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Mary's Farewell Blog: The step-by-step resume guide

Not sure how to start? Re-doing the whole thing? If you need resume tips, then this is for you.

Be advised! Making your resume really sharp takes A LOT of work and it cannot be done over night. Split this up into daily tasks and keep going over everything until you get it just right. In the end, your resume has to be something that *you* like and that *you* want to use--it's important to get at least a couple of eyes to look over your document for feedback, but be aware that each resume reviewer will have their own personal preferences. Simply take in what each of them has to say and use what you like best. This guide includes the tips and guidelines that I advised the most while reviewing resumes for fellow SI students.

Above all else, DO NOT wait until the last minute to update or re-do your resume! Not only does this add undue stress to your life, but if you need help you might not be able to get it in time. Your resume is a highly individualized calling card -- it is you, but on paper. Just as you wouldn't want to show up to an interview with dirty clothes and unkempt appearance, you also don't want the paper version of yourself to look shoddy. You can also look at examples to give yourself and idea of what you want to achieve with your resume. You can see soon-to-be updated samples on the Careers section of the SI website, or even ask your peers to see what they have come up with.

Another good tip is to get together with your peers for some group resume time. Trade resumes and offer suggestions. Sometimes it's good to get other input on verbs and other word choices. And a fresh pair of eyes is great to see if your document looks good and has good content.

Resumes are working documents that require frequent updating (espcially right now when we are learning so many new things each semester). Even though you are working on a new version now, it is not set in stone and you can always change things.

It has been my recent experience in the job hunting game that prospective employers are mainly concerned with finding the answer to the question: "What can you DO?" If you are able to clearly show what you are capable of, it will be a great self-marketing tool. With that, good luck and have fun getting those dream jobs! :o)

A. First, it's important to recognize the goal(s) of a resume. Your resume should always have the following characteristics:

1. Your resume is a "speedy document" -- it should be easily skimmed.
2. Only the relevant items are included on your resume. Resumes aren't meant to include everything. (Keep reading to learn about how to document everything, which can be a helpful thing to keep on hand as well.)
3. Your objective and goal should be clear upon reading the resume. This may be in the form of a stated objective or goal statement, or it can also be manifested through excellent choices of very relevant experiences and skills.
4. There should be an asthetically pleasing layout with a good balance between white space and black text.
5. Verbs! Word usage should be very action oriented, using short descriptive phrases that start with good action verbs. *Choose the right verb and you'll use fewer words after it!
6. How long should your resume be?
• Generally, a one page document is standard. It is always advisable to have a one page version on hand, just in case.
• IEMP, HCI, or business-oriented: Always, no matter what, one page ONLY. Private business companies consider 1-pagers to be standard practice. When in Rome...do as the Romans do.
• ARM, LIS, or academic-oriented: One page is always fine, but two pages here is also very acceptable. *Important note on 2-pagers: if your resume is two pages it should be at least 1.5 pages in length and EVERYTHING on it should be so incredibly relevant and important that it deserves to be on two pages of paper. Don't use filler experiences to make it longer--trust me.
• Tailored? Consider the recipient of your resume and decide accordingly.
7. DON'T INCLUDE: hobbies, personal interests, etc. You don't need to include these because they take up valuable space on your resume and while past practice used to subscribe to including these tidbits of information, current practice doesn't find it relevant anymore.

B. Now, if you're starting over from the beginning or even if you're just revamping the whole thing, here is a good list of things to do:

Forget about the wording, forget about the formatting, forget about the length:
• List out everything you have ever done. This list should really only go back to when you started your undergraduate career, however. If you have anything from high school that is intrinsic to what you want to accomplish now, then that may be ok. This would be something to get a second opinion on (i.e. ask Joanna or Kelly).
• Organize your list and group your information into categories (see below).
• For each item in each category, list out the details for each particular item in bullet point lists (this will come in handy later and it's much easier to see everything quickly).
• Categories should include the following (bear in mind that you may have other specialized categories, but these are the most common and main listings):

-Education: list all institutions attended (starting with your collegiate career - high school is not needed) including study abroad or supplementary training; include degrees or certificates received and the date received (month, year); also include the location of the institution or training (city, state OR city, country).

