Tag: business writing

The Narrative Arc: Where Storytelling Meets Professional Writing

DSCN3636Emily Blair, consultant

Consider your favorite book or movie. You have probably been reading and watching TV since you were young. Some stories are more exciting than others; some have adventurers, travelling bands of heroes, or great villains that need conquering. Other stories place you within the mind of a character not so unlike yourself, showing how one person’s life unfolds in a realistic world

Now, think about an email to your professor. You likely don’t think it is as exciting as a blockbuster film; in fact, you probably don’t think about it as a story at all, but rather, a completely utilitarian writing assignment. However, it can be helpful and productive to think of your writing as an exercise in storytelling, with some relation to the narrative arc that you know from years of enjoying books, movies, TV shows, and video games.

Let’s take a professional email as an example. I need to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation, which would be a great favor. I might be tempted, for brevity’s sake, to write something like this:

Dr. Smith,

Can you write me a letter of rec for grad school?

–Emily Blair

This style of email likely will not get the response you hope, not only because of its brief tone but also because there are ways to make this story more compelling in a way that allows my professor to see why their letter of recommendation would help me achieve my goals. Depending on the situation, you can employ different facets of storytelling, such as characterization, exposition, the building of plot, climax, and conclusion:

Dear Dr. Smith,

I am writing to ask if you would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation for the University of Louisville’s Master’s program in English. I felt that your class in Southern Literature in Fall 2015 informed my understanding of current literary research in contemporary regional literature, as well as what my own place could be in the field. You had mentioned that my papers in your class were well thought out, and I consider you a mentor in this vein of literature. I would like to earn my MA at U of L because the work that Dr. Jones and Dr. Lakes are doing in Southern and regional literature before going on to a Ph.D. program with those focuses as well.

If you have any questions, or would like to see my resume, please let me know. Thank you for considering writing me a letter of recommendation for a graduate program.

Sincerely,

Emily Blair

The difference between these emails is not only length but also how I, as a student, could speak to a professor using a narrative. I have walked the professor, my audience, through not only why I am applying to this graduate program, but also why they, in particular, have the ability to help in my application process. I have drawn a direct line between this professor’s class and my future Ph.D. program, allowing the professor to follow the story of my path through a literature education. I have also made myself a unique person, or a “character,” in this narrative by reminding Dr. Smith of my performance in their class and setting myself apart with specific goals to attend U of L.

While most of the things you write in a professional setting won’t be as exciting as Lord of the Rings or as entertaining as Friends, you can use some creative writing techniques to better convey your narrative to others.

Resumes, Part II: Continuing to Set Yourself Apart

Mariah Douglas, Consultant

We did it, UofL! We’ve hit the double digits for the number of weeks we’ve been hard at work this fall semester. Unfortunately that means, if it hasn’t already started for you, crunch time is right around the corner (and sadly, I’m not referring to the leaves crunching underfoot, either). Assignments galore. Tests for days. Pages of papers (which the University Writing Center would love to help you with!). But before we start to coffee-guzzle, let’s take a happy minute to reflect on what we’ve already accomplished this fall. Better yet, let’s translate those accomplishments to our resumes!

Last year, Meagan Ray did an excellent piece on uncommon resume tips, which explained a few different tactics to give your resume an edge in the job market. Definitely give that a look-see, as those are some excellent ways to distinguish your resume. But make sure to come back here for Part II–just a few more suggestions that will take yours to the next level:

DSCN2233

1. Bullet points say whaaaat?—There are several layers to a resume: main headings of sections, individual items within each section, qualifiers for each item to further explain them (dates, location, what Meagan referred to in her short explanation of “Player” in her blog post, etc.), and I suggest adding one more layer–further expanding upon each item with bullet points.

But what to include in said bullet points, you ask? At the bare minimum, include your responsibility associated with that item (i.e., the responsibilities of that job position). However, to really make your resume stand out, include this responsibility and tack on what skill you gained/were able to demonstrate by carrying out that responsibility. For example, I worked as a sales associate at Gymboree, where my main responsibility was to sell children’s clothing, but my bullet point read like this: “sold children’s clothing, in order to perfect customer service skills and fund my study abroad experience.”

