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.
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.
I have mentioned in at least one previous post that the days of cookie cutter résumés are gone. With most big companies doing their initial hiring online, computers are doing much of the initial grunt work sorting through résumés submitted online, the use of keywords is becoming increasingly important. But what about when your résumé gets in front of a human?
Once you've passed the computers, it ultimately comes down to another human reading your résumé and feeling like you would be a good fit for the job they are trying to fill before evening meeting you. How can you do that? Be unique!
Having something unique to pique someone’s interest is key to getting noticed, but you also have to make sure that you’re qualified for the job and can contribute something to the position. That means making your résumé fit the job. A teacher applying for a position as a team manager could focus on her experience training people and working with very diverse groups. A former police officer applying for a position as a quality control operator on an assembly line could point to experience making split second decisions.
It simply comes down to two things:
Promote your unique abilities
Focus each résumé submission on the specific job you are applying for
With both of these in place, you will not be wasting the recruiter’s time looking at résumés that may not fit the position.
I am curious to hear from you what kinds of tweaks you make to your résumé when you are applying for jobs. Post in the comments below.
Jonathan Ytreberg is the owner of Best Word Forward, committed to providing the best resume advice and services to clients around the globe.