of the most beneficial practices for those who want to write. Not only does it help you see what works, but it can also drive your creativity. How many times have you been reading a story and been intrigued by a character to the point of thinking “I wonder what would happen to that character if they lived today (or 100 years ago/from now)?” Instead of wondering, use that as a muse, sit down and write that story. Write “Hamlet in High School” or “Harry Potter in Space.” Use the imagination that you have and think of something completely different from the place the character currently lives in.
You can also take a minor character from the story, one that you want to know more about, and write their story. If the book you’re reading is in first person, write a pivotal scene from the perspective of another character. Maybe they remember the action differently or heard slightly different dialog based on their preconceived notions about what was going on.
Use your reading to explore your writing as much as you can.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but in order to change the way you write, you actually need to be sitting down, typing on your computer or putting pen to paper.
You cannot change the way you ride a bike or drive a car by sitting on the couch watching re-runs of M*A*S*H and the same goes for writing. In order to improve your craft, you actually need to do it.
So, as we get into this week, set aside some time to sit down and write. Take your laptop to the library so you won’t be disturbed. Find a story that inspires you and use one of the prompts above to help you get started. The only requirement is to write something, ANYTHING!
Share what works for you in the comments below.
We all know that it is important to put together a solid résumé in order to get a great job, but what exactly should you include on your résumé to get you noticed?
Highlight Your Skills
The number one way to get your résumé noticed by a recruiter or hiring manager is to focus on skills that you bring to the position that other candidates cannot. Be sure that any skills you have that are related to the position are featured at the top of any job history. If the skills are such that you have developed them over the course of your career in a variety of positions, consider setting up a “Skills” section at the beginning of your résumé.
If an employer doesn't know that you posses the skills they are looking for, they will never bring you in for an interview, left alone offer you a job so get those out there where they can see them.
Don’t Include Unnecessary Information
One of the biggest mistakes I see in résumés is that there is too much information. A general rule of thumb is that no résumé should be longer than two pages and if you can find a way to get all the important information on one page, I strongly encourage it. Being able to have one concise page with all the pertinent information in one place can be a huge asset.
By eliminating anything that doesn't apply to the job in question, you naturally bring more attention to what remains. This is the classic rule of addition by subtraction.
Don’t Limit Yourself
Just because you didn't hold a specific job title in a previous position doesn't mean there aren't skills that you can apply to a new one. Look at the example of a teacher. Someone who has been in education for ten years applies for a job as a training manager at a Fortune 500 company. He has never had formal management experience, but as a teacher he has learned to manage the diverse backgrounds of 20-30 students on a daily basis. Additionally, he has experience teaching a variety of subjects and adapting the curriculum to his current set of students.
These are all qualities that directly apply to a training manager position and could make the teacher described above an excellent candidate for the position. He may even get more attention than someone who just has management experience and doesn’t bring any teaching/training background with them.
Spend some time focusing on what you bring specifically to the position at hand and always be sure to tailor your résumé to that position. Remember that one résumé does not fit all.
Last week I wrote about the importance of reading as it related to becoming a better writer. Today I wanted to bring you some thoughts on reading as part of career growth. A few things to consider:
Read About Your Field
This applies for someone who is settled in a job or someone who is just starting out. If you've been in your position for several years, make time to sit down and read something related to what you do so that you can keep up on the current developments in your field.
On the other hand, if you are trying to get a job in a particular field, make sure you are reading about that field before your interview. Take note of the things that are going on and if you find the opportunity, mention them in the interview. This will show the interviewer that you know what’s new in the industry and are care about the position.
Read About the Companies You’re Applying To
This one is critical when looking for a job. Showing the interviewer that you not only have some background about the industry, but that you also have some basic knowledge of the company itself is a huge feather in your cap. The less time they need to spend onboarding you and tell you about the company, the sooner you can get down to the business at hand once you walk in the door.