These bullet points are where your audience has the opportunity to really get to know you and how you have applied certain skills in a professional environment. Which leads me to my next point…

2. Now about that Skills section…— Unless you have a skill that is specifically beneficial to your field or really makes you stand out, like “CPR certified for the past 4 years,” employers may be likely to just skim this Skills section, as they see it time and time again. That’s some valuable space on your resume that could be used to really capture your audience!

My advice is to include these overused skills that are usually in that separate section in the bullet point explanations (explained above in Suggestion #1). It’s important to be aware of which skills are overused and to steer away from being a cliché applicant. For example, unless you’re looking to be congratulated for being born after 1985, don’t include “Microsoft Office proficiency.” It is a general skill that most people have acquired during our tech-savvy age, and unless your employer specifically wants this noted, it’s best to not include this skill and instead use this space to highlight a better aspect of you!

BUT, again, if you do have a skill that really distinguishes you in that field, keeping it in its own “Skills” section may benefit you by showcasing how unique and qualified you are as an applicant.

3. Gotta getcha some of that Skimmability—What are employers going to see first if they just skim over your resume (which unfortunately happens all the time)? Usually, the answer is whatever is closest to the top and furthest to the left. So with this knowledge, you can make your resume even more tailored to your audience.

Applying to a new school? Putting education as your first section may be a smart move. A managerial position? If you were a manager before, including that job title at the top of that specific item and closest to the left side of the page may be enough to catch that boss-person’s eye.

4. BOLD, italics, underlined, oh my!—These emphasizing typography methods are your friends. They can draw your reader to whichever part of your resume you choose to be most important.

For example, if you are applying to graduate school and are trying to focus your entire resume around what you have done as a student/responsible person, you may want to prioritize each item under your “Professional Experience” section by the title of the position you held, rather than the company it was under; by presenting your title first, perhaps in bold, with the company underneath in italics, it draws the reader to this block of emphasized text, while differentiating the two and still giving the bigger emphasis to your position within that company.

5. Consistency, consistency, consistency—Employers love when everything on your resume is clean-cut. Your resume is usually the company’s first impression of you, so by trimming everything up and making it all consistent, you show that you have an eye for detail and really care about putting your best foot forward, which translates to being able to positively represent their company, too!

For this step, you should come at your resume with fresh eyes. Set it down. Pick it back up. Go.

If you end your bullet points with periods, make sure to do this throughout. Are all of your bullet points lined up? Are all of your dates aligned on the page? Did you use an Oxford comma in one list but not another? Does your resume look succinct at first glance? Make notes and apply these changes.

6. Save every resume. Just do it. F’real.—If you haven’t done this yet, it’s okay. Just start now. As you gain more experience and participate in more things, the items you include on your resume are going to fluctuate. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve needed to go back and look at a position I held in an organization or at a job I had that is now more applicable to the position I’m currently applying for. The safest thing to do is save everything. And it’s really quite easy!

All you need to do is open your most recent resume and make the necessary changes, then select “Save As,” and rename this edited resume with the current date, such as “Resume 2014.10.26,” to be saved in the same folder as the other resumes. This will ensure that both your last resume and this most recent one are saved on your computer, and writing the date as year-month-day will prompt the folder to group these resumes first by year, then by month.

7. Brand-spankin’-new job? Awesome! Tell your resume all about it ASAP—That really is great! Just make sure to “Save As” that new file (see Suggestion #6) and add it all in. It’ll be easier now than trying to remember each position you held or volunteer work you did throughout the past semester.

But most importantly, just keep on keepin’ on. It’s go time.

The ePortfolio: Shaping Your Online Presence Through a Professional Medium

Haley Petcher, Consultant 

The weather is still pretty warm, but somehow it’s already October. October means that graduate school applications are beginning to be due, and for those of you graduating in December, the “real world” of jobs is right around the corner. You want to get into grad school and to get a job, but how will the committees and employers know the real you? How will the people writing your rec letters know details about what you did during your undergraduate career? The answer is what you would expect from a University Writing Center employee: by writing.

These days, though, everything is digital. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc., we have a large digital footprint with details about ourselves, but none of those footprints are professional. At my undergraduate institution, Auburn University, I learned about ePortfolios, which are basically personal websites that showcase your experiences and skills by contextualizing pictures, papers, and projects. I created one for an English class, but I have a confession: I didn’t finish one in time for applications. Guys, I regret that. However, I recently completed one that represents my experiences in undergrad, and I hope to complete another ePortfolio by the end of my MA program.