-Relevant courses: list all courses (especially for your MSI degree). *This is an exception here--you will want to also include a short descriptive phrase about the central theme of the course that is relevant to your goal. Later on you won't be listing the course number/name, only the descriptive phrase. Sometimes these phrases will be combined because there is a lot of overlap in concepts and skills in our courses here.
-Relevant projects: list all projects (especially for your MSI degree). Again, use short descriptive phrases. These can be either projects from courses or from internships or other work/activities that you have done.

-Relevant experience: list all positions (paid and non-paid) that you have held -- include your current jobs and past jobs, all internship experiences ever, and any other experiences (i.e. volunteer work - if you did very involved work somewhere then you'll want to include this). Later on we'll make choices on which experiences will be included on your resume. Each experience should include your position title, the name of the place you worked, location of the place (city, state OR city, country), and dates you worked there (month/year - month/year OR month/year - present). Under each experience, use a bullet point list to write out all the things you did in that position. Include not only major aspects of the position, but also any special tools used (i.e. software products) or special skills you developed (i.e. training/supervisory roles). *Don't worry yet if you think it's relevant! Just make sure you put it down -- you might use something from it later.

-Professional affiliations & leadership: list all professional associations and the dates of membership (month/year - month/year OR month/year - present). If you held any executive board positions for any of these, list those under the association and the dates you held the position.
-Conferences & publications: list all professional conferences you have attended and the date/location of the conferences (month/year, city/state). If you presented at a conference, list the title of your presentation below the conference. If you have published articles as well, list the bibliographic references here.

-Skills: this will be listed in sub-sections with sets that fit your needs. Common skill sets for various specializations at SI include things like: Software applications, Programming languages, Operating systems/platforms, Web design/development, Project management, Databases, Languages, User evalutation, etc. Less common sets that I have used and/or seen include: PR/marketing, Research (can be for humanities or science), Lab techniques, Instruction, Grants, etc.

C. What's your goal?
Welcome to the hard part. Well, one of the hard parts... :o)

Objective (or Goal) Statement: a one or two line (maximum!) action-oriented phrase that describes 1) what you bring to the position, 2) what you hope to do with your skills, 3) how you hope these skills will be effective.
Example: To use combination of art and technology skills in media projects to create or improve organization systems of data with the purpose of encouraging efficient and producte data flow between creative teams.

Here's the skinny on objective statements:
• Some people love them, some people hate them. It doesn't matter which category you fall into. I think it's a valuable exercise to formulate one, period.
• **Added bonus: if you have an objective statement, you'll be able to think quickly on your feet and give that "elevator speech" because you WILL know what your goal is.
• Making an objective statement does not mean you have to put it on your resume. Even if you don't put it on your document, you'll have a much better idea of what *relevant* items should be listed.
• It takes time! This might take even longer than formatting your resume.
• You might discover you have multiple goals and that's ok! You can have multiple resumes to address each goal. For example, I have 4 resumes to target different sectors and it's worked out really well.

