Over the past couple of years, I have had the great opportunity to review close to (or perhaps more than) 100 resumes and cover letters. When you receive 40 resumes and you have to narrow it down to interview just four of the people who submitted resumes, things get very interesting indeed.
Here are five ways to ensure your resume gets read in its entirety and chosen from the pile to move onto the next stage of the hiring process:
1) Take time with the visual appeal of your resume. If you use bright orange text or Comic Sans font, or if you have weird line spacing and strange paragraph breaks in your resume, that will be enough for me to want to toss it aside. You might protest and say that those parts don't matter, and what's more important is the content of your resume. The answer? Yes and no. Absolutely, your actual skills and education are fundamental to getting an interview. But if you do not take the time to pay attention to details and make your resume look professional, that says a lot about who you are as person and as a worker.
If you have great graphic design skills and want to make your resume stand out, then by all means do so. But if you do not have high quality design skills, stick with basic fonts and formatting; it will go a surprisingly long way.
— Sagan (@Saganlives) November 28, 2013
2) Be consistent. This follows suit with #1 on this list. If your round bullet points turn into numbers or square bullet points halfway down the list, or you start by using the Oxford comma and then nix it later on in your resume, or if you use the American spelling for a word but then use the British spelling and then go back to the American spelling at the end, this shows you aren't taking pride in your work. Editing and proofreading matters! It tells so much about your work ethic and also how much you respect the people reading your resume.
3) Include relevant information: fit your resume to fit the position and workplace. I get irritated when I read a resume that has item after item listed that have nothing to do with the job the person is applying for. Likewise, if the resume details information about how the person is great working in XYZ working environment, but the job they're applying for is set in a completely different environment (and this is made clear in the job posting), it really just shows that you didn't read the job posting or learn more about the workplace. Why would someone hire you if you didn't put in the effort to learn or don't care about the position or workplace? Think about how your past experience can be applied to the job you are currently applying for.
4) SHOW don't tell - or at least, show while telling. You say that you're detail-oriented: cool. But unless your resume reflects that, I'm going to take it with a grain of salt. You say that you are responsible and take initiative. That's all well and good, but how are you going to illustrate that? The bottom line is, you can use these words and phrases, but unless you back them up by providing some examples (that you led a campaign, volunteer for three different organizations, managed three employees, etc.), they are completely meaningless.
(Pssst... this goes for references, too. Any time a reference has told me a little anecdote about the person who worked for them, which illustrates their work ethic, I remember that anecdote more than I do any buzzwords they drop).
5) Update it regularly. This is one of the best things you can do to save yourself a lot of headache. Even if you don't have plans to leave your job in the near future, it is a good practise to undertake. Any time you do volunteer work, get new certifications or professional work experience, take on additional responsibilities at the office, or acquire new skills, add it to your resume. You never know when you might need it, and besides, it feels awesome to be able to see all of your accomplishments listed in one place!
What recommendations do you have for writing a resume? From a hiring standpoint, is there anything that stands out to you when reviewing resumes? Share your thoughts, ideas, and tips in the comments section below!
Over the holidays, I saw A Muppet Family Christmas for the first time. And it is now hands-down my favourite Christmas movie.
After watching A Muppet Family Christmas, I also had the opportunity to see the first episode of Fraggle Rock, as well as Lady Gaga & The Muppets' Holiday Spectacular. I remember that as a child I adored the Muppets, but I think that as an adult you can begin to really appreciate just why the Muppets are so ridiculously amazing:
1) The Muppets encourage viewers to be good Samaritans - or at the very least, just nice people in general. No matter the scenario, over and over the Muppets work together to overcome adversary. They go out of their way to help one another - just because that's the right thing to do.
2) The Muppets promote diversity. All of the Muppets are completely different, from Kermit to Big Bird to Gonzo to Snuffleupagus to Animal. And everyone is friends. The differences in the way they look and think and act are celebrated. There's an especially sweet moment in A Muppet Family Christmas when Fraggle Rock character Doc (the only actually human in the film) makes a comment about how "you're all kind of funny looking, but I like you anyway" (paraphrased).
3) The Muppets celebrate strong women. Miss Piggy is an unstoppable force. She has a fascinating combination of feminine and masculine qualities, and can hold her own no matter the circumstance. Sure, the Muppets might be a predominantly male cast of characters, but Jim Henson does women justice with Miss Piggy's character.