Before you say, “I don’t have papers to share,” I promise that ePortfolios aren’t just for English majors. I’ve seen examples of ePortfolios by by engineers, pharmacy studentsbusiness students, artists, nurses, and vet students. They pick some of their best projects and presentations to showcase and contextualize.

Creating an ePortfolio is like writing a paper with pictures. Here are a few quick tips to get you started:

  • First, think about your audience. Often it’s professionals, like a professor who is writing your rec letter or a graduate or hiring committee.
  • Next, write a “thesis” for your ePortfolio. That is, what do you want to prove to your audience? One of my friends, for example, majored in English and minored in business. He wanted to prove that his experiences in English, tutoring, hiring committees, and leadership meshed with his love for books. After getting his MBA, he hopes to find a job at a publishing company.
  • Consider how you want to organize your ePortfolio. Should each page have to do with a verb, like “research” or “teach,” or should each page relate to words like “teamwork” or “service”?
  • Pick the most important things you did that are connected to your “thesis” and organize them according to your pages. When you write about them, try to explain the project and to explain what you learned from it.
  • Pick an online venue, like wix.com or weebly.com. (They’re free!)
  • Start creating your ePortfolio! (Remember to use appropriate pictures. Pictures of you outside – by yourself – are often good.)

When you complete your ePortfolio, you can put the link on your resume or email signature. (If there’s something to click, people will probably click it. Take advantage of other people’s curiosity!)

You’re probably wondering what happens if your future employer or grad school doesn’t review your ePortfolio. The great thing is about creating an ePortfolio is that by analyzing and writing about your work, you will begin to better understand what you enjoy about your studies and experiences and how your time in undergrad will help you reach your goals. The ePortfolio shows that you can think critically about your interests and allows you to explain how volunteering at the animal shelter or starting a club for students who enjoy tap dancing makes you an attractive and unique candidate for the job.

If you want some more examples, try checking these out! Also, since an ePortfolio involves writing and is like a paper, you can always bring it to the University Writing Center for a writing consultation.

Note: I received most of this information from presentations I attended while working with Auburn University’s Office of University Writing (OUW). You can learn more about ePortfolios by reviewing the OUW’s website.

How I Write: Christy Metzger — Student Services Director

Our “How I Write” series asks writers from the University of Louisville community and beyond to respond to five questions that provide insight into their writing processes and offer advice to other writers. Through this series, we promote the idea that learning to write is an ongoing, life-long process and that all writers, from first-year students to career professionals, benefit from discussing and collaborating on their work with thoughtful and respectful readers. The series will be featured every other Wednesday.

Christy Metzger is the director for the Office of First Year Initiatives at the University of Louisville. In August 2006 she began her work in this field when she was charged to undertake the university’s more coordinated first year experience efforts. Christy earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Spanish and Psychology from Transylvania University and a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration from the University of Louisville.

How I Write: Christy Metzger

Location: Belknap Campus (Strickler Hall 126)metzger

Current project: I’m working on my own This I Believe-style statement for Book-in-Common.

Currently reading: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri and the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

  1.  What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?

    Since I finished my Master’s degree, the vast majority of my writing is business writing, which I undertake for my job. No matter what the task, it’s important that I’m mindful about how I craft my message; I do believe that attention to tone, language, clarity and a mistake-free end product makes a big difference in whether I’m successful in my work or not.

    Email consumes most of my writing time, as it does for many of my colleagues. I think it’s harder to persuade, clarify, inform, activate, etc. over email than it is with an in-person audience, so depending on the subject matter and recipient it may be a quick email or it might be one I really have to draft and revise. (I do a lot more drafting and revising than I do quick emails.)For executing our programs themselves, I’ve written things like facilitation guides and instruction manuals, reading guides and tips, and classroom materials.   And to promote and assess our programs, I will create program brochures, web content, requests for funding, surveys and annual reports.

  2. When/where/how do you write?

    Usually I’m writing in my office at work. However, if what I’m writing feels like a more difficult task I might take that home to work on – perhaps nestled into a comfortable chair or outside on my deck when it’s warm.

    When I was writing papers in graduate school, I found I was most productive at a coffee shop, where the ambient noise kept me alert but where I didn’t have the distractions (or beds) of home to sidetrack me.

