Your career development and job search processes will involve publishing. When I say publishing, I mean publishing in the sense of planning, writing, producing, and sending forth into the world written words that represent you. You might publish letters, resumes, a blog, a Facebook page, a website, a LinkedIn profile, a series of articles, or other representations that can help you–or disadvantage you–in your career quest.
Life used to be simpler; a resume was a cream colored vellum page with black ink. It left your hands in an envelope, to join a pile of other similar resumes, most of them also cream vellum. It usually got photocopied, by the way, so that the decision maker had the copy paper version anyway, and the quality of the copier and its paper could undermine your publishing investment.
Now, you need a publishing strategy to get your stuff noticed. And you have a lot of choices. But the little things can still undo your careful plans. Here are five things about publishing that people often get wrong.
1. A lot of people say that your resume should be no more than one page. This is not true, and is especially not true if you begin to have trouble condensing it to one page or even thinking about doing that. Here’s the thing: it’s not about the number of pages. It’s about what is on the pages and in your description of where you’ve been and what you’ve done.
I believe in brevity (sort of). I had a wonderful English teacher in 11th Grade, Mrs. Barone, who called me Brenda (which is not my name) and taught me to take words out of my sentences and paragraphs. Even though they were often some of my best words (like brevity), I had to admit that the result was better writing. But remember, if you take all the words away you may not tell the right story, and resumes have to tell a good story.
Your resume should be as long as it needs to be, to make the point of your story to your reader. Your resume walks hand in hand with your cover letter (always). Together they are your surrogate self, compelling someone to meet the real you and learn more.
2. Some people say that your resume need not include irrelevant work experience, temporary work, or irrelevant education. First, I struggle with the notion that any work experience or education would or could be irrelevant. Your work or education story should not have holes or gaps. Second, all it takes is one interview question about what you did that summer of ’06 for you to start stumbling all over your answer: that you didn’t think inbound call center sales and service was important enough to put on your resume. If that happens, and it might, it will raise the question of what else you chose to exclude. And it will raise suspicion, which is never good.
All work contributes to skills, competencies, and pride in your accomplishments in even the worst jobs or assignments you have ever had. A resume that shouts “I love work!” is going to get you noticed. Spelling out the point of each job–what you got paid or thanked for–makes clear you knew its value in the world. Remember that: The value of the work to others is more important than the value of the job to you.
A good rule of thumb is that employment of a week or two, or less, can be left off your resume. Another is that employment that is more than twenty years in the past is far enough in the past to let go, unless in either of these situations, the work is a special honor or critical turning point.
3. Some people think that you can rewrite the rules of composition to make your resume stand out, as long as you make up your own rules and apply them consistently. Don’t do that.
Mrs. Barone was a real grind when it came to the rules about grammar, spelling, word usage, syntax, punctuation, and capital letters. But she was convincing, and Martha Snyder and I (who took her very seriously and responded well to being called by other people’s names) competed with each other for various high school composition prizes and honors, and we graduated from high school thinking we were set, composition-wise, for life. Not so much, as it turns out; these style things change over time. We all need to check on the rules and your best bet is to apply them correctly and consistently.
Invest in a stylebook and use it. The AP Stylebook or Elements of Style are two of the best known references for writers of nearly anything. Do not think for one minute that getting fancy and offbeat with your cover letters or resumes is a good idea; it isn’t worth the risk to drop the capital letters or skip the periods. Or to add them in. Noting that I often Blog Creatively, ignoring Mrs. Barone’s most basic rules, let me say that blogs aren’t resumes.
4. I am in favor of blogging to advance your career and your job search. I am not among those who advise against putting your opinions and ideas out there–recognizing that “out there,” if it is too far out, can be limiting. Blogs are accessible examples of your voice, your writing , and your personal brand. Blogs are likely to be more fast and approximate than crafted and precise, but any time you advance your ideas you want to make sure that you represent your very very very best self (yes, I know, I left out the commas and insulted a perfectly good adjective). On the net, things linger. If you do publish a blog, it should be noted on your resume. If you don’t put it on your resume, it will be unearthed anyway, and lead to the question of why you didn’t mention it.
I once did some research on (Googled) an opponent in a Neighborhood Association/Land Development dispute. I came across a letter he had written and posted to a website, on why women should not be admitted to a well-known exclusive men’s club. It didn’t matter in the dispute, but I learned a little about my friend. On to other online matters: Facebook.
5. A lot of people will tell you to stay off Facebook if you are looking for a job, or if you are serious about your career. Not me. I am on Facebook (but not as The Job Whisperer). I am very careful (that is not to say guarded, which is different) about my comments, my likes, what I share, and what groups I join. Anyone who friends me can see that I am interested in many political viewpoints, those I don’t agree with as well as those I do–because my Facebook friends are my Real friends from my whole life, and are all over the political map. I have a variety of diverse interests represented on my page. I am careful with my Privacy settings and I don’t post photos (or my travel plans).
Having a Facebook page is neither here nor there, but having good judgment is important.
Publishing is part of your personal brand offering. There are many more opportunities to advance who you are and what you offer than ever before. But that means taking careful stock of the impression you want to leave and the focus and consistency of your message, across all of your publications. Little things–a comma here, a word choice there, a defining blog post–can make a big difference.