4) The Muppets teach good values. Love and kindness are the themes that run throughout the Muppets in general. Beyond the actual learning skills for little children (such as Bert and Ernie talking about letters and the Count about numbers), the Muppets teach about teamwork, friendship, courage, and support. There are so many other values that come out, as well: for example, in A Muppet Family Christmas, the Fraggles actually discuss how awesome re-gifting is. Kids get to learn about how materials aren't that important and to not be big consumers! It is fantastic. Jim Henson is kind of amazing.
Have you seen the Muppets lately? What do you like best about the Muppets? Share in the comments section below!
I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember - I think I was 10 years old when I wrote my first full-length novel. One of the things that I enjoy the most about writing novels is that there are so many ways to do it. Having written eight or 10 novels over the past decade and a half, I've had the opportunity to experiment with a number of different writing styles to see which ones work best for me (and for the period of my life I'm in and for the particular type of story).
Here are three of the most common - and quite different - ways to write a novel:
- Put together a storyboard or story arc. This is a great way to plan out or outline your novel from start to finish so that you have a clear idea of what the story is going to be all about and where you want to go with it. It enables you to explore a variety of different plots and characters, and to see on a single page how everything will come together to flesh out your novel. As a general rule, if you have little experience in writing novels, putting together an outline by creating a storyboard is a great place to start.
- Piece together your story like a jigsaw puzzle. If you want to write a novel but just have a couple of scenes in mind, or the idea of a character, or a section of dialogue, then this is a fun style of putting it on paper. It is how my most recent, 95% completed novel started out: as just a couple of descriptions and some dialogue written on scraps of paper. At one point I was literally taking one scrap from over there and another from over here with different pieces of writing on them and examining how I could make them work together.The problem with this style is that it can take a very long time to write your novel, since you aren't beginning with any particular structure. It also has the potential of going in one direction for 20,000 words before you realize that it would be better off going in a completely different direction. This is a risk that doesn't generally come with putting together a storyboard for your novel.
- Just start writing. This has been my traditional style of writing novels since I first began doing it. This style works best if you have the idea for the story in your head, and you know roughly who your main character is and at least three major plot points. It's one of the most beautiful styles of writing, in my mind, because the story creates itself: as you write, new characters and plots arise, and it all flows very naturally. But it can certainly be problematic if you forget about one of your characters or storylines and aren't keeping track, as you then have to go back to figure out what you had initially planned.
What's your favourite way of writing novels? What style works best for you? Do you write in a completely different way? Share in the comments section below!
The Casual Vacancy is the first novel that J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has written for adults. Its tagline: A big novel about a small town.
The seven novels in the Harry Potter series are beloved by children and adults alike, and while most readers will appreciate the eloquence of Rowling's writing style and ability, and the gripping simplicity of how she writes about complex topics, most of us are really just reading those books for the story itself. The story is what keeps you reading. The characters, the plot, the setting; all of these are what compel us to flip the pages faster and faster in an urgency to find out what happens next. The story itself is so darn good that it overpowers the beauty of Rowling's writing - and I think that we fail to see just what a great writer she is because we are too caught up in the story she is telling.
The Casual Vacancy is a little different. The story - about, in essence, a small town fighting over a parish council seat - is interesting enough, but that's not why you continue reading. You keep reading because the writing is so beautiful and strong that it is what captivates you. Where Harry Potter seemingly relies more on the story to keep the reader's attention, The Casual Vacancy depends much more on Rowling's exquisite writing style.
This, then, is one of the first things that you can love about The Casual Vacancy: it showcases real talent.
But the second thing that you begin to notice as you read the novel is that not only is The Casual Vacancy about solid, powerful writing, it is also primarily a novel about classism.
Classism runs rampant. It's something that I see occur with far too much frequency (along with racism), living in the downtown area. Classism is just how it sounds: "discrimination on the grounds of social class," as the Canadian Oxford English Dictionary puts it. And it is prevalent in our society.