  3. What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces?

    I type faster than I write by hand now, so I much prefer to write on a computer. I enjoy having a cup of coffee nearby, whatever notes I need, and some sort of music in the background (right now it’s afternoon decaf with peppermint mocha creamer and Don Williams crooning old country standards). If I’m at home, it’s certain that my sweet dog is nestled right up next to me.

  4. What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?

    My best advice is to first be clear about the key ideas you are trying to convey. That way, you can focus your writing product around that. When I started writing longer papers with open-ended topics and many different sources, I found that it helped me to begin to put my notes about each article in an outline form in a Word document. Along the way, I’ll pop in key points and thoughts I am having in response to the reading, as well as important quotes I might want to use later. The Word outline format lets me group similar ideas and move things around, and it’s from these notes that my papers grow. Sometimes whole paragraphs practically write themselves because I’ve already done a lot of the thinking along the way. When at all possible, I have someone else read and proof my writing.

  5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?

    The best advice I received was about writing emails to my colleagues. I’m much more cognizant now that my main idea or request needs to be in the first few sentences of the email so that it’s quickly seen by the recipient. I have a tendency to want to provide a lot of context to help my reader understand why what I’m conveying is important. However, because of that my main thought or request often wound up at the bottom of a lot of writing, where it was perhaps overlooked. (I even moved my main idea up in this paragraph in case my reader lost interest to this point.) It’s a small point to make, but I do believe it can make a tremendous difference.

How I Write: James Ramsey — University President

Our “How I Write” series asks writers from the University of Louisville community and beyond to respond to five questions that provide insight into their writing processes and offer advice to other writers. Through this series, we promote the idea that learning to write is an ongoing, life-long process and that all writers, from first-year students to career professionals, benefit from discussing and collaborating on their work with thoughtful and respectful readers. The series will be featured every other Wednesday.

This week we are pleased to featureramsey-portrait James Ramsey, president of the University of Louisville. Before assuming UofL’s top post, he served as senior policy adviser and state budget director for Kentucky and senior professor of economics and public policy at UofL. He has served as vice chancellor for finance and administration at both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Western Kentucky University. He has been associate dean, assistant dean and director of public administration in the College of Business Administration at Loyola University and research associate for the University of Kentucky’s Center for Public Affairs. Dr. Ramsey is a tenured professor of economics.

A frequent national speaker and writer on economic issues in the public sector, Ramsey has  received a number of honors and awards including the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award in 2012, Greater Louisville Inc.’s Silver Fleur-De-Lis Award in 2011, Louisville Advertising Federation’s Louisvillian of the Year Award in 2010, Western Kentucky University Distinguish Alumni Hall of Fame in 2010, Louisville Defender Outstanding Community Service Award in 2010, Business First Business Leader of the Year in 2007, University of Kentucky College of Business and Economics Alumni Hall of Fame in 2004, the Governor’s Association’s Outstanding Public Service Award in 2001, Kentucky’s Distinguished Economist of the Year in 1999 and the Fern Creek High School Hall of Fame in 1998.

How I Write: James Ramsey

  1. What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?


    At this point in my professional career, most of my writing is of a professional nature:
    a. Communications to various members of the university family including Board of Trustees, Board of Overseers, University of Louisville Foundation, Alumni,  etc.;
     Legislators and public policy makers; Donors;

    b. Policy papers;

    c. I still try to do a bi-monthly newsletter to several different groups, both university and non-university, on the state economy and the state’s economic outlook. 

  2. When/where/how do you write?

    I need silence to write.  While I can close the door to my office, there are always interruptions, either in person or telephone.  Also, there is the constant allure of checking the latest e-mails, etc. I do most of my writing in the car.  At an earlier point in my life, my family and I lived 2-1/2 hours from my place of work.  While I would generally leave home early on a Monday morning, I would try to come back one or two nights during the week for our kids’ school events and then home on the weekend.  The point is, I had a lot of time in the car and I became accustomed to dictating all kinds of communications from responses to e-mails, letters, and in some cases professional economics papers.  I continue that practice.  My home is 20 or so miles from the office so I can often dictate 15 or 20 minutes coming in to work – I’m actually dictating my answers to these questions now as I am on a trip out of town and will be in the car for 3 hours.

