Friday, January 2, 2009

Get it proofread

Now that you have finished your resume, get it proofread.

There is a difference between editing and proofreading. An editor will look at the content of your writing and may make changes to your ideas, your style and may cut or ask you to add more to what you have written. This is good and useful, but many people don't know of someone who has enough skill to edit their resume since they aren't professionals in the same field, or even HR representatives who see lots of resumes--even then, the HR person may know nothing about libraries and can make weird changes.

Proofreading looks for errors in the text and corrects them. A good proofreader will find your grammatical errors, such as forgetting a plural, messing up a tense or subject and verb agreement, or for librarians who learned English as foreign language, missing or adding articles, or incorrectly using noncount nouns as countable nouns. The proofreader can also look for errors that the spellchecker missed, such as pubic librarian, or confusables such as principle researcher--unless you researched principles, but weren't the principal researcher. The proofreader doesn't change the idea behind what you wrote, but they make your ideas come through clearly and error-free.

Don't skip this step: grammatical and spelling errors are still high on the list of why employers reject a candidate for an interview. Proofreading is the last important step in putting your resume together so you can confidently submit it to employers.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

If you must make a resolution

Jobacle has pre-packaged the top 13 resolutions that you are probably going to make anyway to help your career.

At the end of this week, you should have completed number 1, but 13 is ongoing. I also recommend using a goal monitor, such as 43things to make sure that you are keeping track of your goals. It is also really fun to take a look at other people's goals and see what you have accomplished.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Make a prediction

If you have no time left to tie up lose ends, or feel you're all in knots, try something else: make a prediction for the new year.
  • Take a piece of paper and write down one prediction. It can be personal or professional--or a prognostication, whatever. But you should care about it, it will mean something to you if it came true. You can write a sentence or a paragraph, but it can't be written in past tense--this is about something that will happen in 2009.
  • Put your prediction in an envelope, seal it up and put it away. 
  • Open it up and read your prediction on December 31, 2009. 
I was going to post something about wrapping up the old year, maybe referencing NPR about how bad 2008 was, but I want people to articulate their hopes about the new year.

Gimme a verb!

For your highlights of qualifications and your list of job duties that explain what you did in each position, you need to write in a telegraphic style with verb-led phrases. You can use a telegraphic style because you are not using passive sentence construction--nor, using the royal we--so the subject of the sentence, you, is clearly acting on specific objects.

Now all of the griping and moaning that I hear from educated people about how they don't like this style, that it sounds artificial, I have one phrase for you: get over yourself. Go read an academic paper and tell me, with a straight face, that it sounds like unprepossessing, plain English prose. Go on: I need a good laugh.

All writing, from academic papers to writing in a diary, has its own conventions. The ability to fluidly recognize and utilize conventions can help you grow as a writer and communicator. The resume is another chance to show off as a writer, and you do that by properly displaying the conventions of that writing style.

The verb-led telegraphic style is a convention within business writing. This style manifests itself more often on resumes, but you'll find it in other places, such as abstracts or executive summaries, and because it is a plain style, no subject but not passive, all action, it is pretty easy for the reader to discern what you did.

So spare the reader and get some verbs to make into telegraphic points for your resume. You can find some verb lists on QuintCareers, this list from Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume, or search in Chimby, the career advice search engine, for action verbs.


I know some people may be making resolutions--lose weight, quit smoking, get a job, amongst others--but I know of other people, like me, who don't make resolutions. I actually gave up on resolutions not because I didn't keep them but because I discovered something better that makes me happier: tying up loose ends. And the end of the year, or before a new period begins, is a good time to do it.

Here are some examples of things you can take care of:
  • Respond to an email. If someone has sent you an email that you have not responded to, or that you just remembered after reading these words, take a few minutes to send them a happy new year message, and maybe arrange to meet up with them in the new year.
  • Get your calendar in order. A few days ago, I put all three of my calendars, my work, my home and my PDA in order with basic dates like mortgage payments, deadlines, classes that I have to teach and upcoming conferences. I know that they aren't complete, but I won't have to scramble to find the basic dates each month.
  • Is there a book on the shelf that you haven't finished? Finish it before you go out tonight or while you wait for the apple to drop. (Once I finish here, I have about 3 hours on 2 separate audio books that I am going to take care of).
  • Take care of a reasonable goal that you are just about there on. I had a goal to put 200 posts on my blog before the end of the year. Six more to go. What could you finish before midnight tonight, or sometime tomorrow, if you put your mind to it?
Unlike dropping a dress size, most of these tasks can be done in a few hours, and completing these tasks  enhances our mental well-being. Entering the year with a feeling of accomplishment is just one way to fill yourself with relief and hope.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Heads up