In The Casual Vacancy, we read the story of political strife in a tiny town. Peppered throughout, Rowling touches on topics of racism, homophobia, and discrimination toward people with mental illness, illustrating how commonplace all of these are. And all of them revolve around issues of classism, as the town is split in two with one side wanting to in effect "purge" the town of the people they see as beneath them, and the other side wanting to bring together people of all socio-economic backgrounds. The end result of the struggle over the parish council seat will determine which side wins out over the other.
And even within that struggle between the two sides, we discover that some of the characters are so ingrained with the notion of being in separate classes that, even though they are on the side that supposedly wants to defeat classism, they are really just doing it for the sake of the man who died and left that parish council seat empty in the first place. And so we come to another topic that Rowling explores within The Casual Vacancy: the glorification and romanticism of putting the dead on a pedestal. Throughout the novel, the characters mourn the loss of Fairbrother (the man who left the seat empty), but you begin to wonder how great of a man he really was, and how much he has simply been romanticized now that he is dead. Correspondingly, this leads into another topic that Rowling addresses: that of people giving up (or not working hard enough) to effect real change as individuals if they have no leader to stand behind.
The Casual Vacancy might at first glance be a story about preparing for an election and fighting over a council seat, but it is about so much more than that. It is about so many of the things that are wrong with our society - and perhaps from that, we can recognize those issues which are taking place all around us, every day, and take steps to address them.
I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because coming up with new ideas makes all of us better writers!
Writing is, of course, a crucial part of creating content - whether it's an email, a resume, a report, an essay, or other documentation - but by no means is it the only part of creating content! Editing and proofreading are vital to the writing process, and here's why:
1) Checking your work makes you look better. This one's a no-brainer: typos, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors are embarrassing. Any kind of mistake in your writing is going to make you look bad, but you can solve that easily by editing and proofreading your work.
2) Mistakes suggest a lack of respect. If you don't take the time to check your writing for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, it shows that you don't have enough respect for the person reading your work to take the time to ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and correct. It also suggests a lack of respect for yourself: mistakes make you look bad, and when you let yourself make mistakes without bothering to look them over, it shows that you don't care about putting the effort in for yourself.
3) How you write shares something about your work style with others. Are you detail-oriented? Do you want to do as good of a job as you can? Do you put care, effort, and time into your work? If your work is riddled with spelling errors and poor sentence structure, the answer to all of these questions is no. A well-written piece, on the other hand, will do all the talking for you (especially if this is your resume or you're trying to attract a new client): it shows that you are willing to go the extra distance to make your work as good as it can be.
All of this being said, at some point or another, most of us are going to make some errors in our work. That's human! But when your work consistently has errors, it says a lot more about you than just that you don't like to edit or proofread. It says something about who you are as a person, what your work ethic is like, and how much you respect the other people reading your work.
If editing and proofreading don't come naturally to you, that's okay! You can use programs like Grammarly to help you out, you can ask someone else to read your work over, you can look into resources on how to improve your editing skills, or you can hire an editor. There are a lot of options out there!
Why is editing / proofreading important to you? Do you enjoy editing? Share in the comments section below!
Last month I had the opportunity to not only watch a graphic facilitator at work during a panel discussion, but also to then attend a how-to workshop on graphic facilitation. They were both extremely interesting!
What is graphic facilitation?
Graphic facilitation involves essentially creating a work of art as a way to capture ideas and notes. In this instance, a panel discussion of three experts were discussing issues around sustainability, and the graphic facilitator was drawing images to illustrate their main points and ideas. With graphic facilitation, you can see everything visually laid out for you at the end of a brainstorming session, and have a lot of ideas to take away from it (rather than just pages of notes or bullet point upon bullet point upon bullet point).
It's a very cool way to get our brains working - and the graphic facilitator at our how-to workshop even recommended that children who doodle use this method when they are in school by doodling what the teacher is talking about rather than doodling mindlessly.
How can graphic facilitation be useful?
As a way to visualize and capture everything that you've been talking about in a brainstorming session or discussion period, graphic facilitation enables us to think about our ideas in a different way and use our brains on a whole different level. It also has the added benefit of triggering our memories, so that when we look back at our artistry that illustrates the session, we can remember distinct points that people were making (rather than looking at your list of notes and vaguely remembering that someone said something along those lines...).