    My best time to write is early in the morning – fresh, brain working (late afternoon/evening – brain dead).

  3. What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces?

    When I am writing and not dictating I need a yellow pad and a number of pencils with erasers.  I rarely type other than short cryptic answers – not very proficient at typing.

  4. What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?

    It depends to some degree on the type of communication but generally I will first think through key messages to convey or points I want to make.  I jot those down and identify data sources or research needed to support the points to make.  I generally have an outline, very topical but from beginning to end and I try to work through it to ensure that my writing has a logical consistency and flow.  Depending on the type of communication I frequently go through multiple revisions; I struggle over almost every word and go back and forth.   In fact, at some point I generally have to say enough is enough or, more realistically, I reach a deadline and the 18th draft, for example, becomes the final version.  I like to have others read my writing that will be presented or communicated to larger groups for a) typos, spelling, grammar; and b) logical consistency.

  5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received:

    a.       Try not to use any words that are not needed;
    b.      Have others proofread;
    c.       Develop an outline with themes that you are trying to communicate.

Finally, I would love to write a book sometime – not about my profession of economics or higher education administration (I’ve done special chapters for books, etc.) but rather a book that deals with real world experiences.  On two different occasions I have started dictating ideas – one was based on a dog we had for 15 years, telling our family story from her perspective.  The last several years of the dog’s life she was deaf so I thought I’d call it, “I Saw It All … And Heard Some Of It.”  There wasn’t anything particularly amazing that happened in our lives and that’s why I probably never pursued the project – rather the dog would relate family experiences, especially difficult situations like death, tragedy, etc. but from the dog’s perspective.  At one time I thought I would have someone transcribe all this to see how bad it was but …

The Etiquette of Thankfulness: What (Not) Sending a Thank You Note After a Job Interview Tells a Potential Employer

Jennifer Marciniak, Assistant Director of the Virtual Writing Center

JenniferMWhile Thanksgiving reminds us to show appreciation for those around us, it’s also a good time to consider how we communicate this appreciation. From my own experience, I can tell you that just saying Thank You means a lot. I have Thank You notes from students pinned up on my corkboard in my office. The colorful, handwritten cards are from students who I helped in the writing center when I worked as a face-to-face consultant as opposed to my now cyber existence in the Virtual Writing Center. One card, from a student I worked with on a few different projects all semester says, “You have really helped me write well and reduce stress. I appreciate your enthusiasm and enjoy working with you.” Another, from a student whom I helped with her personal statement for a graduate program, says: “You helped me rediscover my voice . . . for that I will be forever grateful.” The meaning behind these notes is personal. It tells me that what we have done together mattered, that I have affected their life somehow, and, in turn, theirs mine. Sometimes we need these little tokens to remind us of our value.

Thank you notes are nice to get, but they can also be essential to give. It is important to remember what saying Thank You can do for you professionally. In the fast-paced world of online job applications and telephone/Skype interviews, sometimes remembering to send that traditional note of appreciation after meeting the hiring manager and/or job committee gets lost in the shuffle. Thank You notes resonate with potential employers. And if there is any doubt about that statement, consider recent results from job search firm surveys. According to a CareerBuilder 2011 survey of hiring managers, about 22 percent are less likely to hire a candidate if a Thank You note is not sent, even if that candidate is one of their top contenders. The survey also found that 88 percent of hiring managers say that the lack of a Thank You note shows a “lack of follow through,” and 56 percent say that not sending a Thank You Note suggests the applicant is “not serious about the opportunity.”

Who would have thought those two words – Thank You – would pull so much weight in an already overly competitive job market? Apparently most employers, according to Amanda Augustine, a job search consultant for The Ladders, a job match service for career professionals. In an interview with Forbes Magazine about after-interview etiquette, Augustine maintains that it is a mistake to think the job interview is over once you step out the door: “Based on my decade-long experience in conducting interviews, I can attest first-hand that failure to follow-up can be the deciding factor in rejecting a candidate who is otherwise a great fit.”

