I’m New to This Whole “Work Force” Game

I’m new to this whole “Work Force” game. Yes, I’ve looked for jobs, been interviewed, hired and occasionally hired back. However, as far as a member of the “working class” goes, I’m new. I proudly identified myself as a student for most of my life, before then, “child” suited me just fine as a label.

So, what’s a new member of the “Work Force” to do? Fantasize about a team of superheroes able to answer phones, collate copies and make presentations to the board of directors at lightening speed? Nope. That fantasy doesn’t hold up well for long.

Instead, I’ve made mistakes… several mistakes, and I’m willing to post them on the Internet for the benefit of entertaining you, Career Options reader! Thus, my blog postings are premised on the idea that mistakes are A) more entertaining and B) a source of greater learning than successes. Although successes make for better drinking excursions.

There is no particular order to this list, just typing them in as they pop into the ol’ brainpan.

Mistake #1-
Read job postings carefully.

Sounds obvious, and it is. If you know you really don’t want to work over night shifts or until at least 1am, and the job ad says, “You will have to work overnight shifts, or until at least 1am”, it’s not in your best interests to apply for the job.

This will save you an awkward conversation when a potential employer calls you, excited at your immaculately crafted resume only to find that you’re not big on details immediately available online. This kind of conversation only makes HR people upset that you’ve wasted their time. Trust me.

So, for not applying to jobs you don’t really want (for example, I hate working overnight shifts and becoming as Michael Stipe so wonderfully wrote a “Daysleeper”) you save your time and energy for positions that you really want. You also save some HR employee an extra bit of energy. While you may never meet this person maybe someday you’ll be at a bar celebrating your new job and REM’s “Day Sleeper” will come on the stereo at last call, and you can strike up a conversation with this mysterious HR person, and that HR person will buy you your last drink of the evening.

Ok, this is highly unlikely, but it’s still good advice. And REM’s “Daysleeper” is still a great song.

Mistake #2-

All through high school, I felt an affinity to the generation before mine rather than my own. Nickelback couldn’t satiate my angst, and instead I turned to Nirvana.

While there are numerous reasons why I can’t and won’t be a part of generation X, my date of birth being one prime example, the goods that came from its ranks had a great influence over my formative years. One result of this is my tendency towards slacking off, a trait (or cliché) frequently attached to Generation X.

I don’t enjoy pressure but I do seem to thrive off it. In university, I never pulled an all-nighter. I came close a couple of times, but I always made sure I got at least a couple of hours of sleep. I did well enough through university to graduate with highest honours, and I’d like to think that is reflected in my work.

The thing that always surprised me about papers were the last minute details, you know, page numbers, headers, footnotes, title pages. Invariably there would be one or two details that would escape me, or cause me trouble last minute. I’ve handed in papers with (professional looking) hand drawn numbers at the bottom of each page. I’ve crafted title pages that have alternatively garnered such comments as “This title is the best part of your paper” and, on the other side of the scale, simply “Ugh.” Guess which title page I crafted in the final thirty seconds before I handed the paper in.

All this to say that I’ve found if I give my resume and cover letter the same last minute treatment, it hasn’t worked in my favour. The same problems arise as with papers, it’s not the spelling and grammar, but instead things like formatting that become big problems. It’s something I never thought a great deal about until I was desperate to be employed (it’s more or less a constant state for me when I’ve been unemployed).

I decided to run my resume past a complete stranger to see if he had any pointers. The best piece of advice he gave to me was, “Don’t be afraid to make your resume look good.”

Yes, your CV should look professional, but dress it up some. Most tips are obvious enough, like “don’t write in paragraphs”. HR people read many, many resumes in a day so formatting yours as a dissertation on why you’re the best possible candidate may not work well for you. So, bullet points are good, maybe find some that catch the eye. And for your own sake, don’t use Times New Roman or Courier New type face- the most boring available they practically induce comas. I highly recommend browsing some books on resumes at the library. Just make sure they’re recent, you probably don’t need to know what a fax-machine technician’s resume looks like.