I experimented with graphic facilitation when I was reviewing a webinar. I took "notes" by drawing images and pictures. The best part is, I can still go back to that page that I drew all over and remember exactly what I was trying to get at. It's fun to be able to so easily decipher the major points by looking at a few simple drawings!
How do you "do" graphic facilitation?
Really, graphic facilitation is about drawing very simple, basic shapes and moving forward from there. At our how-to workshop, the graphic facilitator showed us that by combining seven elements - a circle, square, triangle, L-shape, the number 7, a straight line, and a wavy line - we can create anything! Granted, this doesn't mean that you instantly become an amazing artist overnight (TRUST ME. I can attest to that).
It's also about really exercising a part of our brains that a lot of us don't make use of in our adult lives. Think about light bulbs to illuminate key ideas, mountains to illustrate journeys, sign posts to indicate important messages, and so on. Colour is also a major part of this, as that can help to differentiate between various images (and there's nothing much more fun than getting a pile of markers and drawing as you're learning!).
Graphic facilitation is such a fun way to improve your memory when it comes to brainstorming and discussion sessions - it might not be entirely appropriate to test out in a meeting with your boss, but I definitely encourage everyone to take advantage of the next opportunity you have to implement this way of "note-taking." You'd be surprised at how effective it is!
Have you ever tried graphic facilitation? Can you draw well? Does this concept appeal to you? How do you ensure that you remember key points from discussion sessions? Share in the comments section below!
Earlier this year, Mr Science and I gleefully took advantage of a Rosetta Stone sale and made the splurge to purchase their Levels 1 - 4 of French. It was exciting.
Growing up, I was lucky to be exposed to a lot of different languages. I spent several years at an international school, where we were taught English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and German at the age of 12. We got firsthand practice by traveling in different countries. When I lived with a house family in Cabrils, I could understand Spanish / Catalan almost fluently (speaking it was another thing!). But none of it has "stuck" with me.
I liked learning other languages when I was traveling, but I never enjoyed it very much in school. Something about the way that it is traditionally taught has always frustrated me. I was "taught French" for at least seven years in school, but it always felt like we were just learning the exact same thing, year after year, and never progressing. Even though Canada is a bilingual country, a year ago the most French I knew was "bonjour." After all those years in elementary and junior high and high school, none of the French I learned stuck with me.
Over the years I've become increasingly more embarrassed about my total lack of knowledge when it comes to one of my country's official languages. It's a real wake-up call, as well, when French media calls your office requesting an interview, and you have to admit that out of the dozen people working in your office - at an organization whose logo includes French writing on it - not a single person can speak a word of French.
For these reasons, among others (including that being able to speak a second language is a nice thing to add to the resume!), Mr Science and I decided it was about time we learned French.
We didn't want to just be able to say a few words. We want to be able to carry a conversation, to have a meaningful discussion, in another language. Rosetta Stone seemed like the perfect option in terms of flexibility and also learning together.
I knew that it would be a big undertaking to learn a new language, but I don't think I really understood it. Mr Science and I have been working on French since May, sometimes practicing every day, and other times going for two or three weeks without opening the program. We've learned how to put a few very basic sentences together. We try to incorporate some of our French learnings into our everyday conversation together, but it is tough!
Learning French has been (and will continue to be!) more than just about learning a new language. As I'm learning French, I'm understanding more about the English language, as well, and how the way that we structure our sentences indicates a lot about the people that we are and about our cultures. I'm learning about committed discipline. I'm learning about how to think in a new language: Rosetta Stone doesn't focus on translations, it focuses more on word associations, so that you aren't always translating things in your head but are instead truly "getting" the new language.
It's hard work, but I love it. We are still only just halfway through level one of four levels, and I know that I have a whole lot more to learn in the coming years. I'm excited for it.
Can you speak more than one language? What have your experiences been in learning a new language? Have you tried Rosetta Stone? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
It's very timely that as we were JUST talking about the best thing you can do when writing your novel, National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) is right around the corner!
Between November 1 - 30, NaNoWriMo invites you to write a 50,000-word novel. This year, they are expecting 500,000 writers to join in - and you could be one of them! Through participating on the NaNoWriMo website, you'll be able to access writer forums, attend writer events, and find writer buddies. And hopefully within 30 days, you'll have written a 50,000-word first draft of a novel.
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.