With the knowledge that Thank You notes may make or break your chances for a job, there are many decisions to make about content, as well as whether to send them via email or through the mail. A survey of hiring managers by Accountemps, a staffing company for accounting and financial professionals, revealed that 87 percent believe an e-mailed Thank You note is considered appropriate. However, this also depends on the culture of the company, according to Forbes contributor and career coach Lisa Quast. If the company is a bit more traditional, a hand-written note, usually sent within 24 hours of the interview, is best. Heibling and Associates, an executive consultant staffing firm for engineering, real estate, and construction companies, says it is in the candidate’s best interest to send an email and a hand-written note. This is advised because a handwritten note “gets more attention” than an email note, but if the hiring process is moving quickly, “you will want to expedite your Thank You and send an email.”

Some more interpersonal forms of appreciation are warned against. A telephone call is an option, but not recommended. According to the Accountemps survey, only 10 percent of hiring managers find it suitable to send a text message as a Thank You note. Quast says that while texting is convenient, it is just not professional etiquette: “Thankfully, I’ve only had this happen once, when a candidate texted, ‘Thx for the intrvw!’”

In terms of content, most staffing firms agree on one major component — make it personal. Address the hiring manager by name. Also, if the hiring committee is more than one person, write a Thank You note to each individual member. Include in the note the position you interviewed for and the date you applied. Also, personalize the note to the position and the company. This jogs their memory, according to HCareers.com, a search firm for hospitality professionals, especially if the same committee is hiring for multiple positions. These tips are taken directly from HCareers.com:

Show Gratitude Basically, you want to thank the employer for his or her time at the job interview. This will grab the interviewer’s attention and make the person realize that you are a warm and considerate person—this goes a long way in the hospitality industry.

Confirm Your Interest Mention something specific that you are excited about (i.e. “I really love the idea of working at a four-star hotel and am confident my skill and expertise would help maintain the hotel’s excellent reputation.”).

Show You Were Listening You don’t want to recount the entire conversation, but it’s great to mention one or two specific things that came up in the interview, especially things that are relevant to the position for which you interviewed.

Point out Some of Your Strengths Don’t be afraid to add in a little self-promotion! Employers want their prospective hires to be confident and assertive. This is a great place to explain a few of your skills and share how your background and relevant experience will help you succeed in the job. You don’t want to go into too much detail here, but reminding the interviewer of why you are a strong and qualified candidate can go a long way.

Suggest a Follow Up End on a positive note by saying thank you again, and then, depending on how you left it in the interview, mention that you are available to talk again in person or over the phone in order to answer any questions the interviewer might have.

In addition to the many tips for what to write in Thank You notes, there are also many warnings against what not to write. Some of these may be common sense, but search firms feel they need to be asserted. Some of the most common “don’ts” for Thank You notes are mentioning salary or waiting too long to send the note. Some other big ones include:

Penmanship and Errors Typos and misspellings tell your potential employer that you wrote the note in haste, which may cause the manager to doubt your interest in the job, according to Miriam Salpeter, job search and social media consultant for USNews. Write out your note on a separate piece of paper first. If you are sending an email, write it out on a Word or Pages document first. Make sure to check for all spelling and grammar errors.

Don’t Be Generic “If you can’t sound invested in the position and take the time necessary to write an interesting note, you may be wasting your time,” says Salpeter. While you may think you are saving time and energy by sending the same Thank You note to 10 different employers, you aren’t. Employers can tell if you are being generic. Salpeter advises candidates to read their note before sending it and ask “Could someone who didn’t even participate in the interview have written this?” She says if the answer is yes, “it’s back to the drawing board, or you’ll risk leaving the interviewer unimpressed.”

Sending a Gift Sending flowers, food, or gift cards can be seen as a “desperate, inappropriate candidate,” and can possibly make the employer uncomfortable, says Salpeter. Diane Gottsman, founder of The Protocol School of Texas, says in an interview with Forbes that it can be seen as a bribe. “Sending, or receiving, a big box of steaks on ice is not the right way to secure a job position.”

Researching the etiquette of thankfulness for this blog reminded me of my past life as a job search consultant. Before my journey into academia I recruited, interviewed and hired (or not) for two different large companies. I can attest that the ones that actually took the time to send Thank You notes made an impression. To me, taking the time to hand-write a Thank You card showed thoughtfulness and practicality – two skills that most employers find very valuable. Thank You emails are also thoughtful, but hand-written cards, because of their personal nature (picking out the card, taking a pen to paper, sealing the envelope, stamping and sending), demonstrate that the candidate delegates time and energy to the little things. And a lot of the times those little things are the ones that really matter.

