Saturday, December 8, 2018

Creating a resume and applying for work

Yesterday, I had a student ask me for help applying for a holiday job online. We started going through the online application together, when we came across a section for uploading a resume. This student doesn’t have one (yet! - we're about to change that), and doesn't have any formal work experience yet, either. In the little amount of time we had together at the moment, I tried explaining to this student what a resume is and why we should try to put one together to greatly increase the chances of getting called for an interview, and hopefully, ultimately hired. The student seemed a little perplexed, and I was met with some blank stares. But that's certainly okay. A natural initial response for a new experience. We'll get there. I had the same reaction when several students were trying to teach me all about Fortnite one day!

So you're applying for a job, and you don't have a resume or any (or extremely limited) previous work experience. Mr. Robertson and some other great friends and resources to the rescue!

To begin, let's start with some really basic concepts about the nature of work and why we work.

First off, think of yourself as a business.

That's right - take a few moments to think about yourself - just you as an individual person - as your own, truly unique business. You are your own company. And what do businesses have?

For starters, they have bills to pay, right? For us individuals, that could mean a car payment, rent, a mortgage, credit cards, food, medical and dental care, phone bill, childcare, utilities, right?

Businesses also have goals that they want to accomplish. For us individual businesses, that could mean items or services we buy that we don't necessarily need to survive, but that we want to have or to own anyway, right? We want to have the big fancy house with all the video games in the world. We want the Lincoln or the Cadillac instead of the Ford. We want to fly down to Disney World in the first-class section instead of coach. We want to have the best cable or satellite TV package with all the sports channels.

Goals can also mean awards or recognition that we want to achieve, or things that we want to do or experience just for our own personal satisfaction. We want to become known as experts in a subject and have other people in our community or even from all over the country or world seek out our knowledge and guidance. We want to become a high-level manager or executive and have all the rewards - and responsibilities - that come with it. And hopefully, somewhere in there, we have some goals to be able to help other people just for the sake of helping other people, with nothing in return being expected.

You get the point.

So, if you are your own business, what are you selling, and who are you trying to sell it to?

In this case, you are trying to sell a one-of-a-kind product or service - you! Yourself! And your potential customer who's going to pay you money on a regular basis so that you can start accomplishing your own goals and paying your own bills is the business you want to work for.

You see, what you're trying to sell is a package deal containing all of your talents, skills, knowledge, experiences, hobbies, interests, accomplishments, character, past work experience (if you have any), and potential.

But you see, even though we are all truly unique, one-of-a-kind individuals, there are similar talents, abilities, experiences, accomplishments, potential, etc. that we share with others. There's definitely some overlap that exists. And employers don't have the time to call or meet with every applicant to try to determine who's the best choice.

This is where the resume comes in.

The resume is a tool that we each create that summarizes and showcases our unique talents, abilities, experiences, etc. Because employers don't have the time to call or meet with everyone that's applying for a job, we give them our resume to look at instead. We hope that a potential employer will give us a call to invite us to participate in the next step in the process - the interview - based on what they read and see on our resume. So it's very important that we do an excellent job in crafting our resume. The chances of getting a call for an interview rest on this one or two page document that introduces us and our strengths to our possible employer. It's a first introduction, so it needs to be done extremely well.

A résumé (a word with French origins pronounced rez-um-may), or resume, according to this Wikipedia article, " a document used by a person to present their backgrounds and skills. Résumés can be used for a variety of reasons, but most often they are used to secure new employment."

Introducing the functional resume.

Take a look at that Wikipedia article, and, in particular, pay particular attention to the "Styles" section a little bit further down in the article. This section talks about the main, common types of resume formats that exist. For our purposes here, because you have no (or very, very little) prior work experience, we probably want to pick the "functional" resume format for designing your very first resume.

Additionally, I want you to check out this article on entitled, Functional Resume Samples & Writing Guide, written by Erik Episcopo. This article offers a number of great step-by-step tips and visual examples.

Next, check out this video on YouTube. It's only about 8.5 minutes in length, and the presenter is very easy to understand and offers a great visual example. It may be best to open the video in full-screen mode.

Finally, if you have Microsoft Word on your computer, the newer versions of Word have resume templates that you can easily customize. Go ahead and open up Word and simply start exploring and playing around a little bit in the resume template area. There are some really cool options.

So, if you have very little to no prior work history, what kinds of experiences and abilities can you maybe summarize and highlight in your functional resume? Here are some ideas to help get you thinking:

  • Do you play any school team or club sports?
  • Any other types of school clubs/activities you may have experience with?
  • Any experience babysitting for neighbors or family friends? 
  • Do you volunteer, or have volunteered, for a local charity, or for a school program like best buddies?
  • Know first aid or CPR? 
  • Can you speak/write in another language (bilingual), like Spanish?
  • Are you, or were you, in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts?
  • Are you familiar enough with any particular software programs or other forms of technology (like Microsoft Office, various Apple products, Web design and coding, etc., etc.)?
  • Can you type at a decent speed? Do you know how many words per minute (wpm) you average? Here, take a free online typing test.
  • Do you have a decent grade point average (GPA) that you would be proud to show off, say a 3.0 or higher?
  • Do you routinely make the honor roll?
  • If you're applying for work as a sales associate in a retail environment, do you have any experience at all in selling and/or providing customer service? It could be selling concessions at your school's sporting events, or candy for fundraisers, for example.
These are just a few great ideas and examples for showcasing skills and talents in areas like leadership, teamwork, communication, responsibility, service to others, initiative and motivation, and goals. And hopefully, you're actively seeking ways to learn outside the classroom on a regular basis, too.

Now, because you're applying for only your first or second job, I presume, this doesn't really apply to you at the moment, but eventually, as you gain additional work experience and education over time, you'll want to start customizing your resume to better fit the next job you're applying for or the industry you'd really like to work in. Right now, your resume is a little more generic, in the sense that we're trying to show your potential first or second employer that you have some basic leadership, communication, and other skills established through your involvement in sports, clubs and activities, scouting, volunteering, etc.

A few key reminders when crafting your resume:

Make sure to use a professionally-sounding e-mail address on your resume, like your school e-mail address or something like Don't use the silly-sounding e-mail address that you still have from elementary or middle school!

Talk up your talents and skills, but never over exaggerate your abilities and experiences. Don't lie or come close to doing so about anything. If you get called for an interview, know that you're going to be asked about what you listed on your resume. Anything on your resume will be fair game for questions, and you're going to have to comfortably and confidently explain and defend what you wrote!

Use spelling and grammar check, but also have one or two other adults - like teachers or coaches, for example - review your resume. Sometimes, spelling and grammar check doesn't catch all errors.

Now that you're familiar with creating a resume, check out this post, Creating a cover letter for a job application, which is the next step in the process.

Happy job hunting!

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