The Importance Of Including Volunteer Experience On Your Resume

Wednesday, 31. August 2011

The stale economy of the last few years has not only made the job market more competitive, but it has also put many people out of work for lengthy periods of time. Having these blocks of downtime can usually send up red flags to potential employers.

So how do you flesh out your resume to make it more appealing to hiring personnel?

Glad you asked.

A recent article at states:

“If you’re one of the millions of unemployed Americans, or if you’re returning to the workforce after an extended absence, your volunteer experience can be the one thing that sets you apart from the competition.”

Volunteer experience on a resume is becoming more prevalent these days. In the not too distant past, employers and jobseekers alike undervalued volunteer experience, or even dismissed it altogether. When it was included, it was often added to the end of a resume as an afterthought.

By giving more value to your volunteer experience on your resume you will not only be able to demonstrate your skills, such as leadership and interpersonal skills, a prerequisite for many jobs, but you will also be able to fill in those employment gaps that usually send up red flags, which can jeopardize your chances to be invited in for an interview.

A professional resume writer can help you to integrate your volunteer experience with your employment experience, creating a cohesive timeline of professional experience allowing you to get one step closer to employment.

Some of the other benefits of volunteering include:

  • The ability to gain valuable work experience
  • Possibility of permanent employment with the organization you are volunteering with
  • Networking opportunities, as we mentioned in Step #3 of our post ‘Not Even A PFO Letter’
  • The opportunity to apply and practice your skills
  • Volunteer experience will also help you to gain confidence in yourself, making transition back to the workforce that much easier.
  • And best off all, you’ll be helping out your community.

If your resume lacks volunteer experience, it is never too late to start acquiring some. Many NGO’s, non-profit and charitable organizations have opportunities to volunteer in your current capacity, or even in a position where you can gain some new skills. So get out there and start volunteering.

Preparing For A Job Fair

Wednesday, 24. August 2011

I initially set out to write the most compelling, and most useful guide to help those that are planning to attend a job fair. Upon doing a little research, lo and behold, I found someone had already beaten me to it.

A useful guide on the internet about how to prepare for a job fair?

Surprise, surprise.

So instead of recreating the wheel, I’ll paraphrase for you what the good people at Virginia Tech have already put together.

Although their guide is geared towards new graduates looking for their first job, and students looking for internship opportunities, the advice is universal for anyone who is planning on attending a job fair.

1) So why should I even go to a job fair in the first place?

Well I’m glad you asked. There are many reasons why you should attend a job fair, the biggest one being, to find a job, or at the very least, direct you towards an industry that would be a good fit for you and your skills. As Virginia Tech points out, a job fair is a great opportunity to make a good impression in person.

When applying for a job, the only time you are likely to get any face time is if you are called in for an interview. A job fair can be an invaluable experience to put a face to a name, as we mentioned the importance of doing in last week’s post, Not Even A PFO Letter.

Another reason to attend a job fair is to learn about the prospective company. Their corporate website can only tell you so much, and meeting a current employee, in a semi-informal setting, will give you an idea what the company is like to work for and what kind of people they employ. Best of all, you can ask direct questions.

2) Okay enough already! I’m sold on the idea of attending a job fair, so how do I prepare for it?

As they say, patience is a virtue, but all right, I’ll speed things along a bit.

In order to be successful at a job fair it will take a fair bit of preparation on your part. The first step is to find out which employers are attending the fair. This can usually be found on the job fair website. If there is at least one employer that peaks your interest, then you should attend.

If there are multiple employers attending that you would like to speak with, then you should develop a list of priorities. Since job fairs only last a few hours, you will only get a chance to speak with a few of them.

It should go without saying that you’ll need to have plenty of copies of your resume available to hand out. If you are looking for more than one type of job, you’ll want to have multiple versions of your resume available. A professional resume writer can help you to create specific versions of your resume tailored to specific industries.

Not unlike our previous posts advising you to prepare for an interview, you will also want to prepare an introduction for yourself when speaking to representatives at the job fair. Something short that states a brief background on who you are and what you are looking for.

3) All right, so I’m prepared, but what should I actually do at the job fair?

This is your time to shine and leave a lasting (good) impression on the company’s representative. Show them that you have what it takes to be their next ‘so-and-so’.

Remember, no matter how friendly and open the representative is, you are still being judged. So things like, manners, eye contact, body language, and even your handshake, will all be taken into consideration when it comes time to make a decision about inviting you in for an interview.

For the full, unabridged version, check out Virginia Tech’s Career Services, Job and internship search guide on: How to prepare for a job fair / career fair.

Not Even A PFO Letter

Wednesday, 17. August 2011

You’ve done your research, you’ve sent out your resumes, so why isn’t anyone calling you back or even responding to your emails? Not even so much as a PFO (Please F@#k Off) letter these days.

The economy may be in the toilet, but surprisingly there are still some jobs out there to be had. After the confidence bruising effect of zero responses how do you get back on track with your job search? Well I’m glad you asked.

Step 1: Find some constructive criticism

The reason no one is getting back to you may be a simple as the first thing they see, your cover letter and resume.

You’ve probably worked on it for days, proof read it numerous times and ran it through every spell checker imaginable. Even if you asked some friends to look it over, they may not have had the heart to let you know that your resume just plain sucked.

It’s now time to seek out professionals and people who will be fair and honest about your resume. There are even many free services that will critique your resume for you; from online professional resume writing services to local job connect and social services in your local area.

If you really want to land the interview, use everything at your disposal to make sure your resume is perfect.

Step 2: Clean-up your Internet reputation

We can’t kid ourselves that hiring managers and recruiters are not searching for us on the Internet.