Below are links to templates and tips for writing solid post-interview Thank You notes:

Job Seekers: No, the Interview Thank You Note is Not Dead

Making Post-Interview Thank You Notes Worth Your Time

Write a Post-Interview Thank You that Actually Boosts Your Changes to Get the Job

Uncommon Resume Tips, Or How to Get that Extra Edge

Meagan Ray, Consultant296447_10150311659961933_2008970366_n

Hey friends, it’s time we talked about resumes. With summer approaching (and it truly is approaching, regardless of how much more work one has before getting there), it’s a natural time to start working now on a resume for summer jobs or internships with a later date, or to begin applying for fall positions. It can be a daunting task, but here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way that aren’t necessarily given as conventional advice. This isn’t a comprehensive list of tips; they’re some of the things I’ve noted aren’t usually included on the resume checklists I’ve found.

  • Spell out all your acronyms. Your reader will know that the “KY” or “IN” in your address means Kentucky or Indiana, but it’s always more professional to spell it out. That goes for the “Street” in your “St.” or the “University of Louisville” in your “UofL.”
  • Offer a projected graduation date if you’re still in school in your “education” section. Even if things are up in the air, it lets your future employers know where you stand and when you could potentially go full-time.
  • Unless your grade point average (GPA) is above a 3.0, leave it off your resume, unless your potential employer notes otherwise.
  • Giving your contact information is a good time to evaluate what your e-mail address says about you. Using a school e-mail is a safe bet because there’s not much of an opportunity for miscommunication. What sounds like personality can actually sound unprofessional to an employer, so keep the gonnagitcrunk@website.com or cutebubblyandsingle@website.com between friends, not employers.
  • You can note both your permanent address and current address if your housing fluctuates with the school year.
  • If you’re turning in a resume by hand, print it on resume paper, if possible. It’s more expensive than “regular” paper because it’s weightier, but it’s a simple step that can let potential employers know immediately how you’re willing to go out of your way to be professional. Or at least out of your way to get special paper. A whole box can be an investment, so if you’re only applying a few places, ask if you can buy it by the sheet at the office supplies store.
  • When noting how long you’ve worked at a location in your “job history,” note the month instead of the semester. Looking back on my old resume, I felt silly noting that I’d been a Resident Assistant (RA) in “Fall 2011-Spring 2012,” because not every employer is knowledgeable about the semester schedule and not every school’s semesters are identical. At my alma matter, our finals week was mid-May, whereas here, it’s the end of April. If applying to a job with someone familiar with Louisville’s scheduling, they wouldn’t be aware that I’d worked several weeks longer. It sounds silly, but there’s no room for error when noting months instead.
  • Another faux pas from my past resume (it haunts me even now) is how I assumed readers would know what certain activities meant. In listing extra-curriculars which may be unfamiliar to a reader, you may wish to note what kind of organization it is in parenthesis. For example, my campus’ theatre group was called the “Players.” Listing that I was a “Player” for several semesters doesn’t automatically translate to someone outside of my college’s circle. In editing my own resume, I’ve written “Players (theatre club)” in order to clarify.
  • Lastly, know your audience and know thyself. It’s unnecessary to tailor your resume to each opportunity, but knowing what kind of audience you have will alter your focus. For instance, when I applied to graduate school, I spent more time noting my involvement at my undergraduate institution, but when I apply for summer jobs, I plan to highlight my employment history rather than being a “Player.”

One of the hardest things to do as I update my resume is to hit the delete key, which is why this is the easiest advice to dispense. Know what is important in presenting yourself and what’s too old to keep. I was super involved as a high schooler, but is this necessary information for an employer considering how long I’ve been out of high school? It would be if I were a younger student, but at this point, it’s time to delete the 4-H awards I received when I was fifteen. I’ve got a theory that this is more difficult for younger students in my generation who have often been pushed to be involved in extra-curriculars in hopes of filling a resume long before one’s work history fills it, so deleting any line feels like deleting all the work spent earning that line. Editing my own resume has been hard, but I want employers to know the best me, who works in the Writing Center as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA), rather than the me who was in a club for one semester freshman year. (Sorry dear reader, it’s also the time of year for rambling about myself rather than writing papers).

Good luck!