D. Editing the content.
Welcome to the next hard part. It's difficult parting with our experiences, but necessary. Remember! Your resume is not meant to include everything, only the relevant items. See below for info on the C.V. or curriculum vitae which will allow you keep a version of everything.
1. Now that you know your goal, it's time to decide what you're going to put on your resume.
• There are multiple ways to list your items on your resume.
• Chronological listing is the most common method. In this case, listings go from most recent to least recent.
2. Education:
• Include all of your major degrees.
• If you have additional training, study abroad, or certifications, then it's up to you to decide if these address your goal and if they're relevant to include.
• **See the sample resumes on the Careers section of the SI website for the *correct* way to list your degree. Use the same format for all of them.
3. Relevant Courses:
• Take a look at your course list and decide which courses are most relevant to your goal.
• List relevant courses under the degree that they come from. SI is the most important right now; it will be your own decision whether or not to include previous degrees' courses.
• Omit all course numbers & formal course names. Example: no one outside of SI knows what SI 501 Use of Information means.
• Use only the descriptive phrases you came up with the first time. You might find that course content overlaps. If it does, then that's ok--you can combine phrases. That's the beauty of phrases! No more numbering constraints.
• As you accumulate more experiences, you may not need these and that's ok too.
4. Relevant Projects:
• Again, take a look at your project list and decide which projects are most relevant to your goal.
• And again, list projects under the degree that they come from. SI is the most important right now; it will be your own decision whether or not to include previous degrees' projects.
• If your projects come from courses, do not list course names. It isn't important to list this information and it eats up space on your document--it's more important to describe what you did.
• As always, use descriptive phrases and start them with a good verb--action oriented phraseology is very appealing to prospective employers.
5. Relevant Experience:
• Decide which experiences are most important and relevant to your goal statement.
• Each experience should have no more than 3 - 4 bullet points listed.
• Each bullet point needs to start with a well-chosen action-oriented verb. If you need some help with this, you can get a list from Career Services of good verbs to use. Sometimes you'll need to figure out a better verb that isn't on the standard list and this is more than ok. Just remember that it's best not to get too enthusiastic with the thesaurus--if your future employer doesn't know what the verb means, the liklihood of them looking it up is very slim.
• For each bullet point, you'll need to decide what information you'll include. As you begin to compile your list of experiences, try to avoid being redundant between experiences. If you find that you are listing repeating activities, you might want to put these into a skill set which will give you more room to talk about other things that may be more unique.
• Things that should be in skill sets include software or database applications. You can list these out at the bottom of your document and it's easier to see a quick list of what you know how to use. The points under your experiences should really highlight more complex tasks such as project management, communication, or special projects, to name a few examples.
6. Professional Affiliations & Leadership:
• Your heading here should be Professional Affiliations if you only belong to organizations.
• Your heading here should be Professional Affiliations & Leadership if you both belong to organizations as well as hold/held executive board/other leadership positions.
• You should already have the dates of membership (and office title/dates the title was held) from the earier portion.
• If you attended conferences associated with your affiliations, you can list these under your affiliations (with dates and location) OR you can create a separate heading to list these. As you accumulate more skills, you may find that listing conferences takes up too much space and is not needed any more. Ultimately, it's more important to list things you can DO first.
7. Skills:
• At this point you should have your main skill set sub-headings.
• You should also have the individual points listed under each skill set sub-heading.
• Example: Subheading - "Software Applications"; points listed - Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Creative Suite, Macromedia Creative Suite.
• ***You may find that previous experiences have contribued to skills and skill sets. If this is the case, now is the time to make sure that all of that information is included.

E. Formatting your resume.
Time to make this thing look pretty! This is also tough and can present many challenges. Most people use MS Word to create their documents and there are some more advances tools that can be used. If you need help learning how to tame the wild beast that is MS Word, you can get help in Career Services or at the Knowledge Navigation Center, 2nd Floor Hatcher Grad Library.
1. Header:
• Your full name
• Address (current is fine. If you know you'll be moving at a certain date, you can also include the words "Until Month, Day, Year".)
• Telephone number: Definitely list your primary phone, but if you have a secondary line you can list that also. For example, I list my cellphone (primary) first and then my land line (secondary).
• Email address: Just include your 1 primary email address.
• Portfolio URL: If you have a portfolio, you can list the URL in your header.
• There are multiple ways to format your header. But above all else, your name always comes first!
2. Body:
• Be consistent with your formatting. If you make your headers all one type/size of font, then each header of the same level should be formatted in the same way.
• I recommend starting with a very clean font like Arial for everything.
• Page setup: This isn't a class paper, so you aren't bound to the rule of standard 1" margins. So long as you can print your resume and everything prints out ok, then you're good to go. You can reduce the margins of your page to whatever works best for you.
• Fonts: Use the tools at your disposal like italics, bold, small caps, underline, etc. Remember to be consistent! Example: if you list your first job title in bold & small caps, then all of your job titles should be listed the same way.
• Bullet points: Use simple bullets! Don't use crazy fancy bullets, astericks/stars, or any other non-professional and space-eating symbol.
3. Special notes about formatting:
• Not only is the "pretty" factor subjective, but it is also a lengthy process to achieve the right look.
• Subtle tricks: try using one font for your main headings and a simple font for the rest of the body. Just remember to pick professional fonts! Fonts like Comic Sans and Papyrus are not professional. Using different fonts in a subtle way can make your sections look more defined without disrupting the flow of text.
• I advise against using solid lines to separate sections other than between the header and the body. It can make things look just a little too separated.
• ***The main goal is to achieve a balance between white space & black text. You don't want the person reading your resume to feel like they must read a narrative--you want them to feel that they can skim your resume in layers: sections/main headings, main points/sub-headings, and details/body text. Conversely, you don't want your resume to have too much white space--this can make your document seem too empty.
• Getting artistic: if you choose to do something "artsy" or different with your resume, then it is your choice. But do be aware of who your target audience is going to be. If the company you are seeking would want an artistically formatted resume then that is ok. But if you aren't sure if other places would want a different type of resume, then you might want to keep a more standard version on hand just in case.

