Friday, April 4, 2008

Videos TGIF

I had a personal emergency yesterday, so I didn't have much time to think of a stellar post. Instead: video Friday. TGIF all.

The book trailer for Johnny Bunko, the book I reviewed yesterday.

Johnny Bunko trailer from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.

And a little workplace humor, online identity vs F2F (first seen on Jobacle). Beware profanity, so don't be checking this at a public terminal.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Adventures of Johnny Bunko

Johnny Bunko is stuck in a dead-end job at BOGGS, hopelessly examining spreadsheets for minute errors and doing things that he hates doing...but doing the things that his parents, advisors and career books told him to. One night, slaving late over spreadsheets, Johnny goes to a mysterious sushi house and picks up some chopsticks that, when opened, release his Elfquest style guide, Diane. Diane has a plan and enough mojo to get Johnny where he needs to be to experience her six steps to career fulfillment. If Johnny can pay attention, follow them and not implode at BOGGS.

Described as the "last career guide you'll ever need", I was pretty skeptical since I read quite a few career books. Actually, it is the last career guide that you'll ever need, provided that you follow the book's extra suggestions, and well, actually try to experience the advice. I really liked the 6 steps and I think that many people, especially people in service careers, will really appreciate the last step and it will help them give meaning to their plans. I also loved the manga aside jokes and, as a manga reader, I liked the OEL feel of the book with the Japanese sound effects and references. If you're looking for something to give you some direction and you don't care what colour the parachute is, pick up some chopsticks and visit with Diane and Johnny.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Go verbs!

When you're writing your cover letter, you have to rely on the power of verbs to tell your story: what you have done and what you can do. Verbs tell us about abilities and, when used effectively, can provide power for your cover letter.

For example, when applying to this post at McMaster:

I am an effective team player and collaborator on projects, including a proposal for an immersive worlds project.

Too many nouns. Yes, they are in the job description, but you haven't explained what you have done. Collaborator also has some not nice connotations, so watch out for nouns that can have a sinister, or slightly silly, sound.


For my capping project, I developed a conference in Second Life, a popular immersive world, to introduce librarians to the environment. During the project launch, I trained the initial team of conference volunteers and managed the Help Team which monitored participants and dealt with in-world problems. I also compiled the evaluation data and presented it to the conference organizers.

Yes, the first is stilted and simple and the second has more information, but the verbs are powerful: develop, train, manage, monitor, compile and present. Though the nouns are all present in the first, they don't really explain what you did on the project.

Sometimes, we give up on verbs because they take up so much space because you have to do something with the noun, instead of just, noun, like the toot of a horn. However, verbs do appear in job postings, so you are hitting the keyword high notes, or nouns have a verb form that you can capitalize on. Do more in your sentences: it just gives your paragraphs more power.

If you need help finding so-called action verbs (aren't verbs about an action?) you can use this list from QuintCareers or just do a search in Google for verbs for resumes.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What's my name again?

I used to work with a woman nicknamed Rusty who wanted to legally change her name to Rusty. It suited her tuff image. I don't think she put it on her resume though. (I have a better story about that but a family member would probably post a comment about a Christmas tree and underwear; let's not go there).

Many people have more than one name: they are changing their name, getting married or divorced, transgendered, finally fulfilling a lifelong dream of having geeks shout out, "Is it your day off, Ferrous?", or they have an "English name". How do you explain this if your interview coincides with the transition?

On your application documents, you place your current legal name.

If you are getting married, or divorced, and have not completed the name change, it is too soon to start describing to these people, who may never see you again, all of the hyphenated perambulations of your name and what you decided to call yourself, in six months. We watch you guys all the time on Slice and we prefer you behind glass. What is your current legal name?

When you go to the interview, you invite the employer to use your nickname or "English name".

A diminutive, nickname and English name are different:
  • A diminutive is a shortened version of your name: Chris for Christopher or Christina. There is no false intimacy with a diminutive so it is ok to use in the interview but not to put on your application documents, since it is not your legal name.
  • A nickname is used in intimate situations: you're my friend so you have permission to call me by that name. When you start work, tell them your nickname if you always go by that. Howdy Ferrous, welcome to the party.
  • An English name is different and can be given at the interview. It is used for two reasons: one, you have a hard time controlling your wince when an English speaker garbles your name. Two, it is really hard to have people address you by your first name when you are accustomed to an honorific attached to your name, such as Asuka-san, Asuka-sensei or Asuka-chan, depending on the circumstance. An English name lessens the feeling of encroachment. But, it is not your legal name: wait until the interview and introduce yourself with your English name.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Geography of a cover letter

Though it's late to be looking for work for the summer--but not the end of the world! Don't freak out--knowing how to write a good cover letter is a gift that keeps on giving. You will have to write thousands of letters--and emails--in your working career, regardless of whether you stay in libraries or not. You will need cover letters to apply for work, for grants, for positions with the professional association and to shop your work out to publications, just to name a few uses for cover letters.This week, let's talk about how to write cover letters.
  • A cover letter is a business letter writing audition since if you are hired you will write plenty of correspondence for the library. Clean simple business format, no Harry Potter fonts, are important.
  • Your contact information goes at the top. You can use the headers and footers feature to include your contact information, creating a letterhead that you can also use on your resume.
  • The address of the person that you are writing to.
  • The date you wrote the letter on.
  • A salutation: Dear Ms. Manners. If you are not sure about gender and there is no time to call, Dear Kim Manners is fine. You can also use Dear Hiring Manager if there is no name attached. Try to avoid To Whom It May Concern cause it sounds like you will be asking for a ransom.
  • Your first line is a reference to the position and any numbers attached to the position so they know which pile to put your stuff in. (You can send one letter for two postings, since they may be willing to photocopy and place in two separate piles, but you can make it easy for them and send two letters and two resumes. Trust me: if they have two jobs, other people may be handling the screening and interviewing, so someone is going to make two or more copies.) You can also tell them where you saw the posting, since this posting could have been sent to several services which all may have different rules about amount of text allowed or a cost involved depending on the size of the ad.
  • The content depends on you and the posting: how do you relate to the position you are applying for and what projects, from work or school, can you briefly reference that show your suitability in relation to the position.
  • Sign off with the best way to get in touch with you. One way. If it is email, go with email. Don't tell them: I am available every day after 4pm until 5:45 and then I am in yoga, you can reach my voice mail or email or Facebook me during yoga, unless you are really serious about the interview and I will interrupt my Kurmasana to speak to you. Have some faith in the universe: they will leave a message and you will respond.
  • Business letters are usually completed with Sincerely or, if you want to mix it up a bit With regards.
  • 4 hard returns. This is for your signature.
  • Your name, typed out without nicknames.
  • Encl. (2) meaning your additional pages.