The reason you are not being invited in for an interview could be something as simple as that picture of you from college that is circulating online. You know, the one where you are half naked dancing on a table while drinking beer from a boot, yeah, that one.

It might be time to delete some of those old photos from your social networking accounts like Facebook and MySpace. And for the love of God, set your privacy settings higher so only people you accept as friends can see your full profile.

Step 3: Start networking

The old adage rings true, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know.’ If you are a faceless applicant that has to rely solely on your cover letter and resume to get your foot in the door, well then you better make sure it is printed on gold.

Well, maybe that is not entirely true, but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt.

Like any good caper what you need is an inside man. Someone to, maybe not so much put a face to the name, but at least a person to the paper. If no one speaks on your behalf, to the hiring manager you are just a piece of paper, but if Bob from accounting can come in and put a good word or two in for you, well you may have just gotten your resume moved away from the circular filing cabinet and into the maybe pile. Congrats.

So how do you find Bob from accounting? Well good old fashion networking of course. Join some clubs, take up a co-ed leisure sport, start a pottery class. Whatever will put you in a room with a bunch of strangers where you are expected to socialize, well that’s networking baby.

You might want to stay away from those, “Hello my name is ____, and I’m a….” type groups, unless of course you really need them.

Step 4: Update your skills

Your cover letter and resume may be perfect, with what you have to work with anyway. You’re the poster child for a clean, respectable Internet reputation. You may know everyone from the president of the company to the mail clerk, but you still are not getting that interview.

As every girl that has ever broken up with me wanted to say, the problem is not me, it’s you.

The problem is you. How is that for confidence building?

What you need to do is update your skill set. Learn some new skills. Hone the ones you have. Show to the hiring manager and recruiter that you are one that is always learning. Always up for the challenge and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

How do you update your skill set?

There are many workshops and classes, both online and brick and mortar, available to take. There are also many opportunities to volunteer your services; NGO’s and nonprofits need help all the time. It’s not only a good way to give back to the community and gain some new skills, but you will also be networking at the same time.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even meet Bob from accounting.

Nursing Resume

Thursday, 11. August 2011

Your resume, regardless of the position you are applying for, is the most powerful marketing tool that you have when embarking on a new job. It is important to have a concise and well-written resume, not something that reads like a shopping list of your previous work experiences.

Remember that many other people are applying for the same position. The hiring manager won’t see your face, won’t hear your voice, and won’t call you for an interview without first being impressed by your resume.

The health care field, especially nursing, is in high demand, but that doesn’t mean that a poorly written resume will still get your foot in the door. The following suggestions will help you to write a resume that will get you to that next crucial step – the first interview.

What is different about a nursing resume?

A nursing resume is very similar to a standard resume in most respects, with the exception that your specific skill set and education will pertain to the health care field. You will want to ensure that your resume reflects the latest trends and terminology of the health care industry while demonstrating the depth of your knowledge, skills and experience.

You will also want to demonstrate the specific personality and character traits that are critical to nursing:

  • Patience: Dealing with ailing or injured patients, panicking or demanding relatives, takes more patience than most jobs.
  • Attention to detail: You are most likely going to be keeping track of multiple medications for multiple patients and relaying other critical details for nurses on the next shift.
  • Stamina: At the end of an eight or twelve hour shift, you need to still have patience and attention to detail – and a nurse’s legs can get pretty tired, being on your feet for most of that time.
  • Love: Okay, that word sounds way too touchy-feely for a resume, but you do need to get across that you care about the patients and their family, because that is a big intangible in the field of nursing.

What needs to be emphasized in the resume?

When applying for a new job, your resume only has a few seconds to grab the attention of the person who is in charge of narrowing down the list of potential candidates from the hundreds, if not thousands of resumes that were submitted.

The place to grab their attention and draw them into the rest of your resume is located just below your contact info. This is the area that needs to be emphasized in your resume.

Here you will write a brief, professional summary in a narrative format that establishes the essential claims as to why you are suitable for the job, and gives a good sense of your character.

The remainder of your resume should be comprised of proof that helps to back up every claim you made in the professional summary, and every hint of your personality traits.

What qualities need to be expressed?

Many nurses, whether they are veterans of the career or fresh out of college, all have one thing in common, and that is the mistaken belief that potential employers will immediately recognize the amount of responsibility that is linked to their job title.

When describing previous health care experience, specific qualities and details should be explained to help the hiring manager understand your qualifications and how you excelled in those positions. Such things describing the size of the facility, speciality of the unit and number of patients will go a long way to helping the potential employer understand what you are capable of.

Remember that anyone you are competing against also can post titles. Think about what makes you stand out, how you excelled, how you gave superior care, how patients and families reported positive experiences on account of your efforts.

Your resume should also include any licenses and other nursing certifications that you have obtained. If you ended up with a good score on the NCLEX exam, you may also want to include that on your resume.

Who do you need to target?

When submitting your resume you should target as many different parts of the health care system as skills will allow you. Just because you want an ER positions does not mean you will get it right away. So keep your skills sharp and take a position somewhere else while you wait until one opens in the ER.

Keep in mind that all the above advice must be adjusted according to the type of position you seek. For instance, when applying for an ER position or even an OR or ICU position, you’ll need to demonstrate clearly that you have proven to exercise sound judgment and keep performing to 100% under stress. For a position in a nursing home, you will need to emphasize more the empathic, caring side.

The important thing is to think of the different kind of qualifications required to excel at the specific position you seek:

  • What certification?
  • What experience?
  • What knowledge?
  • What character traits?

A professional resume writer can help you answer these questions in the eyes and minds of the hiring manager. With a professionally written nursing resume, and possibly the help of a health care recruiter, your possibilities can be endless, from hospitals to nursing homes, private clinics and anywhere in between.