F. Submitting your resume.
1. Printed:
• Use high quality resume paper. This paper is usually a much heavier stock.
• Keep it simple. White is always a fool-proof choice. You can use paper that has a creamier color, but I would be careful about getting too crazy with the color. *Your resume will speak for itself if it has super relevant information and clearly shows what you can DO with a clear focus. Paper color other than the standard white won't make much difference and you might be able to save some money when purchasing resume paper which can get pricey sometimes (depending on what you buy).
• 2-page resumes: I just learned this from Kelly before going to the ALA conference last week and here I will tell you too. :o) Correct 2-page resume etiquette is to submit both pages unstapled and not paper clipped. However, as Kelly also pointed out, since most people don't really know about these things it's ok to use a paper clip. I kept mine together with a clip at ALA and when sitting at a table for interviews I would hand them a fresh copy unclipped so that it could be spread out on the table.
2. Electronically:
• Convert your Word document to PDF. It's easily printed this way and cannot be altered. Word documents can still have green and red squiggly lines which don't look good when viewing a resume electronically.
• When at all possible, attach the file to keep all formatting.
• If you have to submit a resume using an online form (i.e., copy and paste), you can either go to all of the trouble of creating a plain text version OR you can also include a note in your online application that you will be mailing a hard copy to them as well.

This is a great networking tool! At the recent ALA midwinter conference I passed out a whole bunch of business cards with my name, degree/date receiving, school/university names, portfolio URL, and email address. It saved me from bringing a whole ton of resumes with me (I only gave these to the people I interviewed with). In the exhibition hall, I was able to pass out about 20 cards to specific companies that I wanted to network with. It was very helpful and showed them that I was serious about receiving more information. Since my resumes are routinely updated on my portflio, I refered them to my online portfolio for resumes.

CURRICULUM VITAE:Sometimes called a C.V. for short, this is a document that can be as long as you want. I recommend keeping the same formatting rules for a resume, but in this case you aren't limited to a certain number of bullet points per experience, for example. Instead, your listing should be a complete list of everything you've done and everything you did in each position. And if you used the from-scratch method I have detailed here, you already would have done most of the work for this. In more academic endeavors, having a C.V. can be very common and sometimes is asked for in lieu of a resume. I recommend still making both versions if you foresee this happening to you.

PORTFOLIO:This is a great option to display your work and can solve a lot of space issues when you want to show what you have done. Every specialization can take advantage of having a portfolio! I prefer an online version because it can be more dynamic, but you can also have a paper version. A portfolio is basically whatever you choose to make it. Portfolios solve a lot of problems like how to showcase publications, visual work, or especially large and complex projects.
It should definitely have the following sections:
• Home/cover page
• Resume(s)
Beyond this, your portfolio could include:
• Publications: a listed bibliography or you could even provide the full article(s)
• Special reports
• Special projects
• Samples of programming
• Samples of visual materials

How would you be able to create an online portfolio?
• Showcase your web design skills by building one from scratch. That in itself is a portfolio piece.
• Use software like Dreamweaver to healp you build your site.
• Use templates like Sitemaker (a Umich product) or Carbonmade (a free commercial product).
• Attend workshops through SI or UM.
• Get specialized troubleshooting help at the Knowledge Navigation Center and/or take a workshop at the Faculty Exploratory (both located on the 2nd floor of Hatcher Grad Library).

Posted by maryaw at January 28, 2007 01:25 AM


Mary has a lot of good, relevant advice. However, as those of us at the ARM Resume Review learned the other day, there are as many opinions about format and content as there are employers. Elizabeth Adkins (Ford Motor Co. and President, SAA) said two pages is ok for a corporate resume. David Horrocks (Ford Presidential Library) liked some of the personal interests he saw on one of the resumes. All four members of our panel agreed on one thing: **make sure you do not have any typos in your resume or cover letter**. The panelists have all been in a position where they had to choose between two equally qualified candidates. The candidate with the typos lost out.

Posted by: jsharp at January 28, 2007 09:29 PM

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