This applies regardless of where you are in your career. Take a walk down the Self-Improvement/Career/Business aisle at your local library or book store and you will be sure to find something that will help you. From books about leadership to starting a new business, parenting to increasing your productivity, there is something out there for everyone. And if you can’t find what you want to read already in print, a new door may be opening for you…write the book yourself!
Read With Your Ears
This kind of reading for growth doesn't have to be visual. There are thousands of great audio books out there. Check out Audible.com for a huge selection read by some excellent voice talent.
If you’re looking for free audio content, check out iTunes podcast library and simply search for leadership. Just make sure you are taking advantage of your long drive to work or those spare minutes while you’re waiting for your kids to get out of soccer practice.
To help you out a little with determining your next reading assignment, check out the resources below as well as the resources page:
As a writer, one of the essential pieces of your job is to read. By continuously reading and taking in new information, you can use what you read to improve your writing style. When you see something that you like in someone else’s writing, you can borrow that and implement it in your own.
As you read work by other authors, you will often see things that come up again and again. They use the same word or phrase in a particular setting or they like to use flowery metaphors. These things are all fine, depending on the type of writing you (or the author) is doing.
What can be useful for you as a writer is being able to spot these tendencies in other’s writing and then use that experience to spot your own tendencies. Maybe you always tend to switch tenses as you write. Knowing that as you write can help you spot those errors, and save you time from having to edit them out later on in your writing process.
Finding Your Voice
I wrote about this a few months back but it’s worth mentioning again here. It’s especially important to read lots of books if you are having trouble finding your voice. Go to your local library and browse through 3-4 different sections. Pick out some books in a genre that you have NEVER read before! Scary thought? Of course it is. But facing that fear is part of what is holding you back right now.
Get out of your comfort zone and look at what authors sound like in their writing. Take some time to actually read a few passages out loud so you can hear how the words sound. You may find something you want to borrow for your own writing. You may also find some things that you absolutely hate…which brings me to my last point.
Finding Out What NOT To Do
Sometimes knowing what not to do is just as important than knowing what you should do. Your friend gave you directions to his house and can’t remember the exact street to turn on, but you do remember that he specifically said not to turn until after you cross the railroad tracks. That certainly helps when you’re trying to find the right street.
In your reading, there will come a time when you come across a passage or a chapter and say to yourself, “why would anyone write like this?” Take note of that because that it your inner editor telling you how not to write.
As writers we sometimes get bogged down in the writing itself. However, it is important to be able to step back and “research” by reading a good book.
Let me know what you think. Do you have a great book that you’ve read recently that has helped your writing in some way? Leave a note in the comment section.
It’s time for another reader response.
Ramit writes-“I have been associated with a single organization without the need to switch jobs [after college]; but I fear someday when I will feel stagnated here, I may be pretty ill equipped in the job market on the resume front.”
A friend of mine (we’ll call him Joe to protect the innocent) recently lost his job. He had been working for the company for almost ten years. One afternoon the entire senior staff was brought into a conference room and told by the CEO that they had to let go of nearly half of Joe’s department. Upon hearing this, Joe immediately pulled up the most recent copy of his résumé to start sending it out to prospective employers.
Joe’s résumé was almost four years old. The last time he had updated it was when he was promoted to the job he was about to be fired from. There was a whole slew of responsibilities and functions of his job that were missing. Joe did his best to go through and update his résumé, but he told me that he felt like there were things he missed because he just couldn’t remember them.
The key to maintaining a great résumé is keeping it updated. Set a reminder for yourself in Outlook or Gmail that will occur once a quarter or every six month and remind you to update your résumé. When you do, print out a copy and make annotations on it where you would be able to enhance something or add new roles and responsibilities. I cannot say enough about having a Master Résumé on file where you can keep all information you might ever need for a job application.
My friend Joe realized that his new job was not going to be exactly the same as his last job, but that was OK. He looked back at projects that he had been a part of and realized that there were several presentations that he had contributed to in terms of the artwork and graphic design. He had always loved art and wanted to do something with his art.