Here are the following typical headings on a librarian's resume:
  • Contact information: which includes your full name, sans nicknames or slogans, your geographical address (one where you will receive your mail for the next six weeks after applying for a position), your phone number, your email address, and a relevant professional website that you maintain. Required, and double check it because so many people are so used to glossing over this area that they don't realize that they have made typos, or that information is out of date. (If you have some name confusion, please review this earlier post about changing names, nicknames and English names.)
  • Highlights of qualifications: A list of 3 to 5 verb-led phrases that provide important information for the resume reviewer, and are relevant to the position they are preparing their interview list for. At your discretion, but if you have some important skills, such as managing a significant budget for collections, or that you have conducted professional work in a bilingual setting, amongst other potential "preferences" that you want the reviewer to know about, place them here. 
  • Education: Typically placed before professional experience on a student or new professional's resume. This helps the resume reviewer establish that you have the required education, such as a graduate degree in library studies from an accredited institution. If you are not finished, you can include the month/year that you expect to receive your degree. Include relevant post-secondary education that led to a degree. Required no matter how far along you are in your career. 
  • Professional experience: What libraries have you worked in? What did you do? What types of positions have you held? You can include unpaid professional experience in this section if you have no other relevant paid experience. Required.
  • Work experience. You can use this section to talk about other work experience that you have had--waiting on tables, working as a personal trainer--where you did not work as a librarian. Try to limit it to the experiences you had to pay for school, and don't go back to the first job you had stocking shelves in junior high. Limit to the last 5-7 years (accounts for grad school and undergrad). This section is useful if there were some periods that you didn't work as a librarian or in libraries, but still worked, and can help you account for gaps. At your discretion, but some of these experiences can help you as a librarian--not all of us have trust funds to put us through school, and some libraries are smart enough to appreciate people with diverse backgrounds. 
  • Public Service: typically where you place your volunteer or unpaid experience. Select relevant and/or long-term volunteer commitments, not the list of 5K fun runs where you gave directions at intersections for an hour. At your discretion, but if you have relevant volunteer experience that will appeal to the reviewer, or have volunteered successfully at the place you are applying to work at, leaving your volunteer experience off is silly.
  • Publications: If you have any relevant professional publications, include a brief bibliography. Don't catalog every blog post you have ever written or every book review. Instead, mention a best representation of your relevant professional writing. At your discretion, but required for academic positions.
    • You may also want to create a section for conference presentations, or combine it with conference presentations and publications.
  • Certification: Here is where you put any other relevant certification or education that you have pursued that will enhance your work in libraries, such as computers, languages, or additional training that did not lead to an undergraduate or graduate degree. At your discretion, but how do you know when to include it or not? Well, if you are SCUBA certified, an academic library may not care, but an museum of marine studies or a special library position with an underwater archeology collection or emergency services unit might be interested in this special knowledge that you possess.
  • References: most library positions don't let you get away with references available upon request. You need three professional references, attached on a new page. Your current supervisor, your previous supervisor and a professor (if you don't have three former work supervisors as references) will work fine. Required.

Now of course you can have additional sections, such as your work on committees on campus, or a career objective, but I think that these are the best basic ones that should be on a librarian's resume.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Resume Resolution

The break between terms is the perfect time to work on your resume. Take time each day for the next five days to work on your resume (sans martini glass in hand).

There are two basic types of resume: chronological and functional.
  • The chronological format tells the story of your career and education over time, starting with the present day and working backwards. This is the most popular format of the resume and the CV, the one employers expect and the easiest to organize, so use this format.
  • The functional format arranges your experience and education by skills, type and theme. It is the lesser of the two formats and you should avoid it like anthrax. I'm not going to kid or hedge: you need to be a mind-reader to decide how to lay out your skills in the best way to draw the eye of the resume reviewer, so stick with time as your outline.
Your lesson today is to find good samples of chronological resumes to base your own resume on. You'll need a book--like Proven Resumes or Resume Magic--because I've looked online and most of the sample resumes for librarians just plain suck. I also suggest that you read Tiffany Eastman Allen's article, Crafting a Winning Resume, but ignore the advice on functional resumes.