So, after you’ve double-checked spellings, make sure everything is formatted well. I’ve transferred my resume to another computer to print and not checked thoroughly enough, only to notice that sentences were split between two lines throughout the document. Unfortunately, I noticed this just as I was handing it over to my potential employer in an interview. Thankfully she already had a copy (sans mistake) and I chose not to let her know that I can be kind of a slacker, sometimes.

Do you have any stories about editing or formatting? Do you have people read your resume before you print it? What’s the best resume advice you’ve been given?

7 Responses to “I’m New to This Whole “Work Force” Game”

  1. freddy7

    Here’s a resumé and covering letter tip…

    Resumé tip: Avoid letting the resumé drag on for more than 2 pages. You need to make it short and sharp – make an impact that will stay with the reader as he or she sifts through the piles of applcations. Otherwise you will just get lost in the noise.

    Covering letter tip: If you’re writing multiple cover letters at the same time and are working with a template, be extra careful that you don’t send a letter to employer “Y” with vestiges identifying employer “X”. Triple-check all your cover letters before you send them out to avoid falling into this trap.

  2. peaches

    Hey- great piece. I can’t remember how many times I’ve applied for jobs out of desperation that I wouldn’t ever actually take, and had to turn them down later, which always feels bad. Also, formatting a resume for print- always give yourself double the time you thought you needed!

  3. freddy7

    Remember that when you are applying for a job you are actually offering yourself for a transaction. You need to convey the idea that the employer is going to get a positive return on their investment of a wage or a salary. In the covering letter and in the interview and other discussions, it’s always about what you are going to do to enhance their bottom line or to make their lives easier – NOT what you are hoping to get out of the position. The employer’s sales job ends at the point that you are convinced to submit the application. From that point forwards it’s your job to do the selling.

    When you finally land the position, you have to continue to demonstrate your worth – to show the employer that he or she made the right choice in hiring you and not one of the other many applicants. Being a nice person can (and should) count in your favour, but in the end the employer wants to see a return on its investment. This is most strongly the case in small organizations because there is rarely any place to hide. But even in large companies, the ppl who don’t perform or cause trouble for colleagues usually get burned in the end.

  4. Sean

    As a previous hiring manager at TD Canada Trust, I was often puzzled at how applicants would forget the ‘little stuff’ when coming for their interview. This ‘little stuff’ really is a lot more important than it may seem.

    1. Make eye contact. Really it’s not that scary.

    2. Sound and look confident (if you’re not sure you are right for the job then you probably are not).

    3. Shake Hands (or for those afraid of pandemic virus, fist bump). Do this at the beginning and end of the interview.

    4. Look presentable. If you look in the mirror and question yourself, then you need to change. Simple rule is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

    5. Sell yourself, sell yourself, sell yourself. You need to think of yourself as a commodity. When finding a job, you are a prodcut/service. Why should this organization buy your product/service when there are hundreds if not thousands of others offering the same product/service. How do you set yourself apart? You know that you are an individual with unique skills and talents. What can you and only you offer to this organization?

    Planning answers for all the behaviour questions and role playing is fantastic. That said, if you don’t remember the ‘little stuff’ then you may still be looking for a job after that interview.

  5. jessecomber

    #5 from Sean’s list is the key. You’re always selling and the product is yourself. I don’t even really need to add to that, but he makes a great point!

  6. theme

    Yeah, it’s almost ridiculous how uptight some of my previous potential-employers were about the formatting of a resume. I’ve even been told by one that Times New Roman, despite being boring according to Mr Barton, is the only proper font for a resume. I’m sure that 99% of employers would pay no mind, but perhaps it goes to show how sometimes, there’s no such thing as too by-the-book. And Daysleeper is a good song.

  7. smcbride

    Great article. i have an interview tomorrow, and this is exactly the sort of advice I was looking for. Thanks!


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