Have a Portfolio
This may sound like something that would only be useful for artists or musicians, but it can apply to just about any position. Anything your produce in your daily work (projects plans, newsletters, new processes, even reports) can be added to your portfolio as demonstration of your ability.
Keep a Goal in Mind
You may have heard the adage that “you interview for your next job every day.” This is absolutely true and it is import to make sure you know what your plans and goals are. Take some time each week and assess where you are in your career and where you are trying to go. Write down your plans and refer back to them regularly.
If you see yourself going in a direction that leads you away from one of your goals, take the time to redirect and make sure everything you do at work is helping you achieve your career goals.
Joe did manage to find a new job just a few months after finding out he was being let go. He brought samples of the presentations he had worked on with him on interviews and was likely hired due to two things. First, he was able to show the interviewers some of his past work. That work provided evidence that he wasn’t just someone who liked to draw stick figures. Secondly, he had experience that was completely separate from his art and that made him a well rounded candidate for the job.
Even though Joe now has a great job doing work that he loves, he still makes sure to keep his Master Résumé updated. He even has two different templates for his résumé, one that is in a more traditional text format and one that incorporates graphic elements that he may use for more artistic work in the future.
Have more questions about writing your résumé? Leave them in the comments below.
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It’s that time again, a simple call for questions. This time I’m looking for anything you want to know about editing, grammar, punctuation, proofreading, etc.
Please submit your question in the comments below, send me an email or leave a post on Facebook or Twitter.
I have a short update today regarding the look of the blog and website. I am in the process of finalizing a new logo for Best Word Forward. I will soon be featured prominently on the webpage here, along with the Facebook page header and Twitter page header.
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A few weeks ago I asked you to send me some of the things that you find hard about writing your résumé. I will be tackling some of those in the coming weeks as blog topics.
Terrance wrote in-“I am not a writer and so I have a hard time crafting my experience on paper. I can talk about what I did but it is also hard remembering everything that I have done.”
I can completely understand this trouble. Some people are natural talkers. They are comfortable telling their story to people face to face but they lock up when they sit down by themselves to tell that same story. Let’s look at a few tips t get around this.
I have written about this in the past but it bears repeating. Make sure that you have a complete Master Résumé handy at all times. This document includes every job (yes, even babysitting or delivering papers in middle school) that you have ever held along with every responsibility that those jobs entailed.
When you need to apply for a job, simply access your Master Résumé and remove anything that doesn't apply to the job in question.
I recommend this not only because I offer this as a service through Best Word Forward but because I used to have trouble seeing the forest for the trees when I was writing my résumé. This is true about any writing endeavor and probably any artistic pursuit. Michelangelo likely had the vision of the Sistine Chapel in his mind, but it must be seen from the floor in order to appreciate the full beauty.
Your reviewer doesn't have to be a professional. I recommend finding a friend or family member with a teenage child and ask them to read over your résumé. For 90% of jobs, keeping the résumé simple makes more of an impact than over complicating it with big words. If someone in their early to mid teen years can understand your résumé AND repeat back to you what they read, chances are you are pretty close to the mark.
Do it in Chunks
Putting together can be a daunting task, especially when you don’t have a job and are trying desperately to land work. My last piece of advice is not to try and put together your full résumé all in one sitting. Just like any good writing, you should take some time to set down your outline. Start with just a list of your jobs and education. Once you have that framework in place, start filling in the details.
Give yourself a solid goal, perhaps one week to finish updating your résumé, and work on it a little bit every day. You’re not cramming for a test, you’re setting up your résumé to help you get a better job and improve your life. Make every second that you put into this effort count.
If you still have more questions about how to write your résumé, leave a note in the comments section or email me.
Jonathan Ytreberg is the owner of Best Word Forward, committed to providing the best resume advice and services to clients around the globe.